Volume 80, Number 5 | June 30 - July 6, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Soho school set to ‘transform’

By David McCabe

The city is hoping that an underperforming Soho high school will receive $2 million in federal funds per year for the next three years to enable it to undergo a process known as transformation that will bring in better teachers.

Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School, at Sixth Ave. and Broome St., which shares its building with the tech-centric iSchool, was identified by the state as one of 34 “persistently low achieving” schools in the city.

The federal stimulus funds would be allocated to individual schools by the state. While the state has yet to allocate the grants, the city’s Department of Education believes it will receive them.

“Given the ambition of our transformation model, we’re extremely confident that we’ll receive money from the state,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a department spokesman.

Out of the 34 low-achieving schools, the city is hoping that 11 will receive a “school improvement grant” for the 2010-2011 school year. The city investigated each school and, as is required to receive the grants, recommended one of four improvement models for each school. These include “turnaround,” which involves replacing at least 50 percent of the school staff; “restart,” where a school is shut down and reopened under the control of an “educational management organization”; closure; and “transformation.”

Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School, along with 10 others, has been identified for “transformation.” In this model, new “turnaround teachers” and “master teachers” are brought in to help improve teaching and develop the school’s program.

The Soho high school has a history of low performance: It received an “F” on its 2007-2008 city report card, but a “C” the next year.

If they were successful, based on the state’s new teacher evaluation system, turnaround teachers would be eligible for a 15 percent bonus on top of their normal salary, and master teachers could receive a 30 percent bonus. While the new evaluation is set to go into effect in 2011, the city will be able to use it in these 11 schools, a victory for the Department of Education, which has been pushing the United Federation of Teachers union for better teacher evaluations and teacher pay based on classroom performance.

Under federal law, schools that receive the grants must replace their principals, but the city is hoping each principal’s performance can be reviewed individually.

The 11 schools were chosen for transformation because they were showing positive trends. Brian Rosenbloom, the Soho high school’s principal, took the job in July 2008.

In fact, there may be indications that discipline problems that have long plagued the high school have dissipated somewhat.

“I have not seen the rowdiness and delinquency that was so present 10, or even five, years ago,” Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said.

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