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Crew Unveils Plan To Streamline the Central Office

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Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew unveiled a plan last week to reorganize the central administration of the New York City school system. He called for a streamlined headquarters that advances, rather than impedes, innovation.

"We have not had any systemic way to bring about needed changes in schools and districts which have proven themselves to be incapable of or unwilling to provide the kind of education program to which our students are entitled," Mr. Crew says in his 41-page plan. "Neither have we provided a structure in which innovative ideas and approaches to schooling are encouraged to flourish within the system."

Last fall, shortly after taking office, Mr. Crew pledged to take swift action to turn around 16 failing schools facing possible state takeover or closure. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1995.)

Special District

The plan Mr. Crew presented last week to the city's board of education calls for the creation of a "chancellor's district."

Unlike the city's 32 community school districts, which oversee elementary and junior high schools in specific geographic areas, the chancellor's district would oversee schools throughout the city's five boroughs. It would include failing schools as well as alternative schools and innovative schools in the early stages of development.

"The scope of [the plan] is imaginative and far-reaching," said Doug White, the director of the New York Networks for School Renewal, an alliance of reform groups. Mr. Crew's plan cites as a model the alliance's "Learning Zone"--an effort to create a critical mass of small schools that are freed from regulations in exchange for heightened accountability.

Mr. Crew's plan also calls for an office of parent advocacy and engagement and an office of business and community relations to make it easier for external groups--from parents to corporations--to work with the district.

It also recommends eliminating 32 central-office posts and creating 16 new ones, many with upgraded salaries and authority, resulting in a savings of $271,503. It also proposes maintaining only a skeletal staff at the board headquarters in Brooklyn and moving more employees into field-based teams that provide direct services to schools.

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