Class Size Matters and Public Advocate Letitia James backed up a retired teacher who sued in court in 2014 saying that School Leadership Teams should be open to the public. A judge ruled in their favor in 2015 but the City-Department of Education appealed and would not implement the decision. Now Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio have lost twice as an Appellate Court ruled 4-0 SLT meetings need to be open to the public.
Ed Notes wants to know what Farina and de Blasio have to hide. The reality is they fear public exposure of how schools operate. Their main argument is that SLTs are advisory, not decision making, bodies.
The Council of Supervisors and Administrators joined this case on the city's side. It makes sense that the principal's union would side with the city here as Farina-deBlasio have continued the Joel Klein-Michael Bloomberg policy of giving administrators basically dictatorial powers over schools. The court affirmed on Tuesday that parents and teachers in all NYC public schools, and students as well in the high schools, have some authority in how schools are run.
This can be a real victory for teachers, students and parents if we start to use the SLT's to make policy instead of just acquiescing to what the principals want. Read the decision closely.
The four judge panel agreed with the judge originally hearing the case that SLT's "are part of the governance structure' of New York City's schools." He then went on to say that the DOE in 2007 tried to change Chancellor's Regulation A-655 on SLT's to give the principal final authority on Comprehensive Education Plans but the State Education Commissioner ruled this violated the law.
The UFT joined the 2007 appeal to the Commissioner on the side of the parents. I was the Delegate who raised the motion that carried at the DA, at Leonie Haimson's (Class Size Matters) urging, to convince the UFT to join the parents. This set the precedent that SLT's were not advisory but had decision making power.
The UFT, in its recent "We don't publicly take on de Blasio-Farina-CSA" incarnation, did not join the parents in the 2014 lawsuit. However, the Union should now use its resources to teach parents and teachers on SLT's how to use their authority as part of the governance structure of schools.
As for the city-DOE, they can appeal again but their chances of prevailing cannot be that great now that five judges have ruled against them. We'll let Leonie have the last word:
"The law is crystal clear that School Leadership Teams are public bodies, with an important governmental role to play. Parents and the public have a crucial stake in SLT decisions, when it comes to class size, the use of technology, or any other school-based policies. Both the Supreme Court and now the Appellate Court have ruled that these meetings must be open to the community at large. Any attmpt by the DOE or principals to ignore this decision, subvert it or appeal it to a higher court would be unwise, would further delay the public interest and would waste precious taxpayer funds that are far better used in improving our schools," concluded Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.