It appears that the millions of dollars earmarked to save Boys and Girls High School may be in jeopardy.
One reason is due to stalled negotiations between the teacher’s union and the City around how to best implement teacher evaluations, which will greatly impact the way teachers are hired and fired. But until an agreement is reached between the two parties, the State will hold the money.
The second reason has to do with the school’s principal Bernard Gassaway. In a letter he released to Bed-Stuy Patch this morning, Gassaway presented a resounding objection to Restart – the school reform model under which the money would be awarded – insisting that most of the $3.5 - $6 million grant that may come with Restart would be restricted primarily to professional development.
Gassaway has long stated a preference for the Turnaround (Transformation) Model as the most viable approach for student improvement at Boys and Girls, as it would grant him authority to replace teachers he deems ineffective.
"Money alone is not the answer," said Gassaway. "I have espoused that of all the models being offered, Turnaround would give us the best chance to speed-up the reform of Boys and Girls High School. While I defend all efforts to keep Boys and Girls High School open forever, I do not defend the right of incompetent staff to remain with children indefinitely.”
Boys & Girls High School has ranked as one of New York State’s lowest performing schools for the last two years, and less than half of its students graduated in 2010. In December, the city narrowly spared Boys & Girls from complete closure.
The Restart Model is one of four improvement plans outlined by the Obama administration in its education initiative designed to improve struggling schools, better known as Race To The Top.
The Department of Education’s reaction to Gassaway’s stance squarely addressed the stalled negotiations surrounding teacher negotiations, which have imperiled the funds’ allocation, but also made clear of DOE’s intention to implement the Restart model.
“We have been in near constant consultation with the State Education Department about our intentions to use Restart, and our plan is consistent with the law, so it’s unfortunate that the State would change the ground rules at this late juncture,” Deputy Chancellor at the New York City Department of Education Marc Sternberg said.
“We agree with the State about the need for a rigorous and meaningful teacher evaluation system, but thus far we have not been able to reach an agreement with the teacher’s union, and that means we are likely to miss out on more than $125 million in federal funds to improve these schools.”
Still, while negotiations remain on the table regarding teacher evaluations, Gassaway has taken a hard stance on the conditions of the funding:
“I know in my heart and soul that the recent decision of the DOE to move forward with the Restart model is not the best option for Boys and Girls High School,” Gassaway said. “In the end, any model that we adopt must allow school leadership to aggressively address staff incompetence.”
Tom Dunn, director of communications at New York State Education Department, said the department had no comment in regards to Principal Gassaway’s position.