time's up

The state finally announced which schools could be taken over — and the only one is in New York City

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

One Bronx middle school could be subject to takeover by an independent entity this school year, the only school in the state that did not make enough progress to avoid that fate.

The school, J.H.S. 162 Lola Rodriguez De Tio, is one of three schools in New York City and 10 statewide that were considered “persistently struggling” and given a year to make “demonstrable improvement” or face new management.

J.H.S. 162 did not hit its targets, the State Education Department announced Wednesday afternoon. That means schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has 60 days to appoint an outside entity, such as a school improvement expert or nonprofit, to oversee the school. The city could also decide to close or merge the school.

Each persistently struggling school had to make at least 40 percent progress on a “demonstrable improvement index” to avoid independent receivership — and J.H.S. 162 reached 38 percent, missing some indicators by less than one point.

The announcement comes after Chalkbeat reported earlier this week that the state had blown its own deadline to decide whether its lowest-performing schools would be subject to outside management.

In a press release, the State Education Department characterized the announcement as good news for most schools that had been considered “persistently struggling” — which means they have been among the state’s lowest ranked schools since at least 2006.

“There is much more to be done but we are pleased with the turnaround that has started and, with continued support, can further progress in these schools,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a press release.

School officials at J.H.S. 162 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The school is also part of the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, which gives struggling schools access to social services and other supports.

The city Department of Education has previously indicated that it may close or merge certain struggling schools, but it was not immediately clear if city officials planned to take that route in this case in lieu of appointing an independent entity. State officials said a merger or closure could relieve the city’s obligation to appoint an outside manager.

“The chancellor’s first priority is doing what’s best for kids and we will ensure our next steps support students and families in receiving a high-quality education,” city education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye wrote in a statement. “We’ve been clear that all options are on the table, and as we move forward, we will work closely with the school community to ensure stability and continuity in classroom learning.”

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”