Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check out 2 days of video of student protests on The Washington Teacher blog

Our rank & file rally has inspired a series of protests by our students. We had our protest on September 24 followed by a student protests on Sept. 28 and 29. I received a call from a young man who is organizing a 3rd student protest this Thursday on October 1 starting at 3:30 pm at the DCPS Central office located at 825 North Capitol St. NE where Rhee's office is. I hope you will check out the videos on my blog below starting with September 24. The latest blog entry are of the videos of the student protests.

Check out 2 days of video of student protests on The Washington Teacher blog.

You have to visit:

Click on both TV screens on the blog to view the video at Duke Ellington high school and the DCPS central office by our students in protest of teacher layoffs on September 28 and September 29. These students followed the lead of our rank and file teacher rally and are exercising civil disobedience in a peaceful way. You have taught them well !

Also check out our rank & file teacher rally video on my blog as well. Just scroll down to check it out.

Candi Peterson
WTU Building rep. for related service providers and itenerant teachers

National Parks are Just Big Guvment

I was outraged over the last few nights watching this national park program on TV to discover we have another big guvment boondoggle called The National Park Service. They even told how these liberal wonkies overrode the objections of the teabag predecessors a century ago who opposed this government takeover of our free space and stopped the possibility of turning it all over to private interests. Let freedom ring. Allow privatizers to turn the wasteful national park system in giant parking lots.

How a national park should look

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Attention Drawn to Overcrowding at Francis Lewis a Tribute to Chapter Leader, REVISED

Updated, Sept. 30, 10AM
Since my column was due today for Friday's edition of The Wave, the Rockaway community newspaper, I rewrote this piece with that audience in mind. It should be easier to follow.

The NY Times Continues to Tilt Toward BloomKlein on Education

When Arthur Goldstein, an ESL teacher with almost a quarter century experience, took the giant step of running for chapter leader at Francis Lewis HS in Queens, one of the largest and most overcrowded schools in the city with 4600 students and 300 union members, he promised to focus his attention on the severe overcrowding at the school.

Goldstein has had first hand experience, having to teach in a dilapidated trailer for years. He has drawn attention to the shameful record of Tweed (for new readers, the headquarters, full of dungeons and dragons, of the NYC Department of Education) and the Bloomberg administration in short changing schools with good reputations like Francis Lewis through editorials at the Gotham Schools blog and the Daily News. Tuesday’s front page article in the NY Times focused on the situation at Francis Lewis. But as usual, the Times only told half the story. Or less.

Goldstein, in a recent Daily News editorial (My school is bursting with students, and Tweed is to blame), clearly places the blame where it is due.

His article closes with: ….the experts at Tweed are like doctors who diagnose a disease, then inject the patient with more toxins just to make certain they're right. No one can criticize their diagnostic skills. But if anyone's due a malpractice suit, it's the Department of Education.

The usual NY Times tilt towards the BloomKlein administration on education made no mention of the trailers or any of the dilapidated conditions of the school. Nor did it tie in with the Bloomberg claims to educational excellence and the ridiculous attacks on Bill Thompson over the conditions in the schools when Thompson held the almost powerless position as head of the old Board of Education in the 90’s. (If they want to play that game, speaking of conditions, I bet Francis Lewis was not nearly as overcrowded when Bill Thompson headed the Board of Education).

The Times' article had nary a mention of the conditions Goldstein describes, nor does it mention Goldstein who has used his bully pulpit as UFT chapter leader so effectively. My goodness, the union rep fighting as much for the safety of kids as for teachers? And to the usual charge that the union is only concerned with jobs, doesn’t Goldstein’s campaign to reduce the overcrowding mean less staff? Would reporting that the actions of the union teachers at Francis Lewis in standing up to BloomKlein on a situation that is dangerous for kids counter the anti-teacher and anti-teacher union propaganda that is so rampant? The Times doesn’t want to go there as it executes the Times Tilt toward BloomKlein.

I once challenged the Times reporter who wrote the article at a symposium that the rank and file teacher point of view is rarely presented (union bureaucrats don’t count). Her response was that teachers are afraid to talk, which I found pretty funny. There is not one quote from a teacher in her article, only from students, the principal and a school secretary. Yet there are over 200 teachers at the school, more than a few I have encountered who have no fear. Certainly Arthur Goldstein is one.

Before I go on, I want to mention my favorite whipping crew at the UFT, which only got involved when Goldstein, who ran with the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) in the last UFT election and will be running with them again in this year’s election, started agitating. (Full disclosure: I am also a member of ICE.) Francis Lewis has been under the control of Unity Caucus, which has ruled the UFT for 45 years, for decades and some of the Unity supporters did what they could to stop Goldstein from getting elected as chapter leader.

Getting back to the Times as whipping boy, the article made no mention of the insane conditions teachers must work under, focusing only on student travails. TILT

Goldstein has written that Francis Lewis was built to hold 1800 students instead of the Times’ figure of 2400, allowing Tweed to claim, "You see, the school is not even at 200% capacity." TILT

The Times’ article bias toward the DOE line is further revealed here:

Not far from Francis Lewis, two schools with lesser reputations, Jamaica and John Bowne High Schools, are below capacity. But education officials, wary of alienating middle-class parents, have been reluctant to shift students to even out the load.

The Times did not ask the DOE why these schools have lesser reputations and are underutilized. In fact, John Bowne is at capacity, but the DOE plays games with the numbers.

Jamaica HS is a different story altogether. Chapter leader James Eterno, who is running for UFT president on the ICE/TJC slate against Unity Caucus' Michael Mulgrew, has written repeatedly about the intentional policies of Tweed in trying to force Jamaica's closing so it could be prime meat for future charter schools, even steering kids who want to attend away. James Eterno wrote a powerful letter to the State Education Commissioner pointing to the educational apartheid BloomKlein were perpetuating at Jamaica HS. (Read James' letter at the ICE blog: Letter to State Ed Commissioner: Stop Academic Apartheid)

The Times didn’t do any digging at all, just accepting the DOE line, as evidenced here:

Education officials say they are creating more schools that could eventually absorb some of the demand. Elizabeth Sciabarra, the director of the Department of Education’s office of enrollment, said that Francis Lewis had done a "pretty terrific job" of dealing with the overcrowding but that she could not say how many more students it could handle. "You have people who deliberately choose that school and live in the neighborhood because of that," she said, adding that the city had never capped enrollment at a high school. "Once you start to put a cap on, then where do you send those kids? I don’t see how we would be able to do that in a way that would be fair."

The Times neglected to ask Sciabarra why Tweed doesn't pour enough resources into Jamaica and Bowne to make them attractive enough so kids will want to go there. (For those who think that wouldn't work, look up the 1970's case of Mark Twain MS in Coney Island which went from worst to best in a blink, with pretty much the same teaching staff.)

The Times also neglected to read Arthur Goldstein's powerful piece at Gotham Schools, A Tale of Two Queens High Schools, where he compared the Jamaica and Francis Lewis situation and points to the Tweed complicity in turning people away from Jamaica. This is an important piece and example of real journalistic excellence.

For the times to make no connection to the Eterno and Goldstein pieces amounts to journalistic malpractice that rivals Tweed's educational malpractice. But then again, the Times and BloomKlein are on the same side.


The Arthur Goldstein article at Gotham

A Tale of Two Queens High Schools

Imagine there are two high schools in the same borough. One school can’t enroll enough kids to stay open, and the other is filled to 250% of capacity. What would you do? It might seem logical to even out the population of both schools, but that is not how New York City operates.

I’m in one of the most overcrowded schools in the city, Francis Lewis High School. Our building is designed for 1,800 kids, and last year we were up to 4,450. This year we hit 4,700, and the sky’s the limit. Where the extra kids will go I have no idea. I teach in a trailer out back, and you wouldn’t use it to house your dog if you had a choice.

In the trailers, you never can tell if there will be heat on cold days or AC on hot ones (and don’t buy a used car from anyone who tells you tin keeps you cool). The bathrooms are an abomination. Though school trailers are all the rage in New York City, you never see them on the news. If I didn’t visit one every working day of my life, I probably wouldn’t believe they existed.

On the other hand, James Eterno, chapter leader at Jamaica High School, has a completely different problem. Not enough kids are enrolling in his school. Could we help one another? That way, if, God forbid, there were ever a fire or something, perhaps more of us could make it out alive. How did things get to this point?

It’s complicated. Longtime teachers know that a lot of incidents routinely go unreported. The Bloomberg administration, early on, declared all incidents would be reported, and some administrators took those words to heart — as did those at Jamaica. The consequences are highly unlikely to encourage other administrators to do the same.

The city labeled Jamaica a “priority” school, and then an “impact” school. Ultimately, the state labeled the school “persistently dangerous.” Under NCLB, this triggered a letter home to all Jamaica parents, offering them an opportunity to transfer their kids to another school. Understandably, the school population dropped precipitously. Was Jamaica persistently dangerous, or was it just reporting more incidents than its neighbors?

Administration then began to move in the opposite direction. This resulted in the disastrous policy (by no means unique to Jamaica) of not allowing staff to call 911 without administrative approval. This was widely covered in the media, and likely resulted in even lower enrollment at Jamaica.

The DoE’s position was that Jamaica needed surveillance cameras, police, and metal detectors to improve. Eterno felt it would’ve benefited more from additional counselors, teachers, and social workers. But that was not to be the case. In fact, in 2008 Jamaica had over a dozen teachers, excessed due to declining enrollment, sitting in the school day after day, sometimes working as subs.

Why couldn’t these teachers have been used to decrease class sizes, and consequently give more attention to kids at Jamaica? The answer may be that the DoE had other plans for the space created by the exodus of local kids.

In 2008, Queens Collegiate, a school co-sponsored by the College Board, was placed in what used to be the social studies wing of Jamaica High. Jamaica’s social studies department was banished to an office in which they shared a single electrical outlet. Meanwhile, according to Eterno, Queens Collegiate rooms got paint, computers, smartboards, and everything else private-public ventures are entitled to in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York.

Additional schools create additional levels of administration and eat up classroom space, worsening overcrowding. Eterno asks, “Wouldn’t it be a better idea to fix a place like Jamaica?” At overcrowded Francis Lewis High School, I wonder the same thing. Why couldn’t the free space in Jamaica be used to help us, rather than a privately-sponsored school? Why doesn’t the city invest in technology, magnet programs, and better conditions to draw kids to Jamaica?

In fact, why don’t they offer prospective Jamaica students lower class sizes (which parents declared their number one priority on a DoE-sponsored survey)? Hasn’t Mayor Bloomberg accepted hundreds of millions of CFE lawsuit funds for that very purpose? Isn’t fixing schools for our kids, whether or not they win charter lotteries, whether or not they’re accepted into elite schools, worth a try?

Eterno says of the DoE, “If they perceive you as troubled, they don’t throw you a lifeline. They seem to say, ‘Good, you’re drowning. We hope you go under.’” But is that attitude unique to Jamaica? It doesn’t appear so. Our school is just a variation on a theme. They perceive us as successful, and seem to want to overcrowd us until we reach a breaking point — which is nothing short of inevitable.

It’s sort of a Catch 22 — struggle and you’re in danger of closing, but excel and you’re packed to the rafters and beyond. Why not give Lewis kids a real incentive to attend Jamaica, or any nearby school for that matter? Any time it felt like it, this administration could wake up and help me and James Eterno.

More importantly, it could help the thousands of kids we serve.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eighty Percent of Teachers in DC Reject Rhee Management

"Any system that alienates 80 percent of its front-line workers is not just failing; it is dying."

"[Rhee] can't fire her way into a workforce that supports her; she can only bully her way into a workforce that dare not criticize her mismanagement."

An informal poll of teachers came up with these results. While this is not scientific, there is certainly a major loss in confidence in Rhee's management by a majority of the teachers.

From DCWatch: TheMail

Chris Lewis reports at City Desk ( on DC Voice's report on its interviews with over a hundred DC middle and high school teachers ( “There's lots of interesting stuff, but here's the whammy stat: ‘The teachers were asked if they like how the school system is run and to provide reasons for their answers. Eighty percent of the teachers replied no to this question, 8 percent replied yes.' The remaining 12 percent said they both like and dislike aspects of DCPS management. When the 80 percent were asked to explain their discontent, the most common response was ‘a lack of respect for and blaming of teachers.' Other frequent complaints are ‘poor communication between the District and local schools' and ‘a rigid governance structure' that ‘does not pay attention to what is happening in the classroom, nor allow for questions to be asked.'” Eighty percent of teachers dislike how the system is run. For the teacher-haters who want to see Chancellor Rhee run over teachers with a bulldozer, that's encouraging news, but for anyone who wants the DC public school system to work, it's disastrous. Any system that alienates 80 percent of its front-line workers is not just failing; it is dying.

Dan Brown, a DC charter school teacher, has written a scathing account of the DCPS teacher firings at The Huffington Post, “Mass Teacher Layoffs in DC Amount to One Hell of a Power Play by Michelle Rhee,” The Washington Post's editorial board cheers on Rhee's war against teachers again today: “Critics of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee say she is using the city's budget problems as a way to get rid of teachers she doesn't want. They're probably right” ( But the Post pretends, with no evidence, that Rhee is firing bad teachers, when she is only firing the 80 percent of teachers who think she is doing a bad job running the schools. She can't fire her way into a workforce that supports her; she can only bully her way into a workforce that dare not criticize her mismanagement.

Earlier this year the city council passed a budget that included some additional money for the DC State Board of Education. Mayor Fenty, who wants to cripple the Board of Education and make it powerless, vetoed the whole citywide budget over this item. Last week, it looked possible that the city council would actually stand up to the mayor and overrule his veto, but instead it caved completely and surrendered to the mayor. The Washington Post's CityWire described ( the details of the agreement that the council is trying to portray as a “compromise,” and commenters on the CityWire site don't buy it, as they shouldn't.

Commenter candycane1 writes: “Ok if I read this correctly, they [the Board of Education] get to hire three people, not of their choosing but from a list given to them by the Superintendent, whose boss is the Deputy Mayor of Education, whose boss is the mayor. So basically, the hirees comes from the mayor. What a compromise.” The Board of Education won't even have the power to fire any of its new employees chosen by Rhee. So much for its independence.

And the Washington Times has an article whose title is self-explanatory: “Private Parts Made a Public Concern: DC High Schools Test for STDs as Well as College Aptitude,”

Will the UFT Survey Principal and Teacher Cheating?

Philip Nobile asks this question and I would guess NO WAY. The UFT is very happy with inflated grades – see all their praise for Bloomberg on how wonderful he has made the schools. So the chance they would put their foot in this water is nil.

A lot of this stuff also went on in the 70's, 80's and 90's, so let's not put all the blame for test mania on BloomKlein and NCLB.

I would say that many of the people I knew did some level of cheating (including me). I used to save old exams and collect vocabulary words and math examples and use these as Do Nows in future years. Some teachers cheated during the actual exam by looking over kids' shoulders and nudging them. Others did the erasing bit after the exams. Some teachers cheat because they don't want to lose favor with the principal, or lose that merit pay bonus (the exact reason for merit pay schemes is to encourage cheating) or because they feel it would be unfair to leave certain hard working kids left back due to BloomKlein idiotic promotional policies. A friend recently told me how teachers in her school used to sit one smart kid in the middle of struggling kids and just didn't notice when they looked at his/her paper.

One guy I worked with got caught through one of these eraser examinations and his class has to be retested but nothing happened to him (he was the principal's lackey at the time). She was thrilled with people who cheated and many of us suspected that when she and the AP locked themselves in the office with all the exams for a few hours after the test was over there was something funny going on.

Here is Philip's email:

Grade changing is an occupational hazard in public schools. Every teacher knows it goes on and, except for the occasional whistleblower, nobody does anything about it. Obviously, management and unions are averse to admitting that their members routinely tamper with test results. As Steven Levitt wrote in Freakonomics, “teacher cheating is rarely looked for, hardly ever detected, and just about never punished.”

No longer in Chicago

During the summer the Chicago Teachers Union collaborated with a Chicago Sun-Times in a cheating survey of 1200 teachers.,CST-NWS-grades30.article# The results published on August 29 should be no surprise to inner city educators. The Sun-Times disclosed that “Nearly a third of Chicago public high school teachers say they were pressured to change grades this past school year. One in five report they actually raised a grade under such prodding.”

The pressure came from several directions—parents, peers, and principals. Here are some interesting passages from the paper’s “Watchdog Report”:

The findings raise serious questions about whether some of the data used to judge Chicago public schools has been inflated, artificially manipulated -- or in some cases outright altered.

The responses pulled back the curtain on the stress many teachers feel every time they sit down to issue grades.

"I am giving grades. Kids aren't earning them," said math teacher Bonnie Kayser.

'It's in the culture'

Teachers reported pressure from principals, "upset'' parents and even other CPS employees who were parents of their students. They said the squeeze was put on them to pass failing students, to give ill students a break or to help athletes. Some felt prodded to goose up grades to help kids graduate, avoid summer school or get into an elite high school.

Such heat was twice as common among teachers in high schools, where the push is on to reduce failure rates. Several such teachers said they felt pressured to offer last-minute deals to kids so they wouldn't fail. Another said her school lowered its grading scale and "still we are pressured to change grades.''

"That's all this district cares about -- how many kids are failing. Not how many kids are learning,'' said Kayser, who taught math at Fenger Achievement Academy last year.

Kayser said she was urged to assign make-up work, offer extra credit and stop giving zeros for missed assignments -- even for students who blew off most work or skipped tests.

Other survey respondents said grade-inflation is simply built into the high-school system.

"It's in the culture of the schools,'' wrote one experienced high school teacher who raised numerous grades under pressure -- and said at least one was changed without his approval. "You can't completely be honest in grading students, otherwise the failure rate would be off the chart.''

According to a September 1 follow-up, Mayor Richard Daley is taking action:

“Of those pressured, more than half pinpointed principals, but Daley focused on teachers Tuesday instead. ‘First of all, you have to find out who all the teachers are [who] would do that. That's No. 1,’ Daley said. ‘Then, they're gonna go and get those teachers, investigate those teachers and say, 'Why would you cheat a student?' . . . It all starts with the teachers.’ CTU President Marilyn Stewart said in a written statement that teachers should be ‘commended for shedding light on this very serious issue,’ and any investigation should begin ‘with those putting pressure on the teachers. . . . The teachers are not the problem; they are the victims.’''

What about cheating in New York’s public schools? Except for a five-year-old story in the New York Post (“TEACHERS CHEAT: Inflating Regents scores to pass kids,” Jan. 26, 2004), I am unaware of any public discussion of the problem in our system. Last spring I surveyed Chapter Leaders at meetings in Brooklyn and Manhattan—24 of 27 replied that scrubbing (defined on the survey as illegal tampering with Regents scores) occurred at his or her school. A UFT rep once told me that I “hated” children when I endorsed zero tolerance for tampering.

Will the UFT duplicate the CTU’s intrepid self-examination with a survey of its own or continue its indifference to the undoubtedly tainted numbers propping up the Klein regime? President Michael Mulgrew has been asked, but so far he has declined to answer.

Philip Nobile

Rubber Room

Chapel St., Brooklyn

Time to Re-Test and Review

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Commentary on Wash DC Rally

Candi Peterson reports on yesterday's DC rally with some TV coverage.

A few points:

Michelle Rhee hired 900 new people and then claimed she didn't realize there would be cuts. Sure.

Now she wants to lay off masses of teachers. Want to bet those 900 newbies are not the ones going?

Keep on eye on the racial component of the 900 newbies and the ones let go. Will these cuts reinforce the concept of the disappearing black educator in urban schools.

The AFT which is headquartered in DC ignored it. Teamsters, AFGE, cab drivers came out, but the AFT only sent a staffer to observe. Similar to the UFT sending observers to charter school rallies here in NYC. Anyone surprised?

WTU head George Parker opposed it. He even tried to undercut it with a night before robocall and email to members. Reminds you of Randi's undercutting the ATR rally with her wine and cheese party in November (See my video "A Tale of Two Rallies").

When GEM held a march and rally at Tweed in May, one school being invaded by a charter was going to come out en masse but got a call from a UFT rep discouraging them. As I always say, the AFT/UFT function as deflectors of militancy as a way to keep the membership under their thumb.

Here is a segment from Candi's report:
We also had participation from the American Federation of Government Employees, the Teamsters and the taxi cab drivers. Parents, community activists and students attended as well. All the reporters were out in full force and effect as well as an independent film maker while AFT representative Jody Easley lurked in the background the entire time acting as though he didn't want to be seen.

Read more:
Washington DC Teacher Rally !

A Big Fat Greek-Jewish Wedding

I don't usually do personal but it's a slow Saturday. Two weeks ago our best friends' daughter Dara married Chris at Battery Park Gardens on a beautiful Sunday with a wonderful view of the harbor. They met as freshman 7 years ago at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and with both working in arts related fields, designed their own wedding, beautifully thought out, and it went off practically without a hitch. It turned out to be Harbor Day, so there were lots of interesting distractions coming from outside. Like the 20 person Navy brass band during the ceremony. And the pirate ship with the Jolly Roger parking right in front of us.

Dara is Jewish and Chris is Greek, so there was a Greek orthodox priest and female rabbi, who turned out to be very funny and had the place rolling during the ceremony. When people began to dance, it started with the traditional hora, which morphed into a Greek circle dance.

Mark, the father of the groom, is my video partner in our mythical production company, NorMark Productions. Recently we both bought the new Kodak Z18 flip-type video camera (which can shoot hi-def video, has a mic output, and a pull out USB connector to plug right into your camera, which you don't even have to do because it shoots on SD cards which can be flipped into a computer). The cost was around $170 (sans cards).

Mark handed the camera to a few of us during the wedding to get whatever footage we could. He then created a wonderful montage and put it up on You-tube. People who saw it said they didn't even know someone was shooting video, that is how unobtrusive the camera is.

Dara and Chris, on their honeymoon in Greece, got to an internet cafe and were able to watch it, maybe a world record for the fastest turn around time in a couple seeing video of their wedding. Mark and I think this will be a new paradigm, where instead of putting those still cameras at each table, a few flips will be handed out to the guest to shoot their own footage.

I have it here for those who don't click the links, but it is much better when you watch it directly on you tube.

David Bellel has been using a Flip camera for quite some time to shoot many of the political events here. Since there is so much power in video, activists should check out these cheap and effective cameras. The Kodak Z18 has the advantage of an external mic connection to improve the sound. Imagine going to a press conference at Tweed or City Hall and standing next to all the giant TV cameras with a little deck of cards sized camera on a tripod.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Did Tweed and the Leadership Academy Pull the Plug on New (and old) PS 84 Principal?

The Sordid Hand of Tweed and the Leadership Academy at PS 84 revealed, how they throw their own under the bus.

Tweed worried over how actions at PS 84 will affect the Latino community's support for Bloomberg.

The PS 84 community objects to another LA grad:

This the second “in a row” inexperienced graduate of the School Leadership Academy to be assigned to P.S. 84. THE LATINO AND AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN OF P.S. 84 CANNOT CONTINUE TO BE USED AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RAW, UNTESTED “POTENTIAL” PRINCIPALS TRAINED BY THE ACADEMY. Would you have sent either of these candidates to Stuyvesant? How would you expect those parents would react?

Principal of PS 84 resigns

When the Leadership Academy grad principal of PS 84 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn suddenly resigned last Thursday afternoon (Sept. 17), Tweed moved quickly to appoint another Leadership Academy grad as interim acting principal. The appointment was made from the very top levels of Tweed and the Leadership Academy, with James Quail, the District 14 Superintendent being notified but having no say.

With the new version of mayoral control supposedly giving back some powers to the local superintendents, this is a clear sign that Tweed will continue to go around them.

Parent activist Lisa Donlan has discovered that there is a line of LA grads (38) longer than the line at a Kennedy runway on July 4th weekend waiting to be placed and that they are being forced down people's throats.

But wait, this story gets better and better.

The teacher union response
On Friday morning (Sept. 18), a scheduled union meeting was taking place before school began. The union was under a new and more aggressive leadership, mostly in response to the tactics of the old principal, one of the Leadership Academy fave types - young, aggressive and with a mission to decimate the union and any organized parent opposition. She failed in that task, but that is for a follow-up story.

Even though it was her last day in the school, she felt comfortable interrupting the union meeting by bringing her replacement in for an introduction. The chapter leader, expressing years of frustration at the arrogant actions of this principal said, "Sorry, we are having a union meeting" and shut the door, sending a message that milquetoast unionism was at an end at PS 84. Later, at a luncheon for the new principal, the teachers went in to introduce themselves. They were impressed by the new guy's willingness to meet with the UFT reps immediately on Monday to discuss all issues of their concern,

The community response
In the meantime, lots of stuff was going on in the community. There is no official PTA at PS 84 because no elections were held in the spring. Sources say they were told it was not necessary by people in the office of family engagement. (There needs to be a lot more investigation of the political role Martine Guerrier's operation plays at the local level.) Maybe someone at Tweed knew of the coming resignation (there was an investigation going on) and didn't want any PTA interference in their plans, so they "discouraged" elections so there would be no functioning PTA.

But that didn't stop active elements in the old PTA from contacting local community forces, who came to the school on Friday (Sept. 18).

Former PTA president Jaime Estades and long-time District 14 activist Juan Martinez, founder of Progress HS based at Eastern District HS campus in Williamsburg, met with the principal, who had been an AP at Legal Studies, another HS at that campus that had its principal removed, before entering the Leadership Academy, but seems to have had no previous contact with them).

They told him in no uncertain terms they did not want him as the new principal as imposed on them by Tweed. It was nothing personal, but a process that brings in a total outsider with no elementary school experience and without any consultation with any of the interested parties was just not acceptable.

They raised concerns about the fact that the school is overwhelming Latino/a and the process didn't give them an opportunity to urge the placement of a supervisor who had been part of the community and had a similar background to the children. They also pointed out that the current Assistant Principal was a long-time teacher at the school and would have certainly been a natural choice as interim acting principal, especially considering the fact that the Tweed appointee had zero experience in elementary schools.

That the current AP who spent her career at the school and who would have made for a seamless transition was not even a consideration certainly creates suspicions about Tweed intentions, which we view as twofold:

  1. getting someone in with no ties to the school or community to make sure there is no stakeholder in trying to keep PS 84 from being a target for closing or for charter school invasion
  2. cutting into the 38 person Principal Academy ATR list – where's the press when supervisors get paid for nothing?

There was some back and forth and the principal said a few things that have come back to haunt him.

Before I go on, I want to say that the teachers and some of the parents have nothing bad to say about this guy and in fact in the last week he has impressed people with an attitude totally different from his predecessor. But it's less than a week and people say all kinds of things. Besides, the process is under discussion, not the person.

They send a letter to Klein
I won't get into the details of exactly what he said (you can read it all at the link to the letter sent by the parents below), but when he was asked how he could deal with a community of children he was not familiar with, he responded he was used to dealing with foreigners. While he meant it fairly innocuously and the people present understand that and bear him no ill will, they used his response to make a point about having someone who has been involved in the community branding their kids as "foreigners". The upshot was that a letter was sent to Joel Klein and released on listserves with 10 points opposing the appointment, one of the key points being:

This the second “in a row” inexperienced graduate of the School Leadership Academy to be assigned to P.S. 84. THE LATINO AND AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN OF P.S. 84 CANNOT CONTINUE TO BE USED AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RAW, UNTESTED “POTENTIAL” PRINCIPALS TRAINED BY THE ACADEMY. Would you have sent either of these candidates to Stuyvesant? How would you expect those parents would react?

You can read the entire letter at Norms Notes.

This resistance on the part of the community as push back against a Tweed appointment is remarkable considering the almost total lack of community action in the BloomKlein years and may be a harbinger to come. I don't expect Bloomberg's third term to be as peaceful as the first two as school politics at the local level begin to bubble to the surface. Martine should have her hands full running around putting out these fires.

Tweed responds

Just as remarkable was the response of Tweed.

The Klein administration immediately cut off communications with the parent and community group and charged this was all a stunt to create animosity towards Bloomberg among the Latino/a community in the upcoming election, which shows you what the Children First people really have on their mind.

Now comes the part which shows it's all about public relations with Tweed.

El Diario got involved towards the end of the week (they were busy with UN stuff earlier) and called Tweed about the story.

They blamed it all on James Quail, the superintendent of District 14 who was ignored a week before over who would be principal of PS 84. "It was his appointment," the Tweed press department told the paper, claiming no responsibility, an out and out lie.

When El Diario was informed later they were blatantly lied to, they supposedly blew a gasket. An article was supposed to appear today.

The acting principal soon after announced he was withdrawing from consideration as the permanent principal of PS 84. It is pretty clear he was ordered to do so by Tweed and the Principal's Academy, which is desperate to avoid scrutiny over how they pour money into a ditch.

My guess is this has to do with the Bloomberg election and when it's over things will be back to Tweed normal time.

As I said, the principal had started winning people over in the last week. He supposedly sounds like a real educator. But I warned my contacts that it is not what he says but how he will function. PS 84 is a prime target for charter school invasion. The principal may think he is there to really address educational issues, when in fact he will be expected to make sure there will be no opposition when the charters come calling.

There is a lot more back story that I will try to get up over the weekend.
Was the resigned principal forced out? Was an investigation of the resigned principal covered up? How the UFT chapter, under brand new leadership, responded.

To understand how PS 84 is a target for charter schools, read these Ed Notes back pieces of how the PS 84 community fought off charter schools in the past.

January 12, 2009
The Impact of Gentrification on One School in Williamsburg

January 29, 2008
Victory at PS 84K: Tweed Backs Down

January 28, 2008
PTA of PS 84K Protest on Wed at noon- I spent 5 years at this school and this is beyond outrage

Thursday, September 24, 2009

PS 15/PAVE at CEC 15: UFT Presentation

Bob Zuckerberg is known as one of the more effective district reps in the UFT. Note here how he must straddle the line based on the fact that the UFT itself has two charter schools in two public schools. Zuckerberg offers support to the PS 15 community but accepts the fact that PAVE will get its extension. "It's a done deal," he said afterward. UFT district reps all over the city have been placed in the position of offering little more than moral support to schools like PS 15.

"This is about PS 15," he says. He is just doing his job. The UFT ideologues make it seem to be about only your school as they hide the fact that this is about a national assault on public schools and should be fought by bringing all the schools together to strategize. Their strategy is to straddle the fence with the goal of one day organizing the charter school teachers into the union. What they are missing, few of them will be staying long enough to make that possible.

If a charter school shows up at your door with DOE support, which does the spade work by exaggerating the space you supposedly don't need and by using all kinds of tactics to red line your school so kids don't get there, start to fight like hell. But you will have to do it by contacting other schools because that is a game the UFT doesn't play.

Thus, schools invaded by charters must do the organizing themselves. The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), an affiliate of Ed Notes, though brand new, has tried to assist schools in their organizing efforts and a group of GEMers were at this meeting to support PS 15. Check out the GEM blog at:

Caroline Hoxby Has a Dog in the Race

That Caroline Hoxby study showing the superiority of charter schools and trying to prove they don't cream received some reactions:

Caroline (not Hoxby) has left a new comment on your post "Critique of charter school study":

Caroline Hoxby, who conducted this so-called "study," is not an impartial academic researcher. She's a longtime, high-profile proponent of free-market "solutions" and privatization. Her work should not be treated like credible academic research; it's advocacy -- or propaganda, if you will.

I'm really shocked that the mainstream press is not even including disclaimers to this effect in its massive hyping of this so-called study. That truly violates media standards and ethics, and misleads the reader.

Here an analysis of the flawed study itself, by a New York blogger. But to me it's also a huge issue that the press has simply abandoned its standards and ethics by reporting on this propaganda as if it were credible academic research.

Which opens with:

What is "The Gold Standard"?

Did you hear about the big report that came out this week? You know, the one that "shows" that NYC charter schools are better than traditional non-charter public schools? It has gotten a ton of attention, probably because it uses "'the gold standard' method[ology]." The report is not subtle about this. It is right there in the very first sentence of the executive summary, "The distinctive feature of this study is that charter schools' effects on achievement are estimated by the best available, "gold standard" method: lotteries." It even uses the term "gold standard" four more times throughout the report.

Everyone wants to follow The Gold Standard -- or at least be able to say that they do. Of course! I mean, who wouldn't? But I do not think that we actually have a gold standard in education research. In fact, I am quite sure that we do not, and appropriating biomedical research's gold standard does not make it appropriate for us.

However, if we are going to borrow their standard, can we not at least get it right?
The blogger, a NY educator, also known as Ceolaf, ends by linking to the fawning press:

Moreover, the popular press(Wash. Post) really must do a better job of examining these claims critically, rather than cheerleading(NY Times), NY Post, Daily News, Wall St. Journal.

Read it all

Leonie wrote on her listserve:

Lots of PR spin about the new charter school study by Caroline Hoxby. No quote from any possible critic or skeptic except in Daily news article.
Nor is there any mention of following facts in any of the articles:

1- Hoxby is a very controversial figure , a conservative economist, who has been accused of skewing her analyses before to benefit the notion of vouchers and charters. See this controversy sparked by her pro-voucher study of school quality based on whether they were near "streams": (this story, coincidentally, was written by Javier Hernandez as undergraduate at Harvard, before he was hired by the NY Times.)

2- One of the prime advantages of most charters, if they do indeed show better results, is their smaller classes. In NYC, this results from the fact that DOE has allowed them to cap enrollment and class size at far lower levels than most regular public schools in NYC.

3- it is difficult if not impossible to figure out how much of the advantage at charter schools, in addition to smaller class size, might be due to "peer effects"; ie charter school students are surrounded by other students from more motivated families, who know they can be kicked out at any sign of slacking off or disciplinary trouble. This is certainly not the case in regular public schools; where the students who "lose" the charter school lotteries are surrounded by students from less motivated households, who are also less afraid of being forced out of school for bad behavior or poor performance.

Thus, whether the entire comparison is fair is quite debatable.

From JMB:

Also, inquiring minds note the sleight of hand that redefines the cohort by looking at kids who stay enrolled K-8. This eliminates all the lottery winners who were weeded out and/or had needs the charters were unable or unwilling to address.

And even the UFT's Edwize chipped in:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Big Guvment

I was listening to Mike Francese on the FAN yesterday. I have been a Mike fan since he started there 21 years ago. I used to call him up off air to ask for advice about a former student who had become a great high school basketball player. So I feel this long-term relationship with him.

But I am disconcerted when Mike enters into the political arena, which he did with his attack on the proposed health care changes yesterday. Mike takes the view that government can't do anything right. The corollary must be that private is better.

Well, I just had a day and a half of nightmare private plumbing, where a 10 minute job turned into hours. And 10 minutes after the guy left, the place leaked like a hole in a dike without a finger. And I actually know something about plumbing, having done lots of work on my own, including installing baseboard heating. I mean I can solder a joint. And sweat it. And put on the flux. This guy was a destroyer and I ended up with more work needed than when he started.
Hey, Mulgrew, where are all those apprentice plumbers you were working on?

I find Mike's take interesting since he knows his sports, none of which is under government control – at least the last I looked. Well, if you consider that politicians who run government are happy to subsidize any stadium that comes their way, I guess they are involved in sports. But has Mike looked at the privately managed NY Mets lately? Or the Knicks? How about the classic decade long failures in sports management like the San Diego Rockets. Or, even better, J-E-T-S!!!

This lauding of private over public leaves out so much about the enormous failures and errors privately managed organizations make all the time. Microsoft has been notorious for numerous errors in judgment and has wasted billions. Anyone remember Bob? Their bloated software is known not to work until they sell you 3 versions. They can waste these billions because they were brilliant in setting up a monopoly.

This is all pretty funny since Bill Gates thinks he knows what's wrong with public schools, yet brought the Microsoft ethos by getting the first iteration of small schools wrong. Now in the 2nd iteration, he is looking at teacher quality. Guess what Bill? Maybe on the third try you'll get it right. Try class size reduction.

How about all those captains of the financial meltdown? Can you spell A-I-G? How was that private management? The guvment owns so much of them and they don't seem to be doing worse.

Now I read that former Ebay chairwoman Meg Whitman, a McCain advisor (how did that work out) is running for governor of California. Whitman's errors at Ebay in recent years became legendary. Even I scratched my head when she bought SKYPE. (See recent NY Times on this one.) I'm not picking on women here, but how did Carly Fiorina (another McCain advisor who went down in flames) do at HP?

Now when it comes to health care, my wife knows a thing or two. She deals with the thievin' insurance companies and medicare all the time. In terms of competence, guvment wins all the time. (Right now she is looking forward to retirement so she won't have to deal with the the crew at GHI and HIP who don't know who covers what and when.)

So, Mike. Take a broad look at guvment and private and give us a balanced view.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PS 15 Makes Their Case

The Patrick Daly School (PS 15) in Red Hook struggles against the attempt of PAVE charter school to extend its stay for years after promising to leave after 2 years.

The PS 15 community rallied at the CEC District 15 meeting last Thursday (Sept. 17), as did PAVE parents and staff. Which made for a fascinating meeting, with lots of cross talk, sometimes heated, between parents and teachers on each side. If I was a documentary filmmaker I would have focused on these person to person discussions. But I was there to get the speakers.

Here is a history of the conflict and a summary of the PS 15 position on DOE footprints and allocation of space plus many other issues. See our other videos of the meeting in previous posts or search norscot2 at You Tube. (Excuse the fuzziness. The tape came out ok but somehow it loses something in the exporting process, which has never happened before. Must be gremlins in the computer.)

On Teacher Quality: Damn That Fiorillo Fellow

Will I ever get to write something in depth for this blog ? Every time I sit down to write something brilliant - which 99% of the time doesn't get from my mind to my fingertips - someone like Michael Fiorillo goes ahead and breaks into my brain and steals it. I've often touched on the issue of why teacher quality is so stressed as the key factor in our profession while other jobs like medical, legal, political, police, corporate, etc. are ignored. Now along comes Michael Fiorillo who puts it all into such a neat package in this comment at Gotham Schools, which I would categorize as, "I wish I had written it."

There is a new comment on:

More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year

Author: Michael Fiorillo

As a teacher, I'd be the last one to minimize our (potential) importance in the lives of students, but as others have pointed out, "Why the obsessive focus on incompetent teachers, to the complete exclusion of other professions and fields?"

The US has a shamefully high infant and maternal death rate: why aren't OB-GYNs being targeted with the same passion?

The US has lower life expectancy than other developed nations: where are the witchhunts against primary care doctors and other health care professionals (let alone the real "death panels," the insurers)?

The US incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth, most of them minority, and many of them warehoused in private, for-profit prisons, providing a structural incentive for continuing incarceration: where are the corporate think tanks, foundations and PR firms making noise about this "Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?"

The reason those debates have so little "juice" is because these fields have already been privatized, with free reign given to those who would count, measure, control and commodify and market everything. Public education, along with Social Security, is the last major universal, public good left to be taken over by the hedge funds, private equity parasites and venture capitalists. Thus, this unending campaign against teachers and their unions, and this absurd debate about teacher quality.

I'm not proposing witchhunts. My point is that this very discussion proves the success of corporate ed deform in framing the issue of education solely as one of teacher quality. Even the unions have allowed themselves to be suckered into this twisted, unfair discourse, which they can only lose.

Do you want to improve the lives of poor and minority students? Then improve the lives of poor and minority students: provide their parents with living-wage jobs, adequate housing, medical, dental and mental health care and, yes, adequately funded schools with committed (sorry, TFA) and qualified teachers.

Until we open up that debate, teachers will be shouted into a corner by arrogant know-nothings with thick wallets, pursuing their own interests in the name of "The Underprivileged."

As for edu-scientist (now that's a hot one), I'd like to quote Norbert Wiener, a mathematician and early computer scientist, and coiner of the term "cyber:"

"The success of mathematical physics led the social scientist to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power. The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences and became the mode in the social sciences... so the economists (MF: and "psychometricians" as well the
overwhelming majority of ideologically-subsidized "education researchers") have developed the habit of dressing up their rather imprecise ideas in the language of the infinitesimal calculus."

Norbert Wiener, "God and Golem, Inc."

I know this dates me, but every time I hear a DOE/Ed Deform mouthpiece say "Research shows that...", while pulling some self-serving nonsense out of their butt, I think of the old Trident gum ad: "Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum."

Yeah, that's the ticket.

See all comments at Gotham on this post:

Mulgrew Profiled in Times, With Quote from Eterno

As James Eterno says in Jennifer Medina's profile of UFT leader Michael Mulgrew in today's Times.

“We’re not expecting any major change — it’s still the same machine that is running the U.F.T.,” said James Eterno, who is making a long-shot bid to challenge Mr. Mulgrew. “In some ways, it does not matter who the head is, you know that they are going to toe the line and not fight for many changes for teachers.”

Give Medina some credit for talking to James. The press generally ignores the fact that there is internal opposition in the UFT. I don't know why she didn't include this great photo of James and Camille Eterno and two month old daughter Kara Teresa, who will be running against Leo Casey for HS VP in the UFT elections, the youngest candidate in history.

Oh, I forgot. The story was about Mulgrew.

There certainly will be some cosmetic differences beyond the obvious ones in the transition from Weingarten to Mulgrew.

Medina touches on what I would term the all around Weingarten fatigue from within and without the UFT (have fun you guys over at the AFT in DC), even in her own Unity party:

Mr. Mulgrew cuts quite a different figure from those who came before him... And the distinctions are not just physical. His predecessor, Randi Weingarten, was known for her work-around-the-clock ethos and frequent news conferences, and seemed to relish rising to the balls of her feet and shouting to make a point.

Internal sources at 52 Broadway, commenting on the immediate differences between them at last week's Delegate Assembly, made the point that Mulgrew came down to the meeting on time (Randi would have traipsed in at 5pm with no worries about keeping a thousand people waiting and would have talked for another hour) and got the business done. Of course, the usual business was introducing politicians who get more speaking time at DA's than people who disagree with the members.

One education official who spoke only on the condition that he not be identified for fear of angering Mr. Mulgrew — or his predecessor — contrasted the two by saying that Ms. Weingarten often seemed to be calculating several moves ahead when she spoke. Mr. Mulgrew, the official said, says exactly what he is thinking. Asked to respond to the comparison, Mr. Mulgrew gave another belly laugh: “I can’t answer that one without getting myself in trouble — maybe it’s a good idea people believe you say what you’re thinking.”

Pretty funny for a guy being touted as someone who says what he is thinking to say, "I can't answer that one without getting myself in trouble." Go ahead, Mike. Get in trouble. Say what you're thinking. Randi was a pain in the ass.

Of course, the same Unity machine mob mentality still exists (when Randi took over she promised major reform and turned out to be more undemocratic and more of a demagogue than either Shanker or Feldman) and it took a point of order by Eterno at the DA to get the floor.

Eterno got to say his piece but with numerous interruptions by Mulgrew. Weingarten was notorious for never letting people finish as she interrupted repeatedly with points she disagreed with and Mulgrew must feel he has to show his muscle to the Unity hacks by doing the same.

There were Unity Caucus and full time staffers hooting and hollering as they guarded the isles. We actually have a copy of the floor plan of action they lay out before each meeting.

The crazy mob scene and truly dumb increase in security in the lobby (with one sumo wrestler type with shaved head standing with arms folded blocking the stairs) and hallways of 52 may be a sign that Mulgrew's lauded attention to detail failed him in this first major test of running a DA. Changing from a chapter leader to a DA at the last minute and holding a meeting in a room that holds 850 when there are over 3000 delegates (the reality is that between 1000 and 1200 were expected to show was not a good introduction for the 350 new chapter leaders and countless new delegates.

If we at least get some straight shooting from Mulgrew instead of Weingarten's whining, that will be an improvement. But as James Eterno points out, Mulgrew will be stumped on the big issues because he is running a union structure with an ideology that just cannot win improvements for the members and the children of NYC (and for you troglodytes out there, yes I am linking the two).

Medina quotes Leo Casey:

Leo Casey, the vice president of high schools for the union. “Leaving aside the huge budget gaps, he also has to figure out how to mount a response to the charter school movement that accepts the best of what they should be, but really turns back the attempt to use charter schools to privatize education.”

Gee, Leo, ya think? Casey is one of the architects of the failed UFT policy on charter schools (and the open market system, atrs, rubber rooms, seniority, etc), with two UFT charters occupying space in public schools, leaving teachers in school being invaded by charters on their own to fight back school by school.

Here's a simple prediction: Mulgrew will not be able to turn back the use of charter schools to privatize education and the Unity Caucus leadership is a major obstacle in organizing teachers and parents to be able to do so.

Casey rose on the tails of Weingarten (he was her chapter leader at Clara Barton HS for the 10 minutes she taught). Will he fall now that she is gone?

Hey Mike, tell us what you really think of Leo Casey.

See Anna Philips' profiles of Eterno and Mulgrew at Gotham Schools.

Monday, September 21, 2009

ATR Job Fair --Prospect Hall

Hi Norm,
The job fair in Brooklyn was the same JOKE as always. Most of them bad schools. I did not see one single schools from Staten Island. I wonder if the chapter leaders in these districts are reporting vacancies or are they in bed with the principals?
The UFT sent the usual people. We waited outside in the sun for 30 minutes and most of the teachers were black, Hispanic, Chinese, some old white teachers. They had cheese, crackers, fruit, coffee, juices for the principals, interviewers, and of course the UFT officials.
I was offered a job. I have to think about accepting this job or not because I have to switch licences. I will be on probation for 2 years. -- I was excessed under my Special Education licence.

I know of 2 openings in my district but I do not have any connections to get the job.

Another teacher writes
Today at school, the principal and the chapter leader went around to two teachers who are ATRs. In the middle of a lesson, they pressured them to go to the hiring hall. Later on I found out that, there were other ATR's in the building that were not pressured like this. The explanation was that the principal said he would get money in the budget for the ATR's not pressured to go to hiring hall today.

Read another account at New York City Eye:

Musings at the ATR fair / DunKleiRheeism warning

PAVE Founder and Director Spencer Robertson Responds

Spencer Robertson responds at the September 17 CEC 15 meeting at the Patrick Daly School. Chaor Jim Devor questions Robertson after he makes the surprise announcement that he is about to sign an agreement for his own space. PAVE supporters cheer as do the PS 15 people, one of the only parts of the evening they are on the same page. Devor asks where the space is and when the contract will be signed.

Robertson then goes on to disparage the PS 15 claim that PAVE is forcing them to cram service providers into hallways and closets and clusters have to travel door to door. Devor asks if it is OK for the CEC to tour PAVE. Robertson seems to agree. (I wonder if they'll have the kids chant, "Welcome to big Jim?)

Make sure to follow the comments and join in at Gotham Schools.

Red Hook charter paves way out of P.S. 15, but can’t say when

Videos to come: PS 15 teachers and parents and a discussion with a DOE official on how they allocate space.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Video of PS 15/PAVE Charter Confrontation at CEC Meeting

Here is a short video from the public/charter school confrontation at the Community Education Council meeting in District 15 on September 17 as the Patrick Daly School (PS 15) in Red Hook struggles against the attempt of PAVE charter school to extend its stay for years after promising to leave after 2 years. The video should be viewed in concert with the 31 comments being made at the Gotham Schools story on the event. Mona Davids who claims to represent the charter school parents of NYC - (was she elected or appointed by corporate sponsors?) is featured in this piece of video. More to come.

Red Hook charter paves way out of P.S. 15, but can’t say when

Rhee Orders Imminent Layoffs of DC Teachers Starting Next Week !

Michelle Rhee hired 900 new teachers and then claimed she didn't realize there would be cuts. Guess who she is getting rid of?

Candi Peterson reports at TWT:

According to an inside source, DCPS instructional superintendents met this Saturday at a breakfast meeting and got their marching orders from Chancellor Rhee. They were advised to meet with DC principals on Monday to inform them that the DCPS reduction in force will start next week for DC teachers. It has been reported that other DC staffers have already received their lay off notices. Principals will be advised to lay off teaching staff as early as next week. Most of the lay offs will impact DC teachers and other school based staff including instructional coaches, custodians and even some principals and vice principals, etc.

It is reported that Rhee will pay DCPS employees their salary for 1 month in lieu of the 30 day notice required when implementing a reduction in force. RIF'd staff will all be exited prior to September 30 and before the new fiscal year begins. So it seems Rhee is anxious to get teachers and other DC staffers out as quickly as possible.

Posted by The Washington Teacher

Make sure to read Dan Brown's critique of Rhee at Huffington Post (also posted at Norms Notes.)

Charter School Horror

With a promise of more freedom, and the chance to get out from under the thumbs of a reactionary school board, the teachers of Tyler High have voted to become a charter school. Instructors and parents alike are thrilled with the prospect of independence– and yet...

The formerly laid-back principal has become unusually strict. With her toadying secretary, she seems to be running the show.

Thus reads the blurb for Bentley Little's novel, The Academy. Stephen King calls Little "The horror poet laureate."

One reviewer on Amazon says:
...this latest offering by the author is set in a high school that has undergone a transformation. It has gone from being a district school to being an independent charter school, and therein lies the rub. Newly independent, the principal takes independency to new heights. Unfettered and unrestrained, everyday concepts of discipline, learning, and loyalty take on new meaning. The teachers, as well as the students, slowly succumb, one by one, to this novel and horrific approach to education. As they do, the school becomes a very scary place indeed, with survival just a hope in one's heart.

That a major horror writer focuses on a charter school takeover of a public school is a sign of something in the air. The teacher who lent me the book suggested I read only the first 2 chapters where the principal manipulates the staff through a combination of fear and cajoling into voting for the charter. The two teacher resisters are immediately ostracized. These chapters ring so true to how things really happen, the bodies that pile up later in the book might just make you want to rethink that charter school lurking in your building.

Coming soon: Ed Notes' version of The Academy (PAVE students do a lot of chanting - like, THIS IS OUR SCHOOL. See video of the PS 15/PAVE meeting on Sept. 17. The first section will be up later.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

FLHS Chapter Leader Arthur Goldstein Calls for Malpractice Suit for Tweed

My school is bursting with students, and Tweed is to blame

See Lorri Giovinco-Harte commentary at the NY Examiner:
Goldstein's piece is a frightening reminder of the conditions which exists for thousands of New York City students and provides a glimpse at the reality behind public relations campaigns. It also provides food for thought about the strategies of a school system which Goldstein compares to "doctors who diagnose a disease, then inject the patient with more toxins just to make certain they're right."

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Happened at PS 15?

Where do we start? There's so many angles on what happened I can't come up with one yet, so check back this afternoon.

I'm digitizing the tape now and will put some stuff up later.

Right now I have to head off to deal with robotics at a bunch of schools.

For now check out the report from CAPE as they clarify a few points about the CEC 15 meeting.

Tonight should be considered a triumph for democracy, for stakeholder voices, and an example of what advocacy is all about. A few main points, that may have been lost in the shuffle, intentionally or not, need to be clarified and addressed:

Read it all

And Maura Waltz' piece at Gotham Schools with many fiery comments:

Anna Got Her Gun

Gotham Schools' Anna Philips worked so hard to get a copy of the contract demands handed out at the DA on Weds. She was there for hours talking to so many teachers. Yet, no one would give. But soon after she left, with two of us left outside ready to go eat, Daily News reporter Rachel Monahan came by with a copy which was the basis of her article yesterday. I was with a member of the negotiating committee who wouldn't give Rachel an inch.

Now, I went outside when the discussions began because Unity hacks always love to blame me for leaks, so I knew nothing anyway.

Anna, who had to listen to at least 3 rants from me yesterday, was still working to get a copy but she finally got it and has posted it at Gotham. Read it and feast - on what's missing. Class size - remember that? Some semblance of order in the wild west of the open market system? Any takeback at all? Some people talk about the extended day in Gotham's comments. I'm not totally against a longer day, but how about some rationality that would make sense for kids and teachers? I would actually make it somewhat voluntary for teachers. There is substantial money involved and most would do it anyway. Some schools have really figured it out but in others things are a little weird.

And by the way, for those people twisted over teachers betraying the ridiculous cone of silence, it's time to put the cone on themselves. You might get the cone to work for 300 people, but for over a thousand? And I did hear Mulgrew say, "Of course we expect you to discuss this with your members" [not really]. Mike then suggested they put the cone over their schools.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

UFT Loses Budget Sharing Arbitration- Updated

UPDATED (9 20 09): See an update on this issue from Jeff Kaufman:

Sharing Budget Information with Your UFT Chapter Leader: A Tale of Two Spins

As Chapter Leader, I used to use Article 8(C) to force my principal to share info, which she resisted strenuously.

Sharing Budget Information with Your UFT Chapter Leader
An arbitrator recently determined that, under Article 8(C) of the Teachers’ Contract, chapter leaders and other union representatives are not entitled to the full view of a school’s budget on the Galaxy Table of Organization. The arbitrator determined that principals in all schools must provide their chapter leader and chapter committee with a copy of the School Leadership Team view of the Galaxy Table of Organization at the opening of the school year in September and before the end of the school year in June. Principals should continue to consult with their chapter committees regarding use of school allocations and any budget modifications. If you have any questions regarding this issue, contact Kellie Walker at or (212) 374-5398.

How did we lose this arbitration when the info is readily available under the Freedom of Information Law?- Jeff Kaufman

Today, September 17, Thurs March/Rally to support the community's Patrick Daly School (PS 15) Against the PAVE Chater School Invasion

Billionaire scion Spencer Robertson must have used the refrain so many billionaire fathers well connected to the Bloomberg machine have heard: Daddy, will you buy me a charter school?
  • Favoritism shown toward PAVE by the DOE.
  • PS 15 has been forced to shove most of its programs into small spaces.
  • The continuous arrogance and threatening behavior of PAVE administrators.
  • PAVE kids are made to chant repeatedly: THIS IS OUR SCHOOL
  • PAVE admins were outraged when PS 15 did their annual moment of silence for 9/11 and came into the main office loudly complaining and refused to observe the moment.
  • 50% of the PAVE kids are bussed in (free) from outside Red Hook, so PAVE doesn't even serve the Red Hook community.
Hear lots more tonight.

PS 15
Sullivan & Richards Street
("F" Train to Smith-9th Av Station then walk - google it for map)

March together to the:

CEC Meeting at 6:45
PS 15 - 71 Sullivan Street
District 15, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Session will address the PAVE Charter extension request.
DOE & PAVE's administrator will speak.

At start of meeting, Sign up to speak out!
PAVE Charter seek to remain in PS 15 past this June, against the
agreement made to our community!

  • This is bad for our school and bad for our kids!
  • Fight to protect and preserve public education.
  • We will not allow our schools to be privatized!

Ed Notes News will be there to tape.