Less than half of the staff at Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Automotive High School in Williamsburg will return to their jobs after undergoing a restaffing.
The staff was required to reapply for their positions in order to keep their jobs, as part of an agreement last November with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA). These two schools are under strict scrutiny after being labeled as two of the city’s lowest-performing schools.
“Turning around a struggling school is difficult work, and requires difficult decisions. Schools need to have the right leadership, the right teachers, and the right school staff to raise student achievement. We continue to give aggressive supports to the educators at these schools – and all our Renewal Schools – through overhauls of curriculum, expanded teacher training and coaching needed to succeed. This hiring process was collaborative and focused on the best interest of students, and we will continue to support educators while holding them accountable,” said Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
The plan required 130 teachers and administrators in both high schools to reapply for their jobs. At each school, city-union hiring committees screened the candidates. The committees are comprised of 12 members, including six representatives of the teachers union. Of those six representatives, four are from the principals union and two are from the city. The committee has the power to rehire as many or as few of the schools’ current staff as it sees fit.
The same committee that the staff would face interviewed the principals of both high schools. However, the principal on the committee did not take part in the interviews. Both principals were unanimously rehired. The panel then interviewed the teachers and staff and made its decisions. Neither school had a staffing minimum, as it had in the past.
Out of the staff who reapplied, less than half were rehired at both schools. At Automotive High School, 42 percent of staff members currently working at the school will return for the 2015 – 16 school year, which amounts to 18 of the 43 applicants.
“This is going to make a real difference, and will help ensure we have the right staff in place to best support students. The Renewal School program is providing targeted support to help to lift up the quality of instruction across our campus, and through this collaborative process, we’re making progress,” said Automotive Principal Caterina Lafergola.
At Boys and Girls High School, 33 percent of staff members will return for the 2015 – 16 school year, which amounts to 21 of the 63 applicants.
“Boys and Girls High School is undergoing a true renewal. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and the staff we’ll have this fall will be the right team to best support students. There is such tremendous potential in the hallways, in our families, and in the community—and I’m committed to continued growth and real results”, said Principal Michael Wiltshire.
Teachers and staff that did not reapply represent those who left the school or profession, or those who were counseled out by administrators throughout the year. There is no data breakdown available for this group.
There are still opportunities available for teachers who reapplied and were not hired, as well as for those who did not reapply for their positions. There are positions available on the open-market over the summer. There will be two recruitment events at each of the high schools.
Staff that is not hired over the summer will be placed in excess this September. While they may stay at one school during this time, the school is not required to hire them if there is a vacancy available. However, because city schools make hiring decisions based on the number of students enrolled, there is the possibility that all of the empty positions will not be filled or that even more may be added.
All schools undergoing this process, known as Renewal Schools, will receive funding to hire teacher leaders.
State officials are hoping the restaffing plan will bring a positive change, but critics worry that the displaced teachers may negatively affect other schools.
StudentsFirstNY, a grassroots organization that advocates for the improvement of New York State public schools, acknowledges the problems in Boys and Girls High School, saying that “parents living in Bedford-Stuyvesant have known for years about how Boys and Girls High School has failed their children.” The group agrees with the administration about the importance of teacher quality and the need for flexibility in hiring and firing.
However, the group has expressed their concerns about the aftermath of the restaffing process.
“We remain concerned, however, that teachers deemed inadequate to teach at Boys and Girls High School may enter another struggling school or may go into the Absent Teacher Reserve pool where they will continue to either be a drain on the system or worse, be slotted into vacancies. Major structural challenges remain that require the administration to keep focused on this issue. We can’t and we won’t give up on the students of Boys and Girls High School,” SFNY said in a statement.