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Saturday Stories

August 14, 2010
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Susan Ohanian questions the wisdom of firing everyone, including the lunch ladies, to turn around a “failing” school in response to a public radio story in Chicago. (For my part, that really makes me wonder if the “fire everybody!” turnaround strategy is about culture, or about making room for the new management to hire whoever they want, at whatever rates they want…). In New York City, School Chancellor Joel Klein decides not to invoke his “emergency powers” to force a charter school into a public school currently serving autistic students. (Why anyone thought that was a good idea to begin with, why Joel Klein has “emergency powers”…still mysteries to me. Seriously. Any enlightening info would be greatly appreciated.) Still in New York, Mr. Klein defends the “historic gains” students made during his administration, in light of the evidence that the scores were largely inflated. (The distinguished commenters on the story heartily disagree.)

Dr. Jesse Turner must be sick of the drama, because he’s leaving New York City and heading to New Jersey today! Last I spoke with him, he was resting his tired feet, but promises some video soon. I started a map for him here; we’ll be adding some events and updates to it soon.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2010 10:15 am

    Sabrina: I dont know exactly what the legislators were thinking of when they gave the Chancellor emergency powers, but it is a reasonable idea.

    The legislation requires a lengthy series of steps before significant changes in school utilization can occur, involving a six month warning period, public notice, hearings, educational impact statements, and a vote of the Panel for Educational Policy etc. This was done because in too many cases, the chancellor was making ill-advised changes at the last minute, closing schools and co-locating schools w/out any explanation, and in the process, wreaking damaging effects on students.

    But one wouldn’t want to require this lengthy public process in the case of a true emergency. For example, in the case of 9/11, at least four schools near the World Trade Center had to be moved overnight, and many of them had to share buildings w/ other schools so that their students would have as little disruption in their education as possible. This lasted for several months during the period that the area was evacuated, and the air found to be very toxic.

    One can image other examples, if less rare, in which invoking emergency powers would be advisable. If a school burnt down or was found to be environmentally hazardous, it would be important to provide this power again so that a new home could be found for the students in the school elsewhere.

    But in this case of Girls Prep, Klein used this loophole in a totally illegitimate fashion, and faced a firestorm of criticism as a result.

    • August 14, 2010 10:23 am

      Got it. That makes way more sense now, thank you!

      It’s a shame that Klein chose to do this. Because I’ve never heard of such a provision, this really public attempt to use it for political reasons colored my entire view of whether or not it was a legitimate thing for a school leader to have. I bet I’m not alone in that. I’m hoping “emergency” is (or will be) more clearly defined somewhere, such that there would be consequences for a leader who tries to use those powers where there is no imminent threat to health and safety.

  2. August 14, 2010 11:43 am

    Great idea with the map!

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