Less than two months after the School Reform Commission unanimously gave Superintendent Arlene Ackerman the go-ahead to implement her Imagine 2014 five-year strategic plan, Ackerman yesterday publicly questioned whether that support was disappearing.
She became annoyed during a commission meeting after two of the four members questioned several proposed resolutions related to the plan.
"I guess we need to have a discussion about whether or not we have been given the green light to implement this particular plan," Ackerman said after commissioner Heidi Ramirez questioned the proposed hiring of a consultant to work on the "Renaissance Schools" part of the plan, which has not been fully explained to the commission.
Ackerman added that the questioning by Ramirez and Johnny Irizarry - who successfully voted down the same resolution last month - has caused "real confusion" for her and staff.
"We took the vote - the unanimous vote - as the agreement to move forward. And if that is not going to happen, then I guess we need to revisit this whole discussion. Because it means a lot of things - we need to stop work on a lot of things," Ackerman said.
Ramirez and Irizarry, following the meeting, said they were not opposed to the plan. The two commissioners said they do want more information about the reforms, which will cost $126 million in its first year, beginning in the fall.
"I think that was just a confusion of communication. I think I can clarify that with her," Irizarry said of Ackerman's concerns.
Irizarry said he wants a specific plan for the "Renaissance Schools" in place before other actions are taken.
Ackerman has said that about 30 low-performing schools over the five years will be transformed into so-called "Renaissance Schools" by being placed under the management of successful private companies and charter-school operators. The first 10 schools are to be converted by fall 2010.
Decisions on which schools will be targeted, how they will be selected and exactly who their managers will be are to be made during the upcoming school year, Ackerman has said.
"As a commission, because we voted on [Imagine 2014] doesn't mean we don't still have to support this work, understand it and hold folks accountable," Ramirez said.
"I still have lots of questions," she continued. "But do I believe in a vision for ambitious reform for the school district? Absolutely."
Ackerman, through a spokeswoman, declined to speak to reporters following the meeting.
In addition to questioning whether to hire former district CEO candidate Leroy Nunery II to work on the Renaissance model and other measures, Ramirez also questioned three other proposals - all of which the commission is scheduled to vote on at its June 17 meeting.
One calls for spending $6.2 million to give bonuses to teachers for positions that are hard to fill; the second is to spend $915,000 to hire and train teachers through the New Teacher Project Inc.; and a third calls for spending $250,000 with Gans, Gans and Associates to recruit up to 50 qualified African-American teachers for the 2009-10 school year.
In other news, district officials conceded that their seven-year-old educational management organization (EMO) reform plan is significantly flawed.
Benjamin Rayer, the district official with oversight of the program, however, recommended that the commission next week renew the four EMO's contracts, which expire June 30. Sixteen schools now under the wings of EMOs should stay there for one more year, while two high schools paired with EMOs should stay put for two more years, he said.
The district plans to work with the EMOs to revamp the program over the next year. *