Thursday, March 04, 2010

News Clips -- Week of February 26, 2010

New York Times

February 24, 2010

City and Teachers’ Union Near Contract Mediation
The Bloomberg administration is seeking significant changes in the city’s next contract with teachers, including a 50 percent cut in sick days, the ability to tie teacher pay more closely to performance and the power to lay off teachers whose classroom jobs have been eliminated.

The city’s demands, laid out in a document released this week, echo many of the goals the mayor has pushed. But negotiations over the contract are now heading for arbitration and on Wednesday, the mayor seemed to tamp down expectations that major changes were on the horizon.

“I would never use the word ‘demand,’ ” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said during a news conference in the Bronx, saying he did not want to negotiate in public. “You will come out of this with an agreement down the road that hopefully both sides can feel, well, we did as well as we could, given the situation.”

The city’s most recent contract with the teachers expired in October. The state’s Public Employee Relations Board agreed this week that negotiations were at an impasse and assigned a mediator to work with the city and the union. While the labor board’s suggestions are not binding, the city and union could use them as a road map for an agreement, as they did in 2005.

The document laying out the city’s wishes is considered a starting point with broad goals. It was included in a complaint the union filed with the labor relations board on Monday and circulated by the Education Department.

In the past the city has been able to push through major changes only when they were coupled with significant salary increases. Most of the city’s unions have received annual raises of 4 percent in their latest contracts. But last month, because of budget constraints, the mayor said he would propose limiting raises for teachers to 2 percent a year, and only for the first $70,000 of their salaries.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, balked. “It shows a complete lack of any educational vision whatsoever,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s always the same thing. What can we do to blame, blame, blame and not what should be done to make things better.”

The three-page document outlining the city’s proposals gives a glimpse of some of its priorities, like higher salaries in subjects with teacher shortages and in hard-to-staff schools, as well as for those who “have the proven ability to positively impact student performance.”

The teachers’ union generally opposes merit-based pay, but agreed several years ago to allow the city to give bonuses to schools that perform well, with teachers at the schools deciding how the bonuses are distributed.

The Bloomberg administration wants to reduce the number of sick days teachers receive to 5 from 10. It also wants to allow principals to use performance as a factor in deciding which teachers to let go when their budgets are cut.

Those decisions are now based primarily on seniority, and the teachers who are let go are placed in the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve pool, where they continue to draw full salaries even if they have not found a permanent position at another school. The city now pays more than $100 million a year for such teachers, but under the city’s proposal the teachers would have just four months to find a position before they would be laid off.

And the city would stop paying teachers facing charges of incompetence or misconduct. These teachers currently earn full pay but are assigned to so-called rubber rooms, where they essentially do no work while their cases are litigated. Any teachers who are eventually cleared of charges would receive back pay, with a 50 percent bonus tacked on.

In its own outline of contract goals, the union asked for a “substantial salary increase” in each year of the agreement, but did not specify further.

Daily News
Eva Moskowitz has special access to Schools Chancellor Klein - and support others can only dream of
Juan Gonzalez - News

Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein often lauds a small group of Harlem charter schools founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

But few New Yorkers are aware of the access Moskowitz has to the chancellor or the special support he has bestowed on her program, whose four schools enroll just 1,300 of the city's more than 1 million public school students.

Since Moskowitz launched her first Harlem Success Academy in August 2006, Klein has attended at least 13 events for her schools, including several fund-raisers and private meetings with her, 125 e-mails between them show.

The e-mails, obtained by the Daily News under a Freedom of Information request, provide a glimpse into the close relationship - one that would make most principals green with envy.

They show that in addition to Klein's visits, Moskowitz:

- Secured the chancellor's help last year in landing a $1 million donation from a private Los Angeles foundation.

- Got Klein to intervene on her behalf in clashes she had with his subordinates.

- Boasted to him of organizing parent "armies" to advocate for Mayor Bloomberg's educational policies - and of flooding politicians with thousands of pro-charter school postcards.

The News requested e-mails pertaining to the efforts of Harlem Success to get more space in school buildings. The space issue is contentious in many city neighborhoods, and Moskowitz may be the best-known advocate of more public space for charters.

The e-mails clearly show Moskowitz had Klein's ear on the issue, even complaining to him about his aides.

"Dilly dalling [sic] bureaucrats don't want to confront principals," she wrote in June 2008. This was after a top school official refused to allocate Harlem Success Academy 2 an additional classroom in East Harlem's Public School 7.

"I still am short rooms and zoned school is getting more space than charters," Moskowitz said. "Your people will say am sure i am wrong. What they will say is simply not true."

"I've talked to John White [the official in charge of allocating school space] who will call you," Klein wrote back.

A few days later, Moskowitz told Klein that White was not giving her the space she wanted.

"Really could use your intervention," she wrote. "We need to quickly and decisively distinguish the good guys from bad. And yes take away resources from institutions that are harming children and give to those who are truly putting children first."

Not long afterward, the problem was apparently solved. "Help on space much appreciated," Moskowitz wrote.

Asked about her e-mails, Moskowitz said it is her job to advocate for her schools.

"I don't just quietly accept what is dished out to our parents and what I believe are unfair allocations of space that hurt my schools," she said.

At one point, she told Klein city Education Department policy kept her from getting enough mailing lists of public school kids for a marketing campaign for her charters.

"We need to be able to mail 10-12 times to elementary and pre-k families" Moskowitz wrote.

Five days later, Michael Duffy, the head of Klein's charter school division, wrote her:

"The Chancellor asked me [to] give you an update on where things stand with getting mailing labels to you and other charter schools."

Duffy was trying to "overcome the obstacles" of "privacy laws," he said, to make available all the labels Moskowitz wanted.

Klein spokesman David Cantor acknowledged the Moskowitz request led to a change in policy to provide more mailing lists.

"But it didn't only have to do with Harlem Success," he said. "Several charter schools were asking to be able to send mailings to families in their districts."

In a Jan. 11, 2009, e-mail, Moskowitz outlined her plans to build an advocacy network with other charter schools.

"What you are doing is so important," Klein responded. "Your charter colleagues are miles behind."

Since August 2006, the chancellor has attended several parent meetings at Harlem Success; two lottery drawings for its applicants; two poker night fund-raisers for the network at a Manhattan W hotel; an auction at Sotheby's of artwork by Harlem Success children, and several private breakfast meetings with Moskowitz.

"Klein hasn't been to our school in more than five years," said one principal of a high-achieving Manhattan public high school. "I've never had breakfast with him."

"The chancellor meets with several principals, charter school leaders and other N.Y.C. school operators just as often or more," Cantor said.

Cantor pointed to Geoffrey Canada, who operates two acclaimed Harlem Children's Zone charter schools, and to Richard Kahan, who runs the Urban Assembly network of public schools, as examples.

A spokesman for Harlem Children's Zone said Klein had visited its schools "maybe two or three times in the past six years."

Kahan said his network, which has existed for more than a decade and operates 22 schools, has had "maybe a dozen visits" from Klein.

The e-mails also show Klein appealed to Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad to fund Harlem Success, helping Moskowitz get $1 million from Broad's foundation.

"Can't thank you enough for your support," she wrote Klein after getting the money last year.

"We plan to open our last 3 in Harlem in august 2010 and then move to Bronx," she added. "With 27 charters in Harlem [counting other non-Harlem Success charter schools] we will have market share and will have fundamentally changed the rules of the game."

Daily News
Ed Dept. OKs charter move to public school buildings
BY Meredith Kolodner

Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

The Education Department's policy panel voted Wednesday night to allow 16 schools - including 13 charter schools - to move into or expand in existing public school buildings.

The decision came after hundreds of charter school parents packed a hearing to make passionate demands for space for their children in public school buildings.

A proposal to place Eagle Academy in Intermediate School 59 in Queens fell one vote short of the seven needed to approve the proposal.

The Education Department will examine the concerns raised about placing Eagle, an all-male sixth- through 12th-grade school, in the sixth- through eighth-grade building.

Several schools chartered buses, and parents filled the 1,300-seat auditorium at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, with more than 100 left waiting outside.

"Because I live in Harlem, I have to go to a failing school?" said Khadijah Pickel, who has first-grade twins at Harlem Success Academy II. "My children are learning. We need space to grow."

The charter school is moving into a building occupied by Public School 30, where parents say there isn't enough space.

"I don't have anything against the charter school," said Illiada Surita, whose granddaughter Nahla is in the fifth grade at PS 30. "We don't want to lose our classrooms. Our science lab and our library are already gone."

Parent after parent got up to speak fervently about the need for space, as charters were pitted against traditional public schools in a system that is overcrowded in many neighborhoods.

The Panel for Educational Policy voted on the proposal just before midnight after the room had thinned to about 75 people.

Daily News
Brooklyn charter school has too many rules, distraught parents say
BY Rachel Monahan

Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

No touching the walls. No resting your chin in your hand. No talking in the hallways between classes. Timed bathroom breaks.

With rules like these, the Achievement First Endeavor Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, could be the city's toughest school - but some distraught parents and former staffers say the overzealous discipline has left kids fearful.

"All they're concerned about is whether they're going to get detention," said Adrienne Lynch, whose eighth-grader son, Nicholas, got suspended for making a squeaking sound in the hallway.

On an average day in January, more than one in five students at the school had a detention, documents obtained by the Daily News show. And on one day, fully 100 of the school's 309 kids were punished by having to stay an extra 45 minutes.

Achievement First administrators acknowledge "high standards" for behavior, but say the detentions aren't meted out for trivial transgressions.

"There is a vocal minority that has concerns with the discipline system," said Achievement First co-CEO Dacia Toll, noting a recent survey found 90% of parents are happy with the school.

But one in 12 of the kids at the fifth- through eighth-grade school transferred out between September - when the new policies went into place - and December, documents show.

Some parents sought out the school because it's strict, but think it's gone overboard.

"I wanted the discipline and the structure because my son does have a behavior problem," said one mom, who is in the process of transferring her son. "But they suspended him for 22 days."

Some parents and former staffers charge the strict rules fall hardest on special-needs students.

Vanessa Herrar said her fifth-grade son got in trouble for copying math down from the board too slowly, even though he has dyslexia.

"It takes [Jaleel] longer to do some things," she said.

Jaleel, 11, has had detention countless times and has been suspended for roughly 10 days since September, Herrar said. "[Each time] he's backed up an additional day of knowledge," she said.

Detentions have declined since the strict policy first took effect, and there has been an easing of some rules, said Principal Tom Kaiser, who rejected the idea there was a special education problem.

He said he wouldn't apologize for rules that keep the school operating smoothly for kids who arrive there reading far below grade level.

"We're going to teach our kids how to read," said Kaiser. "There were a lot of disruptions to class and a lot of disruptions to learning. We are in a turnaround year."

New York Post
Charter school iron rule

Last Updated: 9:18 AM, February 25, 2010

Posted: 4:05 AM, February 25, 2010

A Brooklyn charter's disciplinary system is more like the big house than the schoolhouse, says parents of children there.

The furor at Achievement First Endeavor in Fort Greene erupted when the new principal, Tom Kaiser, implemented a detention-heavy policy in September for infractions such as poor posture and walking out of line in the hallways, parents charge.

They claim the learning environment became a boot camp, with students racking up 100 detentions a day.

"The kids feel like they can't really say nothing, like they're in prison," said Gorlicia Thomas, who has two kids in the school. "They don't want to go to school because they don't know what to say or what to do, because the simplest thing gets them in trouble."

Several of the middle-school students said they had gotten in trouble for talking in class even when they were trying to assist one of their classmates.

School officials said they loosened some of the rules after parents complained.

They said that most students had responded well to the school's high expectations, and that 90 percent of parents who attended recent meetings rated the school favorably.

"We have lots of parents who are wildly positive of having the discipline system," said school spokeswoman Lesley Redwine.

Among them is Paul Breece, whose 11-year-old daughter attends the school.

"I know it's a little inconvenient for the children and parents, but if you set up the rules, then you got to follow them," he said. "I'm 100 percent for it. Anything to keep the kids out of trouble is good."

Meanwhile, a new report by the city's Independent Budget Office said charter schools got between 2 and 18 percent less funding per student than traditional public schools did in the 2008-09 school year.

While traditional schools got $16,678 per student in public money last year, charters housed in public spaces received nearly $305 less per child.

Charter schools that rely on private facilities received more than $3,000 less per student.

New York Times
February 24, 2010

As U.S. Aid Grows, Oversight Is Urged for Charter Schools
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to significantly expand the flow of federal aid to charter schools, money that has driven a 15-year expansion of their numbers, from just a few dozen in the early 1990s to some 5,000 today.

But in the first Congressional hearing on rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, lawmakers on Wednesday heard experts, all of them charter school advocates, testify that Washington should also make sure charter schools are properly monitored for their admissions procedures, academic standards and financial stewardship.

The president of one influential charter group told the House Education and Labor Committee that the federal government had spent $2 billion since the mid-1990s to finance new charter schools but less than $2 million, about one-tenth of 1 percent, to ensure that they were held to high standards.

“It’s as if the federal government had spent billions for new highway construction, but nothing to put up guardrails along the sides of those highways,” said Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Charter schools operate mainly with state financing, and with less regulation than traditional public schools. A provision of the No Child law offers federal startup grants, usually in the range of $150,000 per school, to charter organizers to help them plan and staff a new school until they can begin classes and obtain state per-pupil financing.

The federal money has provided crucial early support to many successful charter schools, but has also attracted many people with little education experience who have opened chaotic schools that have floundered.

The administration’s proposal for rewriting the law would increase federal financing for charter schools to $490 million in 2011 from about $256 million in 2010. It would also, for the first time, allow the funds to be used to finance additional schools opened by a charter operator, if the original school has been successful.

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who is the committee chairman and helped write the No Child law, said in opening the hearing that the law’s requirements for annual testing had placed a spotlight on students across the nation who were falling behind.

“But we also know the law didn’t get everything right,” he said, “and we cannot afford to wait to fix it.”

Much debate on Wednesday focused on whether charter schools educate disabled children in the same proportion as regular public schools.

Thomas Hehir, a Harvard education professor, said that national research on that question had been inadequate, but that his work in the San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston and other school systems had shown that “charters generally serve fewer children with disabilities than traditional public schools.”

Furthermore, Mr. Hehir said, charters in some cities educate only a minuscule proportion of students with severe disabilities like mental retardation, in comparison with regular public schools. That, he said, undercuts the assertions by some that charters are outperforming regular schools.

Eileen Ahearn, a project director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, said that charter schools faced unique challenges in educating disabled students but that many nonetheless do so successfully.
Study finds charter schools get less money, how much less varies
by Maura Walz

Charter schools receive less public funding per student than their district school peers, according to a report released today by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

But the size of that disparity varies widely according to whether the charter school is housed in a city-owned building, the report said.

Charter schools that are housed in public school buildings receive only $300 less per student than district schools, according to the IBO’s calculations.

But charter schools that own their own buildings or lease them receive more than $3,000 less per student in public funding than district schools, the report said. In those schools, charters must pay for maintenance and other building costs themselves. Those costs are covered by the Department of Education for charters in city-owned buildings.

The report, prepared at the request of Panel for Educational Policy member Patrick Sullivan, is an attempt to resolve a long-standing question in the charter school debate.

Charter school advocates argue that, under the state’s funding formula, the schools receive significantly less per student. Critics counter that charter schools, especially those housed in city-owned buildings, receive many hidden subsidies that either equalize or boost charter school resources above what district schools receive.

Both supporters and critics of the city’s charter schools found elements in the report to support their positions.

“The IBO study validates the City’s policy of offering public space to charter schools in an attempt to provide charter school students with the same resources as their peers in other public schools,” Chancellor Joel Klein said in a statement.

Charter schools are not legally guaranteed space in public buildings, but the Bloomberg administration, which strongly supports the schools, has offered space in district schools to many charters.

James Merriman, head of the New York City Charter Center, said the report bolstered charter advocates’ claim that charter schools are slighted by the state’s funding formula. “When you add it up, the gap between district schools and charters isn’t even close, particularly for those charters that do not share public space,” he said.

Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew disputed that interpretation.

“The difference between funding for public schools and charter schools in public buildings is negligible,” Mulgrew said. “When you add in the private funding that many charter schools get, I’m sure that we’ll find that many charter schools have resources that are well beyond those of public schools.”

At the same time, both charter school opponents and advocates also found nits to pick with the report’s analysis, claiming that it either inflated or understated the amount of public funding charter schools receive.

Parent advocate Leonie Haimson said that the IBO’s accounting of district schools’ per-pupil spending includes DOE central administrative expenses that are spent on things like data systems and consultants.

“A lot of it is being spent by DOE on highly questionable priorities that don’t really benefit students,” Haimson said. “How much do we actually see at the school level? That’s the disparity we are talking about.”

By contrast, the Charter School Center released a statement arguing that many charter schools in fact receive far less money at the school level than district schools serving the same neighborhood. “[B]ecause the City has rightly directed more resources to district schools in high needs neighborhoods, the gap for charter schools in those same neighborhoods is much wider,” the statement said.

Because of the complicated ways charter schools and district schools are funded, a fair comparison of how much money district and charter schools actually spend on students is difficult to draw cleanly.

The IBO accounting of district schools’ per-student spending did include most central administrative costs, and the amount of money actually doled out to schools varies significantly from school to school depending on what students are enrolled at the school. Charter schools receive a flat per-student amount of public funding, but most of their administrative costs also come out of that fund. In the case of schools housed in city-owned buildings, some maintenance costs are then covered by the city.

The report did not examine the amount that charter schools raise through private philanthropy each year. According to an analysis by Kim Gittleson, a research assistant employed by one of GothamSchools’ funders, Ken Hirsh, charter schools in the city spent on average $14,456 per student. That number is greater than the amount of public support charter schools receive but still less than the amount of citywide per-pupil spending for district schools.

Questions of how charter schools are funded, and the effect of the city’s practice of granting public building space to charters, are currently under heavy public scrutiny. Charter advocates are currently lobbying legislators to lift a freeze on charter school funding that keeps spending capped at 2008-09 levels. And a rancorous debate over the city’s charter school siting practices has been cited as one of the biggest political obstacles to raising the statewide cap on charter schools.

In his statement, Klein linked those two issues, indicating that the city’s siting practices for charters are likely to remain unchanged.

“Until the state’s funding formula is revised and charter schools are eligible for capital dollars like other schools, we will continue to work with communities and parents across the City to find space for new charters when it is available and presents the right fit with other schools in a building,” he said.

To see the full report go to:

New York Post
Where Klein gets tough
Last Updated: 9:18 AM, February 25, 2010

Posted: 1:12 AM, February 25, 2010

Count on Mayor Mike's Solomon-like educrats to explain precisely why a bag of Doritos poses less of a threat to students' health than a homemade brownie.

Now if only they could figure out how to fire an incompetent teacher.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's head-scratching priorities were laid bare in yesterday's New York Times, which helpfully revealed that, in the two years since he supposedly made rooting out such teachers a priority, exactly three have been fired for incompetence.

Sure, union rules make that process a headache -- but New Yorkers turned their schools over to Bloomberg and Klein precisely to get that sort of heavy lifting done.


Meanwhile, as The Times also reported yesterday, the Education Department seems to have had scant trouble getting the Brownie Menace under control.

A minutely detailed list of new nutrition rules for student-run "bake sales" will soon take effect -- with Pop-Tarts and Doritos good to go but actual home-baked goods totally proscribed.

Clearly, the folks at DOE have thought long and hard about the precise levels of sugar and salt to be allowed in kids' stomachs. But what of their minds?

As the Times makes clear, stupid and lazy teachers are as entrenched in the school system as ever: Not only have next to none been fired for incompetence, principals last year could bring themselves to rate only 1.8 percent of tenured teachers "unsatisfactory" -- the first step toward dismissal.

And budget cuts are quickly undoing what progress has been made, as principals must fill openings with unwanted teachers who remain on the city payroll.

All the more reason for Klein to focus like a laser on getting as much dead weight out of the system as possible -- instead of policing . . . zucchini bread.

The chancellor will surely protest that he can do both at the same time. But results count -- and here they speak for themselves.

Moreover, effective leadership requires the establishment of priorities -- at the very least, so that the multitudinous defenders of the status quo know whom to take seriously, and when.

That's the burden Bloomberg and Klein took on when they won a renewal of mayoral control in Albany last year.

A pity to see them fritter it away.

Daily News
City should spare kids the budget ax
Errol Louis

Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

The bad weather isn't the only cold drizzle falling on our town these days. A stormy season of layoffs, downsizing and shutdowns has arrived, eroding the hopes, dreams, wealth and future of a great city.

About 143,000 men and women have been laid off from private-sector firms and nonprofit organizations since August 2008, according to Crain's New York Business - including about 2,900 announced so far this year.

Now it's the public sector's turn.

This week's announcement of more than 1,000 job cuts by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was an economic deathblow to the hopes of station agents like Felicia Fields.

"How am I going to survive?" she asked an Associated Press reporter. "I don't want to go back to public assistance."

Fields' fear reflects the shortsightedness that often guides government budget-slashing. Blindly cutting budgets can end up knocking working people off the tax rolls and onto the relief rolls.

It should be an absolute rule in Albany and City Hall that all cuts must include an analysis of the impact on families and communities. Services that help people keep and find work - libraries, day care centers, community colleges and job training programs - should get extra care, consideration and protection from the budget ax.

Brooklyn's Duffield Children's Center is a case in point. Tucked away in a swiftly gentrifying corner of Fort Greene, the center serves 86 preschool kids, mostly from low-income families, along with 17 children in Head Start, the federal program for kids living in poverty.

Parents and youngsters love the place. You see it in the banter between instructors and children, the artwork all over the walls - and in standardized tests showing 95% of the children achieving mastery or near-mastery of language skills.

"I chose this center because I just didn't want my kids to go anywhere," says Janice St. Jean, who lives in Bushwick, miles from Duffield. "I wanted my kids to be somebody in the future and to go somewhere."

But Duffield is one of 15 city-subsidized centers scheduled to be closed as part of budget-tightening at the Administration for Children's Services. There are 1,200 citywide slots being eliminated.

The problem is that Duffield, like many of the 300-plus day care centers supported by the city, sits on property that has increased in value over the years, sending rent costs skyrocketing.

Located a block from Long Island University's Brooklyn campus and several brand-new luxury residential towers, Duffield's rent is now $300,000 a year - more than ACS is willing to pay.

"We had to make our pick. We've been running a deficit in the child-care system," says ACS communications director Sharman Stein. "These are very, very difficult decisions to make."

Stein says every child displaced from Duffield will get a seat in another city-subsidized center. But that's small comfort to working parents who have constructed elaborate job, baby-sitting and commuting schedules around Duffield.

Jingmei Chin, a recent immigrant from China who works as a home health aide, travels from Avenue U, miles from Duffield, to drop off her 2-year-old daughter, Vivien, before going to English classes.

"We only speak Chinese at home so it is good that Vivien can come here and learn English. And she is learning very well," says Chin. Another Duffield mom, Gloria Baez, fears she may not be able to finish high school if she loses a day care slot for her 3-year-old daughter.

Even in a rough budget season, dissolving a place like the Duffield Children's Center seems penny wise and pound foolish. Shutting the place down will save the city $300,000 in rent, for instance - but will cause the loss of $470,000 in federal Head Start money and an additional $30,000 in private grants used for the center.

More importantly, it will be an obstacle and setback to lots of families and children who need and deserve every chance to succeed.

"We are a nationally recognized program that helps children understand basic literacy requirements," says Douglas Brooks of the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service, the parent nonprofit that runs Duffield. "Leave us alone, let us do our work and the families will be taken care of."

Brooks is right. But in this time of tough choices, being right, effective, efficient and compassionate may not be enough.

The Riverdale

Kennedy comes off list of dangerous schools

By Kate Pastor

There may be fewer cops walking the John F. Kennedy High School beat these days.

The six schools on the John F. Kennedy Campus have been taken off the city’s impact list, based, in part on an approximately 47 percent drop in overall crime on the campus between July 1 and Feb. 14 2009, police said.

“We’ve improved substantially, and we’ve all worked together to make it a safe environment,” said Bronx Theatre High School Principal Debbi Effinger.

Impact schools are selected by the New York Police Department and the Department of Education because of their high crime levels, safety-related transfers, superintendent suspensions and other warning signs that include low school attendance and disorderly behavior among students, according to the Department of Education.

The impact list is intended to help turn dangerous schools around, directing additional police and security personnel into middle and high schools.

Schools on the John F. Kennedy Campus were placed on the impact list in the spring of 2006, and the six schools which currently make their home there — John F. Kennedy High School, E.L.L.I.S., Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy, Bronx Theatre High School, Marble Hill International School and Bronx School of Law and Finance — were removed more nearly four years later, on Feb. 1.

A representative from the New York Police Department recently met with Department of Education officials, going over crime statistics and the Department of Ed’s own numbers, as well as observations about the tone of the school. School Chancellor Joel Klein then signed off on the decision.

Queens Courier
City schools absorb hundreds of Haitian students
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 12:59 PM EST

Danny Kanner was clear in his assertion about the New York City public school system: “Every student has a right to go to school.”

The city Department of Education (DOE) mantra sung by Kanner, an agency spokesperson, holds true for school-age Haitian refugees whose own chalkboards and homework assignments were turned to dust on January 12.

As of February 16, 219 Haitian students who fled the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation had been absorbed into NYC public schools.

The majority of the students, according to the DOE, are now enrolled in Brooklyn’s District 17, which includes the heavily Haitian neighborhood of Flatbush. But Queens also tops the list.

“I wouldn’t characterize this as a massive influx,” Kanner said, “but it’s a challenging time and we’re providing all the resources we can for these students.”

But organizations including the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Advocates for Children, along with representatives of the Haitian Consulate say the DOE is not doing enough. They claim the agency is taking too long – up to 6 weeks – to find a spot for the displaced students, when by city law, they say, school placement should take no more than five business days.

Critics also point to a lack of transition programs for Haitian English Language Learners – an issue that, along with the timing of school placements, had been a problem long before the Haiti earthquake, according to Deycy Avitia, the director of advocacy and organizing for NYIC.

Avitia noted that NYIC reached out to the DOE two years ago to set up a plan to accommodate new students into the city system. Yet, she said little has been done, as there is still an overwhelming lack of space for Haitian students, particularly at the high school level. Avitia added that the city also has a shortage of programs for Students with Interrupted Formal Education and those who lack basic literacy.

“Now, when you add on top of that the fact that there might be a steady stream of students coming in – we need to be prepared for that,” Deycy noted, referring to the ongoing arrival of Haitian students.

The DOE’s Kanner said borough enrollment centers process the new Haitian students and direct them to particular schools for potential admission. And, he added, in the beginning, city intake centers helped direct crisis counselors into schools to support social workers and guidance counselors working with the traumatized students.

“We take any and all kids,” Kanner emphasized. “Everyone’s got a right to a public education.”

In the end, however, it seems the issue does not concern admittance, but instead how efficiently the city can accommodate displaced Haitian school children, and how quickly it can get them back into a daily routine – even if it’s 1,500 miles from home.

Daily News
Labor's duty to New York: Unions must agree to save co-workers and the city

Thursday, February 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

The first substantial round of public-sector layoffs has arrived in this time of widening budget deficits with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's impending dismissal of more than 1,000 administrative personnel and station agents.

Chairman Jay Walder is moving with due and necessary speed to balance the agency's books, setting a precedent that all levels of government across the state appear destined to follow - with devastating consequences.

Only enlightened leadership by public-employee labor leaders will spare New Yorkers, including union members, the brunt of having thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and others lopped suddenly from the payroll.

Are you among those who are upset that Mayor Bloomberg has ordered the shortening of parades to save money? How will you feel when street cleaning is severely curtailed? That's coming, too.

On the job for only a few months, Walder is taking early actions that are well-designed. He is letting go 600 bureaucrats and back-office workers, whose loss, he believes, will have little or no impact on MTA operations. If so, Walder is doing what his predecessors should have done long ago.

He has also targeted for dismissal 450 station agents - employees who used to sell tokens or MetroCards and now sit in bulletproof booths, providing assistance as requested. Some may wind up reassigned to station cleaning. There they will at least be demonstrably useful.

Walder projects that the layoffs will produce $50 million in savings - a nice piece of change, but minuscule compared with the MTA's financial hole. Next up are the elimination of bus routes and subway lines, along with dismissals for drivers, motormen, conductors and many others.

The Transport Workers Union has begun to scream. But TWU leaders have the fate of their members in hand. The choice is simple: Relinquish three straight years of 4% pay hikes and grant major workplace productivity savings, or throw thousands onto the unemployment lines.

Every municipal union is approaching a similar crossroads, most notably the teachers. They, too, are holding fast to an expectation of 4% pay hikes at a time when private-sector raises are unheard of - provided you actually have a job.

This conflict between the interests of taxpayers, who by and large are paid less and have far more meager health and pension benefits than public workers, and of municipal employees will come into sharp focus as layoffs cascade.

For the good of New York, for continued lifesaving success in the war on crime, for progress in lifting student achievement, labor must bend - if only to keep critically needed workers on the job.

New York Post

School's in class by itself
By YOAV GONEN Education Reporter

Last Updated: 3:57 AM, March 1, 2010

Posted: 3:57 AM, March 1, 2010

To most educators, 60 elementary-school kids in one classroom would sound like a nightmare.

To founding New American Academy Principal Shimon Waronker, it's the new way forward.

Waronker, a Spanish-speaking Hasidic Jew who earned his stripes turning around one of the city's most violent middle schools in The Bronx, will open a trilingual elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in September. The kids will all graduate fluent in Spanish and French, in addition to English.

The innovative public school will put 60 kids in a classroom with four teachers, who will stay with those same students from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade.

The students will sit around oval tables in giant 1,200-square-foot rooms.

Waronker, who hopes to open as many as 50 replications of the school by 2012 if the model takes off, believes the unusual set-up will help build deep relationships among teachers and students and will allow instructors to target their lessons to kids' specific learning styles.

He's also introducing student-initiated learning -- in which kids help decide the subject matter of each course. The method is the hallmark of elite private schools like Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, whose principal collaborated on the venture.

"The model of teaching and learning that he's proposing is a very different model from the one that I think has the most currency right now," said Dr. Richard Elmore, Waronker's adviser on the project at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

"It's one that empowers kids to be active agents in their own learning."

The New American Academy will also be the first school in the city to introduce what's known as a "career ladder" for teachers, where promotion from one title to the next is based on merit, not length of service.

It's a departure for the United Federation of Teachers, which has generally opposed merit-based pay scales but which has been an active member of the school's planning committee.

Although city Department of Education officials said they were still hammering out the contract details, an agreement would mean that the four teachers would be earning different salaries, ranging from a first- or second-year "apprentice," who averages $50,000 a year, to a "master," who makes up to $120,000.

"This is an entirely different structure," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

"Here you've got basically four [career] levels and an ability to really leverage the talent of your top people and to develop the people coming after them."

Among the major themes students will learn at the academy -- where kids will granted admission by lottery -- are keyboarding in kindergarten, computer programming in first grade, as well as how plumbing, electricity, refrigeration and motors work in the later grades.

New York Times

February 24, 2010, 6:54 PM

Getting Rid of Bad Teachers


Updated, Feb. 25, 3:35 p.m. | Charles Merrill, a former teacher and psychologist in the New York City public schools, joins the discussion.

In an article this week, The Times described the slow progress New York City officials are making in their efforts to get rid of teachers who have been judged incompetent. Despite a two-year push by the city, only three teachers have been fired, a rate of success that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein called “far too modest.” He and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have blamed the teachers’ union for defending the rules governing the system, which requires that teachers receive full pay while their cases are being decided (they spend the days in one of the system’s so-called rubber rooms), a burden that costs $30 million a year. The city’s critics point out that its officials approved many of the rules in the teachers’ contract.

New York City is hardly alone. Many other school systems in the country face problems in getting rid of teachers accused of misconduct or ineptitude — a recent article in Los Angeles Weekly detailed some of the toughest cases there.

A broader question for school reformers in New York City and elsewhere is: What is the most effective way to identify incompetent teachers and take steps to get rid of them? What would a fair and effective system consist of?

0. Tim Daly, president, New Teacher Project

0. Richard D. Kahlenberg, Century Foundation

0. Marcus Winters, Manhattan Institute

0. Molly Pease, high school teacher

0. Don Soifer, Lexington Institute

0. Aaron Pallas, Columbia Teachers College

Charles Merrill, former teacher

To read the entire blog, go to:

Daily News
City charter schools aren't just better - they cost less
BY Marcus Winters

Monday, March 1st 2010, 4:00 AM

Once again, facts are getting in the way of those who would question the success of charter schools. Critics often claim that charter schools are more effective than district-run public schools only because they are better funded. In fact, according to a new report, New York City's charter schools are thriving despite receiving fewer public dollars than other public schools get.

The New York City Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, compared public funding of traditional public schools and charters. The analysis accounted for not only direct school funds but also for in-kind resources provided to charters by the city Education Department - for example, about two-thirds of Gotham's charter schools are located in public facilities and pay little to no rent.

According to the budget office, charter schools receive fewer public dollars, directly or indirectly, than do public schools. The funding difference is negligible for charters that receive public space, about $305 a pupil. Charters that pay for their own facilities, however, receive about $3,017 less per student than traditional public schools.

That charter schools receive fewer public dollars only makes their success more notable. The findings in a recent study by Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby remain unchallenged: Children attending New York City charter schools make dramatic academic improvements. Now, the Independent Budget Office report shows that these educational gains come at a lower public price tag.

Predictably, teachers union President Michael Mulgrew has already started griping. Though he rightly points out that charter schools typically use private grants to supplement the public funds they receive (the budget office report looked only at public funding), the influence of philanthropic giving on charter school budgets is exaggerated. A recent analysis of publicly reported documents by Kim Gittleson found that the average charter school in the city received about $1,656 per pupil in philanthropic funds in 2009. That amount doesn't make up the funding disparity for charters that pay for their own facilities - and it's not nearly enough money to account for the dramatic achievement differences found by Hoxby. (Full disclosure: Gittleson is a research assistant for Ken Hirsh, a donor to the Manhattan Institute.)

Someday, critics must be forced to admit that New York's charter schools outperform the traditional public schools not because they bring in more money and not because they "cream" the best students - that myth has also been disproved - but because they do more with the resources they have. Freedom from the often preposterous restrictions imposed by state law and collective bargaining agreements allows charters to focus on student learning.

Charter school principals can fire teachers, while the legally mandated tenure system ensures that just about everyone who teaches in a public school is guaranteed a job for life. Charter schools can push teachers to work longer hours and attend frequent staff meetings. By contrast, the United Federation of Teachers contract with the city details everything that a public school teacher can't be required to do. Charter schools are free to utilize data to keep track of student progress and teacher performance. In public schools, such technological advances remain comparatively taboo.

These freedoms, and not any imagined monetary advantage, allow charters to succeed where Gotham's public schools have continually failed. The charter school critics are running out of arguments.

Marcus Winters is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

New York Post
Pinch on private schools

By YOAV GONEN Education Reporter

Last Updated: 1:32 PM, February 27, 2010

Posted: 2:57 AM, February 27, 2010

Suddenly, spending $30,000 on elementary school doesn't seem so smart.

Amid the national economic unease, fewer elementary-school kids took private-school entrance exams this year, according to the Educational Records Bureau.

The number of city kids taking the tests dropped by 4.4 percent from last year, to 4,259, the bureau said.

While application figures varied from school to school, the numbers were down at such stalwart privates as Dalton, on the Upper East Side, and the Ethical Culture Fieldstone School, on the Upper West Side, admission consultants reported.

While the economy was certainly a factor in some parents' decisions to go with the public schools rather than private schools, some say demographics could also be playing a role.

"There are definitely people who are going to public school who had not planned on going to public school," said Robin Aronow, of School Search NYC, a Web site for parents of New York City students.

"Your chances of getting in [a private school] are better than they were last year or two years ago, but it's still not a sure thing, because there are still more applicants than seats."


New York Post

Charter foes feel Klein slap

Last Updated: 7:43 AM, February 28, 2010

Posted: 4:18 AM, February 28, 2010

The city's schools chief fired a broadside at charter-school opponents yesterday, calling for lawmakers and unions to stop political bickering and give students more education choices.

"I wish the elected officials would respond to our parents and students and not respond to all the political forces that usually drive education in Albany," said Chancellor Joel Klein.

His comments came at a charter and private school fair in Harlem that drew 3,000 parents, who braved the remains of Friday's snowstorm for a chance to enroll their children in elite charter, Catholic, private or public schools.

"Let your elected officials know that you want choice, and that you don't want other people to tell you what's best for your kids," Klein said.

The fair drew 6,000 parents last year in much better weather conditions.

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents made five more charter school authorizations. The board has one left, which it expects to make next month.

New York Times

February 28, 2010

In Middle School, Charting Their Course to College and Beyond
Public schools have long offered their students the same basic academic program, with little real choice aside from foreign languages or an occasional elective in what was a one-size-fits-all approach that drove many families to seek private and charter schools.

But this year, all 428 sixth graders at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, N.J., are charting their own academic path with personalized student learning plans — electronic portfolios containing information about their learning styles, interests, skills, career goals and extracurricular activities.

These new learning plans will follow each sixth grader through high school, and are intended to help the students assess their own strengths and weaknesses as well as provide their parents and teachers with a more complete profile beyond grades and test scores.

In New Jersey and elsewhere, middle schools and high schools are experimenting with individualized learning plans that were once used primarily to ensure that special education students received services. Along with differentiated instruction and specialized career academies, it is yet another way that public schools, under pressure to raise test scores and graduation rates, are trying to reach more students.

Many educators and parents say that creating learning plans for everyone can better prepare students for college, and motivate even low achievers to work harder by showing them that what they want matters, too.

“If you don’t know yourself and think you want to be a biologist, you may realize in your sophomore year in college you don’t like science,” said Mercedes Arias, a Linwood language arts coordinator who is helping develop the learning plans. “You should have really figured that out sooner.”

In a Linwood social studies class recently, 21 sixth graders were taking an online quiz called Matchmaker.

How would you like a career that includes working with children?

Working outdoors in any weather?

Rossanny Rodriguez, 10, answered “likes very much” for 38 of the 39 questions, all except one about operating machines because she said she gets confused connecting cables to a computer. “I want to learn new things,” she said. “I don’t want to stay an old lady just doing the same things.”

Her No. 1 job, according to Matchmaker: principal.

“Here’s the walkie-talkie,” Pete Clark, the Linwood principal, told Rossanny as he passed by the classroom. “I’m going home.”

The learning plans have also eased the burden on school guidance departments, which traditionally provided such academic and career support but now struggle with large caseloads resulting from budget cuts. For instance, Linwood’s three counselors advise 1,350 students in three grades, or a 1-to-450 ratio, which is slightly better than the national average.

“Principals like it because it’s low cost,” said Dick Flanary, a senior director with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “It doesn’t require a huge outlay of money and resources to produce a change in the school culture.”

In New Jersey, 16 schools including Linwood and nearby North Brunswick Township High School were selected from 90 applicants for a $240,000 state pilot program to develop the learning plans. Each school will receive up to $15,000 in grants over the next two years to cover expenses like technology, training and faculty stipends.

Nationally, 24 states and the District of Columbia have adopted policies to develop individualized learning plans for students as early as sixth grade, according to the Education Commission of the States. While the requirements vary, the learning plans are generally developed jointly by school staff, students and parents, and include suggestions for specific coursework and sometimes extracurricular activities.

Penelope Lattimer, assistant director of the Rutgers University Institute for Improving Student Achievement, said that as a high school principal in New Brunswick in the 1970s, she introduced “student learning contracts” that were essentially personalized learning plans. She said that the contracts connected classroom learning to concrete career goals, and that some students changed career goals five or more times before settling on the right one.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “The more that you can personalize the academic route that students are exploring, the more they are likely to do their best work.”

At Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, where math and language arts test scores are well below the state average, only one in two students go on to four-year college, according to state data. This year, all 267 ninth graders are creating online student learning plans in collaboration with teachers and staff.

The school is handing out flash drives as incentives for completing a 200-some question career quiz that is part of the learning plan. Daniella Martins, 14, a ninth grader who aspires to be a singer or actress, said she spent an hour taking the career quiz. “Nobody likes to take quizzes and tests,” she said. “When you’re taking it, you’re in agony.”

But she was pleased with the results, which listed her top career field as the arts, followed by education and human services. Finance was at the bottom.

“Yes, definitely, I’m not a fan of math,” she said. “It just shows you the opportunities you can have if one doesn’t work out.”

At Linwood Middle School, which has above-average test scores, Rossanny and the other sixth graders have been filling out their online learning plans once a month in school. They can also log in at home as often as they want.

Mr. Clark, the principal, said the learning plans were another way to personalize the school experience, along with dividing the student body into three houses that each serve as a school within a school and assigning teachers to be mentors. “It’s about making connections — making kids feel connected to their school,” he said.

John Apostolakis, 11, whose father manages construction projects and owns a pizzeria, said that he was learning what he needed to study to follow in his father’s footsteps. According to Matchmaker, his top three jobs were renovator, chef and baker.

His father, Constantine, said that he could have used a personalized learning plan himself because it was not until his junior year in college that he chose his major, civil engineering, mainly because he did not want to be stuck in an office. “I remember I felt lost and the focus wasn’t there because I didn’t know what I wanted,” he said.

New York Times
February 26, 2010

Under Fire, Paterson Ends His Campaign for Governor


Gov. David A. Paterson ended his campaign for election on Friday amid crumbling support from his party and an uproar over his administration’s intervention in a domestic violence case involving a close aide.

The announcement came less than a week after Mr. Paterson formally announced his candidacy.

The governor acknowledged that the episode involving his longtime aide David W. Johnson had become a distraction, but he vowed to serve out the remaining 308 days of his term and remain focused on his work.

“There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service, but to step back, and that moment has come for me,” Mr. Paterson told a room full of reporters in an afternoon news conference.

In the most dramatic moment, the governor raised his right hand and offered what he called a “personal oath,” stressing that he had not abused his power in his response to the domestic violence case.

“I have never abused my office, not now, not ever,” said Mr. Paterson, his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, by his side.

“I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail,” he added.

Even as the governor was speaking, however, new calls emerged for him to resign, amid a criminal investigation by the office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. Moments after the governor’s news conference ended, the New York City comptroller, John C. Liu, became the latest fellow Democrat to call for the governor to step down.

And some Democrats expressed skepticism that the politically wounded Mr. Paterson could effectively lead a state facing a deficit of more than $8 billion.

The White House, which had tried to nudge Mr. Paterson out of the race, said he was right to end his candidacy. The reports of his administration’s intervention in the domestic abuse case were “disturbing,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.

“Anybody that read these articles believes at a minimum he made the right decision about his re-election,” Mr. Gibbs said.

State Democrats were moving to anoint Mr. Cuomo, who has been quietly preparing his own campaign for governor, as their candidate.

The governor’s withdrawal came less than two days after The New York Times reported that his administration had intervened in the episode involving Mr. Johnson, 37, who was accused by a longtime companion of assaulting her on Halloween.

The woman was twice granted a temporary order of protection against Mr. Johnson, but she complained in court that the State Police had been harassing her to drop the matter. In addition, the governor talked to the woman himself only a day before she was scheduled to appear in court to seek a final order of protection. She failed to show up for that appearance, and the case was dropped. The woman, saying she fears retaliation, has requested that her identity be withheld.

The governor initially seemed to believe that his campaign could survive the revelations and was seemingly undisturbed for most of Thursday, even as prominent Democrats publicly questioned his political prospects.

He attended two private lunches with donors in Manhattan, at the Four Seasons and the Bryant Park Grill.

But after he returned to his campaign office about 3:30 p.m., his political advisers gave him bad news: they had been canvassing Democrats about whether the campaign should continue, and they found that support for the governor was evaporating.

Some elected officials who had agreed to attend a big homecoming rally, planned for Saturday in Harlem, expressed wariness about appearing.

“It made no political sense to move forward with that kind of announcement in light of the allegations,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side.

“It really would be unfair to people who have been loyal to the governor to put them in a position like that,” he said, adding, “It was over.”

The governor and his advisers had also become unnerved because the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had been gradually moving away from his embrace of Mr. Paterson’s candidacy, was organizing a major meeting of black political leaders at Sylvia’s in Harlem on Saturday to discuss the governor’s situation.

On Thursday afternoon, the governor and his campaign manager, Richard Fife, began a conversation about his options. About 90 minutes later, they were joined by Jay Jacobs, the state party chairman and a key Paterson ally. Sitting around a conference table in the campaign office, which overlooks Park Avenue, as a snowstorm whirled outside, the governor listened to Mr. Jacobs explain why the race was unwinnable. Perhaps most significant, Mr. Jacobs said it would be extremely difficult for Mr. Paterson to win the 25 percent of delegates needed at the state party convention in May to secure a place on the primary ballot.

After Mr. Jacobs finished speaking, about 5:20, the governor agreed and said he would quit the race.

“It was becoming much bigger and more complicated than could be overcome,” Mr. Jacobs said later. “He said that he agreed. It didn’t require any great lift on my part. He didn’t seem resigned, dejected. He seemed resolute and confident.”

The governor thanked Mr. Jacobs and said he needed a day to call supporters and friends to let them know he would be ending his campaign.

Mr. Paterson then held a brief news conference, telling reporters that he was still a candidate.

He spent the evening and the next morning calling key personal and political supporters, including his father, Basil A. Paterson, former New York secretary of state; Representative Charles B. Rangel of Manhattan; and George Gresham, the leader of the powerful union of hospital workers, 1199 S.E.I.U.

Some old friends told him that he should consider going further. Minutes after his announcement on Friday, the governor called Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York City.

“I said I think you should resign,” Mr. Koch recalled of the conversation.

“They’re going to play with you like a dog with a bone, and it won’t be any fun,” he told the governor. “There won’t be any satisfaction, you won’t have any clout and it’ll be agonizing.”

“He said thank you, and that was all,” Mr. Koch said.

Later in the day, the governor called Kathryn S. Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group of business executives.

“I asked him if he felt that he had been railroaded out or if he got tired of it, and he said, ‘I just got tired of it,’ “ she recalled. “Then he said, ‘It’s like I’m standing in front of the mirror thinking is there a reason for why I take all this abuse, and that it’s mostly coming from the Democrats.’ “

Mr. Paterson, who is 55, came to office in March 2008 after his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Before becoming lieutenant governor in January 2007, he served for two decades as a state senator from Harlem, rising to become the leader of the Democratic caucus when it was still the minority.

Mr. Paterson had about $3 million on hand for his campaign, according to a finance report filed last month. Mr. Fife, his campaign manager, said Friday that no decision had been made about whether the money would be returned to donors.

Some Democrats are urging Mr. Paterson to turn over many or all of his duties to Richard Ravitch, the lieutenant governor, a seasoned public servant who once led the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Mr. Ravitch has been working for months on a multiyear fiscal plan that is likely to be released in the next couple of weeks.

“Obviously, I want to be as helpful as I possibly can,” said Mr. Ravitch, who was working on his fiscal plan on Friday afternoon as Mr. Paterson was preparing to announce his withdrawal from the governor’s race. “People have been waiting for me to come up with my ideas, and I’ve been trying to finish that. I’ll be working all weekend on that.”

Asked about the governor’s predicament, he said, “At some level you have to feel sad.” But, he added, the administration needed to focus on “problems with the government and the budget that have to be addressed.”

Mr. Paterson’s advisers, meanwhile, privately pressed legislative leaders to agree to a public meeting with him on Tuesday to send a message to New Yorkers that he was back at work, and serious about fixing the budget.

“There are 308 days left in my term,” he said. “I will serve every one of them fighting for the people of the State of New York.”

Peter Baker contributed reporting.

Daily News

Just get out, Dave:

Paterson must take the next step and resign

Saturday, February 27th 2010, 4:00 AM

Gov. Paterson spared himself the humiliation of a landslide repudiation at the polls by dropping his doomed bid for election - and now he must show equal mercy to New Yorkers by resigning from office.

In optimism, we offer the governor our heartfelt encouragement: His withdrawal from the race was an excellent first step toward entering the real world from whatever dimension it is that he has been occupying.

Only days ago, Paterson vowed that he would leave the race only in a pine box or at the ballot box. So there is hope that his near-delusional statement of intent to serve out his term will have a similarly short life span.

He could not win. So he quit.

He cannot govern. So he must go, and go now.

This truth, presented in yesterday's front-page Daily News editorial, is fast becoming accepted wisdom even among Paterson's fellow Democrats.

City Controller John Liu framed the issue neatly by declaring that, in a time of unprecedented economic difficulties, city taxpayers cannot afford the services of the lamest of lame ducks, a man who has become a virtual laughingstock, a man who is about to devote his days, nights and weekends to the demands of coping with a criminal investigation.

"We have a $4.1 billion budget deficit to grapple with in New York City and cannot make real progress until the state budget is resolved on time one month from now," Liu said.

"In order for this to happen, we need Gov. Paterson to step down now" and hand the reins to Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch.

Referring to Paterson's pullout, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said: "I have not talked to the President about this, but it's safe to say that anybody that read these articles believes, at a minimum, he made the right decision."

By "these articles" Gibbs meant the disclosure that Paterson, at the least, tolerated a charge of violent domestic abuse filed against his closest confidante by a girlfriend and, at the worst, participated with the state police in a campaign to silence his aide's accuser.

Paterson's actions in this regard revealed him to have profoundly limited judgment and to possess an even more tenuous allegiance to truth.

He spoke to the woman after she alleged in court that his security detail was pressuring her to drop the matter. That's at the least appalling. He also attempted to peddle a story that he'd merely taken her call when, in fact, his aides asked her to phone. That's as close to lying as you get.

Meanwhile, the toughest state budget in a generation is hanging fire. The decisions that Albany makes will profoundly affect the lives of 19 million New Yorkers. They will determine, for example, whether Mayor Bloomberg is forced to lay off thousands of cops, teachers and firefighters - as Paterson insanely proposed.

He's not up to the job. He must get out.

Bring in Ravitch.

New York Times

February 25, 2010

‘Yes’ to Pop-Tarts! Panel Approves Bake-Sale Rules


By the time the Panel for Educational Policy was ready to vote on bake sales during its monthly meeting on Wednesday night, it was after 11:30. By then, just one mother, Elizabeth Puccini, was waiting to speak out against the new policy, which bans most bake sales but allows students to sell premade items including Pop-Tarts and Doritos.

“The idea that the D.O.E. can control the calories a child consumes at a fund-raising event is specious at best,” she said, referring to the Department of Education. “What’s to prevent a child from buying two or three bags of the permitted Doritos or Frito-Lay chips? As much as the D.O.E. might like to control what our children eat, it’s impossible to regulate how much they eat unless a monitor is stationed at every school fund-raising event.”

Ms. Puccini, whose children attend the Children’s Workshop School in the East Village, said the regulation appeared to be a “blatant attempt by food companies such as Pepsi-Cola and Kellogg’s to reap enormous profits at the expense of our children” — an opinion shared by many of the more than 200 readers who commented on an In the Schools item on City Room this week outlining the policy. Ms. Puccini added that the school should focus on eliminating the high-fructose corn syrup in many cafeteria items.

Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor who oversees the regulation, told members of the panel that the permitted snacks were not “necessarily foods we recommend that students eat.”

“We think an apple is the best snack,” she said, generating chuckles from panel members.

With the clock nearing midnight, there was little discussion. The policy was approved unanimously.

Daily News

The cookies crumble: School ban on home-baked goods is a nutcake idea

Saturday, February 27th 2010, 4:00 AM

There's no way to sugar-coat this: The Education Department's new policy on bake sales is, well, half-baked.

Chancellor Joel Klein, often pilloried unfairly by parents for being tone deaf, this time really had a tin-foil ear. He ought to overrule the educrat, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, who came up with the idea of all but banning homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies and the like.

Sorry, Mom. Grimm doesn't care how much you want to share your recipe with your kid's friends. Keep a lid on it.

Meanwhile, junk food - actual salt-laden, nutritionally empty, as-sold-at-your-corner-deli junk food - is permitted under the rules any old time.

Cool Ranch Reduced Fat and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos are okay with Grimm. So are Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. And Linden's Butter Crunch, Chocolate Chip and Fudge Chip Cookies.

What makes these snacks acceptable?

Well, they come in single-serving packages and contain no more than 200 calories (except some do anyway).

They have no artificial sweeteners - though ingredients include Red 4D, Blue 1 and Yellow 5 dyes, as well as disodium inosinte and disodium guanylate, high-fructose corn syrup, wheat starch, glycerin and TBHQ for freshness.

They also have big brand names. And they are, perhaps not coincidentally, the same products sold in school vending machines.

The absurdity is plain. An extra cupcake purchased at an occasional bake sale is not going to tip a kid into obesity, but the extra dough parents raise at such an event could be put to good use.

So what if homemade cupcakes have butter and sugar and maybe molasses? They're also baked with love, which you can't get in a box of Pop-Tarts. And without parent-friendly common sense, a chancellor's job will be that much harder.

Daily News
High School for Public Service in East Flatbush plans schoolyard farm to sell fresh produce
BY Ben Chapman

Sunday, February 28th 2010, 4:00 AM

A pea grows in Brooklyn. And eggplant and kale, too.

Students at the High School for Public Service in East Flatbush are building a 10,000-square-foot vegetable farm on the campus' front lawn.

The school plans to sell its produce in the neighborhood, where fresh greens are hard to find and obesity rates are high.

"It's going to be the biggest farm in Flatbush," said Principal Ben Shuldiner, 32, who already has raised more than $14,000 for the farm with BK Farmyards, an urban farming collective that's designing and operating the farm.

"The idea is that kids will learn the skills and science behind a farm, and then bring fresh vegetables and fruit to the community."

Shuldiner and his students will break ground on the farm in early April, planting tomatoes, eggplant, kale and more in a 200-square-foot greenhouse at the old Wingate High School campus on Kingston Ave.

It's just the first phase of a multiyear plan for the high school, where more than 90% of the 390 students come from low-income families.

In four years, a farm is expected to cover the school's entire 1-acre yard, said BK Farmyards founder Stacey Murphy, 36, who is designing the site with her business partner, Bee Ayer.

"It's amazing how much produce you can grow in that space," said Murphy, a former architect from Detroit who started her urban farming business last spring and runs produce farms in several Brooklyn backyards.

"This school farm will yield hundreds of pounds of vegetables and fruits for the community."

The first veggies will be harvested around the beginning of June, including lettuce, radishes, peas and other greens.

The school plans to sell the produce to about 20 families who would buy a share of the crops, paying $400 for about 10 different types of vegetables every week for 20 weeks.

It's more than enough vegetables to feed a family of four for almost half a year, Murphy said.

First dibs on the cheap, accessible veggies will go to students in the school. Next year, the school and BK Farmyards hope to reach the rest of Flatbush by selling their fruits and vegetables at a farmers market in front of the school.

"We could use more fresh produce around here," said senior Elliot Bowman, 17, who lives in East Flatbush, where one in four adults is obese.

"I just see kids eating junk food all the time. The corner stores don't even have fresh fruit."

Bowman plans to work on the farm during the school year to fulfill the school's graduation requirement of 200 hours of community service.

"It'll be great to learn something new, and get fresh vegetables instead of processed food," he said.


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