Beth Fertig

Senior Reporter, WNYC News

Beth Fertig appears in the following:

Tweaking the Mayor's Control of the Schools

Thursday, May 21, 2009

State Senators Suzi Oppenheimer and Pedro Espada (center, surrounded by aides) were the only lawmakers to attend the Senate Education Committee's hearing on mayoral control of the schools, in the Bronx. Oppenheimer chairs the committee and Espada represents the Bronx.

State Senators Suzi Oppenheimer and Pedro Espada (center, surrounded by aides) were the only lawmakers to attend the Senate Education Committee\'s hearing on mayoral control of the schools, in the Bronx. Oppenheimer chairs the committee and Espada represents the Bronx.

As lawmakers get closer to the deadline for renewing the 2002 legislation that put Mayor Bloomberg in charge of the public schools, you might say there are now two dominant schools of thought on how to change it. And one of them just lost a powerful ally.

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten now favors keeping the mayor in charge of the school system's Panel for Educational Policy (which replaced the old Board of Education). This is a significant, because Weingarten formerly supported a proposal that would have seriously weakened the mayor's role by giving him a minority of the panel members.

In an editorial today in the 'New York Post,' which has been unabashedly in favor of keeping the mayor in charge of the schools, Weingarten acknowledges her proposal to dilute Bloomberg's power was going nowhere. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver both want to keep Bloomberg in charge of the Panel. So, she writes, 'why not consider other possibilities?' to give the public more input through other channels.

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"A Benevolent Dictatorship"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

school500Students from PS 33 in the Bronx attended the State Senate Education Committee's hearing on mayoral control of the schools, as part of their social studies class. The students didn't seem to know what the debate was about but seemed ...

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State Senate Considers Reduces Mayor's Power Over Schools

Thursday, May 21, 2009

State Senate leaders say they're seriously considering putting more checks on the mayor's power over the city schools. At a Senate Education Committee hearing in the Bronx today, parents from a group called the Campaign for Better Schools asked lawmakers to consider a bill that ...

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Remembering Veteran Queens Educator Mitchell Wiener

Thursday, May 21, 2009

He was the heart and soul of Intermediate School 238. That's how mourners described Mitchell Wiener, the assistant principal who died on Sunday and became the city's first fatality in connection to swine flu. Wiener's wife and three sons spoke at his service, which was ...

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A Memorial for Mitchell Wiener

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seventh grader Jeffery Grey, 13, says Mr. Wiener was always able to help him and other students get tutoring or whatever they needed at I.S. 238.

Seventh grader Jeffery Grey, 13, says Mr. Wiener was always able to help him and other students get tutoring or whatever they needed at I.S. 238.

Funeral services for assistant principal Mitchell Weiner have ended at Sinai Chapel in Queens. The 55-year old was the city's first confirmed death in connection to swine flu. Teachers were still stunned at the loss of such a big personality, somebody who had been at that school for over 30 years and who they loved so much. And there was a bit of anger expressed by some of them that how the city had handled them, they wished that the school had been closed sooner, because they knew that their principal was meeting with the health department about concerns and it took a few days after students were sick before they shut down I.S. 238. One teacher suggested that the best honor would be to name the school after Mitchell Weiner.

Lisa Harrison, a science lab assistant at I.S. 238, says she thinks the school should now be named for Mitchell Wiener.

Lisa Harrison, a science lab assistant at I.S. 238, says she thinks the school should now be named for Mitchell Wiener.

Weiner died Sunday after being hospitalized since May 13. He had been on a ventilator. Wiener's death was the country's sixth from swine flu. Hospital and city officials say complications besides the virus probably played a part in Wiener's death. But his family has said he suffered only from a joint disease. New York City has more than 190 confirmed cases of swine flu.

Eighth graders Natalie Black, 14, and Tyra Stanley, 13 from Intermediate School 238 paid their respects at the funeral of assistant principal Mitchell Wiener. They said he was famous for cracking jokes on the public address system every morning and once made a few students sing as though he was judging them on

Eighth graders Natalie Black, 14, and Tyra Stanley, 13 from Intermediate School 238 paid their respects at the funeral of assistant principal Mitchell Wiener. They said he was famous for cracking jokes on the public address system every morning and once made a few students sing as though he was judging them on 'American Idol.'

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Swine Flu Update

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beth Fertig, WNYC reporter, and Tom Skinner, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about school closures and the latest swine flu news in New York City and the rest of the country. Then, we go live to Geneva, where World Health ...

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Audit of DOE No-Bid Contracts Raises Questions

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The city's education department has declined to justify a large number of contracts awarded without competitive bidding, according to an audit by the state comptroller's office. The audit examined 291 no-bid contracts over a three year period. They were worth more than $342 million. Public ...

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City Schools Face Cuts in July

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The city's public schools will take a budget hit of $310 million in the coming fiscal year, which begins in July. Chancellor Joel Klein says individual schools will have to make cuts of between 4 and 5 percent.

KLEIN: If they have a Saturday program, they ...

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More School Closures, Chancellor Meets with UFT on Swine Flu

Monday, May 18, 2009

Caren Criscupoli and Cathy Pagan, teachers at I.S. 73 in Maspeth where a higher than normal number of students have called in absent. The chancellor and union leaders visited Monday to discuss concerns about swine flu.

Caren Criscupoli and Cathy Pagan, ...

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First NY Death Connected to Swine Flu, City Closes More Schools

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nancy Crespo and seventh-grade daughter Alexis Morales hold a get well card for assistant principal Mitch Wiener outside a closed Intermediate School 238 on May 15, 2009 (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Nancy Crespo and seventh-grade daughter Alexis Morales hold a get well ...

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Mayor’s School Panel: An Advisor or Rubber Stamp?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Members of the Panel for Educational Policy, most of whom are appointed by the mayor.

Members of the Panel for Educational Policy, most of whom are appointed by the mayor.

Next month, Albany lawmakers have to decide whether to renew the law that put Mayor Michael Bloomberg in charge of the city’s public schools.

Legislators have spent much of this year holding hearings on the issue. Supporters of the mayor credit him with school improvement; but critics claim he’s abusing his authority. Much of the controversy has to do with an obscure panel that meets once a month. In the summer of 2002, Albany gave Mayor Bloomberg something previous mayors had only dreamed about: control over the nation’s largest school district. Finally, the mayor could appoint the Chancellor, not the Board of Education. He wouldn’t have to fight any more with board members who could reject his proposals. The board was replaced with a new Panel for Educational Policy, an advisory body. And most of its 13 members would be appointed by the mayor and answer directly to him.

Bloomberg was in great spirits that July when he announced the seven educators and business leaders he’d appointed to the panel.

'Let me remind you that unlike the past Board of Ed, these members are all volunteers. They do not get a salary. They do not get a car and driver. They don’t get all of those other perks (laughter). We didn’t tell you that?'

It was a light-hearted moment. But the mayor grew serious when a reporter asked him how much independence his panel members would be allowed to exercise.

'Their job is to give advice to the chancellor. Not advice to the press. I do not expect to see their names ever in the press answering a question either on the record or off the record. That’s exactly what’s wrong with the current system right now. And it’s not going to happen. It has not happened elsewheres in this system and I would not tolerate it for 30 seconds.'

The mayor was true to his word. In 2004, Bloomberg removed three panel members right before they could vote against his plan to stop promoting third graders who scored poorly on state exams.

Since then, education groups and parents routinely refer to the panel as a rubber stamp for the mayor. But one former legislator who co-wrote the law putting Bloomberg in charge of the schools says that wasn’t its intention.

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Teaching Fellows Face Hiring Freeze

Monday, May 18, 2009

City school officials may not be able to place all the teachers that were trained this year with taxpayer funds. That's because there's a teacher hiring freeze. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: New York City spends about $13,000 preparing each of its teaching fellows. The ...

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First NY Death Connected to Swine Flu, City Closes More Schools

Monday, May 18, 2009

An assistant principal has become New York's first death in connection to the swine flu virus. The city has closed a total of 11 schools over the past few days, because hundreds of students have come down with flu-like symptoms. And the mayor is scheduled ...

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Mayor's School Panel: An Advisor or Rubber Stamp?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Next month Albany lawmakers have to decide whether to renew the law that put Mayor Bloomberg in charge of the city’s public schools. Legislators have spent much of this year holding hearings on the issue. Supporters of the mayor credit him with school improvement but ...

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Teachers Say City Waited Too Long In Flu Response

Friday, May 15, 2009

The city is closing three more schools on Monday because of flu-like illnesses. They are I.S. 74 and P.S. 107 in Queens and I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. The news comes a day after the city closed three Queens public schools because of confirmed cases of ...

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City Shuts 3 Queens Schools Over Concern of Swine Flu

Friday, May 15, 2009

The city has shut three public schools in Queens because of concerns about swine flu. Five cases of swine flu have been confirmed at one of those schools and a 56-year-old assistant principal is hospitalized in critical condition. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: The assistant ...

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Mayoral Control - Two Lawmakers Weigh In

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When the New York Civil Liberties Union invited reporters to hear its ideas for reforming mayoral control of the schools today, it also invited two legislators with their own strong opinions.

State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem and other parts of Manhattan, and Queens Assemblyman Rory Lancman, both support the NYCLU's goal of making the school system more transparent. The NYCLU officially takes no position on whether to renew mayoral control. But it's says the current system is "absolute" and "unfettered." It cites the reluctance by the Department of Education and NYPD to disclose information on student arrests, suspensions and expulsions. There have also been incidents in which principals don't feel like they're fully in charge of their buildings, because of the NYPD's responsibility for school safety. The report is available here.

While the NYCLU wouldn't say whether it thinks the current system of mayoral control should be diluted, the two lawmakers did share their thoughts.

State Senator Perkins is one of a handful of lawmakers who want end the mayor's control of the Panel for Educational Policy. Bloomberg currently gets to appoint eight of the 13 members, including the chancellor - who chairs the body. The five others are appointed by the borough president. In 2004, the mayor fired three panel members because they were about to vote against his plan to stop promoting third graders who got low scores on their state math and reading tests.

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NYCLU Says Mayoral Control Decreases Transparency

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mayoral control has made the school system less transparent about its policies, according to a new report by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). Donna Lieberman, the group's executive director, says one example is the free reign City Hall has given the NYPD in ...

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Poll Finds New Yorkers Split on Mayor's Impact on Schools

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The new Marist Poll breaks down New Yorkers' opinions on the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been handling the public school system, and both supporters and opponents of Bloomberg can find plenty of ammunition.

Overall, 51 percent of registered voters approve of the way Bloomberg is running the schools compared to 41 percent who don't, and 8 percent who are unsure. Republicans are more inclined to support the mayor's handling of the schools than Democrats (53 percent to 47 percent). Queens voters gave him the highest marks (58 percent approve) while Bronx voters gave him the lowest (42 percent approve).

The poll gets more interesting when you look at how voters responded to this question: "Do you think the New York City public schools have gotten better, gotten worse, or stayed about the same since Michael Bloomberg became mayor?"

This time, 36 percent said the schools had improved, 20 percent said they'd gotten worse, 33 percent said they'd stayed the same, and 11 percent were unsure. Not a clear referendum at all. Among parents, the results were almost equally mixed with 40 percent saying the schools had gotten better, 22 percent saying they'd gotten worse, and 35 percent saying they'd stayed the same; 3 percent were unsure.

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Charter School Exceed State Standard in English

Friday, May 08, 2009

More than 77 percent of New York City charter school students met or exceeded the state standards on this year's English Exam - a gain of 11 percentage points over last year. That's the same as the statewide average for grades three to eight. Schools ...

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