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Excess APs offered, at a discount, to help schools with evals

Nearly 100 assistant principals who can’t find full-time jobs are suddenly in the market for year-long positions thanks to an influx of new school duties that have overwhelmed some principals this school year.

To give school leaders a hand in executing responsibilities related to the city’s new teacher evaluation system, the Department of Education is dangling the extra administrators at a steeply discounted price to schools that need but can’t afford them. Already, the department was rotating “excessed” assistant principals across schools monthly, and has assigned dozens of them to eligible schools at no cost.

Now, it is offering to pay up to 60 percent of an AP’s salary if principals hire them up for the rest of the year.

The new evaluation system has administrators on the hook to conduct four or more classroom observations per teacher and communicate more with teachers about their lessons than ever before. Every observation comes with paperwork to complete, too. The added work comes on top of a job that already had principals feeling more squeezed every year.

“Principals are going to need more support and we hope that they will get it,” said Mark Cannizzaro, executive vice president of the Council for Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing principals.For the most part, the city has tried to deliver that support from outside schools. In the central administration, the department hired at least 85 people away from schools to work as talent coaches help administer students tests that are being used as a measure of student learning on the evaluations. The coaches are fanning out across the city to help principals implement the teacher evaluations.

But principals and assistant principals are the only people legally allowed to conduct required observations, so some school leaders have looked to bulk up their administrative teams. The “excess pool” of administrators without permanent positions had nearly 200 people in it early this year, but it shrank over the summer and in the first two months of the school year, to 95.

The pool consists of administrators, mostly assistant principals, who lost their positions because of budget cuts, school closures, or discipline and who have not yet secured new jobs within the system.

A department spokesman said the subsidy was first offered to particularly vulnerable schools, such as those that are closing or that have administrators on leave. So far, 76 assistant principals have been placed in schools for the full year, the majority being sent at no cost to schools, the spokesman said.

CSA President Ernest Logan told members of his union in an email alert earlier this week that all principals should have equal access to the administrator subsidy. “We will continue to lobby the Chancellor to make this possibility a reality for all 1,800 of you,” he wrote in a message that informed principals that the subsidy had been extended selectively so far.

Shortly after Logan sent out his message, a notice from the DOE went out to all principals of an opportunity to have excessed assistant principals assigned to their schools, though it did not include a mention of the potential for a discount. The department spokesman said that interested principals talk to their support networks for the subsidy, but that it won’t be guaranteed.

CSA opposes the city’s decision to rotate reserve APs on a monthly basis and took the issue to arbitration. An arbitration hearing on the matter was scheduled for this week.

But the city defended its AP rotation policy, arguing that it is an effective tool to reduce the number of people whose salaries are being covered without them having any permanent position in a school.

“We have found over time that by rotating staff, they are much more likely to find positions,” said the department spokesman, Devon Puglia.

One principal of a large high school in Queens said he wouldn’t be taking advantage of the deal. He said that providing critical feedback to teachers about their instruction was a delicate interpersonal skill that relied on strong bonds and mutual trust.

“It wouldn’t be my style to bring in an outsider,” said Hillcrest High School Principal Stephen Duch. “There’s a responsibility of coaching, and if you don’t have someone who intimately know the teacher’s abilities, you’re not going to have somebody who’s going ot be able to guide the teacher to the next level.”

Hillcrest, Duch said, benefits from its large size: He said he has a staff of eight assistant principals to handle the school’s 180 teachers.

“My AP for social studies told me today that he has finally completed one observation for all of his teachers and he has 22 teachers to observe,” Duch said, adding that he’s done 16 observations so far.

Small high schools with just one or two assistant principals would be more likely to need the extra help, he said. So, he said, would be schools that haven’t changed their practices in anticipation of new evaluations — “the school that haven’t really been delving into the Danielson work for the last couple years.”

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