The $663,000 superintendent

It’s a nice job if you can get it. Jose Fernandez, superintendent of a 6,500-student district in California, was paid $633,000 last year, the local CBS station discovered. The Centinela Valley Union High School District also loaned Fernandez more than $900,000 at 2 percent interest over 40 years.

Fernandez runs three high schools, a continuation school and an adult education center.

This is what happens when government officials think no one is watching, writes Jason Bedrick on Jay Greene’s blog.

Naturally, in response to the citizens’ outrage upon discovering that the school board they had elected was squandering their hard-earned money, the Centinela Valley school board officials did the only responsible thing: They hired a media-relations consultant.

Meanwhile, teachers are complaining they have to buy school supplies out of their own pockets.

Eva Moskowitz, who founded the high-performing Success Academy charters in New York City, is controversial because she earns $475,000 a year. (Half her pay comes from private donors.) The 22 Success charters educate 6,700 students.

Success charters lose space in NYC

The high-performing Success Academy charter network will lose space for three schools, the New York Post reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Education reversed “co-location” decisions made last year.

The actions block new elementary schools in Queens and at Murry Bergtraum High School near City Hall. Bergtraum is the F-rated school running an online “credit recovery” program that’s left students illiterate.

At Success Academy Harlem 4, already in operation, the decision will leave 210 fourth and fifth graders without a school in the fall.

The Harlem charter is one of the top performing schools in the city, said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. At Success Academy’s Harlem 4, “83 percent of the students passed the state math exam last year, putting it in the top one percent of all schools in the state. Why would anyone want to stop that kind of student achievement?”

Success charters’ success has annoyed the mayor, write Andrew Rotherham and Richard Whitmire in USA Today. The schools, run by the controversial Eva Moskowitz, have shown that low-income minority students can earn high test scores.

Consider the third-graders at Success Academy Harlem 5. They share a public school building with P.S. 123. If Harlem 5 children lose their seats, they might have to enroll in P.S. 123.

. . . The schools have similar students, but 88% of Harlem 5 third-graders passed New York’s math test compared with 5% of P.S. 123′s.

New York City charter students are outperforming peers who attend traditional public schools, a study by Stanford’s CREDO found. There are 70,000 students enrolled in the city’s charter schools and 50,000 more students on charter school waiting lists.

NYC’s teachers’ union enemy #1

Eva Moskowitz, who runs New York City’s largest charter network, is teachers’ union enemy number one, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, an old-school liberal Democrat, campaigned against Moskowitz:

 In May at a forum hosted by the United Federation of Teachers, or UFT, the potent government-employee local: “It’s time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place. . . . She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.” In July, on his plans to charge charters—which are independently run public schools—for sharing space with city-run public schools: “There’s no way in hell Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, O.K.?”

As mayor, he’s cut funding for charter construction, announced a moratorium on co-location and threatened to “roll back” co-locations already approved. 

“A progressive Democrat should be embracing charters, not rejecting them,”says Moskowitz, who’s also a Democrat. “It’s just wacky.”

As she reminds every audience, the 6,700 students at her 22 Success Academy Charter Schools are overwhelmingly from poor, minority families and scored in the top 1% in math and top 7% in English on the most recent state test. Four in five charters in the city outperformed comparable schools.

If Success Academy can’t find space to expand, “most at-risk children would be sent back to failing schools,” says Moskowitz.

She’s backing charter-friendly Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat, reports the Journal.

But which one gets to be Crassus?

Via EducationNext, a little inside baseball for those of you following the ongoing reform wars: Klein, Moskowitz, and Rhee have joined forces in New York.  It looks like that’s where they’re going to make a stand.  According to the NYT:

Like the national group, the state branch will promote the expansion of charter schools and the firing of ineffective schoolteachers, while opposing tenure.

I should visit the concession stand and pick up some popcorn.  This is going to be good.  Anyone want anything while I’m up?

Extra study, higher scores

Eve Moskowitz — “Evil” Moskowitz to her many enemies –  is profiled in New York magazine. A former New York City councilwoman, she founded a high-scoring, all-minority charter school, Harlem Success Academy, which is expanding rapidly.

Harlem Success Academy’s first class of third-graders outperformed “all but seven of the city’s 788 elementary schools, including perennial high fliers like P.S. 6 and P.S. 321″ and “trounced every third grade in Mamaroneck, Chappaqua, and Rye.”

. . . in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. . . . After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal — four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on.

The schools also provide enrichment, including “classes in chess and dancing, Greenmarket field trips, 150 science experiments per year. Their art is shown off at Sotheby’s, their essays at Barnes & Noble. It’s a college-bound culture, stem to stern.”

Moskowitz wanted to create schools “where I’d want to send my own children,” and now she has, the magazine notes. “Harlem Success Academy 3 enrolls Dillon, 7, and Hannah, 5, the lone white students there.”

P.S. 172 in Brooklyn, also known as Beacon School of Excellence, also posts very high test scores despite serving many low-income Hispanic students, reports the New York Times.  Like the Success Academies, the school schedules extra learning time for students who need it.

P.S. 172′s principal “finds money for coaches in writing, reading and math. Teachers keep detailed notes on each child, writing down weaknesses and encouraging them to repeat tasks. There is after-school help and Saturday school.” The school hired a speech therapist to figure out why seven or eight students were having language problems; a psychologist recommended how to help. There’s even a dental clinic on campus.

Students at P.S. 172 who need more help stay in their classrooms until 4:45 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, after a short snack break at the regular 3:05 quitting time.

The school benefits from consistent leadership: Jack Spatola has been the principal since 1984, the Times reports. He has a simple formula: “Teach, assess, teach, assess.”

Mr. Spatola attributed the coaches and other extra help to careful budgeting and fighting for every dollar from the Department of Education; the school’s cost per pupil, in fact, is lower than the city’s average.

Years ago, parents asked for their children to be “placed directly in English-only classes, with extra help from teachers of English as a Second Language.” The school dropped bilingual classes.

Anna Phillips of Gotham Schools visited a B-rated school where bored students filled out test-prep workbooks — or played computer games or slept or stared into space. She saw no teaching by teachers, who were “were barely present.”