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by Michael Hirsch | November 1, 2012 New York Teacher issue
UFT President Michael Mulgrew told City Council members that schools’ Children First Networks are ineffective and the system is “broken” at the Council’s Education Committee hearing on Oct. 25.
Mulgrew pronounced the networks “dysfunctional,” “not designed to be accountable,” and operating with no clear chain of command.
He also said they were “ill-equipped to handle the human resource issues” that schools face daily and were “strategically designed to place the accountability as far away from the Department of Education’s central office as possible.”
With such a setup, he said, “networks have no power and can’t do the job, [and] the DOE can appear blameless.”
Mulgrew wanted to make it clear that his beef was not with the educators working with the networks, but with the DOE’s lack of accountability and support for schools.
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, community activists and numerous Council members also blasted the networks.
Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson recounted complaints from parents, Community Education Council members and school staff that network personnel were unable to spend enough time getting to know their schools’ communities and individual school needs because networks are not organized geographically. Jackson noted that parents have no network offices in their neighborhoods or even boroughs where they can meet with network staff and that network staff rarely if ever work with teachers, School Leadership Teams or even superintendents.
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the DOE’s senior deputy chancellor and the official chiefly responsible for overseeing school services, had earlier testified that “90 percent of principals are satisfied with the overall support provided by their network.”
But Council of School Supervisors and Administrators First Vice President Randi Herman denied it, saying the principals union had been bombarded by members’ requests to protect them from unworkable network demands.
She quoted from one principal’s letter to a superintendent, offering a litany of grievances that ended with “I will not mandate a school psychologist to rewrite an IEP just to meet a budget need.”
Mulgrew’s full testimony is available here: Testimony on the Department of Education's Children First Network.
UFT Secretary Michael Mendel said that the DOE’s actions after Hurricane Sandy also illustrated Mulgrew’s points.
“Tweed’s inability to get information to the field about schools in the aftermath of Sandy further demonstrates the total dysfunction of the network system at least operationally,” Mendel said.