Parent Empowerment and School Leadership Teams

Class Size Matters supports parents to be at the decision-making table at the school, district, and citywide levels. That why we have fought hard for nearly a decade to defend the legal authority of School Leadership Teams.

School Leadership Teams (SLTs) are bodies composed of half parents and half school staff, mandated by state law to meet monthly to develop Comprehensive Education Plans for each school. These plans are then supposed to guide the school-based budget. The SLT can also include students at the school and community members, and are meant to represent the voice of education stakeholders in the planning and improvement of every public school.

On October 25, 2016 the Appellate Court ruled that SLT meetings must be open to the public. See the decision here.  Check out our fact sheet explaining the background of this court decision, and what else parents and members of the public should know about their rights to attend these meetings.  Here is the fact sheet in Spanish.

School leadership teams are regulated by NY Education regulations §100.11, state law  52A.2590h and Chancellor’s regulation A-655

1998

The “Green Book” or training manual for School Leadership Teams is issued by then-NYC Chancellor Rudy Crew. The manual encourages SLTs to open their meetings to the public, stating that “Each school leadership team should determine whether team meetings will be open to the public…In the spirit of collaborative decision-making, teams are strongly encouraged to invite open attendance and allow participation when it does not interfere with the team’s ability to accomplish its tasks and goals.” This passage is also contained in the edition of the manual, issued by Chancellor Joel Klein in 2002.

June 22, 2004

Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government of the NY Department of State issues a letter with an advisory opinion that SLTs are public bodies and are thus are subject to open meetings law because “They are creations of law… they are the New York City entities that carry out the shared decision making functions required to be accomplished pursuant to §100.11 of the regulations promulgated by the NYS Commissioner of Education.

December 3, 2007

Chancellor Klein revises the regulations on SLTs in A-655, effectively disempowering them by claiming that the principal shall make the “final determination” on the Comprehensive Education Plan. The revision is also done without any input from District superintendents or stakeholder groups, contrary to state law.

January 2, 2008

With the help of Class Size Matters, Marie Pollicino, a member of the Community Education Council in District 26 Queens files a complaint with the State Education Department on behalf of public education parents.  Later, Queens parent leader Melvyn Meer, the United Federation of Teachers, and Pollicino’s CEC 26 join the complaint.

We argue that the amended regulations by Chancellor Klein not only wrongfully strip away the rights and responsibilities of School Leadership Teams to decide on school-based budgets and Comprehension Education plans, they are also unlawful as the revision process  didn’t involve Superintendents or any stakeholder group. Pollicino asks for a stay so that earlier regulations and authority of SLTs are retained until the Commissioner determines the legality of the amendments. Class Size Matters reports on the complaint  on our blog, and asks our followers to send letters to the Commissioner, the Chancellor Klein, and elected officials in support of  Pollicino’s complaint.  Later, the Daily News reports on the issue here.

July 23, 2008

Amina Rachman, special representative for the United Federation of Teachers, submits an Affidavit on behalf of the complaint, stating that though she and others were involved in the Mayor’s Taskforce on Parental Engagement, they had no say in the revised regulation concerning SLTs.

December 31, 2008

One year following its submission,  State Education Commission Richard Mills rules that the regulations as revised by Chancellor Klein violate state law, both in terms of the process  by which they were developed and the result. He states that amendments to regulations such as A-655 require changes to be developed by the superintendent in their respective school district in coordination with committees made up of parents, teachers, and administrators, and that the regulation  must recognize the final authority of SLTs to develop Comprehensive Education Plans. Chalkbeat, the NY Daily News, and NYC Public School Parent Blog report on his decision.

March 24, 2010

Chancellor Klein rewrites the SLT Regulations, restoring SLT authority over the Comprehensive Education Plan and posts them here

 

April 2011 -December 2013

At some point during Dennis Walcott’s term as Chancellor, a DOE training manual for SLTs is created that explains that SLT meetings are open to the general public. The Properties tab reveals that the manual was “last modified” on December 7, 2011. As of Sept. 2015, the PowerPoint was still posted on the DOE website here.

 

December 18, 2012

The Principal of P.S. 24 in the Bronx ejects reporter Tess McRae of the Riverdale Review from an SLT meeting.  After initially hesitating, the DOE spokesperson checks and confirms that these meetings are legally open to the public, including reporters, according to an article in the Riverdale Review .

 

February 5, 2013

Principal Linda Hill of IS 49 in Staten Island instructs the other members of the SLT not to inform teacher and UFT chapter chair Francesco Portelos when SLT meeting are being held, and not to provide him with any minutes of their proceedings, though UFT chapter chairs are mandated members of the SLT.

 

May 6, 2013

Portelos writes a letter to DOE officials, affirming his right to attend the SLT meeting at his school, and citing the Committee for Open Government fact sheet  that explains that public bodies are subject o open meetings law are defined as bodies  that like SLTs,  “perform a governmental function for the state, for an agency of the state, or for public corporations, including cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts”.  This fact sheet can be found on the Committee on Open Government’s website here.

 

David Brodsky, Director of Labor Relations for the DOE responds: “School Leadership Teams (“SLTs”) are not public bodies and their meetings are not open to the general public. SLTs are advisory bodies that consult and provide recommendations on various educational matters. They do not have the power to transact public business and are not “public bodies” within the meaning of the Open Meetings Law.” In this letter, Brodsky misstates  state laws which hold that first,  SLTs have more than advisory powers and two,  defines public bodies as having a governmental function, whether they are advisory or not.

 

June 4, 2013

Portelos sues the DOE for barring him from the SLT meeting.

 

November 4, 2013

Judge Cynthia Kern rules for the DOE and against Francesco Portelos, agreeing that SLT’s are only advisory bodies and thus are not subject to open meetings law.

 

May 17, 2014

Michael P. Thomas, a retired teacher, sues the DOE for preventing him from attending a SLT meeting at IS 49 on April 1, 2014, and thus violating the Open Meetings Law.

 

December 16, 2014

Public Advocate Letitia James submits a letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña, co-signed by Class Size Matters, CEC presidents and attorneys from NY Lawyers for Public Interest and Advocates for Justice, explaining why Open Meetings Law applies to School Leadership Team Meetings.

 

December 19, 2014

Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, the DOE General Counsel, responds, refusing to reverse DOE’s legal position in a letter to Public Advocate James, reiterating the arguments that SLT’s have only advisory powers, and are thus not subject to the open meetings law.

 

January 7, 2015

Public Advocates James and Class Size Matters file papers in court, represented pro bono by attorneys from NY Lawyers for the Public Interest and Advocates for Justice.  They request to intervene in the Thomas lawsuit. Read the Class Size blog about why we intervened and the Chalkbeat coverage.

 

January 15, 2015

Justice Peter H.  Moulton of NY Supreme Court hears the lawsuit. Judge Moulton agrees to allow the Public Advocate and Class Size Matters to become intervenors, and listens to arguments from both sides.

 

April 23, 2015

In a clear, well-reasoned decision dated April 16 and filed April 23, Justice Moulton rules in favor of petitioners Michael Thomas, the Public Advocate and Class Size Matters,  concluding  that  DOE’s decision to close these meetings to the public was “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”  You can read Justice Moulton’s decision here,  a read a blog post from Letitia James on our victory here, and a post from Class Size Matters here. Articles in the NY Times, AP, Student Law Press Center, Chalkbeat, National School Board Legal Clips, and City and State follow.

 

May 22, 2015

City files a notice of appeal, which can be seen in Exhibit A (page 9) of the DOE’s subsequent Cross Motion, here.

 

June 9, 2015

The Chancellor sends a message to principals that SLT meetings are closed to the public until the appeal decision was heard. The Chancellor wrote: “Please note that, at this time, SLT meetings are not open to the general public (i.e. people who are not members of the school community) or the press.”  Here is a NY Post article about this.

 

July 9, 2015

The attorneys for Public Advocate Letitia James and Class Size Matters file papers, urging the New York Appellate Division to reject the attempt by the NYC Department of Education and the Chancellor to close SLT meetings until the appeal is decided.  Here is the our memo of law, a notice of motion, a motion to vacate, and a Class Size Matters blog post on the matter.  In August, the DOE files a cross motion, claiming that opening these meetings to the public would be a “Herculean” task and would reverse two decades of the status quo.  In August, our attorneys respond to the city’s cross motion, pointing out that these meetings were open during the previous administration; thus it is the DOE that is trying to reverse the status quo.  Later that month, the city’s responds to our August 13 reply. Our blog post on the development can be found here.

In October 2015, the Appellate Court rules that SLT meetings can remain closed until the city’s Appeal can be heard.  Here is a City Limits article about this.

 

October 2, 2015

The city submits their appeal brief to the Appellate Court, arguing that the decision of Justice Moulton of the NY Supreme Court should be reversed and SLT meetings should be closed to the general public.

 

December 8, 2015

Our brief to the appellate court arguing against the city’s appeal submitted in October.  Ten days later, the city city responds with their reply brief.

 

January 21, 2016

Arguments are heard in the Appellate court on the SLT case.

 

October 25, 2016

The Appellate Court unanimously rules that School Leadership Team meetings must be open to the public.  See their decision here; and our press release here.  Here are articles about the decision in the Daily News, the Village Voice and Chalkbeat. Here is a blog post with more background.

 

November 10, 2016

The Chancellor notifies principals via the Principal’s Weekly that from now on, SLT meetings must be open to members of the public, and that parents and the public must be notified in advance of these meetings.  Soon after, the Public Advocate and the attorneys produce an SLT fact sheet  to explain the composition and authority of School Leadership Teams, and what rights parents and members of the public have to attend these meetings.