First Day, New School System
dreaded-by-some, anticipated-by-others transition between old and new school
systems came and went this week.
the bottom-line result of the changes that went into effect on July 1
won’t be quantified until next year’s round of test scores, attendance
numbers and graduation rates, Tribune
of the transition reveals a shaky start to a complex system.
Of the 13 Learning Support Centers throughout the city that opened on July 1, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein chose one in Long Island City for a Day One visit.
is the first day of the new New York Public School System,” Klein told a
crowd of about 20 reporters at the “Learning Support Center” (LSC), or
regional headquarters, for Instructional Division 4, which includes Western
Queens’ Districts 24 and 30 and Brooklyn’s District 32.
said the opening of the LSSs gives his school system reform plan “real
traction,” and told reporters that the main focus of the Department of
Education (DOE) this summer is the professional development of teachers,
delivery of textbooks and supplies to schools, and keeping parents informed
of the ongoing changes.
the DOE’s interest in contemporary approaches to productivity, Klein
pointed out the bullpen office arrangement — in which numerous cubicles
are packed together in one large room — at the LSC.
He and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both veterans of large private
corporations, have instituted similar arrangements at the DOE headquarters
and City Hall in lower Manhattan.
days of private offices are over,” Klein said.
to the bullpen style of administration is Division 4 Superintendent Reyes
Irizarry, who said he liked the new arrangement.
feel a sense of camaraderie . . . it works for me,” Irizarry said.
“I have visual contact with so many people at one time.”
person Irizzary didn’t have visual contact with was Pat Nero, a P.S. 78
parent who was denied access to his LSC during Klein’s visit.
Nero said he came to the office to discuss, among other things, a problem with parking near his children’s school.
said despite the DOE’s year-old restructuring efforts, he’s still
experiencing impenetrable bureaucracy in the school system.
you ask a question, they ask you a question back,” Nero said, noting that
a District 30 staff member didn’t even know who Irizarry was during a
recent phone call.
isn’t the only one who had trouble reaching entering an LSC or getting
info about the new offices.
reporters visiting other LSCs and district offices — a recent decision by
Bloomberg and Klein is keeping a three-person district office open in every
district without an LSS within its boundaries — just before and after the
transition found it nearly impossible to move freely within the public
spaces, and sometimes even enter them.
the Division 3 (Districts 25, 26, 28 and 29) LSS on Linden Place in Flushing
(within District 25), a reporter was stopped from entering the building by
three uniformed NYPD School Safety Agents.
one was allowed in the LSC without an appointment to see someone.
There were a lot of new faces at the office on July 1, one of the
agents said. Some
employees with badges were waived through while others without badges had to
sign an security log.
employee, asked by a guard what her new assignment was, responded with dark
am I?” the woman asked. “I don’t know.
Am I working for the summer?
reporter who visited Division 3’s other LSS, on Sutphin Boulevard within
District 28, was also turned away by a security guard.
LSC is the main office for its regional superintendent, as well as its
future “Parent Engagement Board,” which the DOE hopes will replace
existing district-based school boards, pending Department of Justice
LSC will also host a “Parent Support Office” and about 10
“Instructional Supervisors,” deputy superintendents of sorts who will
help principals and teachers deal with the new system and its curricula.
Parent Support Offices will each have full-time personnel “trained to
handle parent issues that cannot be resolved by parent coordinators at the
school level,” according to the DOE, which promises that parents will be
able to get the same services at all 13 Centers citywide, no matter what
district they live in.
of the borough’s Learning Support Centers — at 30-48 Linden Pl. and
28-11 Queens Plaza North — will also house DOE “Operations Centers,”
which will provide “back office support” including budgeting,
technology, human and transportation resources and administrative functions
currently performed at over 80 offices citywide, including each of the
existing district offices.
to Klein, the new system reassigns or lays off about half of district-based
administrative staff citywide and puts $240 million back into DOE coffers.
district offices that haven’t become LSCs will remain open indefinitely.
Each be staffed by a District Parent Support Officer — a kind of parent
liaison—a clerical worker and a “local instructional supervisor” — a
kind of deputy superintendent — acting as the new local
“superintendent,” a position required by New York State law.
DOE wanted the offices shut down and replaced by the LSCs, but intense
pressure from parents and local elected officials forced the concession last
a day before the new offices and staff members started their first day in
operation, school administrators all over the borough were scrambling to get
in their last-minute packing and goodbyes.
Queens’ District 29 office was in complete disarray on June 30.
Boxes were everywhere, and people moved them out of the office on
carts all day.
once-heavily-decorated walls were pocked with picture hangers with no
pictures. Faint outlines stood where plaques, photographs, artwork and
notices once hung.
Michael Johnson, who is leaving the New York City school system to become
the superintendent of schools in Albany, declined to be interviewed and
wouldn’t allow photographs in his office.
most of the sullen-faced people in the office, Johnson was clearly upset.
all over, man,” he hollered at a reporter as he walked away.
“It’s not important anymore.”
told that it was an important day in the history of the school system and
that the public was eager to know what’s happening, Johnson said, “The
people don’t want to hear from me. They already decided that.”
there was an incessant buzz of activity at District 29’s office, there was
only one person in District 24’s office on June 30.
District 26’s Bayside headquarters, the atmosphere was subdued and somber.
Hugs and goodbyes went all around.
were also signs of restrained bitterness at the uncertainty engendered by
the overhaul of the school system and the perceived heavy-handedness with
which personnel decisions were carried out.
“It’s been horrible, it’s been absolutely horrible,” said one District 26 office worker who declined to give her name. “People that should have been laid off have jobs in the regional office, and really great people with a lot of experience have been lost. It shouldn’t have been that way.”
26 Director of Operations Dom Giannotta, a man with 31 years of experience
in the school system, chose to retire in the face of the recent changes.
been fairly chaotic, it’s safe to say,” Giannotta said. “And it was
handled in a very clandestine fashion. It seems there was a premise at work
that you are not to ask questions.”
also characterized the centralization process as “very top-down,” noting
that “we were used to a more deliberative approach to get things done.
I’ve never seen layoffs to the degree we saw in the past year.”
going to be very, very difficult, at least at first,” Giannotta added.
“It’s going to take a lot of energy to reinvent the wheel.”
District 27’s Ozone Park office, no one offered their name but faces
looked mostly glum.
DOE employee who wouldn’t give her name said “everything is a mess. Just
one big mess. I’ve worked in the system for a long time. It’s never been
so poorly organized. There have never been so many loose ends left
a different regime now,” said a district employee in the office. She said
she was uncertain of her future at the DOE, but was going to work and taking
it one day at a time, hoping to keep her job. “Parents come into the
office and we just don’t know what to tell them, because we don’t know
Gaud, who just moved in as part of Division 5 after 31 years in the system,
was optimistic about the new system.
changes are good,” Gaud said. “I think we will have a very productive
year. We know where we have to go. Everybody gets scared when they see
change, but these changes are good.”