Friday, December 05, 2008

At School Union Runs, Principal Steps Down


Published: December 3, 2008

The principal of a charter school run by the city's teachers' union, a rare
type of school that has been described by some supporters as proof that
charter schools could flourish even under strict labor rules, has resigned
after clashing with teachers and union leaders, people affiliated with the
school said.

Drew D. Goodman stepped down last week as principal of the union-run school,
the United Federation of
federation_of_teachers/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Teachers Secondary
Charter School in East New York, Brooklyn, after union leaders grew
dissatisfied with his handling of brewing teacher dissatisfaction. He has
been replaced temporarily by Mary Butz, a school system veteran who led a
mentorship program for city principals, until a permanent leader is found.

The departure marked the latest flare-up in the union's efforts to nurture a
successful, labor-friendly alternative to traditional charter schools, which
are publicly funded but operate independently of the school system and
typically shun union rules in order to provide longer class days and give
principals more freedom in hiring and firing staff.

Mr. Goodman's resignation mirrored a shake-up last spring at the union's
elementary charter school, also in East New York, when the principal
resigned amid complaints by teachers and parents of heavy-handed governance.
Mr. Goodman has moved to Public School 215 in Far Rockaway, Queens, where he
is assistant principal, and declined to comment.

Mr. Goodman, 36, who led the school since its opening in 2006, had struggled
to navigate a hazy line between administrator and teacher. In designing the
school, the union defined his position as "first and foremost an educator"
whose authority "will stem not from title or rank," according to the union's
Web site.

Several people at the school or active in the union, speaking on the
condition of anonymity for fear that they would suffer professionally if
they were named, said Mr. Goodman's support among the faculty dwindled as
some teachers saw him as making unilateral decisions. When he asked staff
members to supervise middle school students who were performing community
service at an elementary school, for instance, teachers complained that he
was taking away time that they could be spending at professional development

Edward Morrissey, a language arts teacher at the school, said Mr. Goodman
often got caught between teachers and the union leaders who run the school.
When textbooks arrived late or photocopy machines remained broken, teachers
blamed Mr. Goodman, even if the problem was the result of delays above him,
Mr. Morrissey said.

This fall, when he tried to revise the school charter to cut the number of
students in each grade and increase collaboration between the elementary and
secondary charter schools, he angered union leaders who thought he had
overstepped his authority, the individuals said.

In a letter to the school's trustees sent on Wednesday, Randi Weingarten
en/index.html?inline=nyt-per> , the teacher's union president, described Mr.
Goodman's departure as a mutual decision. In an interview, Ms. Weingarten
said the school was simply working through the kinks facing any new
institution, noting: "It's tough to be the founding school leader of a
school that may be one of the few that really believes in teacher

She pointed to high test scores among students at the union's elementary
school - this year, 81 percent of third-graders passed state English tests
and 98 percent met math standards - as evidence that the schools were

Teachers and principals at the union-backed schools said they posed unique
leadership challenges. Michelle Bodden, who took over the union's elementary
charter school in August, said that satisfying all constituents can be hard,
but that she has built good relations by seeing her role as "secondary to
what's going on with the teachers."

"I think you listen a lot, I think you encourage conversation," she said.

Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, said the
union's secondary school's innovative methods, which include staggered
teacher shifts to allow a longer school day, could become models for other

Mr. Morrissey, the teacher at the union school, said many of the students
had viewed Mr. Goodman as a role model. "I think the kids are in complete
shock," he said.

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