Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf held a press briefing this afternoon. He announced:
- A “dramatic reorganization” of the Department of Education. The new structure will be built around four new positions: Chief Academic Officer, Chief Performance Officer, Chief Talent Officer, and Chief Innovation Officer. In all, the State Board approved 16 senior positions; 12 will be promotions from within and 4 will be new hires. Organization chart here.
- The DOE will move from a compliance-oriented organization to an accountability organization, with an emphasis on serving its core mission – educating kids – instead of issuing mandates.
- This reorganization “reaffirms that our focus is to dramatically increase the number of kids who are college and career-ready.”
- There’s a new Delivery Unit, headed by Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick, which will be responsible for aligning county offices and school support functions.
- Bari Erlichson, formerly Director of the Office of Education Data, will be the new Performance Officer.
- Former Education Commissioner David Hespe will be Chief of Staff.
- The State Board of Education today “relaxed requirements for hiring superintendents…it’s been in the works since early January.” The relaxed requirements will only apply to “districts that are consistently failing.” The impetus behind the change was the search in Newark; the district was precluded from including “very qualified people” in the pool…we shouldn’t let rules or regulations get in the way of our core mission.”
- Re: Senate President Sweeney’s refusal to allow a vote on a bill allowing merit pay for teachers and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver’s refusal to allow a vote on the Opportunity Scholarship Act: “We’re in political silly season…I believe that Senator Sweeney is committed to education reform.” In regard to merit pay, “I’m in favor of differentiated pay. What I mean is to at least soften the system” so that higher pay is not restricted to additional years served or degrees earned. It’s “an issue without serious, substantive engagement. Let’s give Senator Sweeney a chance to engage in the subject.”
- On seniority: “We're dealing with a soundbite during a political war.” Right now “a district must be quality blind. It is illegal in this state when you have an absolutely superb teacher as compared to a teacher who is not very good. It is illegal to preserve the job of the superior teacher.” “No one can say this is in the best interests of children.”
- Pilot Project on Teacher Evaluation: three dozen districts have expressed interest. “I’m extremely satisfied, ecstatic, at the level of interest.”
- QSAC (the state accountability system for individual school districts) “has been a frequently nightmarish process” that “involves enormous amounts of paper-pushing.” “Are we looking at the right things when we say we want to hold schools accountable?”
- New state aid numbers: there’s a “strong exhortation” for school districts to use it next year for tax relief. That doesn’t apply to Abbott districts, which will have to reopen their budgets because of the large amount of additional money.