back-office

Comptroller rejects $20 million teacher recruitment contract

Comptroller John Liu rejected a $20 million contract for teacher recruitment today, calling the proposal wasteful given the city’s current fiscal climate. Yet the main reason for the comptroller’s refusal came down to paperwork.

A spokesman for the comptroller’s office said that the five-year contract with The New Teacher Project was rejected this morning because of problems with the DOE’s submission. In reviewing the contract, officials in the comptroller’s office said that the DOE did not include information on conflicts of interest or what the dates of service would be. The department can choose to resubmit the contract.

The New Teacher Project, or TNTP, is a non-profit that handles the recruitment and training of New York City’s Teaching Fellows. It also studies teacher job markets around the country.

In a statement sent to reporters, Liu — a possible candidate in the next mayoral election — said he objected to the contract’s premise. The city does not need to spend money recruiting new teachers, he said.

“Twenty million dollars to recruit teachers as the DOE insists on laying off thousands of teachers seems curious at best,” Liu said.

Currently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is threatening to shed over 6,000 teaching positions next year, with more than 4,600 lost through layoffs.

DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz defended the contract with The New Teacher Project.

“Mr. Liu’s hasty and ill-informed decision completely disregards the needs of thousands of special education and English Language Learning students, who deserve the best possible teachers we can bring in to our system,” she said in a statement. “If Mr. Liu had asked the DOE about the contract, he would have known this.”

Similar concerns surfaced last May, when the DOE proposed to spend nearly $5 million on a different teacher recruitment contract with The New Teacher Project. At the time, the mayor was calling for a similar number of teacher layoffs. The Panel for Educational Policy approved that contract.

Department of Education officials did not respond to requests for comment — I’ll update when they do.

NEW YORK, NY – City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to inquiries about his rejection of a $20 million teacher recruitment contract for the Department of Education (DOE):

“Twenty million dollars to recruit teachers as the DOE insists on laying off thousands of teachers seems curious at best,” said Comptroller Liu.

The five-year contract, with the “New Teacher Project,” was submitted in early February. The DOE was seeking the contract to “recruit, select, train and provide job search support to non-traditional candidates to become public school teachers.”

The contract submission comes at a time when agencies are being asked to cut services, including the DOE’s plan to lay off 4,600 teachers.

Superintendent search

Newark’s school board may pick a new superintendent today. Here’s what you need to know

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

The Newark school board is expected to choose a new superintendent at its meeting Tuesday evening — the first time it has done so in more than two decades.

In February, the state returned control of the 35,000-student school system to the school board, restoring its authority to pick a schools chief. Now, the board is set to choose from four superintendent finalists at its meeting at 6 tonight at Speedway Academies.

Before the big decision, here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened so far.

  • The four finalists are:
  • You can find their official bios here.
  • They each gave 30-minute presentations about themselves at a public forum on Friday, where the audience was not allowed to ask questions. The board interviewed the candidates in private on Saturday.
  • The finalists were selected according to a state plan that the district must follow to fully return to local control.
  • The plan says that the search must be led by a seven-person committee that includes three school board members, a state representative appointed by the state education commissioner, and three people with a “longstanding connection to Newark” jointly chosen by Mayor Ras Baraka and the commissioner.
  • The board hired the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to conduct a national search (as required by the plan), and presented candidates to the search committee.
  • The plan called for the committee to select three finalists for the full board to vote on. However, board chair Josephine Garcia requested four choices instead of three. The state education commissioner agreed, and four finalists were presented.
  • The plan sets a deadline of May 31 for the board to choose a superintendent and that person to accept the offer.

Superintendent search

Nashville school official is one of four finalists to become Newark’s next superintendent

Sito Narcisse

A top Nashville schools official is one of four finalists vying to become Newark’s next superintendent.

Newark’s school board has not announced the finalists, but Sito Narcisse, currently chief of schools of the 88,000-student Metro Nashville Public School system, is in the running, Chalkbeat has learned. Narcisse, who has also been a high-ranking official in two large Maryland school districts and a principal in Boston and Pittsburgh, confirmed the news on Monday. The son of Haitian immigrants who spoke French-Creole at home as a child growing up on Long Island, he later helped open two high schools for recent immigrants who were still learning English.

The other finalists, Chalkbeat has previously reported, are former Baltimore city schools chief Andres Alonso, Newark Interim Superintendent Robert Gregory, and Newark Assistant Superintendent Roger Leon. (Alonso previously declined to comment, and Leon did not respond to an email.)

Newark’s last state-appointed superintendent, Christopher Cerf, stepped down on Feb. 1 when the school board officially regained control of the district after 22 years of management by the state. As the district transitions back to local supervision, it must adhere to a state plan that stipulated that there be a national search for the next superintendent and three finalists for the full board to vote on. However, the state last month granted a request by the board to name four finalists instead of three.

The finalists will introduce themselves to the public at a forum on Friday, though the audience will not be allowed to ask questions. The school board will then interview the candidates in private on Saturday, before they are expected to make their selection at the public board meeting on May 22.

Narcisse was also a semifinalist for the superintendent position in Duval County, Florida until Monday, when the school board there voted not to advance him to the second round of interviews, according to the district’s website. (Unlike Newark, that school system posted all the candidates’ applications online and will livestream the school board’s interviews with the finalists.)

Alonso, the other candidate from outside Newark, was recently in the running to become Los Angeles’ next superintendent before withdrawing his name last month. Both he and Narcisse may face an uphill battle in Newark, where several board members and many residents have said they would prefer a local educator to run the school system now that it is back in local hands after decades of state oversight.

In an interview Monday, Narcisse told Chalkbeat that if he was hired in Newark he would work hard to get to know the district and “become a part of that community.” He added that many of the schools he oversaw in Tennessee and Maryland served low-income students who dealt with trauma and poverty similar to the kinds faced by many Newark students.

“I know I’m not from Newark,” he said. “But the children of Newark have the same set of issues, the same set of challenges.”

Narcisse began his career as a high-school French teacher in a suburban district outside Nashville, before opening a public school in Pittsburgh and then taking over a struggling high school in Boston. He later held district leadership roles in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he helped design the new schools for immigrants still learning English.

In 2016, he became chief of schools for the Metro Nashville system, the second-highest position in the district, where he is responsible for overseeing 169 schools. In that role, he helped establish a high school where students can earn associate’s degrees, brought new science and technology programs into the middle schools, and participated in a public-private partnership to boost students’ reading skills, he said. His salary is $185,000 per year, according to his application for the Duval County position.

He said that he has absorbed several lessons over the years on how to improve struggling schools: Find a strong principal, provide lots of staff training, and invest in extra support services for students. He also cited another lesson that could be especially apt in Newark, where many residents rejected the sweeping policy changes enacted by Cami Anderson, a prior state-appointed superintendent.

“The other part is to not to do reform to them — but to be a part of the work with them,” he said, referring to community members. “That’s how change and sustainability happens.”