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New school board member brings ties to the charter world

The steady stream of resignations and new appointments at the Department of Education continues today with citywide school board chairman David Chang, who is stepping down.

Chang resigned from the Panel for Educational Policy last Friday, November 5, and Mayor Bloomberg is replacing him with Robert Reffkin, a vice president at Goldman Sachs. He is also the former board chairman of Bronx Success Academy I, the newest school in Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network.

A spokeswoman for Success Charter Network said Reffkin resigned from his post on Tuesday.

The panel is dominated by the mayor — he appoints eight of its 13 members — and has never voted against any of his policies. Its members have the final say on which schools the city will close, which ones it will put in the same buildings, and whether contracts over $1 million are approved. This year, the board will have to vote on as many as 60 school closure proposals.

As a member of the panel, Reffkin will be in the position of having to vote on important space-sharing proposals between charter and district schools. While these plans are often controversial — district school parents and teachers often argue that their schools can’t spare space for the charters — they could become especially complicated for Reffkin because of his ties to a charter school network.

One of the proposals that will come before the board in the next several months is the city’s plan to give a Success Charter Network school space in a school building on the Upper West Side.

City officials had planned to put the school, which will be called Upper West Success Academy, in P.S. 145 on 105th Street, but faced stiff opposition from parents and elected officials. DOE officials are now looking for another school on the Upper West Side in which to house the charter school.

Roughly a year ago, Reffkin told the New York Times that he considered charter schools to be the “the civil rights struggle of my generation.” He also said that he plans to run for city office someday.

Bronx borough president appointee Monica Major, the second newest member to join the board, said she wasn’t concerned that Reffkin’s former board membership would create a conflict of interest.

“I’m hoping that whenever that happens that anybody on the board makes sure they recuse themselves from votes that may benefit them and their organization,” she said. “I’m hoping we all do that when it comes up.”

The panel will select its new chairman next week.


Panel Chairman David Chang Resigned Last Friday

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today appointed Robert Reffkin to the Panel for Educational Policy, replacing Chairman David Chang who resigned from the Panel on Friday, November 5th, 2010. Mr. Reffkin is a Vice President in the Principal Investment Area of Goldman Sachs & Company. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, he was an Associate in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Lazard Frères, where he founded the firm’s Sponsors for Educational Opportunity Professional Internship program for minority students.

“In our efforts to reform and improve New York City public schools, David has been an invaluable member of the Panel for Educational Policy for eight years,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Robert will be able to build on that progress by bringing exceptional problem solving skills and civic commitment, which will serve our schools and children well.”

“I want to thank David for his hard work and commitment to serving New York City’s public schools,” Chancellor Klein said. “His leadership and knowledge as an educator have been instrumental in our work to implement educational reforms. Robert’s professional background will be an asset to the Panel for Educational Policy and will help us successfully meet the Mayor’s educational goals.”

“I am incredibly honored to be appointed to the Panel for Educational Policy,” said Robert Reffkin. “Education provides the best pathway to opportunity, and I believe it is the most important issue facing New York City and our country. I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education to ensure that all students in New York City have access to an education that will prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Mr. Reffkin currently serves on the boards of the Citizens Committee for New York City and New York Needs You – a nonprofit he founded to provide mentorship to first-generation college students. He is an Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn College where he teaches Small Business & Entrepreneurship. In 2005, he was appointed as a White House Fellow to serve as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury. He is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Bronx Success Academy 1. Mr. Reffkin earned his B.A. from Columbia University and M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.

The Panel for Educational Policy was created to replace the former Board of Education and is responsible for approving standards, policies and objectives directly related to educational achievement and instruction, as well as the Chancellor’s regulations and department contracts. The Mayor appoints eight panel members and each Borough President appoints one. The new Chairman of the Panel will be elected at the Tuesday, November 16th meeting.