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New York City Schools Take 1st Steps Toward Management at theSchool Site

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New York City schools interested in participating in the district's venture into school-based management took their first step late last week by submitting letters indicating their desire to take part in the voluntary program.

Under guidelines for school-based management and shared decisionmaking released March 26 by Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez, schools were required to get the approval of a majority of their faculty members, parents, and administrators to be considered for the initiative.

In their "letters of commitment," which were due May 4, the schools were asked to show that they had established a school-based management team with a teacher majority. They were also required to describe the "educational intent" of the proposals they will now develop.

Schools whose proposals are approved by Mr. Fernandez will be notified by June 25. Members of the management teams will then spend the summer preparing for the plans' implementation in the fall.

The teams--which were expected to have 10 to 12 members--must include the school principal, the teachers'-union representative, and a parent representative. High-school students are also eligible to serve.

Sandra Feldman, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said school-based management has generated a "tremendous amount of interest in the schools."

"They've been chafing at the bit to try to exercise more authority and do what they think is right, as opposed to being dictated to from on high," Ms. Feldman said. "They feel under the yoke in this system, so there's a tremendous feeling of excitement that they'll be freed up."

The development of a school-based-management program for the New York City schools means that the nation's four largest school districts will all be operating under some form of decentralized management, although the scope of the plans in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dade County, Fla., differs markedly.

Principals' Authority

In order for a New York school to begin planning for school-based management, 75 percent of its non-supervisory faculty members were required to vote in favor of participating.

Ms. Feldman estimated that about 200 of the city's 1,100 schools will be selected to begin school-based management.

For its part, the New York City supervisors' union, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, has advised its members not to sign off on school-based-management proposals unless their school teams agree that the principal will have final decisionmaking authority.

Each school's proposal must explain how team members will make decisions.

The c.s.a. has drafted language that it suggests should be used, which reads: "The committee will8strive to make decisions by consensus (ALL members in agreement). In the event that consensus cannot be reached, the principal will have the authority to make the final decision."

Donald Singer, president of the c.s.a., said he believes that "99 percent of the time, everyone's going to agree."

The statement, he said, will prevent teams from becoming "bogged down."

"We're trying to be 'proactive,"' Mr. Singer added, "although there are those who would disagree who say we're being obstructionists."

Planning Money

Schools that embark on site-based management will be eligible to seek waivers from district policy and the teachers'-union contract.

Ms. Feldman said both she and Mr. Fernandez have stressed that schools in which teachers and administrators have a "rocky" relationship are not ready for shared decisionmaking.

Schools whose proposals for school-based management are accepted will receive $7,500 for planning purposes, plus $7 per student, for a maximum of $20,000.

The money can be used for a variety of purposes, including paying team members for extra time spent developing their program, hiring consultants, attending professional conferences, or other professional-development activities.

In his January budget request, Mr. Fernandez asked for $7.8 million over three years for school-based professional development to support the new management initiative, said Bob Terte, a spokesman for the district. The district's budget has not yet been set, he added.

Mr. Fernandez indicated in his budget request that he expected 100 schools to implement shared decisionmaking and school-based management this year.

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