by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
According to a press release from the UFT and the Union's weekly Chapter Leader Update, a ruling from State Education Commissioner Richard Mills has given the UFT and parents a major victory on School Leadership Teams. In December of 2007 the DOE had changed Chancellor's Regulation A-655, which covers SLT's, so that principals were given final decision making authority on school Comprehensive Education Plans, thus making parents and teachers only advisory members of the SLT's. Mills' December 31, 2008 ruling said this was improper. The UFT Chapter Leader Update from yesterday said, "The ruling means that your (the Chapter Leader) role on your school's leadership will again be decisive, not just advisory." Principals, however, will retain final authority over school budgets so this is not a complete win.
A parent from Queens, Marie Pollicino, had complained to the State that the 2007 revision of Regulation A-655 that gave the Principal final say on Comprehensive Education Plans violated State Education law. The UFT and other parents joined in the appeal to Mills. According to the UFT press release, the DOE will now have to revise the language of the regulation in consultation with the UFT, the Principals' union (CSA) and a committee representing parents. These groups will need to approve the new regulation also. UFT President Randi Weingarten said, "This is a great victory for parents and educators."
She didn't mention anywhere in her statement nor did the UFT in their press release or Chapter Leader update that it was me who called for the UFT to join the parents in their appeal to the State. I made the proposal in an amendment to a UFT Delegate Assembly resolution on SLT's last January. (ICE sponsored that DA amendment.) The amendment carried unanimously at the DA and in February the UFT joined the appeal.
We thank the UFT for joining with the parents and we hope that the UFT will acknowledge our role in involving the Union in this case.
As we look ahead, we now need the Union to explain to each of our members who sits on a School Leadership Team and each parent on an SLT what our roles really are. Every school needs true shared decision making. Maybe this ruling from Mills will be the first step in moving toward real parent, teacher and student empowerment.