Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Joel Klein Meets the Press

by Norman Scott

In what was billed as a round-table discussion with the NYC education press corps on Friday Sept. 1, NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended many of his policies that have come under recent attack. Particular attention has been focused on the high number of no-bid contracts, the most prominent of which has been the $17 million given to the consultant firm of Alvarez and Marsal, better known as corporate turn-around specialists than for expertise in the field of education.

A&M has come under scrutiny for their management of the schools in St. Louis which led to drastic cuts that included the closing of 16 schools, cut staff and charges the corporate management turn-around mentality had taken a school system in severe trouble and made it worse. A&M was also hired to manage the schools in New Orleans not long before Hurricane Katrina struck. While it is hard to judge their performance given the conditions, their main focus seems to have been on creating a privatized school system.

Klein defended the contract, which pays up to $1.7 million in salary to some individuals involved in what is claimed will lead to savings of $200 million. He said $87 million had already been saved leading to the hiring of 275 additional teachers.

There are reports that up to 500 teachers remain unassigned in addition to between a reported 1000-1500 experienced excessed teachers from schools that have closed who Klein said will be used as a reserve substitute corps. Klein defended his decision not to assign these teachers to understaffed schools because he wants to affirm the right of principals to choose their own people. This decision will cost around $5 million.

Questions were raised about the expense of the 44 unassigned Assistant Principals, who Klein said he would be forced to carry because of the contract with the Supervisors’ Union (CSA), whose head Jill Levy, has been extremely critical of Klein, claiming he denigrated the unassigned AP’s by hinting they could not get jobs because “no one wanted them.” Some have threatened a lawsuit.

Klein was asked about the expense of the Teaching Fellows and Teach For America programs where a high rate of teachers choose not to remain in the system after only a few years. He said retention rates were going up. He seemed to negate the experience factor in teacher quality when he said even if teachers do leave after 3 years the system benefited from having such high quality teachers for even a short time, pointing out that this is better than having some 20-year teachers who do not function effectively. He did not address charges from some experienced teachers that they have been systematically discriminated against, with some schools openly advertising positions would only be open to first year teachers and openly stating “They must not be a transfer from another NYC public school.” Some have surmised that the move to newer teachers is merely a cost-cutting device.

In addressing issues of the DOE having to pay numbers of teachers languishing in rubber rooms around the city, Klein said this was a matter of future contract negotiations.

He attributed many of the gains of his administration to the success of his negotiations with the UFT, which has allowed him flexibility in the placement of teachers without having to deal with seniority questions. He also praised provisions that have allowed him to pay certain teachers more based on the DOE’s needs through the creation of housing allowances and Lead teachers. He praised the UFT for its willingness to negotiate on many of the items he deems most important and expressed hope for cooperation in future contracts.


Anonymous said...

From your "favorite" Anon:

This is a marvelous post. It speaks volumes and it's nice to see that one faction of our union is addressing these issues.

Please continue these types of posts. It was intelligently and sensitively written (to the point) with no sophomoric bitching. It's posts like these that puts Randi to shame. I will copy it and distribute it to teachers in my school who have no idea what is going on. Maybe this will put them in touch.

Hmmm...maybe you CAN compete with NYC Ed. :)

Anonymous said...

To Everybody-

What follows was written on the ICE blog on October 23, 2005. This is part of our leaflet opposing the Contract. Please go back and read the leaflet in its entirety as ICE predictions are coming true.


-The right to transfer based on our seniority.

-The right to be part of SBO Committees made up of majority teachers that determine who transfers into our schools, not principals exclusively deciding.

-The right to a vacant position if we are excessed.

-The right to widest placement choices possible if our school is closed or reorganized.

-The right to any in license position instead of worrying about becoming an Absent Teacher Reserve if our school is closed or reorganized.

-The right to a full summer vacation. (Many surrounding districts have school years fixed by contract at 183 days. If we vote yes, we will have a 190 day school year, the longest in the Metropolitan area.)

Anonymous said...

Listen, it's all for the CHILDREN. Everything we do is for the CHILDREN. Instead of coming in early this year to set up my classroom, I decided to take MY children to Hershey Park. That's what I did for MY children up to the Wednesday before work. I'm dedicated to my job, but not where my children suffer the consequences of a ridiculous contract.

Who else feels ripped off living in the greatest city in the world that can't pay it's city workers a decent wage?

Anonymous said...

CitySue over at Edwize is spinning the ATR story out of control.

Someone from ICE better go their and set her straight.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes city sue will probably not be interested in this blog. Send over to Edwize our exerpt from back in October. We were right all along.

Anonymous said...

The following report is from Leonie Haimson who has been following the A&E story:

I have just finished reading “A Recipe for Failure; A year of Reform and Chaos in the St. Louis Public Schools” by Marilyn Ayres-Salamon, about her tragic experiences as a middle school teacher the year Alvarez& Marsal, a corporate turn-around firm with no education experience, took control of the St. Louis schools.

I highly recommend the book; it is available at Alvarez& Marsal is the consulting firm recently hired with a $17 million no bid contract by DOE to “cut the bureaucracy.” On NY1 on Monday night, Joel Klein said he “had no idea” what the firm had done in St. Louis; a rather astonishing admission considering the money they are paying them. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of this book.

It tells the story not only what happened in her school, but in the system as a whole.

Alvarez & Marsal was hired on June 1, 2003 to run the schools and “cut the bureaucracy.” (sound familiar?). They soon closed all the alternative schools, textbooks and other supplies weren’t delivered for months, the number of serious disciplinary incidents among students rose 58%, and violent acts increased by 148%. Class sizes grew; special education services were in chaos; teacher morale plummeted, and parents felt completely disenfranchised. Meanwhile, the money spent on consultants tripled, and the no. of administrators paid in excess of $100,000 quadrupled.

At Salamon’s school, instead of 22 students in her classes, as planned, by the end of September, there were 31. The building was seriously overcrowded, continual fights broke out among students, and she and the principal both ended up resigning before the end of the year because of stress. The next fall, fewer than half of the teachers returned to the school, and most of the replacement teachers were substitutes.

In June of 2004, the state auditor issued an audit detailing many problems with A&M’s management, cost controls, and financial improprieties. (Incidentally, the state auditor for 8 years, Claire Claire McCaskill, is now running for Senate in Missouri as a Democrat, in what is predicted to be among the closest races in the nation.)

Excerpts from the audit are below. By the fall of 2004, St. Louis Schools had lost 16 points toward full accreditation, having fallen from 64 points when A&M was hired, to 48 points. (66 are needed for accreditation.) But by then, A& M had left town, without having found the district a permanent superintendent. The district is still in chaos, two years later.

Complete Audit Report at

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters