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Gassaway on City's New Plan for Failing Schools: "I'm Not Worried"

State Education Commissioner John King signs off on mayor's new Turnaround plan, which includes firing hundreds of teachers and some principals at 33 struggling schools

Mayor Bloomberg has found a way around the months-long impasse in negotiations between his administration and the United Federation of Teachers that has held up State Improvement Grant (SIG) funding for struggling schools.

The city’s plan, which Bloomberg announced in his State of the City address last week, would make federal monies once again available, but it would result in the removal of half of the teachers from 33 previously designated low-performing schools.

For months, the State has patiently awaited a final agreement between the mayor and the United Federation of Teachers, regarding how to best implement teacher evaluations – ratings that ultimately will impact how teachers are hired and fired.

The State Education Department made clear that the city and the UFT must agree by January 1, 2012, on how to implement a comprehensive teacher evaluation system in New York City's Transformation and Restart schools if they expect to receive any of the SIG funding. But the deadline came and went, and still no agreement.

The mayor’s new approach, known as Article 18-D, is a lesser-known plan that, ironically, is written right into the union’s contract. It is another type of Turnaround model that gives the city permission to close and immediately re-open schools, but under a new name and new identification number.

Additionally, this Turnaround approach does not require teacher evaluations be in place, and therefore reinstates eligibility for SIG funding. On Tuesday, State Education Commissioner John King gave the new plan his blessing to move forward.

Bernard Gassaway, principal of Boys and Girls High School – – has been an for his school.

So, this new Turnaround model should be good news for Gassaway. The only problem is, under the mayor’s new-new Turnaround model as stated, Gassaway becomes one of those principals who would likely have to be removed.

But Gassaway says he’s not worried.

“The latest decision to close the schools does not include Boys and Girls High School; and there’s definitely not a concern on my part, with regards to losing my job,” said Gassaway. “I’ve been in communication with DOE officials, and we’re not being tapped for any technical or lesser known Turnaround provision at this time.

“Right now, we have a plan in place, and we want to see if it works. In addition, there’s experienced leadership in place. So it wouldn’t make sense to remove the leadership if it shows a track record of success, and that is the case at this time,” said Gassaway.

Gassaway added, he has no problem with the new Turnaround provision, and he agrees with the decision by the mayor and the commissioner to move forward, despite failed negotiations surrounding teacher evaluations. In fact, he said that he still believes a sizable number of his own teaching staff needs to be replaced.

“If the teachers are ineffective, you have to remove the teachers—and the same for principals,” said Gassaway. “The DOE has decided not to close BGHS because they wanted to give us a chance to see if our plan works.

“If it turns out that what we’re doing now with our students, staff and parents does not show improvement after all, then… we would have to consider what’s on the table.”

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