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Mulgrew calls for panel meeting to be on school closings only

Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew does not want to spend a whole night at a meeting in Brooklyn.

Mulgrew is asking the city to clear a long list of scheduled discussions at the upcoming citywide school board meeting at Brooklyn Tech in order to focus on his priority: protests against school closures.

Right now the agenda includes, on top of the proposed closures, a long list that ranges from approval of 37 contracts to new rules about how schools involve parents and teachers in setting plans and budgets. Some of those changes are themselves contentious and could prompt lengthy discussion.

But the debate over the 20 school closings alone is likely to drag on long into the night. Opponents of shuttering the schools are planning to turn out in force to each take their allotted two minutes to denounce the plans. Already public hearings on the proposed closures have drawn more than 100 speakers per school in some cases.

Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the department received Mulgrew’s letter and is reviewing its suggestions.

Last month, the DOE responded to protests that the meeting’s original Staten Island location was too remote for many parents and teachers at schools slated for closure by relocating it to Brooklyn.

Mulgrew’s full letter to Klein is below the jump:

January 14, 2010 Joel I. Klein Chancellor Department of Education 52 Chambers Street New York, New York 10007 David C. Chang Chairman Panel for Educational Policy 52 Chambers Street New York, New York 10007 Dear Chancellor Klein and Chairman Chang: The website of the Panel for Educational Policy indicates that, at its January 26, 2010 meeting, the Panel will vote on a new procurement policy as well as significant proposed changes to, among others, Chancellor’s Regulation A-655 (concerning school leadership teams), Chancellor’s Regulation A-660 (concerning parent associations), and Chancellor’s Regulation A-414 (concerning safety plans). At that same meeting, the Panel is expected to vote on the proposed closing or truncating of twenty schools. Because the issue of school closings requires lengthy debate and serious consideration that will consume all of the Panel’s time on January 26, 2010, the votes on other regulations need to be put off until a later meeting of the Panel. The decision to close a school is one of the most significant that the DOE can make. Each proposed school closing requires extensive debate and deliberation. Indeed, the hearings that have been held so far have been no less than two hours for each proposed school closing, some with more than 100 speakers. It is reasonable to expect that the public will want to voice their concerns directly to the Panel members since many have not attended these individual school hearings. Likewise, the procurement policy and changes to regulations pertaining to school leadership teams, parent associations and safety plans are all important and must be done carefully and thoughtfully. A single Panel meeting is simply not enough time for the community to voice and the Panel to consider concerns about the proposed school closings and also deliberate about the proposed changes to the other regulations. Therefore, at very least, votes on all business other than the closing of schools need to be conducted at a later Panel meeting. Sincerely, Michael Mulgrew President United Federation of Teachers