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City hands long to-do list to principals of ex-turnaround schools

For principals, August is usually a time for putting the final touches on staffing and curriculum decisions for the year — and for sneaking in a long-awaited vacation.

The principals of 24 schools that the city tried to “turn around” will spend the month putting their schools back together.

The turnaround process would have meant new names, shaken-up staffs, and new programs for the schools. But those changes were undone when an arbitrator ruled earlier this month that staffing plans for the schools violated the city’s contract with the teachers and principals unions.

Now, on the last day of July, the schools’ principals are finding out which teachers intend to return in September, according to a letter they received from the Department of Education this evening. The letter, which the city released to reporters, offered the most detailed guidance the principals have gotten yet about how to proceed after months of uncertainty and disorder.

In the email, the department official in charge of turnaround offers instructions ranging from what to call their schools in formal communications (by their original names) to what to do with all of the files generated by the hiring committees that were reviewing teaching candidates for the overhauled schools (lock them in a filing cabinet).

The official, Elaine Gorman, also tells the principals that they should compare their staff rosters from June against their current staff rosters to figure out what positions need filling. Then they should work with their networks to find teachers to fill those spots — or send letters telling current teachers that they won’t be needed this fall, something that could happen at some of the schools where enrollment appears likely to drop.

Few of the tasks are unique to schools recovering from a shock like the turnaround plans. But principals typically have a longer period to get everything done.

“Most of the stuff they want us to start doing now in the budgets are things other schools had to finish by June 30,” said Evan Schwartz, who is the new principal of Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School in the Bronx.

But Schwartz said he is confident that, at his school at least, there’s time to catch up. “I’m a little further behind because I’m now just starting to program and schedule kids. … But we know what we’re doing. We will have it done. It just makes it tougher,” he said.

The email also lets the principals know that more information is forthcoming. Next week, the letter says, families with children enrolled at the schools will get an update about their schools. And the department is working on a plan to make sure the high schools are accurately represented to eighth-graders who might want to apply.

The phonebook-sized, printed directory that the city produces each annually went out this spring with the proposed schools’ names and information inside. That fact, along with the bad press the schools got as city officials repeatedly labeled them as failing, could make it harder for the schools to attract new students — which could in turn reduce the schools’ capacity to improve.

“We will work closely with you and the Office of Student Enrollment to ensure that information about your school is accurate and distributed appropriately,” Gorman writes.

The complete letter is below.

Dear Principals, With August approaching, our attention is focused on a smooth school opening. As such, below is critical information: School Name and DBN

  • Your school will open in September with the original school name and DBN. Please use your original school name and DBN for all business transactions and communications.
  • In regard to the High School Directory, please know that you will receive further direction on next steps.  We will work closely with you and the Office of Student Enrollment to ensure that information about your school is accurate and distributed appropriately.


  • Schools should review Galaxy for adjustmentsapprovals (ongoing basis)
  • Connect with your CFN Budget Director to begin scheduling available funds
  • Compare your Table of Organization from June with the current Table of Organization to identify staffing changes (transfers, retirements, etc.)
  • The survey results for both UFT and CSA staff will be provided to you today
  • Where vacancies exist (budgeted in Galaxy) work with your CFN team to extend offers and staff on your TO (ongoing basis)
  • If necessary, print and issue excess letters via Galaxy for excess staff.  Utilize your TAA to send the letters via U.S. mail to staff members
  • The Office of Teacher Recruitment & Quality (TRQ) can assist you in sourcing external candidates for any teacher vacancies. You should have heard directly from a Recruitment Manager in that office earlier this week about that support.  If you haven’t received an email or call; please contact TRQ at 718-935-4080.  Note that there are Teacher Recruitment Fairs upcoming on August 14 and August 28.  More information on those events will be sent directly to you.
  • As a reminder, Open Market Transfer closes at 5:00 p.m. on Monday August 7. 


  • All files and materials related to the 18D process should be maintained onsite in a locked file cabinet
  • TAAs – DPP HR Directors will be reaching out to you to discuss support needs for the remainder of the summer

Communications to Families

  • We will prepare a letter from the DOE to families with an update about your school, which we will share with you in the coming days.

Finally, for schools who received invitations last week for the August 2nd summer session, we look forward to meeting your school planning team at LaGuardia High School (Amsterdam Avenue and 64th Street) in the 7th floor cafeteria. Best, Elaine Elaine Gorman Chief Executive, Turnaround 52 Chambers Street New York, New York 10007