Update2: Fri. Nov. 30, 10 am
Norm's School Scope column appears biweekly in The Wave
This is a rewrite of what I wrote after little sleep, hopefully making it more literate.
Upadated Weds, Nov. 28
This is mostly a new post that includes the column I just submitted to The Wave for this Friday's publication, which goes into more of the history of the PEP and a rewrite some of the UFT stuff. I'll add a video link later to my statement about using the Workshop model for PEP meetings. Hear Klein cut me off on the 2 minute button. I also have video of how Betsy Combier pushed Klein's buttons and got an angry response.
The Panel SAYS
The Panel for Educational Policy replaced the old Board of Education when the state legislature gave the Mayor control over the schools in 2002, which will sunset in 2009 – thankfully. Now we all know about the disfunctionality of the old BoE. But the PEP is non-functional, being only an advisory body with Klein himself being a member and 7 members appointed by the Mayor, serving at his pleasure.
We found out what “his pleasure” meant at the famous Monday Night Massacre, chronicled in our March 26, 2004 column (“Beware The Ides Of March – You’re Fired”) where Bloomberg, that Julius Caesar pretender, fired 3 members of the PEP for opposing BloomKlein’s 3rd grade retention policy on March 15. Not that we are wishing the same fate for the Mayor that Julie suffered, though the thought probably has passed through the minds of more than one classroom teacher as they spent useless hours working solely for the purpose of “let’s show outside visitors how we follow Tweed dictums” on their word walls, flow of the day, bulletin boards, et al, often into the late afternoon, long after the kids have gone home.
I often go to monthly PEP meetings as penance for my sins. These events are required by law (not my penance) as a minimal attempt to keep the public informed, which Bloomberg and his hand-picked “I know about education because I once went to school” Chancellor, Joel Klein, do their utmost to keep minimally informed. The members of the panel are basically somnambulant and the meetings are often deathly, other than the 2 minutes allotted to members of the public who get the chance to “lay one on.” I use this time to avail myself of the opportunity to educate the Panel and Klein as to what constitutes a quality teacher. Doing this, 2 minutes at a time, I figure I’ll be in the nursing home before I finish. But there’s always Access-a-Ride.
Let’s not accuse our state legislators, members of one of the most corrupt political bodies in the nation, if not the world, from doing the wrong thing in handing over the largest school system in the nation with no oversight, to the whims of one man. They did provide that each borough president could appoint one PEP member, five people that would still be a minority on the Panel. The mayor could appoint anyone, his entire family or his dog, while the borough people must have children in the public schools. I think the dog must also have puppies.
Even if these five were appointed to represent the interests of parents, the relationship of the borough president to Bloomberg must be factored in. The Staten Island borough president fired his rep when she said she was going to vote against Bloomberg at the Monday Night Massacre. Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz supported his appointee Martine Guerrier when she voted NO. As he cemented his relationship to Bloomberg, her criticisms of Klein began to wane. She was eventually appointed by Klein to the 150K a year job as Chief Parent Muck-a-Muck in February 2007, and she had to leave the PEP, which is considered so inconsequential, Markowitz didn’t even bother to appoint a replacement until recently.
This summer, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer appointed Patrick Sullivan to the PEP. Sullivan has been active with Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in putting issues of true educational import on the table, so his appointment was a pleasant surprise and a tribute to Stringer’s agenda of putting his constituents ahead of Bloomberg.
Sullivan, who comes from the corporate world, which gives him a credibility educators don’t receive in this business-oriented educational environment, has galvanized the PEP meetings as he questions Klein and his minions in depth on their policies. I’ve videotaped some of these encounters and you can view them on my blog where there are also videos of teachers and parents doing their 2 minutes, including my own.
I remember meeting Queens borough president Helen Marshall at the Monday Night Massacre. She expressed dismay at the firings. So one would have hoped the Queens PEP reps since then would express even a modicum of independence and oversight. Not much, so far.
But Michael Flowers, who had shown some promise, has resigned as Queens PEP rep. The last time I saw him he voted with Sullivan against Klein on the DOE’s military recruitment policies. Did the long arm of BloomKlein reach out to Marshall and snuff Flowers? I hope not.
Marshall has the opportunity to make an appointment that will result in the same kind of kudos Scott Stringer has received and at the same time provide an accomplice to Sullivan in challenging Klein. There are Queens parents who are very knowledgeable about the schools and hopefully Marshall will do the right thing by putting someone on the panel who will stand up for the parents, who have been so marginalized (or bought off) by Bloomberg. There are some top-notch candidates emerging, so…
UFT Candlelight Vigil Snuffed
School Scope wrote about David Pakter back in June 2006 (All Psyched Up With No Place To Go). He has been in and out of the rubber room for things like buying a plant for his school or making a videotape of a music class in is school building. Recently, he proposed taking an idea that was brewing among rubber room people and ATR's (mostly senior teachers forced to become subs from schools that have closed or from positions that have been cut) to use the steps of Tweed as a rallying point on a regular basis on the evenings of PEP meetings before going in and speaking (which people have been doing sporadically over the past few years) and turning it into a larger "Thousand Points of Light" event. At one point, David said, "I will be there with my candle even if I am the only one."
If it had happened that way, the one-man rally would have had more impact than what took place at the UFT rally on Monday night, November 26.
David asked Randi Weingarten to jump on board, but soon after sent out an email that the UFT would not support such a rally. This was in early November. So, what happened to make Weingarten change her mind a few weeks later (Nov. 16 to be exact) and jump on board? The utter outrage coming out of the schools after Joel Klein announced a witch-hunt to go after teachers as an excuse to shift the blame from his own failures. There was a need to put on some kind of show for the members.
The rally was filled with the usual suspects – Randi’s Unity Caucus/union employees, members of the opposition and some rank and file teachers who came out. Plus some rubber room people. Very similar to the idiotic John Stoessel protest at ABC a few years ago. Maybe a thousand people in all. With no press coverage at all. Basically, a ZERO. The Weingarten act is wearing very thin.
All this was predictable, as the UFT did not want too big a protest, intending to use this as a photo op/PR move to make the members feel something is being done. And to deflect what would have had an anti-UFT tinge from people who have felt the UFT has left them in this position in the first place.
Deflection and Dilution – Deflection of militancy and Dilution of the UFT critics in a sea of Unity Caucus.
The idea of holding an event at Tweed on this particular day (which has been a consistent theme of some of us over the years) was the opportunity to make a statement at the PEP meeting at 6pm where BloomKlein's rubber stamps – other than Patrick Sullivan – endorse anything Klein puts forth. Thus, I was more interested in the PEP meeting than the rally.
Why bother? Because the BloomKlein machine has made it look like they are doing wonderful things and the national press have jumped on the bandwagon. When parents and teachers get up publicly to expose the sham, it is one way to fight back. Certainly with the UFT not fighting back, there is a need to make a stand.
On Monday, Patrick Sullivan raised questions on the school report cards and the NAEP test results that were turned from straw into gold by Tweed spinners. Leonie Haimson was there and spoke about how the DOE has violated state law in refusing to post a viable class size reduction plan.
It is noteworthy that with a rally outside, the UFT totally ignored the fact that there was a meeting taking place and had no presence at all. If Weingarten was so upset at the witch-hunt for teachers, why not inundate the PEP meeting with people speaking against it publicly? It was left to teachers from TAG, Teachers Advocacy Group – which sprang up this summer to counter the lack of UFT protection – to play take that role. And don’t think that hasn’t has an impact on activating the UFT – to some extent.
At the meeting, after watching mind-numbing presentations from Klein’s Chief Accountability Officer James Liebman and Marcia Lyles - who read us 12 pages of a PowerPoint presentation - this from the chief teaching and learning person at the DOE, who replaced Andres Alonso who was even more mind numbing – (these people were teachers?) – I got my 2 minutes.
I suggested they use the Workshop model for PEP meetings, where each presenter gets 7 minutes; the audience breaks into groups and does "turn and talk.” A test should be given at the end of the meeting. If the audience didn't learn the material, the presenter gets fired. Or sent to an internal rubber room for Tweedles – maybe to serve as an aid at the Ross Charter School in the basement.
Even Klein smiled at that one. No one knows better than he the absurdity of it all.
To get a much better analysis than I can give, check out Reality-Based Educator's post at the NYC Educator blog and make sure to check the comments where our theme of "the UFT as collaborator with BloomKlein" is being echoed.
But I did get a UFT poncho and a light stick out of it before I went into Tweed for the meeting to keep my video camera from getting wet, though I did get some sound bites from some of the non-Unity people. (I'll post the video later this week.) And I met NY Sun reporter Elizabeth Green for the first time. It's nice to know someone who could pass for a high school student can have such an impact.
One of the ralliers who also attended the meeting sent this response to the rally:
No way, no how. Not ever.