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State closer to intervening in struggling schools

New York moved a step closer to intervening in struggling schools yet again, as policymakers voted Monday to approve regulations that could place those that miss achievement goals under the control of receivers.

The regulations were proposed in the Education Reform Act, which was pushed through the state legislature by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in April, and approved by a committee of the state Board of Regents. The reforms will award $75 million to "persistently struggling schools," said a state Education Department spokesman.

Each superintendent in those districts will be given the authority to make changes and "show demonstrable improvement" within a year or two. Otherwise, struggling schools will be placed in receivership.

If that occurs, state-approved receivers would run schools with a wide range of powers to modify budgets, hire and fire staff and teachers, and reshape curricula -- and they could recommend converting to a charter school.

The regulations have drawn concern in districts with "priority schools," which are among the lowest-achieving 5 percent across the state. The full Board of Regents is expected to vote Tuesday on the regulations.

"There are going to be some changes in motion, but I think it's important that they have to improve these regulations to make sure that the portion of parents' involvement is strengthened," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide coalition focused on high-needs districts.

Long Island schools on the state's priority list are Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School and Hempstead High School in the Hempstead district; Roosevelt Middle School and Roosevelt High School in the Roosevelt district; Ralph G. Reed Middle School in the Central Islip district; and Milton L. Olive Middle School in the Wyandanch district.

About 35 officials and residents from districts in the coalition demonstrated outside the education building in Albany Monday, calling for more local input in deciding the future of struggling schools.

One of the demonstrators, Willa Scott, is a school board trustee in Roosevelt, the only district ever taken over by New York State.

"We were under the state for 12 years, and we accomplished nothing. We've been out from under the state one and a half years, and we need more time to prove ourselves," Scott said.

Central Islip residents organized under a grassroots group called Change CI actually want an independent receiver to step in, hoping that such an administrator can do better.

"We have consistently failed to achieve the goals," said Dee Dodson, a former school board member. "We feel there needs to be a change in the way the district is run. . . . We see year after year students failing and even some who graduate having to receive remediation because they weren't college-ready. We welcome Governor Cuomo's education reforms."

Central Islip Schools Superintendent Craig G. Carr said in a statement that he did not yet know whether the regulations would affect the district, but said its "educators are committed to working towards achieving demonstrable student progress as prescribed under the parameters" set by the education department.

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