Thursday, October 29, 2009

State charting new course for old HS's

By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter, NY Post

State officials are seeking to dismantle as many as a dozen large city high schools and turn many of the newly created smaller schools that will occupy their buildings into charters, The Post has learned.

Officials said they're also looking to partner with outside managers, such as CUNY and New Visions for Public Schools, to help run some of the newly formed schools.

The controversial plan will be included in New York's application for a share of $4.3 billion in federal education aid, known as Race to the Top, which requires states to detail how they'll turn around their lowest-performing schools.

If implemented, the plan would continue a trend started by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of breaking up large high schools into a handful of smaller ones that share facilities but operate independently of one another.

But this marks the first time that charter-school managers, who operate less than a handful of high schools in the city, have been asked to get involved in such restructuring.

Officials don't plan to finalize a so-called "replacement list" for another several weeks.

But sources said schools that are likely to make the list include Columbus and Gompers high schools in The Bronx, and Sheepshead Bay HS in Brooklyn -- although the principal at Sheepshead Bay denied her school would be on the list.

Schools on the state's annual list of failing schools -- including Boys and Girls HS in Brooklyn and even a number of middle schools -- are also likely contenders.

"There is not going to be a person in New York state who will be able to defend any of the schools that end up on our replacement list," state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said at a recent conference. "It's not going to be a controversial list."

Depending on how many schools are turned around as charters, the state's current cap on that number would almost certainly come into play.

New York is 37 schools shy of its 200-charter limit.

Charter school operators said they would need more information about how the replacements would work before they could agree to take over historically failing high schools.

Peter Murphy, policy director of the New York State Charter Schools Association, said there was some concern about being able to maintain the flexibility that charter schools have in making organizational decisions.

"It makes no sense to try to turn around a school [while keeping] all the impediments that got it into trouble in the first place," he said.

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