For months, parents and teachers at Grover Cleveland High School and at 32 other schools in the city have been told that 50 percent of their teachers will be replaced before next September as part of the “turnaround” process for schools seen as failing.
But Elaine Gorman, executive director of school turnarounds for the city’s Department of Education, said that was not necessarily the case on Monday at a meeting of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood.
More than 60 parents and Grover Cleveland teachers attended Monday’s meeting, which Michael Hutzer, vice president of the civic group, said was designed to be a forum for exchanging ideas on the Grover Cleveland situation.
The city plans to shut down the school and 32 others; replace faculty and possibly administration; and reopen the building under a different name with an educational program created from scratch by a panel that will be chosen to redesign and run the school.
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, a teacher stated what DOE officials have been saying since December — that all schools placed in turnaround mode would have to remove at least 50 percent of their staffs “no matter what the impact or the disruption for the children,” said the teacher.
DOE officials have repeatedly said that replacing 50 percent of the teachers at the turnaround schools is a requirement for the city to access $58 million in federal Race to the Top money.
Gorman on Monday mentioned the $58 million several times, saying that the money would have been jeopardized by not placing the schools in turnaround mode because of the failure to reach a teacher evaluation agreement with the United Federation of Teachers.
But Gorman denied that the 50 percent mark was set in stone.
“Teachers will have to reinterview for their jobs,” she said. But she also said teachers would be evaluated on other criteria, including qualifications, seniority and other factors.
If so, it would be a turnaround from statements made by DOE officials back in January at a meeting held in Cleveland’s library with more than 100 parents and teachers in attendance.
That evening, Rosemary Stuart, also with the DOE, said the 50 percent dismissal rate was cast in stone if the city wanted to keep the $58 million because of both federal turnaround regulations requiring a minimum of 50 percent staff replacement, and the UFT union contract allowing up to 50 percent.
“One says we must change at least 50 percent and the other says no more than 50 percent,” Stuart said at the meeting. “You do the math.”
Gorman declined to answer questions as she was leaving Monday’s meeting, and asked that any questions be submitted to her at her DOE email address.
An email sent to Gorman from the Chronicle Tuesday afternoon asking questions about a possible change in policy and apparent discrepancies between her statements on Monday and those of Stuart in January was not answered as of the Chronicle’s deadline on Wednesday.
Pat Grayson, chairwoman of the Education Committee for Community Board 5, was among those in attendance and was unimpressed with Gorman’s talk.
“Why are you holding hearings when the fix is in?” Grayson asked.