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Major power restructuring underway at city education department

Senior Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson announced a major restructuring at the Department of Education this week that will move school support and charter school oversight under her purview.

Superintendents and network leaders will now report to Gibson, an arrangement that Chancellor Carmen Fariña envisioned when she made Gibson her second-in-command in January. But the rearrangement does not make any changes to the networks themselves, Gibson told staff in an internal memo on Wednesday.

That squares with the message the Fariña sent to principals this week saying not to expect changes to networks soon. With schools set to start to matching up with the city’s roughly 60 support networks for the next school year, the department’s restructuring is unlikely to affect principals for now.

The changes will also merge two divisions that held great importance under the Bloomberg administration. The offices in charge of opening new schools and of overseeing city-authorized charter schools will become a new office, the Office of New School Design and Charter Partnerships. Under Bloomberg, hundreds of new charter and district schools were opened to replace shuttered district schools, an intervention he saw as the fastest and most effective way to improve school quality. 

Gibson, a 30-year veteran of the school system, will also oversee offices handling school improvement, arts programs and library services. She will continue to oversee the city’s alternative schools, adult education, and other initiatives designed to boost outcomes for high-need students, which she previously helmed as a deputy chancellor for equity and access.

One thing Gibson isn’t fully in charge of is future changes to the school support networks. Chief Strategy Officer Josh Wallack, whose primary job right now is helping Mayor Bill de Blasio execute his prekindergarten expansion plans, has also been tasked with improving that system, which de Blasio and Fariña have said that gives superintendents too minimal a role in supporting schools.

The restructuring is the fullest indication yet of how the Department of Education’s slimmer inner circle will operate. Fariña’s high-level cabinet is now made up of four deputy chancellors, down from the six she inherited from former Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Fariña told Chalkbeat in February that she preferred to have a smaller group of people advising her.

“There’s four deputy chancellors, each with a very definitive role, so that instead of 18 people I can have a meeting with five people,” Fariña said.

Gibson’s promotion always meant she’d eventually take over a significant chunk of the department’s central operations, many of which were previously overseen by Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, who departed three weeks after Fariña took over.

Phil Weinberg, a deputy chancellor who heads a reconstituted Division of Teaching and Learning, has already taken over many of the other programs handled by Polakow-Suransky, including teacher evaluations, school accountability and Common Core implementation.

A department spokesman said that additional announcements are coming Monday.

From: Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 09:44 PM To: Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson Subject: Office of the Senior Deputy Chancellor & School Support Team Announcement Dear Colleagues, We thank you for your patience as we align team structures. Today I am writing to announce several staffing and organizational changes within my expanded portfolio which is now called the Office of the Senior Deputy Chancellor & School Support. While all Equity and Access initiatives, District 79 and the Office of Adult and Continuing Education remain in my purview I would like to share the following updates to my team: Superintendents will report to me along with the Cluster Leaders and Network support teams under their existing structure. Senior Superintendent, Laura Feijoo continues to lead the work of the Senior Deputy Chancellor’s office and will oversee the Office of the Superintendents as well as the Office of School Support while working to support the other relevant work streams. Janel Matthews continues as my Chief of Staff and will manage day-to-day operations for the office. Senior Director Romie Barriere will direct the central team in the Office of Superintendents supporting Laura in the communications and management of this team and the work streams of district offices. Justin Tyack Executive Director of School Support will continue to support Clusters and Networks in supporting schools. Sharon Rencher joins our team as Senior Advisor leading the Office of State Portfolio and Policy encompassing district and school level education planning, NCLB & Title I Programs, Grants Development, School Improvement efforts and state and federal education programs and policy. The Office of New Schools and the Charter School Office have merged and is now called the Office of New School Design and Charter Partnerships. Julian Cohen joins our team as Senior Executive Director and will lead the work of the supporting new school development, charter school support and program development. Laurie Price will continue in her role as Interim Acting Executive Director and will work closely with Julian to integrate supports for new DOE and Charter schools in NYC. Krista Werbeck, Executive Director for Policy and Planning joins our team leading the work on school openings, special projects coordination, analytics and supporting strategic planning efforts. Executive Director Paul King will continue to lead in the Office of Arts and Special Projects supporting quality arts instruction in our schools. Executive Director Richard Hasenyager will continue to lead the work in the Office of Library Services offering consultation and professional development to help schools strengthen their library programs. David Weiner, Executive Director of the Office of Innovation and Higher Education Partnerships will ensure that innovation remains a critical strategy to improve schools for our students. He will begin to strengthen new and existing partnerships with Institutes of higher education in support of best practices. Sincerely, Dorita Gibson Senior Deputy Chancellor