City officials on Friday announced 50 schools that will be allowed to boost certain staffers’ salaries and give teachers formal decision-making power in their schools — but the plan raised the ire of the principals union.
The Bronx Plan, unveiled as a part of the latest teachers union contract in October, will allow schools in three boroughs to give certain staffers bonuses of up to $8,000 — an effort to persuade teachers to work in the hardest-to-staff schools. Among the participating schools, about 15 percent of their teachers leave each year on average, officials said.
Also included in the plan: a new “collaborative schools model” where teachers and principals will work together on committees to identify their challenges and devise solutions. Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew has argued the collaboration is even more important than the potential salary bump, empowering teachers to shape school cultures that make them want to stay.
But the union representing principals pushed back hard on Friday. Just as city leaders announced the first crop of Bronx Plan schools, the Council for Schools Supervisors and Administrators announced in a letter to its members that the union had filed a complaint with the state employees relations board over the plan. The union declined to share the complaint with Chalkbeat.
CSA argues they were cut out of negotiations while the city dealt directly with principals. Union chief Mark Cannizzaro wrote that the education department “attempted to pressure and coerce targeted principals to participate,” and accuses city officials of “misleading and misrepresenting” the status of their bargaining efforts with CSA. He added that the plan will change the duties and responsibility of principals — changes that should have been bargained with the union.
“Unfortunately, our consistent calls to honor the place of school leaders and CSA in a genuine and collaborative way in the rollout of the Bronx Plan have fallen on deaf ears,” Cannizzaro wrote.
Education department officials said schools were “invited to apply” and both the principal and teachers union chapter leader were required to sign off. Schools were eligible based on their location in the city, staff turnover rate, students’ academic performance, and whether there were high levels of trust among staff members, as measured by surveys. Despite the plan’s name, more than a third of the accepted schools are not located in the borough: 11 are in Brooklyn and seven are in Queens.
Although 50 schools were announced Friday, the city plans to eventually spread the program to 180 schools (120 of which will try the collaborative model) across the city in the next three years.
The teams of teachers and administrators will also be eligible for mini-grants that they could choose to spend on new curriculum, provide translation services, or participate in trainings to learn how to better serve specific populations of students, such as those who are homeless, officials said.
At I.S. 318 in the Bronx, principal Njoku Uchechukwu said he hoped that his school’s newly formed committee would zero in on student recruitment and attendance; nearly a third of his students are considered chronically absent. With help from up to $25,000 in mini-grants that Bronx Plan schools will be eligible for, he said the school could bring in an outside expert to examine their attendance outreach programs.
But an even bigger benefit, Uchechukwu said, are the salary bonuses. At city recruitment fairs, “I’ve had to practically beg people to come” visit the school. “It’s not the burnt-out parking lots you see in the movies — there’s a vibrant community here,” he added.
In an interview with Chalkbeat, Cannizzaro said the CSA will “100 percent” support those principals who opted-in to the Bronx Plan, and said that scrapping the agreement now would be “counterproductive” because it would pull back needed resources that come with the program.
Rather, he said he hopes the union’s complaint will bring city leaders to the table to hash out a solution to school leaders’ concerns. The issue could come up at the bargaining table: CSA is currently in negotiations with the city for a new contract, which is set to expire this spring.
“We’re not looking to stop progress in any way. What really we find troubling is the fact that they’ve been touting all over the city this collaborative approach but they didn’t collaborate with us,” Cannizzaro said.
Without directly referencing the principal union, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza brushed off potential criticism of the plan during a press conference at the Highbridge Green School, during which neither he nor the mayor took questions. He said some teachers or administrators might be resistant to the new collaborations. “There may be voices that say to you, why do you want to do this?” Carranza said. “Let me just say, haters are gonna hate.”
The Bronx Plan is similar to previous efforts to improve city schools, including salary incentives and a program known as PROSE, which allowed administrators and teachers to work together to sidestep certain union rules. Those changes were typically minor, however, and some evidence suggested they didn’t lead to improvements in student test scores.
Still, city officials pointed out that the salary boosts in the new Bronx Plan are more targeted at hard-to-staff positions in contrast to previous efforts, which applied to entire schools.
“We’re helping our educators come to the Bronx, stay in the Bronx, serve the children in the Bronx, and be leaders within their schools,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Circle it on your calendar because you’re going to remember for a long time when something very big began right here.”
Other large efforts to improve schools haven’t had the results city officials had hoped for. De Blasio’s Renewal turnaround program, a $770 million effort to turn around 94 struggling schools, has posted uneven results. Unlike Renewal, which effectively labeled schools as failing, the Bronx Plan is not necessarily targeted at the city’s lowest-performing schools, and does not require they all use the same strategies to spur improvements. (Eleven Renewal schools and one Rise school are also in the Bronx Plan.)
Here is a full list of schools in the Bronx Plan:
Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School
Bronx Leadership Academy II High School
The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters
Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Tech
M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar
Bronx River High School
The Hunts Point School
Soundview Academy for Culture and Scholarship
Gotham Collaborative High School
Bronx Arena High School
School for Tourism and Hospitality
J.H.S. 022 Jordan L. Mott
P.S. 063 Author’s Academy
New Millennium Business Academy Middle School
The Highbridge Green School
Kingsbridge International High School
High School for Teaching and the Professions
Fordham Leadership Academy
Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship: A College Board School
North Bronx School of Empowerment
Leaders of Tomorrow
Bronxdale High School
Pelham Gardens Middle School
Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School
Fairmont Neighborhood School
I.S. X318 Math, Science & Technology Through Arts
Bronx Envision Academy
High School for Civil Rights
World Academy for Total Community Health High School
The School for Classics: An Academy of Thinkers
P.S. 150 Christopher
P.S. 165 Ida Posner
The Gregory Jocko Jackson School of Sports, Art, and Technology
P.S. 327 Dr. Rose B. English
Brownsville Collaborative Middle School
Frederick Douglass Academy VII High School
Mott Hall Bridges Academy
Teachers Preparatory High School
P.S./M.S. 42 R. Vernam
M.S. 53 Brian Piccolo
P.S. 197 The Ocean School
Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability
Rockaway Collegiate High School