Queens pols, educators welcome reforms to school support system

By Madina Toure

Queens’ lawmakers and school principals praised a new up-to-date school support system announced by City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña last week that would help struggling schools and increase accountability.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is also the chairman of the New York City Council’s Education Committee, said the reforms are in sync with the committee’s agenda.

“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,” Dromm said in a statement.

The reforms, which will go into effect during the 2015-16 academic year, include combining the task of hiring principals and holding them accountable with the power to decide what resources and supports are given to struggling schools. The superintendents will now be in a position to provide support to turn schools around.

The reforms will also include the replacement of the 55 Children First Networks with seven geographically based Borough Field Support Centers. School principals will continue to control their budgets as well as hiring processes and will remain independent across the system, with the exception of struggling schools.

Back in 2009, when the state Legislature was renewing mayoral control, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside) pushed for reforms that would give local communities more clout in determining their children’s education.

Nolan welcomed the reforms, noting a section of New York Education Law states the community superintendent would create a central office within the district and hire and supervise staff to deal with parents.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Vanessa Chambers, principal of the Bay Terrace School, also known as PS 169, in Flushing, commended the reforms as a way to address the specific needs of different schools in the city.

“I am pleased that the new Borough Field Support Centers will be designed to get schools the unique support they need rather than a one-size-fits-all approach,” Chambers said. “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.”

Superintendents will work with their expanded teams of six staff members to assist principals in carrying out the supports from their centers. The superintendents’ teams will consist of an administrative assistant, two family engagement officers, a field support liaison, a Renewal School liaison and a principal leadership facilitator.

There will be two support centers in Brooklyn and Queens, and one each in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. A Borough Field Service Center director will lead each BFSC. The centers will open in the summer.

Fariña said the city is “drawing clear lines of authority” and making everyone in the system responsible for students’ performance.

“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,” she said in a statement. “I believe principals know their schools best; school leaders who are achieving will have increased independence.”

The new school support system is an extension of initiatives the DOE introduced over the past year, including the Framework for Great Schools, new School Quality Snapshots and School Quality Guides and the School Renewal Program. The agency also created new programs to encourage collaboration and discuss best practices, including the Learning Partners Program, Showcase Schools and PROSE schools.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour‌e@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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