Re-Hiring Process

In city-union deal, leaders and faculty at two troubled schools will reapply for their jobs

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Chancellor Carmen Fariña, along with principals union leaders, agreed on a plan Thursday to overhaul two struggling schools.

The principals and staffs at two of the city’s lowest-performing schools must reapply for their jobs as part of a state-ordered overhaul of the troubled schools.

Any of the roughly 130 people who work at two Brooklyn high schools — Boys and Girls and Automotive — who want to keep their jobs next school year will face newly formed hiring committees made up of superintendents, teachers and principals union representatives, city appointees, and parents, according to a city-union agreement made Thursday. Teachers who choose not to reapply or who are not rehired will be placed in other Brooklyn high schools, according to the teachers union.

The state had ordered the city to put a plan in place at both schools to reevaluate their administrators and staffers and replace any who were “unwilling or ineffective,” according to a letter sent to the city Friday by State Education Commissioner John King, who conditionally approved the agreement. Earlier this year, the state designated the chronically low-achieving schools as “out of time” and required the city to make major changes. Final plans for the schools were due Friday, but the state gave the city an extension until Dec. 19 to file them.

In addition to the rehiring process, the schools will also add extra learning time for students and a mandatory week of summer training for teachers. In an effort to stabilize the schools, the city will not send them new students mid-year for the next two years, as Chalkbeat previously reported.

The long-struggling schools might also enact a host of other interventions, according to the preliminary plan the city submitted Friday. The city could audit teachers’ lessons and assessments, require personal graduation plans for each student, put extra student-support services in the school, shrink class sizes, and reduce teachers’ course loads, the proposal said. A joint city-union committee at each school will choose which changes to carry out.

The Bloomberg administration forced teachers at two-dozen struggling schools to reapply for their jobs in 2012 as part of a school-restructuring plan, which the United Federation of Teachers opposed and an arbitrator eventually stopped. Unlike the Bloomberg-era plan, the latest deal does not limit the number of teachers who can be rehired or require the principal to be replaced.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña attributed the union’s willingness to go along with the new plan to the “real partnership” between this administration and educators, a point that Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed.

“The agreement we’re announcing today is something we could only achieve because of the trust we’ve built with educators,” he said in a statement, “and our shared commitment to a city where every neighborhood has the strong public schools it deserves.”

The agreement follows the city’s announcement this week of a $150 million plan to rescue more than 90 low-performing schools by flooding them with supports for students and educators. The staffs at those schools do not have to reapply for their positions.

In his letter, King said the city’ final plans for the two out-of-time schools must include goals for each school around attendance, school culture, student credit-earning and course-taking, and “academic progress,” though it was unclear how academic progress will be measured.

The city still must submit improvement plans for nearly 250 other low-performing schools. Those were originally due in July, but the city received an extension through Friday. However, the city asked for more time, and King agreed to accept those final plans next month as well.

In a separate letter to Fariña, King said those plans must include targets similar to those expected for the two out-of-time schools and added that any struggling schools that do not improve must face “increased accountability.” He said the rehiring process and other changes at Boys and Girls and Automotive could provide a “blueprint for turnaround efforts” at other schools that need intensive interventions.

Fariña also agreed to provide a “detailed explanation” of the unusual arrangement she made with the new Boys and Girls principal, Michael Wiltshire, who she installed last month to replace the principal who abruptly left. Wiltshire not only received a $25,000 bonus to take on the tough assignment, but he also was given the option to leave after one year and to continue to oversee the successful school that he has led for a decade, Chalkbeat revealed last month. In a letter sent to King on Thursday, Fariña also promised to submit a sample weekly schedule for Wiltshire and a description of his duties after this school year.

In her letter, Fariña also said that the parent associations and leadership teams — which include administrators, faculty, parents, and students — at both schools have been “either lacking or non-existent.” The city helped reform them and will now start meeting with the “reconstituted” groups monthly, Fariña said. Chalkbeat previously reported that the city went around the leadership team at Boys and Girls, which had been aligned with the outspoken principal who resigned, when it appointed the new principal.

Finally, Fariña assured King that the schools’ admissions policies would not change. While the schools may not have changed how they admit students, Boys and Girls has adjusted its enrollment by advising struggling students to transfer out, Chalkbeat reported on Friday. Roughly 30 students have left the school since Wiltshire took over last month, sources there said.

Read the full agreements between the UFT and the city, the principals union and the city, and the UFT, principals union, and the city.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.