Friday, December 21, 2012

Lisa Donlan Comments on Tweed Inability to Manage Schools: Is it Centralized Mayoral Control?

No checks, no balances, no levers of power except for the mayor, his chancellor and the principals. The next Mayor had better tread carefully- the public school system is land mined w/ a dozen years of structural changes contradictory and uneven bad policy, and even worse implementation. --- Parent activist Lisa Donlan
DOE can do nothing right acc to Mulgrew; many would agree.
You know I don't necessarily buy the "Tweed incompetence" argument, which the UFT often pushes. I think Tweedies are just not interested in making things work in many public schools other than to cover their ass in case something goes wrong.

They are much more focused on their political agenda of pushing privatization schemes. There is a form of intentional neglect, in essence to make many public schools in areas targeted by charters a less appetizing choice. In fact as was pointed out at the PEP meeting last night, much of the gifted and talented policies are set up to drive the most active parents into the arms of charters.

Here, Lisa responded with a focus on the folly of mayoral/centralized control, some form of which we know the UFT will continue to support even after its bogus task force meets for a year and comes up with the recommendations the leadership wanted anyway. Why will the UFT support centralized control? Because they cannot accept the alternative.
Well, think about it- how CAN a highly-centralized ( removed) administration charged w/ overseeing 1750 schools in 1200 buildings w/ 80,000 teachers and more than a million students get anything right when it comes to actual implementation?

Especially when authority is relegated to " empowered" principals of stand-alone schools w/ no supervisors?

How can the administration even know, never mind monitor or supervise, how policy is being implemented?

As we all have seen, the promise of mayoral control = total control in exchange for accountability, revealed itself quite quickly as unfeasible- even impossible.

After centralizing and trying a top-down, one-size-fits-all edict-based administration for 2-3 years, Klein pulled a complete 180 in 2006-07 and implemented a crazy quilt of bureaucracy based on empowered principals (total autocrats) and their virtual hidden bureaucracies (SSO's, now CFN's) w/ essentially no supervision beyond unaudited self -completed compliance check lists and review by not much more than test score.

While principals and their Network Leaders seem to operate in a total vacuum, they still must respond to plenty of top down mandates.

For instance the safety protocols that mandate safety- fire and lock down- drills' (See how that is working out, here: Police were called to an East Harlem school that had conducted a ‘shooter’ lockdown drill. Times and here: http://horanwatch.tumblr.com/

Or the Teacher Evaluation Pilots that schools are implementing willy nilly, whether or not they are in the pilot, and in an "anything goes" unchecked manner, described below by Mulgrew and Mendel.

Or the special education reforms (I was not able to link to the story Ellen posted but I am sure it is an object lesson in the abuse of power by certain principals trying to meet an impossible top down imposed but unfunded mandate that is unmonitored and unsupervised.)

No checks, no balances, no levers of power except for the mayor, his chancellor and the principals. The next Mayor had better tread carefully- the public school system is land mined w/ a dozen years of structural changes contradictory and uneven bad policy, and even worse implementation.
Lisa Donlan


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