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City Provides $18 Million for 24 Schools it Wanted to Overhaul

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 11:20 AM

Twenty-four low-performing schools the city was blocked from overhauling this fall after a feud with the teachers union will get $18 million from the city's Department of Education. The decision was made just two weeks before the opening of school, giving principals little time to plan for the fall. The amount is also far short of the $30 million they would have gotten had the city been able to secure federal School Improvement Grants.

"It will not fund the full S.I.G. programming that these schools had hoped for, which is regrettable," said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, following Wednesday's monthly meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. "This is an effort by the chancellor to do everything we can to support these schools and to put as much resources as we can into plans that the principals have to serve their students."

Mr. Sternberg said the principals at John Dewey, Long Island City High School and the other schools will decide if they want to use the money for more professional development programming for the adults in the school, if they want to extend their day, have Saturday programming or tutoring services. Several of them had contracts with outside community groups, known as Educational Partnership Organizations, that could now be in jeopardy.

The Bloomberg administration was planning to close the schools and reopen them with new names, so it could replace many of their staffers. Almost 3000 teachers were let go and told to reapply for their jobs at the end of June with the understanding that about half of them may be hired back at each school.

But an arbitrator found this violated contracts with unions representing the teachers and principals; several principals were also replaced. A judge then found the arbitrator was within his powers, after the city appealed. That meant all the teachers were allowed to return to their old jobs, and offers to new teachers had to be rescinded.

Principals are on vacation this week and will return to their buildings next week. Some may find it uncomfortable to work with teachers who know they weren't wanted back. GothamSchools reported that enrollments at some of the schools have declined, which could affect their budgets because the city allocates funding based on enrollment.

However, Mr. Sternberg said "we are watching student numbers very carefully" and "we don't expect major changes."

When asked how much of a role the Department of Education will play in assisting the schools now, he said, "We are working very closely with these principals to make sure that they have plans in place."

The city is officially appealing the judge's decision on the 24 schools, but it effectively gave up the fight when it acknowledged that it had to hire back the teachers and announced the schools would keep their old names.

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