Friday, November 12, 2010

Uncertain Times in New York City

The announcement this week that the New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, would be leaving and would be replaced by Cathleen Black, a publishing executive with no educational experience as a teacher or administrator (and who attended private schools and sent her children to private schools as well), left parents and professionals feeling uncertain about what would happen to them, their children, and education in New York City.

A special education attorney who works with families of children with substantial disabilities expressed concern about how children needing special educational settings would be treated under a new regime. "It used to be," our colleague reported yesterday, "that even though the City often fought these families over what services and placement their children would be entitled to receive, there was a genuine concern for the child. Department of Education attorneys understood that these children needed to be in school and getting services somewhere, even if they argued the details of arrangements. Now, that has changed and in more and more cases the interests of the child are just ignored. Kids with profound needs are being kept at home because the City is digging in its heels about providing services. And that is a tragedy. I am deeply worried about what message the new Chancellor will be sending to her legal troops."

A teacher we know was concerned about what would happen to the new initiatives put in place by departing Chancellor Klein. "I finally got set in a terrific school that was opened under one of Klein's programs. I wonder if I will have a teaching job next year -- or the year after that," he said.

Of course, before a new Chancellor takes the reins, she will have to be granted a waiver from the New York State Department of Education, which must waive the legal requirement that the New York City Chancellor have a certificate in educational leadership and at least three years experience in schools, neither of which Ms. Black has. Chancellor Klein had been granted such a waiver before he took office.

While we are looking at the change happening around the City, one change that is good for everyone is the movement of the terrific website Inside Schools to the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. Inside Schools is an excellent, independent resource for families looking for information about public schools in New York City and it had been experiencing serious financial difficulties. A new grant has enabled it to move to its new home and secures its future. We are delighted!

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