MARK CANNIZZARO: "DOE eroding Principals' discretion.'

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators sent a letter Jan. 8 to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza expressing growing concerns about discipline and safety felt by the Principals and other school leaders it represents.

In a survey of 2,300 union members conducted by the independent research firm Global Strategy Group, just 21 percent reported that they were satisfied with recent changes to the school discipline code, while only 30 percent said that they approved the direction the Department of Education was taking in regard to school climate.

‘Tied Their Hands’

Over recent years, the de Blasio administration has pushed restorative-justice practices, which teach conflict-resolution tactics in lieu of harsh punishments.

Although Principals supported the shift away from zero-tolerance policies, “our members feel that our system is faltering because the manner in which the [Department of Education] has chosen to implement these promising practices has eroded their discretion and tied their hands,” CSA President Mark Cannizzaro wrote in the letter.

In a separate newsletter to members, he noted that it had become “next to impossible” to issue suspensions. The number given out has decreased by 38.7 percent since the beginning of the de Blasio administration, while the length of the average suspension also declined, down to 5.8 days from 7.5 last school year.

Although major crimes in schools have declined by 32 percent since 2014, in some, “misbehavior seemed to be on the rise, messing with the climate of the school, leading some children to believe…there are no consequences for disruptive or threatening behavior,” Mr. Cannizaro stated. “We are dancing around this rising reality because the powers-that-be are hell-bent on presenting the system as an overnight success.”

‘No Training on Approach’

Worse, so far school staff have received “little or no training” in restorative practices, the newsletter continued.

Adding to the safety challenges was the fact that some schools—more than 100—didn’t have an Assistant Principal. Mr. Cannizzaro explained that when Principals are pulled out of their school buildings for meetings (which is common), the responsibility for ensuring safety protocols are being followed falls on Assistant Principals, leaving schools without one vulnerable.

Funding to hire staff comes from each school’s budget, which can be a problem for schools that are underfunded. In 2018, the City Council boosted Fair Student Funding, which allocates school-aid, by $125 million in order to ensure no school was less than 90-percent funded.

The union stated that even when Principals ask to hire a new administrator, their requests are rejected without an explanation.

‘Need at Least 1 AP’

“To address these growing safety concerns, every NYC school minimally must have at least one Assistant Principal, and Principals must have funding and discretion to hire an Assistant Principal for Climate and Safety,” Mr. Cannizzaro said.

The union has been pushing for a contract that addresses these safety concerns, and rallied for a deal that restored Principals’ autonomy late last October.

Spokeswoman Miranda Barbot stated that the DOE was “grateful the CSA continues to champion restorative practices, which are contributing to making our schools more safe and welcoming spaces.”

“We’ll keep working closely with schools to give them the tools they need to effectively manage and de-escalate conflict, and are in ongoing conversations with the CSA about important issues impacting Principals,” she said.

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