New York chancellor takes over 16 schools

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Paul Vallas isn’t the only chief executive officer intervening at sorely troubled schools.

Last month, Rudy Crew, the new chancellor of New York City’s public schools, took direct control of that city’s 16 most troubled schools. Some of the schools may be broken up into small schools; at others, principals and faculties could be dismissed, according to the Oct. 20 New York Times.

Board of Education President Carol Gresser supported Crew’s move, saying, “This is not an adversarial action as far as I’m concerned.”

The chancellor’s move came after State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills—also new on the job—threatened to close the schools if the city did not take steps to improve them by the end of the school year. Mills’ office had recently issued several reports detailing problems that state investigators had found at the schools, including filthy bathrooms with no doors, classes in “near chaos,” poor teaching techniques and the use of too many substitutes and uncertified teachers.

The schools had been on the state’s list of lowest-achieving schools since the state began compiling the list in 1989.

Two previous chancellors, Ramon C. Cortines and Joseph A. Fernandez, had tried to take control of the schools, which are governed by elected community school boards. But the boards blocked their action in court. In August, however, a state judge ruled that the chancellor had the right to bypass the community boards and step in.

Cortines and Fernandez had cited long-standing “educational malfeasance” when they moved to take over the 16 schools. New York law clearly gives the chancellor the right to intervene when wrongdoing has occurred, the Times reported, but grants the chancellor no clear authority to do so when educational problems are at issue. A bill that would have given the chancellor that power was defeated two years ago by intense union lobbying. Now, though, Gresser says the central board plans to ask lawmakers to revive the legislation; according to the Times, the legislation is more likely to pass this year because new Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the head of the State Board of Regents both support it.