New York Rethinks Its Remaking of the Schools
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein , is once again rethinking the nation's largest school system.
Not yet three years since the Klein/Bloomberg brain trust last overhauled the public schools.
You may recall that when most of us last saw Klein he was bad-mouthing the NYC teachers' union on Stossel's show, screeching about the complexity of the contract, and implying that the failure of the New York state legislature to make consentual sexual contact between a teacher and a student of legal age a crime was the union's fault and a satanic plot into the bargain. The fact that Klein was then in negotiations with the union over the next contract was not made explicit. I'm sure Stossel will be pointing out the Bloomberg administration's record of utter educational failure, probably in his next Townhall column.
He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states.
And that's not counting the ones that have thrown them out. The jury may still be out on Edison, but that's after a less-than-satisfactory stretch both academically and financially while Cerf was president, and if someone hadn't come in and taken the company back private again they'd be out of business in 50 states. So in all, good choice.
These consultants, often in pinstripe suits and ensconced in a conference room on the third-floor mezzanine of the headquarters of the Education Department in Lower Manhattan, are working with a small army of city education officials, all led by Mr. Klein's chief of staff, Kristen Kane. The effort is being paid for with $5 million in private donations.
Well, how Jim Dandy that makes it for New York. An angel (Klein's buddy Jack Welch, maybe?) made a $5 M pit stop, no strings attached, and now Chris Cerf is back in business changing the face of US education.
"This is entire system reform," Mr. Cerf said over a cheeseburger lunch at a downtown bistro. "This is the most important and urgent thing going on in American public education today. If it can be done well and right here, it will be a national pace car for change."
Chancellor Klein, in an interview last week, said: "I see this as truly an evolutionary restructuring."
And if not, well, I guess Bloomberg can run for a third term. By which time we should have some other Big Ideas. And for those of you driving our last model national pace car for change, please check your mailboxes for an important recall notice.
The Big Idea This Time seems to be giving principals autonomy, provided they meet certain requirements. Klein has proof of the potential for success:
Chancellor Klein often offers an example from Edmonton, Alberta. Principals who once had to wait endlessly for the central office to send painters to spruce up a building were instead given the money to get the job done themselves.
Joel Klein makes $250,000 a year. And now no one who reads the Times will ever again question whether he's worth it.
Isn't it past time for a You Broke It You Bought It policy for politicians? You had the solution three years ago, and that makes you just the guy to fix the mess it caused? And remember, these are the jokers who had to scale back their program to squeeze new principals like sausages out of an academy, some with as little as one year of classroom experience, rather than promoting from within. So now they imagine they can get principals to do their union-busting for them, on a school-by-school basis.
But what I really wanted to do was compare Klein's quote above about how crypto-privatization got hallways painted in Edmonton, or as it's better known, the Paris of the Tundra, with some actual clear thinking:
"Isn't it insane to play 52-pickup another time when structure is far less important, far less consequential, than the daily dealings between teachers and students?" asked Diane Ravitch, the education historian and frequent critic of the administration.
Noting that the city's four-year high school graduation rate of about 53 percent had barely budged during Mr. Bloomberg's tenure, Ms. Ravitch added: "It is hard to see why this number will increase as the result of yet another massive upheaval in the structure of governance."
Then there's Stossel's bête noire, the woman who kept him from teaching for a week by trying to hide the real students:
Randi Weingarten , the president of the city teachers' union, said: "Joel and all his management guru types never talk to anyone who actually does the work — that's what so mind-boggling. Our mission isn't constantly trying to reinvent ourselves into an entrepreneurial model that will get golden globes at the Harvard Business School. How do we help all 1.1 million kids get a decent high school education?"
Amen, if you'll pardon me saying so in close proximity to our public schools. So when exactly does this management guru/MBA President/Sun-tzu shit lie down and die of embarrassment, if nothing else?