New York Schools Head Plans To Fix Things By Firing Specific Bureaucrats

New York Schools Chancellor David Banks outlined his vision for education while pledging to cut back on bureaucracy.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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New York Schools Chancellor David Banks made his first major speech since taking over the Education Department in January and had a lot to say. He covered a range of topics but one that immediately caught the ear of all was his pledge to cut back on the bureaucracy that he refers to as “a betrayal.” So, in Banks’ mind, jobs need to be eliminated.

“We spend $38 billion every year to get the outcomes that we get, where 65% of Black and Brown children never achieve proficiency. It’s a betrayal,” Banks said. The betrayal, according to Banks, comes from a position within the Education Department that was once highly regarded. “I am eliminating the position of executive superintendents in the New York City public schools, and the reason I am doing that is we have not gotten the level of value added that is needed for our schools that is needed for having that position,” Banks said. Changes in New York schools are on their way, and Banks is hoping for the better. He has set high goals.

Across the city, there are eight executive superintendents. Their positions carry a huge price tag and along with that, they each have their own staff and offices. This highly (or overly) paid position was an important layer of management that sat neatly between the Education Department headquarters and the 46 school district superintendents within the New York Schools. In Banks’ estimation, this layer is no longer important or necessary.

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With the elimination of the eight executive superintendents, Banks says he’ll be giving more power to the 46 New York schools district superintendents. “When principals and families go to the superintendent and the superintendent can’t give you an answer because they’ve got to go further up the chain of command, that’s not impactful, that doesn’t work,” he said. Banks offered his opinions to a room filled with Education Department staffers at the Tweed Courthouse. “We’re going to streamline what I consider some level of waste within this department,” Banks explained. “We have not gotten the level of value added to our schools that is needed from having those positions.”

While pledging to give more authority to the district superintendents, he also wanted to give additional freedoms to New York school principals who have shown great work and results. In that regard, Banks says he plans on reviving a Bloomberg-era system that will also give high-performing school principals exemptions from some regulations. Michael Bloomberg was the New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013.

Eliminating the eight executive superintendent positions from New York Schools wasn’t the only job elimination Banks said he would consider moving forward. He noted that there could be additional cuts inside the Department of Education offices and that cutting the executive superintendent position, and others if need be, would allow monies to be redirected into school budgets.

Banks then moved on to another important topic – literacy within the New York schools. Repeating past criticisms of New York schools’ low reading proficiency rates among Black and Hispanic students, Banks pledged to retool citywide literacy instruction by having schools adopt a more stringent phonic-based reading instruction and by also screening more students for dyslexia.

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“I have met really smart committed people… putting in long hours and very committed and yet the results we have as a school system is completely dysfunctional,” Banks said via Yahoo. He then explained techniques from the Windward School as a model he’d like to implement in New York schools. Windward School is a private institution in the Upper East Side that specializes in teaching students with dyslexia.

Banks explained other goals he saw for New York schools that include the launching of a Virtual Academy for those students and families who wish to learn remotely. “There’s a small percentage of kids whose families have expressed great interest in doing that and we want to make that opportunity available to them,” Banks said. But Banks also knows that keeping kids in the public school system is important as well. Over 120,000 students have left the public school system over the past five years, so being able to offer kids more opportunities should help.

“We have to give parents a reason for wanting to be here and the parents who have chosen to leave are parents who have options, and those parents, if they don’t see other opportunities made available to them in the system, that’s what they have been doing, they have been voting with their feet,” Banks said. David Banks knows the road ahead is not going to be an easy one. He is also having to fight the massive uptick in school violence and weapons recovered within New York schools. To make those matters even worse, the number of School Safety Agents has dropped over the past year and a half from around 5,000 to 3,600. Banks has a plan to reach his stated goals, now let’s see if he can implement them.