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School officials anticipating busy months of closure hearings

School officials are battening down the hatches as they prepare for an onslaught of public hearings about school closures.

Just hours after the city released the latest round of high school rankings, Sharon Greenberger, the Department of Education’s chief operating officer, sent an email recruiting top-level deputies for an “all hands on deck” effort for the hearings, which could start as soon as this month and last through March.

“Be prepared to maintain a very flexible evening schedule in January,” Greenberger wrote to a small group of high-level deputies in Chancellor Joel Klein’s cabinet. She also asked each of them to designate several staff members to help at the hearings, which are required by state law when the city seeks to close a school.

Last year, the city held hearings for 19 schools that it tried to close. Many went late into the night, and the January meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, which had to approve the closures, finished at 4 a.m.

This year, the city has signalled that it wants to close even more schools. The high school progress reports released last week added nine more schools to the already record-high list of 47 schools that the city has said it might try to close.

City officials are also exercising extra caution about following the law that requires public hearings after a state appeals court blocked the 19 closures last year. The court ruled that the city had not properly followed procedures to alert communities about the possible closures. This year, the city started holding meetings at at-risk schools earlier, adding to the number of meetings and hearings that will need to be held before the closure process ends in the spring.

Greenberger’s complete email is below the jump. “Romy” is Romy Drucker, Chancellor Klein’s assistant.

From: Greenberger Sharon
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2010 5:08 PM
To: & Cabinet
Cc: Lopatin Adina
Subject: Assistance Needed

Through March, the Department will be highly focused on activities that are part of our school intervention process. As I’ve mentioned to you before, this is going to be an all hands on deck effort.

Two things I wanted to let you know:

  1. Romy will be managing the work to organize and coordinate Deputy Chancellor involvement in key meetings with struggling schools as well as joint public hearings. She will be in touch with you and your assistant about the specifics but you should be prepared to maintain a very flexible evening schedule in January; some of you will be called on before then to participate in November/December meetings.
  2. By Friday morning, please send Romy the names of 5-10 people in your division who can provide logistical support at important school meetings and hearings over the next few months. The qualifications we are looking for are: good organizational skills, willingness to participate in meetings at night, ability to talk to parents. We may need these people to volunteer as early as November 8th. We will provide training to all volunteers.

Thanks in advance for stepping up.

Sharon

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