Community Education Council District 2 333 Seventh Avenue New York, New York 10001 Tel (212) 356

-3915 Fax (212) 356-7506
Shino Tanikawa, President Simon Miller, 1st Vice President Elizabeth Weiss, 2nd Vice President Sarah Chu, Treasurer Tamara Rowe, Recording Secretary March 15, 2013 Beth Cirone Demetri Ganiaris Cheryl D. Glover Eric Goldberg Michael Markowitz, P.E

Honorable Dennis M. Walcott Chancellor New York City Department of Education 52 Chambers Street New York, New York 10007 Dear Chancellor Walcott, We, the Community Education Council District 2, submit this letter to register our objections on the Contracts for Excellence Proposed Plan FY13. We remain firmly committed to the letter and the intent of the 2007-2008 Education Budget and Reform Act, arising out of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York litigation. We believe reducing class sizes is one of the most effective ways to improve instruction. Much has been said about the importance of the effectiveness of teachers but anyone who has spent any time teaching in the classroom knows even the most “effective” teacher teaches better in a smaller class. Today with the Special Education Reform that places more students with special needs in the least restrictive environment (i.e., general education classes); making individualized instruction even more critical, smaller classes are the key to successful classrooms. We are therefore deeply concerned that not only have class sizes not been reduced as a result of the Contracts for Excellence plans of recent years, but the New York City Department of Education has seemingly abandoned efforts to reduce class sizes. 1

In District 2 despite several new elementary schools coming online in the past four years, many of our schools continue to have class sizes that are higher than the target class sizes of the City’s Class Size Reduction Plan. More alarmingly the trend appears to be upward, due largely to the series of budget cuts. It is a travesty that schools in District 2 now have the capacity to reduce class sizes at long last but are unable to do so for lack of resources. It is also difficult to simply blame the sluggish economy for lack of resources when we see hundreds of millions of dollars going into private hands in the name of the Common Core Standards and associated assessment tools (i.e., all new Common Core aligned standardized tests). We are also alarmed by the blatant disregard by the Department of Education for the legally mandated process for developing the Contracts for Excellence plan. The timing of the public hearing and public comments and the manner in which the public hearings are conducted were both problematic. When our Superintendent first approached us about scheduling the Contracts for Excellence presentation in December, the school year had already been well underway. We hosted the presentation at the February calendar meeting on the last Wednesday of the month, leaving us two weeks to develop our response. This virtually eliminated the possibility of a resolution by the CECD2 on this topic. This presentation was hosted one and a half weeks before the principals had to finalize their budgets and commit all remaining funds. Given this timeline, we find the DOE’s soliciting public comments on the plan insulting and insincere. Principals must begin the school year with a budget. Presumably the budget in September included Contracts for Excellence funds. We do not understand why public comments were not solicited when budgets were in development. Furthermore, we believe having the Contracts for Excellence as part of the Community Education Council District 2 calendar meeting is a poor substitute for a borough-wide hearing as required by the law. Our meeting agendas are often full and cover a wide range of topics. At the February meeting we had two resolutions, one concerning school zoning, as well as a very full working business meeting following the calendar meeting. To ensure we were able to cover all the agenda items, we had to limit the Contracts for Excellence presentation to 15 minutes – hardly enough time for a thorough presentation, let alone a satisfactory question and answer session with the Council members. However, perhaps having more time would not have made a difference. With all due 2

respect to the Network representative who took the time to present the plan to the CECD2, he was neither the architect of the plan nor the expert in implementation. There were questions to which he did not have answers (such as how much does each school in District 2 receive?). We believe a borough-wide hearing with someone from the central Department of Education offices with detailed in-depth knowledge of the Contracts for Excellence would have been a better use of time for everyone involved. The Community Education Council District 2 has developed a collaborative process with the Department of Education through our zoning efforts in the past several years. We have honest and frank dialogues and have developed mutual trust with the staff from the Office of Portfolio Development. We would welcome a similar collaborative effort on this important program. In a district where overcrowding and large class sizes have been a chronic problem, we can only make improvements to our schools through collaboration. We hope the public hearing process for the Contracts for Excellence will be a better one for the school year 2013-2014. Sincerely,

Shino Tanikawa President


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