Chancellor Fariña Announces Streamlined School Support System to Lift Struggling Schools and Increase Accountability

  • Posted: Thu Jan 22, 2015 Updated: Mon Apr 23, 2018

New structure to align support and supervision, and provide equitable guidance to hold struggling schools accountable

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced a new streamlined accountability system to best support schools, which will align the responsibilities of supervising and supporting schools in the offices of the district and high school superintendents. The reforms will create clear lines of authority and accountability in the school system, as the responsibilities of hiring principals and holding them accountable will be merged with decision-making power over bringing resources and supports to struggling schools. The same people who hire and rate – the superintendents – will be in a position to provide support to turn schools around.  

The reforms to the structure also will include the replacement of the 55 Children First Networks with seven geographically based Borough Field Support Centers (BFSCs). School principals will retain control over their budgets and hiring processes and will retain independence across the system, except in cases of struggling schools. 

Under the new system, which will take effect for the 2015-16 school year, there will be clear lines of authority and accountability under the direction of the superintendent. This system builds on major initiatives launched over the past year, including: the Framework for Great Schools, new School Quality Snapshots and School Quality Guides, and the School Renewal Program. Additionally, DOE has created new programs to foster collaboration and the sharing of best practices including the Learning Partners Program, Showcase Schools and PROSE schools.

Superintendents will work with their expanded teams of six staff members to help principals find, access, and implement the supports from their BFSC to ensure accountability and help schools improve. The superintendents’ teams will include an administrative assistant, two family engagement officers, a field support liaison, a Renewal School liaison, and a principal‎ leadership facilitator. There will be two BFSCs in Brooklyn and Queens, and one each in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Each BFSC will be led by a Borough Field Service Center Director, and house the full range of school support personnel, including experts on: instruction, operations, student services, such as health resources and counseling and supporting English Language Learners and students with special needs. These centers open summer 2015.

This new structure will make more strategic use of the existing Partnership Support Organizations (PSOs), now called Affinity Groups. These non-profit organizations and university partners will continue to give resources and guidance to schools; however they will be brought under a superintendent and held accountable.

“We are drawing clear lines of authority and holding everyone in the system accountable for student performance,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This system will create consistency and clarity across the school system, and help us better meet the needs of our students, schools, and school communities – especially those who struggle the most. I believe principals know their schools best; school leaders who are achieving will have increased independence. I am confident that this is an important step in the direction of making New York City the best urban school district in the nation.” 

In addition to aligning and streamlining support and supervision for the district and high school superintendents, the restructuring will make it easier to collaborate and share best practices for schools, including the 94 struggling schools in the School Renewal Program. Under the current system, each of the 55 networks has had equal resources regardless of how many schools and students they serve, or the progress those schools and students are making. Under the close direction of superintendents and the oversight of senior DOE leadership, extra attention and resources will be devoted to pairing struggling schools with the BFSC supports they need to improve student performance. 

The reforms to the school support structure system are also intended to serve parents and families, who can now reach out to their superintendent’s office if they have concerns about a school issue. In the past, the networks – with schools often belonging to networks based outside their neighborhood or borough – proved confusing for parents or families trying to navigate the system. As part of an increased focus on family engagement, each superintendent’s office will have two staff members to address parent and family concerns.  

“CSA welcomes the Chancellor’s new school support system, which will strengthen the role of district superintendents, and select those who have school leadership backgrounds and well developed instincts about what principals are going through and what’s really happening in a school,” said CSA President Ernest Logan. “Congratulations to Chancellor Fariña for incorporating the strongest elements of the network structure into the new school support plan while honoring the role of the superintendent in mentoring principals, helping to shape cohesive school plans, offering professional counsel and fostering harmonious interaction with the larger geographic community.”  

“This new support structure makes sense, and I’m confident I’ll get the support to ensure I’m best serving my students,” said Vanessa Chambers, principal at PS 169 in Queens. “I am pleased that the new Borough Field Support Centers will be designed to get schools the unique supports they need, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. I also know the families at my school will be pleased that they have a superintendent’s office at the ready to address their concerns.”

“This new support structure offers my school the best of both worlds,” said Deirdre DeAngelis, principal of New Dorp High School on Staten Island. “I’ll be able to continue my school’s strong relationship with our PSO, while benefiting from the support of a Borough Field Support Center geographically close to my school on Staten Island. I look forward to working collaboratively with my superintendent and BFSC to ensure that my students have the resources and supports they need to thrive.” 

“The new school support structure will allow me to focus more on instruction at my schools rather than navigating the complex network system,” said Ramon Gonzalez, principal at MS 223 in the Bronx. “I look forward to working with my superintendent to access resources and tools to improve, but also appreciate that the new system allows me to keep my independence, control my budget, and run my school in the way that best meets my school community’s needs.” 

“It’s a welcome contrast to the previous administration, which left schools to sink or swim,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Chancellor Fariña’s initiative is designed to provide schools with the tools and advice they need to help them become and stay successful.”

“In 2009, when the state legislature was renewing mayoral control, I fought for changes that would give our local communities more say over their children’s education,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair of the New York State Assembly’s Education Committee. “Section 2590-f (1) (2) of New York Education Law states that ‘The community superintendent shall establish a central office within the district and hire and supervise staff to directly interact with parents, respond to information requests, receive input and comments, assist the community superintendent in resolving complaints in a timely manner, and work to develop a cooperative relationship with parents and the school community.’ The steps taken by Chancellor Fariña today will give superintendents an opportunity to make this law a daily reality for parents and students in New York City.”

“Struggling schools serving high-needs communities deserve the resources and attention needed to drive student achievement, while parents with children in schools across the city need direct access to the supports they need to ensure that learning takes place both at home and in the classroom. The Chancellor’s proposed reforms do just that, and are a strong step forward in bringing equity and accountability to our city’s school system. The New York City Council looks forward to examining the proposals in detail during this year’s budget cycle, and we thank Chancellor Fariña for consistently advocating for a smarter and fairer education system that seeks to provide great education to the next generation of New York City,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“These reforms are going to promote accountability, equity and efficiency across our city’s schools,” said New York City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “We are replacing a geographically complicated, hard to navigate, 55-network system that gave one-size-fits-all support with more empowered superintendents and targeted assistance from the new Borough Field Support Centers. Ensuring that schools – particularly ones that have historically struggled or serve high-needs communities – aren’t getting fewer resources just because of the support structure they happen to sign up for has also been a part of the Council’s education committee agenda for years now. I believe this is the foundation of a smarter, fairer and more accountable system that will provide the next generation of New Yorker’s a great education.  It’s wonderful to see Chancellor Fariña finally make this happen.” 

"Chancellor Farina is bringing the perspective of an experienced school leader and educator to the challenge of further improving our public school system," said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City. "The business community is prepared to help increase both supports and accountability within the school system."

“We are excited about our partnership with Chancellor Fariña and her team,” said New Visions for Public Schools President Bob Hughes. “The new affinity structure will enable us to support schools that share a commitment to improve, particularly around critical issues like data and systems’ analysis, literacy and math instruction and students’ post-secondary transitions to college and career.  And consistent with the Chancellor’s emphasis on collaboration, our goal remains to share with and learn from educators committed to increase the City’s high school graduation rate, particularly principals and teachers working with students who are furthest from meeting academic standards.”   

“There are going to be changes in our relationship with D.O.E., which I think are positive,” said Richard Kahan, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Assembly. “But we stay together as a network, our principals stay together, we stay together as a team with our principals."

“We applaud the care and thoughtfulness that have gone into the Chancellor’s new organizational structure and school support system,” said Michael Casserly, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools. “The Chancellor and her team have clearly learned from what worked and didn’t work with the previous arrangements and listened hard to staff, teachers, and parents about their needs and challenges. And the Chancellor has obviously studied the structures and reporting features in other major city school systems to produce the best outcomes for students. The new system should improve organizational coherence, coordination, and accountability along with better student results. Kudos for the careful thinking that went into this new proposal.”

“While the networks often were an important source of support for experienced principals leading well-regarded schools, many struggling schools did not receive the supports they needed to improve. I look forward to seeing how this support structure can improve the capacity of all schools to promote student learning,” said Aaron Pallas, a professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University

“The Chancellor’s plan has the potential to combine support, supervision and accountability for the benefit of all schools,” said James Kemple, Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University. “Grounding the support structure in the research-based school capacity framework holds real promise for improving outcomes for students, especially those in struggling schools. However, its effectiveness will depend on the details of implementation. The DOE should continue to collect information as the plan is rolled out and use that information to make adjustments and enhancements.” 

“The reformed school structure means clearer communication and a clearer chain of accountability and authority,” said Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation. “I am confident that, under this improved system of leadership and support, schools will be better able to get the resources they need, address issues as they arise, and deliver the quality education their students need and deserve. From its focus on accountability and communication to the emphasis on family engagement, the DOE is listening to the millions of New Yorkers who rely on our schools.” 

“This new structure is an important, positive change for New York City’s schools.  It reflects a thoughtful and holistic approach to education and holds us all accountable for results.  It allows schools to access support to address the differentiated needs of children and work closely with families and the greater community to improve. These are integral pieces that will work to drive achievement in our schools,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.

“These reforms reflect a DOE that, from the Chancellor down to individual teachers, is finally responsible and accountable for supporting our schools, students, and families,” said Ocynthia Williams, a parent leader and organizer with the Highbridge School Coalition. “I am confident that the new collaboration among principals, superintendents, and DOE leadership will bring positive change to our schools. The changes are also great for parents and community stakeholders, as we’ll be able to get clear support and the answers we need to best support our children.” 

To increase the quality of superintendents and facilitate these reforms, all district and high school superintendents had to reapply for their positions this summer in accordance with new criteria to ensure that all new superintendents had at least 10 years of pedagogic experience, including at least three as a principal. This rigorous process required them to have a demonstrated ability to raise student achievement as well as engage families. Superintendents will continue to hone these skills as part of training offered through a $750,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation. Their offices will be a nexus for both school communities and senior DOE leadership: they are expected to be the clearly defined “eyes and ears” to solicit, identify, and efficiently address any concerns among the schools they oversee. 

To ensure that the new school structure system is smoothly in place for the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, an implementation committee has been established. The committee will assist in the development of BFSCs, work with schools to ensure that changes do not disrupt important school operations, and also provide forums for DOE employees to receive further information and ask questions about the changes. 

For more information see the Strong Schools, Strong Communities whitepaper detailing the new school support structure.

 

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