March 19, 2015
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good job – excellent, excellent. Well, Prince, congratulations. It is not easy to get up and speak before members of the press and a crowd like this. It proves that your experience at Richmond Hill has been a very good one. And I appreciate you for all you’re doing to further yourself. And I also appreciate you for thanking a teacher that you care about. And we have to always take time to thank teachers for all they do. So, thank you and congratulations to you as well.
Great job – I’m glad, Prince, that you are experiencing some of the changes, some of the improvements and it’s helping you, and it’s helping your classmates. So, it is a pleasure to be here at Richmond Hill High School and, as Prince said, home of the Lions. And the lion imagery is going figure into my remarks again later – it’s important in this school.
This is one of 94 renewal schools across the city. It’s part of a $150 million dollar initiative that we’ve undertaken to help schools that need help, to turn them around, to make them strong again. We announced this back in November, and we’ve been implementing this initiative very, very aggressively. And with each succeeding month, you will see more, and more, and more action in these 94 schools.
Today, I visited two classrooms, talked to students and teachers, and we saw education moving forward. We saw kids engaged in learning and teachers who are committed, and that is what we need to invest in. And that’s what we will invest in. When we see the educational process working, we invest more deeply – that’s our commitment.
I want to say at the outset, I’m very, very appreciative of the efforts of our principal, Neil Ganesh. I had a great talk with him about the approach he’s taking to turning around this school. Now, there are many great school leaders in this city, but there’s a characteristic I particularly love in a school leader – it’s when that school leader comes from the community they serve. Born and raised in Richmond Hill, correct? Born and raised in Richmond Hill, now serving his community, took over the school in October of 2013, has done a great job at increasing attendance at this school and adding to the ability of each student to gain the credits they need for graduation. This is a big part of the renewal schools effort – to do much better at connecting students to the credits they need for graduation. We talked about this back at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn – how a lot of kids were not getting the support and the guidance they needed to actually take the right classes for graduation. That’s how hands-off the situation had become. Now, at Boys and Girls – a very focused effort, student by student, to make sure they get what they need for graduation.
I know that the principal here is very devoted. In fact, as we walked in, he showed me the charts – and to all my friends in the media, if you haven’t seen them, you should look at them. You walk through the hallway, there’s a chart of literally every student. Instead of their name, there’s a code number, indicating to them who they are but not to anyone else, and it literally shows how they’re doing on the pathway to graduation. That is true for ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th grade students. So any student in this school can see, at any given moment, if they’re on track for graduation or not. Any teacher, any administrator can see how each student is doing. It’s literally in front of your faces. It’s like the War Room that Aimee has started, which we’ll talk about in a moment, but it’s being done at the school level, literally, student by student.
So, I want to emphasize, when we talk about renewal schools, this is very personal. We are literally going and reaching out to each and every student in a renewal school to make sure they’re on the right track. We’re going to win this student by student. Just as Aimee is keeping track of all 94 renewal schools and helping them with the efforts they need to turn around, principals like Neil Ganesh are monitoring each and every student, and helping them to get what they need, and pushing them to go farther, and I think that is the key to victory.
I want to thank everyone at the DOE who is a part of this effort. Obviously, Chancellor Fariña considers this a crucial element of our work and our mission. Aimee Horowitz – everyone is starting to get to know a great veteran teacher who became an administrator. She was a great success as a teacher. She was a great success as an administrator – turning around schools, starting new programs that worked. She is here as the executive superintendent for renewal schools because she’s walked the walk, because she has figured out in her own work how to make schools work. And now we’re asking her to lead the effort on this much larger level. She is the general of the army. She is the one who’s going to marshal the forces to turn these 94 schools around. And she will have my full support in that effort.
Let’s talk about the history, and I think it’s important acknowledge there was a different policy before we came here. It was a policy that focused on the closing of schools. A lot of parents didn’t like that. A lot of communities didn’t like that, for good reason because in many cases – I want to welcome Assemblyman David Weprin. How are you doing? Welcome. The reason there was such frustration over the closing of schools was that, in many cases, the schools were closed before any coherent effort to turn them around was mounted.
Once upon a time, we had the chancellor’s district, which was a serious effort to concentrate resources on schools that needed help, but that effort was never sustained. And so, schools that were struggling – instead of having an action plan – were left to get worse in many cases. And then there was, I think, often a rush to close them to, in theory, go to other options that might be better. But as we saw in many cases, sometimes the options were good, sometimes they weren’t. We also saw a lot of kids in that process of closure were left in the lurch. A lot of kids were in the phase-out years, and those phase-out years were not good educational experiences for the children.
We came along with a different philosophy. We said, if we’ve only scratched the surface of actually trying to turn around a school, let’s show you what it would look like if you concentrated all of your resources on the schools that needed them the most. In some schools, as I’ve said, there will be a new principle and other new leaders. Where that’s needed, we will not hesitate to replace principals and bring in new leaders. In some schools, we will need master teachers and model teachers – the new categories that we achieved in the contract with the teachers union that elevates those teachers who are most effective to a higher status, where they get more pay to take their skills and their ability to coach, and coach other teachers to get better.
So in some schools, we will send in a SWAT team, as it were, of a new principal, a new assistant principal, new teachers. Depending on what mix we need, we will mobilize the best talent we have and send them where the need is greatest. We will add instructional time in each and every one of these 94 schools. Every one of them for every child will have an additional period of instruction in the school day. We’re adding afterschool to every single of them. Every single one of them will be a community school, meaning they’ll have additional physical and mental health capacity. They’ll have additional parental involvement, additional involvement, tutoring programs, etcetera. All of these pieces are going to be brought to bear simultaneously. A lot of those pieces are being moved right this minute in these schools. We’ll keep adding and adding as we build out the renewal schools program.
So a renewal school will have more investment of more different kinds than we’ve ever attempted with our schools that needed the most help. We believe this will be transcendent. We believe it will be transcendent very quickly. And we’re going to hold ourselves to account in a transparent manner. We know who is personally accountable, and she is accountable to the chancellor and me. And we’re going to literally go school by school and report constantly on the progress we are making.
The problem of the past is it suggested that we should surrender rather than fight. But we believe in fighting to turn around schools. Now, I said when I announced this plan in November, if you take every conceivable resource and apply it to the situation, you need to see results quickly. And I said the outer limit I will give is three years during this term. If I do not see a school turn around significantly in three years, I will close it down and I will be accountable for that decision. But I believe, with the kind resources we are putting into play and the kind of leadership, that you’re going to see these schools move and move quickly. That is the vision. We want to send a message to the people who do the work – to the teachers, and all the other people in the school community – that we value them and we’re investing in them. We especially want to send a message to students like Prince, that we’re not giving up on them and their school. In fact, we’re bringing more in to help them succeed. I think our students deserve that support and that commitment.
This is going to be across the city – 94 schools. It’s going to be concentrated. It’s going to be energetic. We want these schools to reach their full potential. Let’s talk about the experience in this school, where we see such promising signs already. Principal – I’ve already bragged on you and what you’ve done in your leadership. Also, as part of this effort, a leadership coach has been assigned – Stephen Duch – retired principal who turned around previously, another troubled school. So we bring in – we have a great young principal who’s making things happen – we’re bringing in coaching and support for him to learn some of the specific strategies that have worked to turn around schools previously. We’re adding here – already they’ve added afterschool and Saturday sessions. So depending on the student, whatever additional instruction and support they need, they can get it in afterschool or they can get it on Saturdays. That is happening right now. The arts program in this school was saved from being cut because that’s kind of effort that helps elevate the students and their love of learning. So a school that needs extra energy and extra motivation for success – don’t take away the kind of program that actually moves students the most. So that’s why we saved the arts program here.
There’s a new training program for ninth grade teachers to help them focus on the need to teach kids how to write better. So part of what we said system-wide is, we’re going to focus on teacher training. That’s a core part of the contract deal – more time into training. But the training effort – as Aimee can describe – is particularly important where the need is greatest. So there’s an incessant ability for a principal to say, okay, I’ve got these committed teachers but they need coaching. In certain areas, we’re going to give them that additional training. We know writing is one of the biggest challenges, by the way, in our whole society. We are going to help these teachers learn better how to write.
I just want to make an analogy, given the season we’re in – is spring training. And we, I think, don’t talk about teaching properly because if you look at Major League Baseball – these wonderful professionals – they take batting practice every single day. They talk to their hitting coach every single day, or their pitching coach, and we think that’s normal. They make millions and millions of dollars. They’re the best there is in the world, and they get coached every single day. Why should it be any different for our teachers? We have the best and most motivated teachers, but they still need constant help and support from the principal and assistant principal. They need constant training. They need to improve at all times. By the way, the vast majority of our teachers want to improve. They are professionals. They’re committed to their craft. They want to get better all the time. A lot of them want to become master teachers. A lot of them want to become assistant principals and principals. We’ve made that pathway more available to them. So, there’s a lot of reasons for teachers to really work hard at becoming the best professionals they can be, and that’s something we’re going to particularly emphasize here in a renewal school.
So here at Richmond Hill, the expert resources, the new programming, the support, the training is already having an impact. In terms of students on track to graduate, we see a seven percent increase across all grade levels of students now on track to graduate. Again, you can see it on the charts in the hallways. 83 more kids in the 11th grade alone are now on track to graduate compared to last year – that’s a 20 percent improvement. The enrollment in after-school programs has almost tripled from 143 students to 413. Again, if a kid is in an after-school program, they are learning, they’re getting more motivation, they’re getting more time on task. Another important indicator of a school community that’s getting stronger and more orderly – serious or violent incidents are down from this time this year compared to last time – this time last year. An important decrease in serious and violent instances – an important decrease in suspensions – so the school is becoming more orderly, more committed.
Well, I mentioned about the hallways and the posters you see – it’s got a very simple concept to it – the slogan is, Are You Green? If you look on these charts – again, every single student visible – if you have green all across your chart, it means you are totally on track to graduate. If you have yellow in certain areas, it means there’s work to be done. If you have red, it means there’s a more serious problem that has to be addressed. So the question being asked of everyone is, are you green? Are you on track? Are you up to date? Is everything moving? And that sends a powerful message of accountability up and down the line. And it also gives the students ability to see with their own eyes where they stand. It makes them accountable in a good way as well.
All of this is about helping the school succeed and the students succeed. We’re seeing it here, and we’re seeing it at renewal schools around the city. Boys and Girls – a lot of you were there – you heard the story of increased attendance, more kids on track to graduate, more spirit in the school that things were turning around, great new leadership by a principal who also had a history of turning around school – all of those pieces adding up.
Now, if you say, what do we need to go farther? What we need to go farther is to get that which we should have gotten years and years ago from Albany, which is the money that the New York State Court of Appeals said the city of New York deserves for our schools. If there are controversies over this question, I remind everyone of a simple concept – I didn’t make up this number, Aimee Horowitz didn’t make up this number, Carmen Fariña didn’t make up this number. The New York State Court of Appeals dictated in 2007 what New York City should get. Where are we compared to where we should be – I’m sorry, 2006 – 2006. Where are we compared to where we should be? Well, this year alone, if the law of this state was being followed – if the Court of Appeals decision was being honored, we would get $2.6 billion dollars more for our schools, which would have an absolutely transcendent effect on our ability to rise up all our kids and have a school system that is strong across the board – $2.6 billion dollars. In the past, the folks in Albany used to say, because of the economic crises and other challenges that they were in deficit. This year, the state of New York has an almost $8 billion dollar surplus. It’s a matter of public record. It’s time for New York City to get its fair share. And what that would do at Richmond Hill and so many of these schools would be transcendent. What it would do for 171,000 special ed kids, what it would do for kids who right now need guidance so they can move forward in their lives into college – I think you’ve heard that we have one guidance counselor for every – I think it’s 392 kids in our high schools. There are so many fundamental changes we could make if we had the resources.
To conclude – before turning to Neil and Aimee – this school, you can feel that something good is happening here. And they have a powerful slogan to drive themselves forward. The slogan is Transform Yourself. That’s a statement to everyone in the school community, and it’s a statement to the individual students. There is a poster that you see around here and it’s a poster of a cat looking into a mirror, and in the mirror, the cat sees a lion. I foreshadowed that. For those of you who teach English, that was foreshadowing. The cat sees a lion, sees the unleashing of his inner potential. That’s what we want to see for every student here. That’s what we want to see for every renewal school, and we will not stop fighting until that is done. En Español –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
So, we are committed to these schools. We know we can turn them around. And I want you to hear from the principal of this school. I want you to hear his story of what he has done already and how he is committed to the community he grew up in, because I think it’s a great example of where we’re going as a city – Principal Neil Ganesh.
Mayor: Alright, we are going to take on-topic questions.
Question: I’m wondering if Superintendent Horowitz first can discuss her meeting at the NYPD? Who she met with? How long she was there? What she’s learned? And second, if you could talk about what will actually happen at these CompStat-like meetings. Who will be here? Will all 94 principals be there? Who will grill them? What are the metrics you’ll be looking at, etcetera?
Mayor: I want to just start and then I’ll pass it – again, the superintendent has been given a very big job and she’s acclimating to it very quickly, but not every detail is resolved yet. I want to say at the outset, I’m going to be seeing Chief O’Neill later today, who runs the CompStat sessions with our deputy commissioner for operations, Dermot Shea, and I’m going to ask both of them to put some personal time into supporting the superintendent in terms of understanding what has been effective in a CompStat system. So, today was a chance for her to acclimate to the system, but there will be follow-up meetings in terms of how to actually use it in a new context. Second, in terms of all of the metrics for each of the schools, that’s being assembled now. But the point is, we’re going to use a very rigorous system where every school is going to have to be accountable to the superintendent on a regular basis. Do you want to add?
Aimee Horowitz, Executive Superintendent for Renewal Schools: So, today was a chance to observe the CompStat process and to have brief conversations with some of the people that run the meeting along with two other people from the DOE, so that we can continue to put together our War Room. We had our first War Room meeting yesterday and superintendents presented to the DOE education – senior level – people from all departments, including Youth Development – Mark Rampersant was there, Dorita Gibson was there, people from Teaching and Learning, [inaudible] was there – to do a case – kind of conference, where they presented what’s going on in their schools and a problem of [inaudible] so that we could question and offer possible solutions. And we had various superintendents there – this is the first time that we had done it. We had five superintendents there. Moving forward, we will have fewer superintendents so that we can have more in-depth analysis and more time for question and answers. So we’ve already reflected on that process, and then went to CompStat today to learn more about what we can learn from that very successful process to move forward and to see people ask the difficult questions. And I’m not afraid to ask the difficult questions.
Mayor: Let me just add an additional piece – this is that exact process. You know, what’s so powerful in CompStat is you take a set of statistics from the precinct that then immediately go into a conversation about individual cases, individual circumstances. And what the leadership does – in this case Chief O’Neill and Deputy Commissioner Shea – is they drill down into the individual situation. There was a pattern of robberies – what did you do or how did you investigate? How many people did you apply to it? What did you find? Did you pursue this lead? Did you coordinate with this other part of the equation? And they put the leadership of the precinct through their paces. And they’re looking for, in each case, who’s on the ball? Who’s got the right plan? Who’s following through fully, or are there things where there’s areas of weakness that have to be addressed or new practices that need to be brought to bear? That’s exactly what Aimee already instinctively was starting to do with the superintendents and with the principals, but we’re going to systematize that even further and, just like in CompStat, rotate each school through to explain what they’re doing and have to present their success, and their practice, and be critiqued. And then they have to come back and show that they’ve taken the critique and put it into action.
Question: Whose idea was this?
Aimee Horowitz: So this idea was actually conceived by myself and a couple of members of my team. My team is amazing. They’re really strong, smart, educated people that care about schools, that have sat in the seat of principals, and are in schools every day. And so we look at that, and look at what helps us grow as educators, and what we can do moving forward.
Question: The governor has said that [inaudible]
Mayor: I think we have a very rigorous plan to turn these schools around. It was published in November. It is now being acted, as you can see, with great energy and with a lot of resources, and more to come. We have mayoral control of education, which means the buck stops right here, and I am absolutely and totally personally accountable. And as I said in my budget testimony in Albany, I have a contract – it comes up for renewal in November 2017. If I don’t produce, the people can replace me. That’s the beauty of mayoral control of education. So, to me, when you have a mayoral control system with absolute clear authority, and we have produced a clear plan for turning around the 94 schools with resources attached and leadership that’s actually done the work. What’s important then is to let us do our work. I’m not going to comment on other school systems with other approaches, but where mayoral control of education exists, and you have an absolutely clear chain of command, and absolutely clear accountability, the state should simply let us get our job done.
Mayor: I’m going to ask Aimee to, you know, begin to outline that, but let me just start by saying, this is a program that we announced in November that we are very energetically applying through 94 schools. Now, 94 school, one of which, here – 2,000 students? Yeah, 94 schools, some of which have this number of students, would be the size of an entire schools system of a major American city. So I just want people to understand how fast and intense this effort is, but also how big a playing field we’re working on here. But you’re going to see pieces of this program in place across the board through this school year. September in particular, you’re going to see a whole new reality in a lot of these schools as we apply the elements of the program intensely. But why don’t you speak to how many are at what point of development?
Aimee Horowitz: So I am going to say that there are various stages of development, but every school has been visited and has gotten feedback at least from their superintendent. And many of the superintendents have visited their schools and provided feedback more than once during walk-throughs with the principal and assistant principal, looking at the classroom instruction. They’ve been visited by talent coaches to work on instruction, and looking at implementation of Danielson with fidelity, and also looking how to provide teachers with actionable feedback. In addition, there is a renewal team that has visited schools. Senior leadership from the Department of Education, including the deputy chancellors, have each adopted a school and the vast majority of them have visited their schools and are engaging in those visits today. I know Dorita Gibson is at a school today and I know Deputy Chancellor Phil Weinberg will be visiting very many of the high schools. I’ve been in 14 of the high schools extensively, along with members of my team. And while not every school has a coach embedded in the school, it takes time also to find the right people. So just this week, two new – two additional high schools in Queens got principal leadership coaches because we found the right person. It can’t just be any retired principal, it has to be someone that can do the job.
Aimee Horowitz: So in September, every renewal school will be a community school. The schools right now are engaging in the process of interviewing community-based organizations to be their chief partners. Those people will be sitting at the table with the school. The school, in conjunction with their school leadership team and other school constituents, have the option of choosing a community-based organization that was vetted through a very rigorous process to interview and to be the chief partner in that school so that they can provide wrap-around services to students. What’s different about this than just having a community-based organization in the school – as many of our schools do – is that there will now be a community coordinator. And so those community-based education – those community-based organizations will be embedded in the culture of the school, will sit at the table with educators. So, it won’t just be an after-school arts program, but they will discuss with educators what the students need and how we can all coordinate the services so that student’s needs are met.
Mayor: Let me quickly jump in and then we’ll get a second – let me come in on this and then I want to also go over how the extra instructional time will be added in afterschool, etcetera. This point is very important – I want you to go back to what we talked about the charts on the wall of this school. This is a different approach. I need everyone to understand this is not yesterday’s approach. This is a different approach. This is student by student. So everything – Aimee is an expert in education – uses some of the terms that may be less accessible to those of us who are not teaching professionals, so I want to put it into a little plainer English. All of this is about how you literally track every student in your school and help them to achievement. It is about improving the work of the teachers. It is about improving what the leadership can do – in some cases, meaning new leadership; in some cases, meaning supporting the leadership we have; in some cases, new teachers or teachers who have reached master or model teacher level; in some cases, supporting the teachers we have or any combination thereof. But it really comes down to incessant focus on each student. So when we talk about community schools, that sounds a little abstract at first, but here’s what it means. If a student has a health care need – they have a physical health care need, if they have a mental health care need, it will be dealt with in school. If a student needs tutoring, there will be volunteers from the community to tutor them. If a student needs more coordination between their parents and their teacher, the parent will be called into the school because now we've given teachers a lot more time to focus on parent engagement and getting on the same page strategically. Sometimes the breakthrough for a kid will be if the parent is really on top of them about doing their homework – if the parent’s reading with them. Whatever it may be, teachers need that partner at home to maximize the educational strategy. So, it’s a very different approach. It’s much more urgent. It’s much more hands-on. It’s much more student by student. The history of this city is not a pretty one. Many students were left without the support they deserve. Many parents were left disengaged. Schools were written off. I’ve said it many times – the status quo that we have received is unacceptable. We won’t stand for it. When you really rework the process, it is, you know, the educational equivalent of house-to-house combat. You’re literally working with every student and every family to turn around what it ultimately a system of 1.2 million kids. I know this as a public school parent. I know this from my days on the school board in Community 15 – at Community School District 15 in Brooklyn – where you literally understand from educators, what they needed to succeed. You’d hear from teachers what they wished they could do to better their efforts on behalf of their own children. We’re trying to put all those pieces together with urgency. But you’re going to see the kind of approach that Neil Ganesh has done here, where you literally can chart the progress of every single kid. That’s totally CompStat, if you think about. That is taking the concept – CompStat – CompStat concept and applying it very, very energetically right down to the micro level of how are we doing with each child. Why don’t you talk about what else happens in September, in terms of the school day, afterschool, etcetera?
Aimee Horowitz: So by September, every school will have an added hour of extra learning time for every student in the school. Currently, 54 of our schools have built that into their schedule and that can be done through teacher flex-time, it can be done through procession – there are various ways that schools can choose to do that –
Aimee Horowitz: Okay. It can be done by paying teachers at an hourly rate to stay. There are various ways to do that, but in the renewal program, we are committed to every school having an extra hour of instruction a day for every student so that our students can spend more time learning. Whether they’re a struggling student that needs an intervention, or a student in an advanced level class that can benefit from enrichment – but we know that all of our students do better and succeed at a higher levels with more time on-task. So what’s different about this is the comprehensive approach. It’s not just we’re providing teachers with coaching, or providing principals with coaching, or we’re turning the school into a community school – it takes all of that into consideration so that we’re attacking the problem and the issues from every single angle.
Mayor: I just want to make one other point – 54 of the 94 have that extra period of instruction right now – the rest by September. Again, in September, every school gets after-school programs, as well, for any student who needs it. So this is a lot of layering here.
Question: [Inaudible] because you’re talking about how you won’t shy away from replacing a principal or a teacher, if necessary. So, last month you told Albany that you have moved out 300 teachers –
Mayor: 291 at that date – yes.
Question: Okay. 97 of those left because of severance [inaudible]. Of the remaining 200 or so, was a single one of them removed because of disciplinary proceedings?
Mayor: I’ll get you the breakout. But I said there in Albany very clearly – we use disciplinary proceedings, we used coaching people out of the profession who shouldn’t be in it – some choose to resign, some take severance. The issue here is what’s going to get it done. Now, we believe fundamentally that we need a better, faster approach to discipline and we’re moving a lot of those pieces as well, but that is one of the tools. Whatever gets someone who does not belong in the profession out as quickly as possible, we’re going to use that tool. 291 between April and that point – it was February – is an example of the pace we’re now starting to sustain in making the moves we have to make very quickly.
Question: But anybody –
Mayor: Again, I’ll get you the breakout. I’m not familiar with how it breaks out.
Question: – most of them left because of retirement and maybe that’s a good approach too. I mean, what if –
Mayor: This is – no, that group of folks are the folks, again, who we had purposefully believed needed to move along. Retirement happens all the time in this system. This is about the 291 folks specifically, for one reason or another, were helped out of the profession.
Question: [inaudible] the retired.
Mayor: Again, they may have retired because we helped them out of the profession. The chancellor has been very clear about counseling some people who do not belong in the profession or are not performing any longer – that it’s time to seek another path. I really think this is important, and you know a lot of education but I wish we could demystify this a little bit. There is, as in any other line of work, the possibility of a formal termination proceeding. It’s different, depending on the line of work, depending on whether people are unionized of not. We, again, are committed to making that a faster and better process. That is one tool. A lot of times, the better tool, and the commissioner – excuse me – the chancellor’s been really clear about this based on her long history as an educator and as an administrator. You can counsel someone out – voluntarily skip all that process. You don’t belong here anymore. You’re a good human being but you don’t belong here anymore. You’re not into it. You’re burnt out. You can’t do what we need you to do in this day and age. Whatever it is, if that person goes along willingly, that is actually the most efficient way to resolve the problem. Some people come to that conclusion themselves and resign or retire. Some people say, well, if I’m going to take a severance opportunity, that at least makes it easier for me to accept that reality. And that’s why we added severance into the teacher contracts. About a third of those teachers did take severance, which proved how helpful a tool it was. And we’ve just gotten started having the ability to use these tools. So, we’re going to use all of the above. And yes, sometimes there’s no choice but to pursue the termination process aggressively and energetically. We want to improve it. We want it to be faster and clearer. But I actually am happier when someone leaves before that process has to be undertaken, if they need to be out of the system.
Question: What would be the benchmark or the metrics for this high school here to graduate from the renewal program [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’m going to turn to Aimee – just a couple of points – excellent question. First of all, one of the things we’re developing is our set of accountability measures for everything we’re doing. So we’ll have more to say and we’ll keep publishing those as we go along. And again, we intend to give you a lot of updates on how the schools are going. And you’re going to see, I hope, a lot of schools making a lot of progress, and you’re going to see some possibly that are not making the progress we want. And I’m going to be very, very clear – if I don’t see progress, I have the option to move to move to closure at any point in the next three years. I said that three years was the time frame for a final decision, but I’m not ruling out a faster action if I don’t see progress. So we’re going to develop what we think is the progress within the renewal schools contact. The question, I think, takes us over the horizon. When is a school so strong again that it’s no longer in the program? That obviously, in part, has to do with state standards. But that is exactly the aspiration – to get them to a point where they stand alone and strong. Can you explain the state background?
Aimee Horowitz: So, one of the things that we are in the process of engaging in right now, recognizing that each of these 94 schools is – although they’re all renewal schools, they’re all in a different place in their journey towards renewing and being sufficient to be taken out of this initiative. So one of the things that we’re doing is looking at each school individually based on where they are and developing individual metrics. Also, the state has metrics that they apply. So, for example, in high school, they look at graduation rate – four-year graduation rate, six-year graduation rate – and they look at performance of various subgroups and progress of various subgroups. And in elementary and middle schools, they look at growth on state tests – ELA and math tests and in some cases, science tests. So there are kind of two sets of metrics and we are putting benchmarks into place for schools – both long and short-term benchmarks. Graduation rate, which you mentioned, is a lagging indicator, so we’ll be looking first, at leading indicators. For example, in high school, ninth grade credit accumulation is one of the leading indicators because all of the research shows that when students earn ten or more credits in ninth grade, they’re much more likely to stay in high school and to graduate high school. So, we are figuring all of that – those individual metrics out right now. But they will be developed individually by school, based on where the school is. And the schools will be aware of those targets.
Mayor: Ok, now wait a minute. I – we need to move to off topic soon but we do have an usually high level of interest. So, let’s – we appreciate, so let’s take a little bit longer.
Mayor: This is still on topic for everyone. So, I want to gauge on-topic interest after your question. Go ahead.
Question: Just to continue on what you were saying, in the past, there has been criticisms on too much emphasis on school test and [inaudible]. Do you see that as being – really weighing into your equation [inaudible] which schools to [inaudible] or close in the future?
Mayor: I will turn to Amy and just say this, at the outset, we as an administration – I know the chancellor feels this very strongly – we believe in multiple measures. We do not believe in over emphasizing high-stake testing, and we certainly do not want to see an increase of the use of state testing in the way we evaluate. We think there’s a much better, clearer way to understand what’s really happening by looking at multiple measures. And that’s certainly – with everything that we control that is fully the purview of the city of New York, we will use multiple measures.
Aimee Horowitz: So, as the mayor said, we believe more in a holistic approach, and looking at multiple measures. So while there is a role for tests, we also know that there is attendance. We know that there’s credit accumulation. We know that there’s effective leadership, effective teacher practice. Is the teacher practice improving? Is the leadership practicing improving? So, those are all things that we can look at – we can speak to students. We can speak to parents. You walk into a school and you feel the climate of the school. If you walk into a school on the day that the mayor is not coming, and you walk in, you feel the climate of the school, right? And you know – you can – you know if that’s a place where you would want to send your child. Or – you know – you know if you feel welcomed. And we’re working with schools on that as well. That’s also very important. So, those are all of the things that we look at and speak to – speak to many different constituents and that’s how my team started this work as well.
Mayor: Let me add one point on that. The CompStat parallel – again, CompStat works not – this is something I think is also underestimated – not just on the numbers. The practice issue is crucial. I have had the honor, over this last 15 months, to get deep in the conversation with Commissioner Bratton, and Chief O’Neill, and Deputy Commissioner Shea, and listen to them talk about their trade and how they are trying teach their commanders to think very critically about the work their doing and then teach those under them to do it – always in a better and more innovative way. The same is going to be true with teaching. So, the numbers tell you a lot but you’re constantly working on the practice. If you see a leader – a principal in this case, who needs to approach something differently, you could help them think about the problem differently and approach how they orient there teachers, how they train their teachers. Not all of that shows up immediately in a metric, but that might be the gateway to fundamentally turning around that school. So, it’s both, its working on the metrics always but it’s also working on the quality of the practice.
Question: [Inaudible] the Daily News had its education series. Just wondering if you’ve seen it and what do you think of it?
Mayor: I think there’s a lot of very important material being covered in the Daily News series, and I appreciate it. And I appreciate that also both Chancellor Fariña and I were offered an opportunity to provide our views. I also, you know, a lot of times I’ve said I’d like the discussion on education to deepen, to get into some of the really profound issues we face like the challenge of teacher retention. Literally, nothing is more important to the future of schools then attracting the best teachers, training the effectively, and keeping them. One of our biggest problems is we’re losing great teachers all the time. It’s true in school systems around the country. That doesn’t get addressed but the teachers who don’t belong in the profession get looked at incisively. I think the Daily News did a service by trying to take a bigger look at the situation. I appreciate how much newspaper real estate was devoted to it as well. Wait, who hasn’t – anyone who hasn’t gone yet. On topic – hasn’t gone. We’re going to come to the student journalist? There’s a student journalist? Student journalist we’re coming to you at the end, hold on. Bob?
Principal Neil Ganesh, Richmond Hill High School: Okay, in terms of measuring parent engagement, there are multiple metrics that we use. As you mentioned, open school night, our PTA – we have for the first time, a very active PTA. We have a wonderful PTA co-president. And we measure the amount of parents that are involved in that aspect. In addition, about 20 percent of our population are English language learners, meaning they speak another language at home. What we have done is we have hired a community associate aligned to the language to increase communication in that aspect. So, that’s why we’re seeing a greater involvement of parents. We’re seeing more parents involved in the school setting, in the school meetings, in parent-teacher conferences. So, that’s how we would measure that – that aspect of it.
Principal Neil Ganesh: Title I is about 75 percent.
Mayor: Okay, we’re going to finish on this side with – I got one left, okay.
Mayor: I’ve certainly offered the speaker my view and I think what’s clear is that a lot of the Assembly members think receivership is counter-productive, in the context of a mayoral control system. It just doesn’t make sense. We – look, we fought a battle in this town to achieve a different approach to education. This is an area where I agreed with Mayor Bloomberg. I supported mayoral control of education. I always said it has to be applied in a way that was respectful to communities and to the real dialogue over education. And sometimes I don’t know the previous administration did that well enough, but the concept of mayoral control and the mayoral control law was absolutely, positively right. It must be continued unless we want our school system to go back to what was. We used to have 32 individual district school boards, and we had a central board of education appointed by a number of different people. It was known for bickering and fighting and division, and paralysis. Kind of common – or similar to what law we see in Washington D.C. right now. The 32 school boards – I was blessed to be on a school board we were very proud of – that had a very good history. Sadly, there were school boards that were rife with corruption. And I have to say, you know, obviously everyone knows that I’ve had my agreements and disagreements with Mayor Bloomberg, but on this one he was totally right. We had a system that was rife with corruption. The local school boards were often ineffective. The central board was often paralyzed. We can’t go back to that. And so, if we know mayoral control of education is the right tool for a real reform of our schools, and we see this all over the country, then the question is, how do you actually allow mayoral control of education to work? If schools are put under state control – well, I‘m sorry with all due respect to Albany, I believe we know a lot more about what we need to do for our children than bureaucrats in Albany do. I think the notion of a group of bureaucrats 150 miles away trying to determine the fate of our children sounds like a formula for disaster. So, let’s take the tools we have and apply them. What everyone in Albany had an obligation and a right to say to the city of New York is, show us a plan with real resources attached. We did that in November. And we are illustrating to you today just how urgently we are applying that plan. We mean business. Student journalist – hold on, let me just go these guys.
Mayor: We are very focused on investing in our schools. We obviously believe that – as the assemblyman said, and he’ll jump in in a minute – that we deserve what the highest court in New York State said we deserve in terms of education funding, and that would have a transcendent impact on our schools. But even with the resources we have, we continue to make additional investments. You’re also about to see a capital budget come out, where we’re going to make extraordinary new investments in education. Last year, we went to Albany and got specific funding for pre-k. And starting in September, we’re going to have absolutely universal pre-k. We’re going to keep ensuring we get that funding. So, it’s partly what we are doing with our own resources. It’s partly what we’re getting from Albany through our efforts and the support of the people of this city. And it’s partly what we should get if the CFE decision were actually honored.
Assemblyman David Weprin: Just on the comment about a couple of Assembly Democrats voting against it. It’s not just a couple of Assembly Democrats – it’s almost unanimity in the Democratic conference against the receivership. As I said, unfortunately there is a Senate and a governor, you know, and there’s always compromise but if it was up to the Assembly Democrats, you know, I don’t think any of the governor’s proposals on education would go through – but certainly not the receivership.
Mayor: Do we have one other student journalist? Yes? Go ahead.
Mayor: Well, thank you for asking, because I think teacher retention – again, I’m going to talking a lot about this in the coming months and years. Teacher retention really is one of the most central questions in the education debate. And yet, it’s not talked about. It’s – educators know about it. You know, you can look far and wide in our mainstream media and try to find a serious discussion on teacher retention and you will be looking for quite a while. So, we’re going to push this issue very, very hard. I think it is truest, perhaps, in the schools that are having the most trouble. But I think it’s actually transcendent across the system. Meaning, I think the challenge of teacher retention is system-wide. It’s very tough work – here’s the essence of the problem – it’s very tough work. People who do it, do it because they’re true believers – the vast majority. Again, are there some bad apples, are there some people who shouldn’t be in the profession? Yes, and we’re going to move them out. But the vast majority who do it believe in the work, but it’s still grueling work. It’s very challenging work. You’re talking about, obviously, a lot of kids who come from very disadvantaged circumstances – a lot of kids whose first language is not English, and 171,000 kids who happen to have special needs. A lot of those special needs make it tougher to support and educate those kids. You know, into that – into that fight go the teachers trying to make a difference. You have to be very, very strong to want to do that year-in and year-out and also you need a lot of support. Until very recently in this city, teachers were being attacked on a regular basis by the leadership of the school system and the city. We’ve changed that. We support our teachers and they know it. Until recently, teachers were not getting the kind of support for teacher training. And again, if you’re a professional you want to keep getting better – that training makes a world of difference – we’ve double down on teacher training. Also, until recently, teachers have gone years and years without even having a contract, which is not a great way to keep professionals in any profession. Now, they have a contract going years ahead. So I think we’re seriously addressing teacher retention by trying to build the foundation for a rewarding work dynamic. But there’s a lot more we’re going to have to do beyond that. Okay, we’re going off topic. Off topic –
Question: I was wondering if you could weigh in on the results of the Israeli election and also on the comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made about Arabs coming out to the polls in droves. Obviously, it’s gotten some criticism –
Mayor: I haven’t seen that particular comment. Any Israeli citizen can and should vote, so I don’t know why there would be a criticism of people exercising their right to vote in a democratic society. But on the question of Palestinian statehood, I think there’s many of us deeply, deeply disappointed. I am profoundly disappointed that a consensus view held for years – did we let them go? Good – a consensus view held for years by so many leaders in Israel and around the world, and certainly by the government of the United States of America – if anything actually had some bipartisan agreement, it was that there had to be a two-state solution in that region of the world. For an Israeli Prime Minister to say, literally overnight, we’re not going to pursue a two-state solution anymore is seismic, and it’s a huge step backwards for peace in the region. And it’s not good for the relationship between Israel and the United States. I think it was a huge mistake and a very regrettable one. But, you know, I guess that’s what he believes.
Question: The Staten Island deer population has exploded –
Mayor: This is just a little switch there – a little switch. Okay, camera two – okay go. [Laughter]
Question: Staten Island’s deer population has increased about –
Mayor: Can we put Aimee Horowitz in charge of the deer problem too?
Question: [Inaudible] population has increased about 3,000 percent in six years, and as a result, poaching has become a problem on the island as recently as –
Mayor: Poaching? In what sense?
Question: Like, in the Fall, a man was arrested in what is the first – believed to be the first deer-poaching arrest in New York City history – stalking a deer with a bow and arrow in a New York City playground. And islanders also reported that they – hearing about heads without antlers, presumably being taken as trophies [inaudible]. I was wondering if you could comment on the deer population [inaudible] –
Mayor: Yes. Yeah, deer non-retention – yes –
Question: Have you ever hunted animals?
Mayor: I have not hunted animals. I’m not familiar with the details, but I can certainly give you the ground rules here. Anything that might endanger our fellow New Yorkers, such as someone hunting with a bow and arrow in the proximity of a school or any other habitation, we’re obviously going to enforce on that very, very rigorously. And that will be the job of the NYPD, and we’ll work with the state on that. In terms of the larger problem and how we’re going to regulate it and address it, I’m going to have to get back to you with more. But in the safety issue it creates for people nearby wooded areas, we take that very seriously and we’ll certainly do enforcement on that. Bob?
Mayor: Have I gone into a new dimension where all the questions are on fish and wildlife?
Mayor: Let’s get to the punchline.
Mayor: No, I’m absolutely concerned. First of all, I’m concerned because if a company – in this case, Exxon – has created damage to the environment and public health, they have to compensate for it. They have to make it right. We saw that with the BP oil spill in the Gulf. We’ve seen that many times with the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. There’s supposed to be a rigorous process for ensuring that the environment is restored. I don’t know the details of this settlement, but if the dollar figure is so low that work can’t be done, I’m very uncomfortable with what that means for the people of New York. And we’ll certainly look into it further and decide what course of action we want to take.
Question: Could you provide us with an update into the case of the young woman who was killed by the flying plywood in the West Village?
Mayor: It’s a very, very sad situation. I’m sure everyone has seen that she was soon to be married and had just gotten to the city in the last year. It’s just tragic. What we do know is the site has been closed down, in terms of any work there, by the Department of Buildings. An investigation is underway. There have been some violations offered, but we still don’t have a full picture of why the plywood came loose and why it could cause so much damage to this poor woman. So, we’ll have more on it soon, but certainly no work will happen at that site until these issues are more deeply resolved. Right there –
Question: Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you for allowing [inaudible]
Mayor: I have to interrupt you though. I appreciate it – do you have a question?
Question: I just wanted to thank you for everything [inaudible]
Mayor: Thank you – very much appreciated. We’re going to come to you last. Very much appreciate it. Go.
Mayor: We’re going to do two and we’ll go there. Okay.
Question: So the jobs report today, showing that New York City accounts for a higher percentage of the state’s jobs, I believe, than ever before – went up from about 43 percent in 2004 to about 47 percent now. I’m just wondering if something like that might actually give you some kind of leverage in Albany as [inaudible] point to the fact that city is [inaudible]. And I’m also wondering what – how much credit you think your predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg, deserves for that.
Mayor: So, a couple of things – one, I think it’s quite clear we make a huge economic contribution to the state of New York. And the strength of New York City does so much for the whole state, and the fact that we are growing economically is good for the state of New York. It’s good for all the people in the state of New York. So that constant progress will uplift the whole state. And yes, it’s also the rationale for why our needs deserve to be addressed, particularly if they’re based on a judicial decision from years ago. On the question on the economy, I think I would say it like this – I think Mayor Bloomberg did some important things to foster economic growth, particularly, for example, with the technology sector. I think all of us should be humble, when we’re local officials, about the impact we have on economic growth. We’re part of the equation. International and national economic trends are huge factors in decisions of individuals companies that often have nothing to do with public policy – are a huge factor. But I think local officials can make the situation that much better or that much worse by their actions. So, I certainly credit Mayor Bloomberg with having fostered some of the growth that we see – and again, particularly in the technology sector. We believe our policies will build upon that and deepen in. But I think any local official should always recognize that they are just one part of a much bigger economic growth equation. You had one more – was it Sally?
Mayor: Why, Sally, you know we don’t talk about the capital plan before it comes out. Thank you for asking. The capital plan will come out in April, and we will address that issue at the time. We’re certainly, you know, concerned about the future of the MTA. So I said, I think Albany, which will go ahead of us, needs to take the situation much more seriously. Their commitment so far at the MTA is far less than is needed. And Albany controls the MTA, but we will address what we believe we can do as well in the capital plan in April. Last call for you, go.
Mayor: To the cost –
Question: [Inaudible]Mayor: To own – well, we’re not generally doing home ownership. First of all, we’re generally doing rental. That’s the much more cost efficient. That’s where we’re putting the vast majority of our energy. We can get you the plan, but I think the simple way to say it is that it’s an affordable housing plan for people of a variety of income levels that need affordable housing. A swath of the plan is devoted to the people who make $20,000 or less – another set to $40,000 or less, and so on, and so on. So the idea is to create truly affordable rents because, for so many people in this city, their current rents are a third of – yeah, too high – but a third of their total income – even in many cases, more than half their net income. So, the plan will produce 200,000 units over ten years – all affordable. For those who say or allege we’re going to fast, I would say there’s no time to wait. We have so many people who cannot afford to live here. We’ve got to protect the economic diversity of our city and create opportunity. But we have added into our plan protections for local residents to keep their affordable housing in place. And we believe that if the city comes in and manages the development process, rather than just letting the private market forces manage it, that we can guarantee affordability and guarantee that people have opportunity. The alternative of doing nothing is much, much worse because it means – as we’ve seen in many communities – that development and gentrification will displace many people. Our approach is a specific response to that history and will allow us to make sure that people can remain in their neighborhoods. Thank you very much, everyone.