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Deal Done, Mayor Still Plans to Close Struggling Schools

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 04:56 PM

The original reason behind Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plans to close and reopen 33 struggling schools, replacing half of the staff, was that the city's teachers union would not agree to a new teacher evaluation system required under those schools' improvement plans.

But on Thursday, after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the sides had reached an agreement, the mayor said he would go forward with plans to close the schools anyway.

The mayor's argument: time is of the essence. If the city and teachers' union finalize a new teacher evaluation system within a year, it will still be two years before teachers can receive two ineffective ratings, positioning them for dismissal. That timeline would not remove schools' worst teachers quickly enough, the mayor said.

"It would be unconscionable for us to sit around for two years and do nothing," the mayor said at a news conference at City Hall shortly after the governor's announcement.

The city seems to have the option of returning to less aggressive improvement plans that would give the schools additional money to bring in outside programs or place them under the supervision of an outside organization. The decision not to do so has already generated grumbling from principals of the 33 schools, and is likely to result in student and teacher protests.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the union was considering all legal options.

He said many of the schools deserve a chance to continue to improve.

The mayor "is saying I have no choice, I have to close these schools," Mr. Mulgrew said. "Well, his own progress reports say that two-thirds of these schools are doing well. What he's actually saying is I want to close these schools no matter what."

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