Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bill Cala Testifies in Rochester

Everybody's wish for a superintendent, Bill Cala, ran the Rochester schools on an interim basis before Brizzard took over.

Jan. 19, 2010

It pains me deeply to have to come before you tonight to speak. It has become apparent that the mayor is bulldozing his way to a takeover of the Rochester City Schools irrespective of the facts and the consequences to the children and the citizens of this city. I have provided you with an extensive analysis of mayoral takeovers throughout the country using validated statistics and citing current and germaine research studies on this issue. On February 10, 2009 I sent Mayor Duffy an e-mail providing the essence of the paper that I have provided to you. Unfortunately, the mayor was not interested in the facts and never responded. Last weeks phone efforts proved fruitless as well.

While my three minutes will not provide ample time to highlight all of the extant data and research I will focus on New York City as the mayor has raised New York as the nexus for his decision for a hostile takeover. No fewer than a dozen times in the past week Mayor Duffy has cited the success of the NYC takeover as a reason to do the same here.

Here are the irrefutable facts:

New York City has been controlled by the mayor since 2002

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP the only valid measure of student performance in the nation with a 40 year track record

NYC students have shown no gains in:

Fourth-grade reading

Eighth-grade reading

Eighth-grade math

No gains for African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Whites or lower income Students

Graduation rates:

SED statistics cite NYC with a 52% graduation rate virtually the same as RCSD

Mayor Bloomberg, however, has invented his own mathematical formulas, utilizing “Discharge Codes.” These are labels that he has attached to students who leave the system in order to disguise dropouts. In an April 30th study out of Columbia, the discharge scandal was uncovered:

I quote:

“The findings of this report suggest that the high school discharge system continues to provide a loosely regulated loophole that can be used to inflate graduation rates by pushing at-risk students out of school”

The findings:

The discharge rate went from 17.59% in the year 2000 to 21.1% in 2007

The total number of discharges totals 142,262 kids

Special education discharges went from 17% to 28% in that same time period with a startling 39% discharged in 2005.

The African- American graduation rate for boys is 29%

Enough said about whether mayoral control produces positive academic outcomes. It doesn’t. As in the rest of the country Mayoral control in NYC is a dismal failure and a fraud.

Sunday’s Chicago Tribune headlines tell of the failure of mayoral control in Chicago: “Daley School Plan Fails to Make the Grade.”

So what about DEMOCRACY?

City residents are already disenfranchised by laws governing big cities in New York State. While suburban citizens are empowered with the right to vote on their district budgets, city residents are not entitled to do so. Mayoral control effectively removes Rochesterians from any meaningful input into the education of its children.

This issue outweighs any consideration relative to academic outcomes and political perceptions of economic feasibility.

Eliminating yet one more avenue to parent and citizen participation in government is an outright assault on democracy. I have cited ample research in my report that demonstrates how citizens, especially minorities have lost their voices in cities where schools are controlled by mayors. Mayor Bloomberg has led the way in denying citizen input of any kind.

Would any type of a takeover like this be suggested in the suburbs? Hardly. There would be a riot.

Why are these takeovers occurring? Because the poor have no voice and urban poor are treated like second-class citizens. It is done because mayors can get away with it. They do it because THEY CAN!

Using the logic of the mayoral takeover scheme, Governor Patterson should be calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the New York State Legislature and take control of the entire state by himself. I know this has a certain appeal given the reputation of our legislature, but the absurdity of eliminating voters’ voices is autocracy not democracy.

While I have made many suggestions in my paper that can improve the lot of urban children in my report without stomping on the rights of Rochester’s citizens, I recommend that the mayor and city council put the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide whether or not the mayor should take control of the schools and include in the ballot resolution ACCOUNTABILITY. The mayor would be RECALLED if there is no progress in five years. That’s exactly the same accountability the president and secretary of education are calling for when they are insisting that principals and teachers be fired if schools don’t perform. This vote should take place after vigorous debate and BEFORE our legislators go to Albany with a mayoral control bill in hand.

Mayor Duffy has cast opponents as QUOTE “a small group of self-interested adults and cheap politics to sway public opinion UNQUOTE. I hardly call this a desire to debate the issues. Metro Justice, Parents Groups and the Anti-Racism Coalition and the mayor. Who’s the politician in the group??

The takeover is not about kids and student performance. It’s about power, control and money.

My plea to you tonight is to do everything within your power to preserve the voices of the poor and reject a mayoral control.

I would rather live in a messy democracy than in a tidy autocracy.

Thank you for your time and patience.

William C. Cala Ed.D

January 19, 2010

Statement to Council


Rochester school forums delayed until bill is drafted

Enlightenment vs. Dark Ages

....And Philly Too: The Resistance Grows

Hello friends and colleagues, As you have probably heard, the School District of Philadelphia has announced its plans for dealing with the schools in our District that have been 'under-performing' for years. It's called the Renaissance Schools plan. Instead of giving these schools the vital resources they're in much need of, the District's solution is to turn these schools over to different management and wash their hands clean of responsibility. And, this is all in line with Federal and State initiatives like Obama's Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. The Renaissance Schools plan could have far reaching negative consequences on the education of tens of thousands of students in Philadelphia. The Teacher Action Group put together this information sheet to explain the situation (it's mostly geared toward educators.) If you work in Philly schools or know folks who do, please forward this to them. We need to get the word out. Teachers and educators need to be talking and strategizing with students, parents and other community members about what we all want to see happen in this District. Here's to the fight to keep public education public!

Anissa Weinraub

The Battle of Rochester: Fighting Mayoral Control

From a contact in Rochester, where Kleinite Jean Claude Brizzard was installed as Superintendent last year. Apparently, that is not enough. In order to fully undermine public education, the forces that be demand mayoral control which will allow them to totally shut out the public from any decision making. Look for the videos I will start posting later today of last Tuesday's PEP meeting to see what mayoral control has wrought.

We are gearing up a big battle here. Due to extreme pressure put on the mayor by the community, he decided to have community meetings all this coming week. This came about after he was put on the spot for not having any dialogue on the issue. Last week there were protests at two of the legislators offices who are going to introduce the bill. The mayor then thought twice about having community meetings this week as they are expected to be large and totally opposed to the takeover. He has now cancelled the meetings until AFTER the bill is drafted and submitted (something that he tried to sell early on but was rebuked). Attached is the article where he backs down.

Mayor Robert Duffy released his draft report on mayoral control of Rochester schools today.

“It is important to understand that this draft report is not the legislation that would lead to the reforms I am calling for,” Mayor Duffy said in an accompanying statement. “This is a framework outlining the reasons why change is needed and some of the things that would look different under that change.”

City Council meets tonight at City Hall to discuss mayoral control. The meeting began at 4: 30 p.m. in executive session where council members are discussing the sale of Hemlock and Canadice lakes watershed to the state.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Responding to UFT Shill Peter Goodman

No one riles me more than UFT shill Peter Goodman who blogs at Ed in the Apple. This post is getting credit for being perceptive. What a crock. I left a comment. Head over there and join me.

As usual, Peter, you leave the entire culpability of the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership, of which you have been an integral part of for decades, totally out of the picture.

In May 2001 the day Randi Weingarten came out in favor of mayoral control, I put out out a special edition of Education Notes that pointed to the disaster of the Chicago mayoral control experiment and put a copy in front of every UFT executive board member, you included.

You and the UFT continued to support mayoral control and when ICE urged the UFT task force on mayoral control to adopt our minority report last year calling for an end to mayoral control I seem to remember you speaking against it at the Delegate Assembly. If the UFT had put its muscle behind that proposal we might have seen a different result at the PEP - in fact the PEP wouldn't have existed at all.

You guys pushed the 2005 contract that allowed them freedom to close schools without worrying about seniority rights without which they would be so able to close so many schools.

When 350 students, teachers and parents went to Bloomberg's house on Jan. 21 the UFT was again absent.

When Klein would make his claims about civil rights at every PEP meeting, the UFT was absent and indeed not once challenged him.

I was the only speaker Tues. night to raise the contradiction between Klein's claims and the reality of what was happening at the meeting and ICE/GEM speaker Lisa North talked about Chicago. Glad you were listening.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Full-tilt coverage of the battle over school closings in new issue of The Indypendent


We have full-tilt coverage of the battle over school closings in the new issue of The Indypendent that hit the streets today, which includes a four-color pull-out center spread that highlights the influence of billionaire philanthropists in pushing the school "reform" process. We currently distribute the Indy in these places

Due to the importance of this issue, we bumped up our usual press run this edition. If you would like to get bundles to distribute at work, in your school or neighborhood, please contact me and we will do what we can to get you extra papers.


John Tarleton
The Indypendent

Taking the Public Out of Schools

Inside Columbus High School

Bloomberg's 12-Step Method to Close Down Public Schools

New York City School's by the Numbers

Stealing the Best and the Brightest

The Faces of School Reform (Pull-out center spread)

A PDF of the full issue can be found at

People can reach me directly about getting papers at

Also see a report on the large Queens schools threatened with closure at Norms Notes:
Almost All Queens HS on State Hit List


The old print editions of Ed Notes always included some humor. I guess things don't seem so funny anymore. But this week it is a good time to share a laugh.

1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head..'

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

15. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

16. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CORE Organizes to Fight School Closings in Chicago and What We Have to Do in NYC

What role did the actions of Arne Duncan play in the rise of CORE in Chicago? CORE may give them a bigger nightmare than the one I had the other night. Look at the agenda below. People who have not been involved deeply in UFT politics ask me what's my beef with the UFT leadership and I would say where have they been all these years in teaching people at threatened schools how to fight back. There is no strategy (though considering how the leadership has pretty much been copying the GEM/ICE agenda - even handing out buttons that have the look of GEM buttons, we can expect some kind of copycat event). Right now the UFT is talking about going to court. Remember the CFE suit a decade ago? By the time this process is done there will be no public schools left to fight for. GEM hopefully will model itself on CORE and hold a similar conference for schools that are next on the chopping block.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just Woke Up: I Had a Nightmare That I was at an 8 Hour Meeting

So I got to sleep after 4:30am last night- or this morning. What day is it?

While last night seemed like a loss to so many, or a funeral - don't forget that in addition to the closing of the 19 schools, our friends at CAPE/PS 15 lost their battle to get PAVE out– I thought the overwhelming attack on Klein and the PEP members, mostly by people of color (killing years of cultivation of Black and Latino/a communities by BloomKlein) will forever sear the minds of those who saw it. I don't care what the press says or writes, they were affected - I watched them. The BloomKlein dominance of the debate has been challenged after years of struggle to get our point of view out about privatization schemes and the role of charters and the way certain kids are treated and the way large schools are manipulated into failure.

Though 19 schools may die (and we are never giving up the fight) they lost their lives on the battle field so others may live.

I know it's a long time away, but last night was the beginning of the end of mayoral control the next time it comes up in 5 years I think. But only if we keep up the pressure, which GEM is promising to do. I am making a commentary video to cover all the ground breaking aspects of the meeting. And of course, I have about 5 hours of video of the meeting that seems very daunting to tackle. Perhaps my friends at Tweed who were taping will do the job for me and post their video on the DOE web site (by the way, nice (and expensive) camera David (Can't). You should have asked, I would have lent you one of mine.

Best line of the night: when Tweed counsel Michael Best turned off the mic of a speaker from the NAACP and Patrick Sullivan challenged PEP Chairperson David Chang to do the dirty work himself. "If someone is going to turn off the mic of an speaker from the NAACP, I want it to be one of the mayor's appointees."

Has the tide turned? Here are some signs:

James Eterno posted this on the ICE blog: Juan Gonzalez wrote an excellent piece on closing schools in the News

and Patrick Sullivan posted this:

Column from Gabe Pressman on suppression of the parent role follows last night's PEP. We don't often see this angle covered in the press.

Parents Battle for a Say in Educational Policy
By GABE PRESSMAN Updated 6:01 PM EST, Wed, Jan 27, 2010

When the Mayor took control of the city’s schools, he promised to make them better.

Whether he kept that promise is debatable. But whether he has made parents part of the improvement process is not. They are definitely excluded. And that’s a shame.

The recent meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy made that clear. Critics of the plan to close down 19 public schools screamed in frustration as the panel heard arguments for and against the school closings, which are emotionally draining for many families.

The critics and the audience knew the die was cast. The Mayor controls the panel and, amid boos and a deafening chorus of "Save Our Schools!" the panel members, after a nine-hour hearing that lasted until 3 A.M., voted 9 to 4 to shut down the schools. No Mayoral appointee cast a dissenting vote.

Patrick Sullivan, representing Manhattan, who had dissented from many past decisions, asked the Mayor’s appointees to explain why they approved the plan to close the schools for poor performance. He asked: "Is there anyone who will defend this?"All but one of the Mayor’s people remained silent.

It was a stacked deck. That’s the essence of mayoral control as it’s now practiced---no dissent, no criticism. Even if the schools have been improved----and many parents don’t think they have----there’s nothing democratic about the way this is being done.

It’s easy to understand the frustration and anger of the parents. But they are learning a practical lesson in how a supposedly democratic process can be distorted to suppress opposition.

The Mayor himself could benefit from some education. He could use a crash course in the values of democracy. The educational policy panel is not there just to ratify decisions already made.

There should be honest and vigorous debate on controversial issues. And all points of view should be respected. If Mayor Bloomberg could be persuaded that this is the right way to handle educational policies, he might still get an A in the course.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commentary on the UFT Bogus "It's DOE Mismanagement" Campaign and Tonight's PR PEP Rally

UPDATED (see last paragraphs): 11am.

It ain't over 'till its over could be the theme of tonight's PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech, which will be covered live by NY1. People pretty much assume that with the mayor controlling the majority of PEP votes and even some borough reps joining in, there is no way to reverse the vote. Thus I find it interesting that the UFT, the enablers of mayoral control, is urging people to go to the meeting to protest (respectfully).

Then what? The UFT will tell people you put up a good fight but there is nothing we can do. And they are right - from their capabilities. But as our rally on Jan. 21 at Bloomberg's house (ignored by the UFT) indicated, there are people who will not give up the fight. And groups like GEM and CAPE are leading the way.

Yesterday, the Bronx UFT held another poorly organized event at the Bronx courthouse. The had less people than we had at Bloomberg's. How pathetic. Tonight there will be a big turnout, not because of the UFT but because teachers, parents and students at 20 closing schools see it as their last chance to effect a change. Maybe the pressure will cause a few Bloomberg PEP members to waver a bit. But I doubt it. They have no interest in children.

The UFT will make hay of the photo-op and claim: "See, we tried" before folding up its tent. Oh, we will see more events for PR purposes. There is an election to get through and they have to make sure no ICE-TJC candidates slip through onto the executive board to raise sticky questions.

In this video of my speech at the Jamaica HS closing school hearing on Jan. 7, I address the issues of privatization and discuss how the UFT claims that the closing schools are a result of mismanagement is bogus. In fact, BloomKlein and the privatizers are very adept at managing the undermining of public education. The true mismanager is the UFT, which has been their handmaiden.

Could tonight's PEP vote to endorse the closing of the schools and to extend the PAVE charter school be pretty much a fait accompli if the UFT had used every ounce of its energy to stop mayoral control in its tracks? I don't only mean the renewal this summer, but the original implementation back in 2002. Could they close schools so easily and dump the teachers out (the real reason for the closings) if the 2005 contract had not ended the seniority system? Could they undermine the public schools so easily if the UFT had taken a firm stand opposing charters and had not in fact opened its own charters in public school buildings?

I make the point in the speech that this privatization movement is occurring in urban centers all over the nation. Does anyone believe the UFT is not aware of this? Certainly they are. As far back as the day Weingarten came out for mayoral control in May 2001, I put an article by George Schmidt on the Chicago debacle on the table of every single UFT Executive Board member at the meeting that night. Ed Notes from that point on and ICE beginning with its formation in Nov. 2003 and GEM from its formation last year have consistently pointed to this national attack. But the UFT chooses to intentionally keep the membership uninformed and tries to make it look like it is Joel Klein's mismanagement and not part of a national movement by the privatizers.

What can be their motives to intentionally mislead the membership? I have my ideas, but I'll leave it to the readers to come up with your own ideas.

Monday, January 25, 2010


At last week's Delegate Assembly, I got one of the biggest laughs in a long time. There was a crew from New Action, the faux opposition bought and paid for by Unity Caucus - ask unctuous NA leader Michael Shulman to show you his office sometime - and they were giving away New Action hats to people who signed up to run in the UFT election with them.

Now, there's a hat I want to be seen wearing. In the Ed Notes spirit of fellowship for our friends in New Action, we have added our own line of New Action hats. But if you want one you have to wait as most are sold out.

Howie Schwach: It’s All About Charters And Breaking The UFT

Here is as follow-up by Wave editor Howard Schwach on charter schools and Peninsula Prep in Rockaway.

The Rockaway Beat

It’s All About Charters And Breaking The UFT
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Mayor Mike’s agenda from the beginning has been to break the city unions, particularly the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). What better way to do that than set up hundreds of city-funded schools where the UFT is not welcome.

I’m talking about Charter Schools.

Charters are publicly-funded schools that operate outside the rules mandated for regular schools, and that means the teachers who work in charters do not normally come under the UFT contract. Some of the charters are non-profit, but many are for-profit businesses run by high-powered companies such as Victory Schools.

That organization administers the Peninsula Preparatory School (PPA), which has been in existence for about six years and now operates out of a series of trailers at Arverne By The Sea, just waiting for the developers to build a school around them.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told me that PPA is run by a non-profit board, but that the board contracts with the for-profit Victory Schools for support and administrative services.

Victory Schools, which provides educational but not financial support to the PPA, won’t tell me how much the contract is worth to them, but the Daily News says the contract is worth more than $350,000 a year.

Look at the Victory Schools website, and you will find an administrative team that includes several high-priced ex-public school administrators and I know they don’t come cheap.

The DOE says that Victory Schools is paid by PPA through fundraising, but I am willing to bet that Victory Schools is being paid by taxpayer dollars funded by Malcolm Smith and his cohorts in the State Senate.

A story in the Daily News documented that the head of Victory Schools gave Smith $12,000 in campaign contributions last year. In addition, Smith recently earmarked $100,000 of your money for the school, supposedly to buy computers. When I first called Smith’s office to ask if he has a financial stake in PPA, his spokesperson told me she would check, but that he is on the board and “very involved” in the school’s operation.

Another spokesperson, this one in Albany, told the News, “Senator Smith has completely divested himself from any governance and administration of the school.” From the beginning, Smith was the acting chair of the PPA’s board of trustees.

At first, it operated at MS 53 in Far Rockaway, but it soon moved to its own building on Foam Place in Far Rockaway. The building into which it moved was renovated for the school by the city and state, with the backing of Smith and other local politicians.

There were questions at the time as to why the money was allocated for the school, and those questions were never satisfactorily answered.

Then, when Arverne By The Sea was mandated to build a school, something that is still a few years down the road, the PPA all of a sudden turned up in trailers on the ABTS property, with a tacit promise that the new school that would be built would eventually house the PPA elementary school.

Of course, the fact that ABTS relies on state and city subsidies had nothing to do with the fact that Smith’s school was chosen for the new school, which, at least at first, was supposed to be a public school, not a public charter.

Seems to me that there is some chicanery afoot, since Smith proposed a bill two weeks ago that would raise the cap on charter schools from 200 to 400.

Smith says the state needs to raise the cap in order to get some of the federal money extended by new Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

I believe that he has another motivation, and it concerns the reason that Beach Channel High School is being phased out over the next three years and then closed down. I have heard that Smith has promised the parents of PPA students that they would have a PPA middle and a PPA high school to send their kids to when they finish the elementary unit they now attend.

That is now three years down the road. Does this fact pique your interest and lead you to a conclusion?

The Educational Impact Statement the DOE released in relation to the plan to close BCHS has an interesting sentence. After talking about the public high school “small school” that will start at BCHS next September, the impact statement goes on to say, “The DOE will continue to assess the available space and needs for additional options at Beach Channel in 2011 and 2012.” Is there a charter school in Beach Channel’s future? Might it be Malcolm Smith’s PPA? As one television great said repeatedly, “you can bet your sweet bippy.”

I really believe that a charter school is what this is all about, after all. It’s all about clearing a space for Malcolm Smith’s charter school.

And, by the way, in 2008 the DOE gave the PPA an F report card rating, the worst rating of any charter school in the city.

The fact that it has worked itself up over the years to a B is not very enl because more than 90 percent of the schools in the city got either an A or a B on the last report card run, devaluing every school in the city.

The mayor wants unlimited charter schools. The governor wants unlimited charter schools. Smith wants unlimited charter schools. All that despite the fact that by any independent measure, charter schools do no better than public schools. What, you heard the mayor say that charters do twice as well as public schools? Smoke and mirrors.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes recently put out a report that shows that a large number of charter schools are failing to deliver on their promises.

Did you ever hear the mayor or the chancellor say that?

No, and you never will, because it does not fit their agenda of using charter schools to break the UFT.

WAVE Editor Howard Schwach on State Senator Malcolm Smith's Ties to For Profit Victory Charter School and its $750,000 Slice of Public Money

In this article published last Friday, my editor at the Wave, former long-time teacher Howard Schwach, nails Malcolm Smith and his ties to Peninsula Prep Charter School, the connections to the Victory Charter School chain, and builds a bridge to what seems like a political decision to close Beach Channel HS to make room for Smith's charter.

Don't you love the use of the corporate term "divested"? Hmmm, what exactly did he divest? Not interested in moving into the Beach Channel building, Malcolm? Make a public divestiture by declaring you will oppose moving the charter school you founded into BCHS building even if it's the last building standing.

You might ask your self whether the UFT has supported Smith in his election campaigns - don't know off hand, but I bet they did. Which just goes to show that this den of thieves all lie in the same bed. Why does it take a community newspaper to expose these guys when the UFT had a fully staffed newspaper that should be doing this kind of work all along. But the UFT doesn't really want people to know about the political crew they play footsie with.

Question Smith’s Ties To Local Charter School

By Howard Schwach
State Senate President Malcolm Smith, who represents Rockaway in that body, says that he has divested himself from the local charter school he founded in 2004.

State Senator Malcolm Smith (center) joins children and officials of the Peninsula Preparatory Academy in cutting the ribbon for the school’s new home in Arverne By The Sea. The ceremony took place in September of 2008, four years after, Smith says, he divested himself from the school. State Senator Malcolm Smith (center) joins children and officials of the Peninsula Preparatory Academy in cutting the ribbon for the school’s new home in Arverne By The Sea. The ceremony took place in September of 2008, four years after, Smith says, he divested himself from the school. “Senator Smith has been completely divested from any involvement in the governance or the administration of the [Peninsula Preparatory] school for about four years,” his Albany spokesperson Austin Shafran said recently.

Shafran’s comment was in response to questions of Smith’s involvement specifically in the Peninsula Preparatory School (PPA) in light of the fact that he recently earmarked $100,000 in public funds for the school. In addition, his stated goal is to double the number of charter schools allowed by New York State.

Although Smith was the founder of the school, and an original board member, Shafran said, Smith divested himself in 2004 when he was named the Senate Minority Leader.

Tai White, the local spokesperson for the senator said last week, however, that Smith remains “involved and active with the school.”

When White was asked if Smith has a financial interest in the school, she told a Wave reporter that somebody would get back with a comment, but no comment was forthcoming by press time, nearly a week later.

While Smith says he is not involved with the school, in 2008, when the PPA moved from its temporary home in Far Rockaway to several trailers set up on Beach 67 Street in Arverne By The Sea, Smith was front and center in the ribbon cutting ceremony, the only politician who was so honored.

There have been questions about the school from the first, and those questions have deepened over the years, and especially over speculation that the phase-out and closing of Beach Channel High School is part of a political plan to clear the school to make room for a PPA high school component.

Smith’s office denies those allegations.

When the PPA was chartered with Smith as its founder in 2004, it shared space with Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway.

Within a year, however, the state began renovating a building on Foam Place, right next to MS 53. Shortly thereafter, the PPA quietly moved into that building.

At the time, The Wave questioned the genesis of the money used to renovate the building, but no answers were forthcoming, either from the state, Smith, or the school.

From the first, the school, which is a private non-profit charter run by public money, has been administered by the Victory Schools, a for-profit organization that administers many public charters in New York City.

Records show that PPA pays Victory more than $750,000 a year.

Records also show that in 2006 and 2007, Smith received a total of $12,000 in campaign contributions from Seven Kilnsky, who founded the company.

No recent donations from Kilnsky to Smith were recorded.

A company spokesperson told Daily News political reporter Kenneth Lovett that the donations were meant as a show of support for Smith’s pro-charter stand.

Sources say that PPA pays no rent for the trailers in Arverne By The Sea, and that the school will one day move into a new building in that development, a building that the developers must build with their own money as part of the contract they signed to get the land for development.

Experts say that, as long as Smith has no financial stake in PPA, there is nothing illegal about his involvement and his steering money to the school he founded.

The president of the state’s teachers union, however, thinks that, while probably not illegal, Smith’s involvement shows that special interests are driving the recent move to double the number of charter schools, which generally do not fall under union contracts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Day(s)

It's been a busy week and my head is spinning.

Last Tuesday - the PS 15/PAVE public meeting. Weds the DA and a final meeting at Norman Siegel's office where we found out that the morning ruling that the city had lost its appeal of the decision giving us the right to march on Bloomberg's side of the street was reversed that afternoon and another hearing would be held on the day of the rally at 11 am. By 2pm we found out the 3 judge panel had reversed the ruling and we were back to marching on the south side of the street across from Bloomberg. That actually made it easier for us since we only had to cross the street once instead of walking and crossing in a constant circle.

Well, as I reported all too briefly in these posts
One Big PARTEEEE at Bloomberg's

Protest at Bloomberg Home

we all had a wonderful time and lots of bonding went on between activists and people who were just dipping their toe into activism. I saw lots of people I hadn't seen in a while. Check out the video links in my posts and the pictures on the GEM blog.

Then we found out that the police had taken photos (why the cops needed to take pics is beyond me, since we post them ourselves) and Norman Siegel called a press conference today over that issue. I got there late for reasons I will go into later but David Bellel was there to tape. See the sidebar for the links to the 3 part event.

And then there was the Jets this afternoon with our gang of 3 where I ate as much junk food as I could cram in. In the midst of this this was a major robotic weekend with the final 2 borough qualifying events and on Saturday I visited the Queens tournament at Aviation HS and today before the press conference, CCNY at the fabulous Shepherd Hall. I found out that a major NYC politician has a child at one of the competing schools in Queens and I was introduced and got to chat a bit.

On the home front, we are in the midst of birthday season with cousin Dan on Jan 24th (26), my dad on Weds. (92) and my wife on Jan 25 (^%$%). Cousin Rachel follows up on Feb 4 (24). So we started the gala celebration on Friday by picking up our orthotics (did you know SHIP pays $200 each?) and then off to the Museum of Natural History to use the super passes a former robotics coach who works there gave me before they expire next week. We did Imax and the space theater and the Silk Road- all for free. I love super passes. Then dinner on Columbus Ave.

Sat night was the play "Billy Elliott", with really good seats and it was worth the money. We saw the new kid who is from Australia. Can he be even 13 years old and have so much talent? This was a real show, not those phony musicals, with a solid labor story in the background of the destruction of the British mine workers union by Helen Thatcher. Though I could raise political questions about the message - the destruction of a 200,000 member union in some ways takes a back seat to giving the kid a chance to fulfill his dance ambitions ("see, it all turns out well in the end.") Well, it is a Broadway musical and probably goes further than anything else you will see.

Monday night is the wife's birthday piece de resistance at the River Cafe and Tuesday she starts the last 3 days of work before retirement, upon which time I can expect lots of honey do's. Oh, and next Monday the gang at work are taking her out to another nice restaurant and I can come along.

In the midst of this, all the political work continues. ICE is involved in petitioning for the UFT elections and that is one big chore. (We could use some help getting on the ballot at our petition signing party this Friday. Email at if you want to help.) I'm also getting invitations to schools so speak about the state of education and the UFT and why it will keep getting worse - if are interested in a school visit let me know.

Of course the main event is the PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech on Tuesday with the UFT holding a demo at 4pm and GEM and CAPE will be there in force to support the closing schools and PS 15 in their battle to keep PAVE to their word to leave this year.

Well, gotta go and get the food ready for the opening of the next Jets season.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Protest at Bloomberg Home


Press Conf Video at Norm Siegel Office Re: Police Photos of Rally at Bloomberg
part 1

part 2

part 3

Why did the police need to take pics when they can check out the blogs?

Pissed off teacher went and took some nice pics.

More photos at GEM:

Rally to STOP School Closures at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Home 1/21/10

Protest at Bloomberg Home, Jan. 21, 2010. The finale at the gathering area on Central Park and 79th St. Led by GEM's Angel Gonzalez, student speakers Rachel Ali and Chris Petrillo, CAPE/PS 15'a Lydia Bellahcene an Julie Cavanagh,Jamaica HS James Eterno, Norman Siegel.

Please feel free to use this video from the: "Teachers Protest School Closing and Charter School Invasions" event.
artist & activist collective

Friday, January 22, 2010

Do I Really Care About the Results in Massachusettes? HELL NO!!!

Call it tunnel vision, but I am so livid at the beyond-Bush education policies of Obama, that it taints everything else he does. His pro-corporate (which dovetails perfectly with the ed policy) and pro-banking policies don't make it any better. So when they - I mean the Democrats - try to scare me with the prospect of Sarah Palin beating Obama in 2012 and ask me to get up at dawn to schelp over to Allentown Pa. to volunteer for Obama, I ain't a marchin' anymore. Practice saying it now: President Palin. At this point, I don't give a crap.

One Big PARTEEEE at Bloomberg's

I was at a planning meeting for yesteday's rally/protest/picket at Bloomberg's abode. (He was downtown at a Jets rally so the poor guy missed all the real fun.)

We were talking about the time frame and someone said, "Two hours ought to be enough. Less if the media is gone. People start drifting when the media leaves."

"What about the catharsis," a prominent activist said. "Two hours is not enough."

I was thinking: "Two years is not enough."

Well, yesterday's rally of around 350 people was one fun and cathartic event. No one seemed to notice whether there was or wasn't media. As a matter of fact, many viewed me, with my fancy Wave press pass and my video camera with the light on top, as "the media."

One aspect that made people feel really great was that almost all the players/activists/resisters came out. It is not easy to get this crew in one place, so people who have been educating and organizing and mobilizing felt great. And there were lots of grassroots/rank and file teachers and parents from the schools. And kids too. One recently activated student activist who played a role in getting this together said, "Wow. I can't believe this." He and many of the other students may have learned one of the biggest lessons in their schooling careers.

No matter what the media coverage, it made everyone there feel great about what they are doing and will hopefully spur them to greater action.

This is only the beginning.

Oh, and the UFT/Unity/New Action slugs were nowhere to be seen.

I put up some photos people sent on the GEM blog and a comment from Angel.

Got to go now, but I am processing some of the video and will have something up by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, check out this report from Steven Thrasher at the Voice:

Here's a blog post I wrote about yesterday's protest. I shot video of the NYPD snapping away from the rooftop next to the mayor's house. Check it out and feel free to add comments, especially if you were there and want to add to the conversation:

I interviewed some of you but didn't use it here. I am working on a much longer piece about schools, so keep me informed of what you are up to. Yesterday, I just wanted to show how the NYPD was dealing with the"mayor's sidewalk."



Steven W. Thrasher
Staff Writer
The Village Voice

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Does Mulgrew Get It?

This cross-post from Under Assault, who doesn't blog enough, seems to think he might be. And lots of others seem to think so too as satisfied reports come from within and without Unity, as Randi-wear seems to have made almost anyone look good in comparison. One Unity flack said with glee, "Randi's gone." Ding Dong!

I still maintain it is just style over substance and with an election coming up Mulgrew must sound militant. As always, watch what they do, not what they say. The delegate assembly is as undemocratic as ever (with visitors banished to the 19th floor as the leadership cries "no room" while holding a meeting that could attract over 3000 people in a room that holds 850) and the Unity goon squad roams free around the schools to urge supervisors to go after certain dissident teachers.

Randi looked like gold in the post-Feldman years. It took me almost 4 years to realize Randi was full of bullshit. And many others didn't get it until she was just about leaving. My guess is Mulgrew's honeymoon will not last as long as the only way to stop the privatization mayhem is to organize and educate the membership (vs. the current misleading "the DOE mismanagement" campaign) effectively, which would require creating a more open and democratic union, something too dangerous for Mulgrew to risk.

Today's rally at the Bloomberg abode is being totally ignored by the UFT hierarchy and behind the scenes, schools are being discouraged from attending. So to me it's the same old, same old.


Delegate Assemblies ain't what they used to be, that's for sure.

Today Mulgrew gave a President's Report that sounded like a playbook from ICE and GEM.

My only question is: What took him and his Unity caucus so long.

For Mulgrew to talk about how bad it is in some communities reeling from the "separate and unequal" charter schools shoving their way into our public schools, he had to have boned up pretty well on the Sept. 13 '09 post in the GEM blog:

The protest denounced the chaos precipitated by the HSA charter takeover of PS 123 classrooms, the disarray to their supplies and furnishings, the DOE’s dictatorial imposition of charter schools, privatization and the resulting “separate and unequal” conditions.

Or this one from even earlier, on June 15th:

“We need to support quality and democratic processes for all public schools. Charter schools, such as Equality Charter, split communities and sow inequality instead. They ‘cream the best students’ and evidence shows that charters service fewer percentages of the neediest of students such English Language Learners, Special Education and the poorest of the poor. We need to organize a citywide fight-back against the mayor’s undemocratic imposition of these charters that take away resources from public schools. Charters union-bust and undermine the necessary unity parents and teachers against government’s failure to properly provide for all public schools.”

That comment was made by GEM co-founder and long-time activist Angel Gonzalez. GEM put up its first post last April, and it's been pretty much one report after another over on that blog about all the demonstrations, rallies, protests and activism against the charter school movement.

Mulgrew's just discovering this now? What took him and his Unity caucus so long.

Back at today's meeting, he congratulated the teacher activists at PS 15 defending their school against a charter (PAVE) trying to extend its stay in the building. There's no question that these members and the parents should be commended for their fight, but it wasn't Mulgrew or his caucus spearheading that effort either. Ednotes put up a post and video on the PAVE encroachment last September. GEM (in this post) and a newly formed group in the area, Concerned Activists for Public Education (CAPE), took up the fight in the fall and haven't let up since.

In fact, Ednotes has been publishing a virtual almanac of the whole charter school invasion citywide, and it looks as if Mulgrew's been prepping for this moment on all that reportage. As he said at today's meeting: "That's the type of fight we want to be on top of all the time." And so they are — jumping right on board after all the groundwork has been laid by everybody else.

I worked a lot this past summer on the charter school takeovers in Harlem with members of ICE, GEM, CPE (Coalition for Public Education), CIF (the Center for Immigrant Families) and the office of Senator Bill Perkins. We've been to community board meetings, confronted DoE and charter school administrators, talked with politicians and the press, blogged a lot, and made some spectacular videos of most of the events.

Not many Unity/UFT members ever showed up at these events. If they did, they mostly hung around at the edges — interested enough to see what was going on, but not enough to actually roll up their sleeves.

I've written before about how UFT managers have co-opted some of the fundamental principles on which groups like ICE and GEM are founded. What was Weingarten's ACES program last May but a reworking of ICE's 2004 platform.

It seems they're doing it again, jumping onto a movement that activist groups have been building for a year. They published a picture of GEM's 10-ft banner in the NY Teacher, and they spout our words. "Fix our schools, don't shut them down" appeared in the Jan. 11, 2010 of their rag, but see the April 6th '09 post GEM put up on its blog nine months earlier focusing on the message to "keep schools open, fix our schools, don't close them."

Facing the assembly this afternoon, Mulgrew spread his arms wide and thanked the delegates for all their work "reframing the argument." The DoE, he said, can no longer close schools without rhyme, reason or accountability. We [presumably the union and the communities] demand clear criteria, and these arguments are now resonating with elected officials all over town.

The majority of delegates at that assembly did nothing to earn his praise. It was the work of our grassroots oppositional union groups that plowed this field so that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks could muck their way through it to our side.

I keep coming back to the same question. What took them so long.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rebellion in Detroit Teachers Union Against Race to the Top

We had a report on the recall of Detroit Federation of Teachers President last week:

Weingarten Ally, Detroit Teacher Union Leader Recalled After Disastrous Contract

We surmised that this would never be allowed to stand and Kevin Johnson refused to accept the results and has just ruled the meeting out of order. They never give up power. If ICE/TJC were to win the election, Unity would find ways to invalidate the results. Or some other trick.

We have more reports coming in from Detroit. Angel put up a post with some comments at the GEM blog: Detroit Teachers Union Members Take Over Union Meeting in Recall Fight!

And we just got this one from what looks like a caucus challenging in the union elections, with a focus on winning delegates to the AFT convention in Seattle. I hope they do and greet the 800+ Unity Caucus slugs who feed out of the patronage trough from the UFT with a Bronx cheer. (Ask some of them why they are not going to support the rally at Bloomberg and they will tell you they don't want to lose their free trips.)

There is a major rebellion against the Race to the Top policies in the teachers' union in Detroit, led by BAMN (see member teachers.

The president of the DFT , Keith Johnson, has been working hand in hand with Robb Bobb (appointed pro-charter Czar over DPS) to ram through all the revisions in the teachers' contract required to attract charters and qualify for Race to the Top, and he prevented a traditional vote at the December mass meeting attended by 3000 teachers on the tentative agreement because the majority was against it.

Johnson then basically cheated to get the contract passed, and as a result we have had about 80 teachers attending weekly caucus meetings to plan how to recall Johnson (we've got about 1400 signatures on a recall petition so far - 400 more than required). The last two DFT membership meetings have had over 400 teachers attending, and Johnson was forced at both meetings to surround himself with gang squad cops, turn off the lights, etc. because the rank and file was demanding that he step down and let them run a democratic meeting. The Feb. 11 mtg should be the trial on the recall charges.

The caucus is running a full slate for convention delegates to challenge Randi Weingarten's leadership of the AFT nationally and bring down the pro-Duncan policies she is advocating. I've attached the most recent flyer that gives a general description of what is happening and what the caucus stands for and the particular strategies we are using to unravel the contract. Even if we don't succeed at this or that tactic, the overall rebellion is sure to make any charter company think 2,3,4 times about investing in Detroit.

We want to encourage like-minded teachers in AFTand NEA to run for convention delegate (nominations are due next Thursday for AFT delegates) so that we can have a national, united attack against Arne Duncan's policies at this summer's conventions.

For more information see:

Defending Public Education in Detroit

Donna Stern
BAMN National Coordinator

2nd Circuit denied the city’s request for a stay, and affirmed Judge Hellerstein’s decision: The march is on!

The rally at Bloomberg's tomorrow has captured people's imagination. Teachers, students, parents and education activists are coming together from the grass roots. Let me reiterate: this protest has come from the bottom with no activity from the UFT, other than to discourage people from getting involved. With a groundswell, we might see that change today so they don't get totally left out in case of press coverage. Off to the Delegate Assembly to see if we can interest any Unity Caucus and New Action slugs into coming on down. Then off to a meeting to finalize plans. More later.

Norm's Column for The Wave, Jan. 22 Edition

Just made this morning's deadline for The Wave.

Resistance is NOT Futile: Federal Court Issues Injunction Protecting Right to Protest at Bloomberg Residence

by Norman Scott


Well, we've certainly had a busy two weeks since you received my last communication – from outer space. Where to start? In the middle, of course. I mean, why should I try to help decipher the gibberish in this column any more than I have in the past?

Last time I told you about this protest planned at Mayor Mike's home at 17 East 79th street on Jan. 21. It's a day after my deadline, so you will have to wait for the breathtaking results until my Feb. 5th column. (Unless you check my blog, Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel handled the case in front of Judge Alvin Hellerstein. As one of the organizers, I was in court on Jan. 15 when the decision was handed down. Lucky I didn't have to testify because I'm sure my big mouth would have blown it.

“The decision reaffirms the rights of citizens to protest on a city sidewalk, and prevents the mayor from turning a public city street into his own private front yard. Furthermore, it will allow parents, students, teachers, and members of the 22 communities affected by school closures to have their voices of discontent heard by the Mayor,” said Seung Ok, a teacher at Maxwell High School, one of the schools being closed down. Maxwell suffered from a massive influx of students when nearby Thomas Jefferson (my alma mata) closed down, similar to Beach Channel's fate when Far Rockaway closed. Seung is a charter member of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) members of which have been attending and documenting closing school hearings.

"Today is historic for protesting in the City of New York," said Julie Cavanagh, a teacher at P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Julie is a member of Concerned Educators for Public Education (CAPE) which has been fighting off the invasion of their school by the PAVE charter school, under the control of the son of billionaire Bloomberg pal Julian Robertson who contributed $10 million to Bloomberg school projects ("Daddy, buy me a school!") That investment has paid off in spades, as BloomKlein will be handing Spencer $26 million dollars of our money from a charter school support slush fund to build his own play school. "I am so proud to stand with the parents and students I serve," Julie continued, "as we fight not only for our right to organize, but as we advocate to protect and preserve public education in our great city. It is not lost on me as an educator that this decision was made on Martin Luther King’s birthday. His legacy of peaceful and loving activism captures the culture of our school, P.S. 15. It is in this spirit that we bring our voices and concerns to the Mayor’s block in the hopes that there, we will be heard.”

Kudos to Seung and Julie, both in their early 30's and teaching for a little over a decade, for standing up for public schools and the children, parents and teachers of this city. In a sea of fear, their bravery is well worth noting. It is also worth noting that Norman Siegel was so impressed, he offered them his support for life if there should be one iota of retaliation against them.

Kudos also goes out to the now famous Beach Channel student Chris Petrillo, whose passionate defense of his school has garnered citywide attention. At the Jan. 6 meeting at BCHS, reported on so well by the Wave's Miriam Rosenberg and Howie Schwach, I introduced Chris to Jamaica HS chapter leader James Eterno, whose school is also being closed and was having their hearing the next day. (James came to show his support for BCHS. CL Dave Pecoraro, who like James has been popping at school closing hearings all over the city, returned the favor the next evening.) We talked to Chris about going to Jamaica to meet with student leaders there the next evening.

And sure enough, Chris was first on line at Jamaica to speak about student solidarity. He and Jamaica's student leader Rachel Ali got together later in the evening and they both went up to the microphone to make a joint statement. When I left Jamaica at 9PM, Chris and Rachel were still hatching plans and over the next week, became a dynamic duo, heading up the Choir Academy closing hearing in Harlem the next evening - a Friday evening, of all things and other school closing hearings. I ran into Chris at the Maxwell hearing on Jan. 12 and he approached the arrogant Tweedie John White and wangled an invitation to Tweed for later that week.

Chris and Rachel popped up at Leonie Haimson's Class Size Matters' emergency parent conference on January 16, which attracted a surprisingly large group of parents and teachers for a SAturday on a holiday weekend. Norman Siegel was the keynoter and James Eterno and Rachel Ali made presentations on Jamaica, as did a teacher and a very impressive recent Columbus HS alum. A central theme of the conference was fighting back and the rally at Bloomberg's home is looked at as a beginning.

As the week wore on, the Jan. 21 rally at Bloomies seemed to capture the imagination and as I write this on the morn if Jan. 20, there were rumors of support from surprising groups, with even some politicians hankering to get on board. The UFT, of course, was nowhere to be seen for this demo because they didn't think of it or organize it and behind the scenes were working to keep people away. Attempts will be made at today's Delegate Assembly to shake the tree.

GEM is also organizing protests and actions for the Jan. 26 Bloomberg rubber stamp Panel for Educational Policy meeting at Brooklyn Tech where all the school closings will be voted on. (Bring cots and food, as this will be a long one.) Beach Channel and Jamaica will be watching how Queens BP Helen Marshall orders her PEP rep Dmytro Fedkowskyj to vote. Send him a message at And call Marshall's office, (718) 286-3000, before Jan. 26.

The UFT IS focusing on the PEP and holding a 4PM rally before the meeting. Will the UFT tell people the vote is final and "we put up the best fight we could, now go back to your schools and wait for their death?" Or will the fight continue?

GEM is already planning follow-up events with forums and rallies, even contemplating visits to PEP members and borough presidents who ignore the outcries of their constituents. (See ya soon Helen.)

I can't leave you without talking about State Senator Malcolm Smith. The charter school he founded in Rockaway stands to benefit from the Beach Channel HS closing. A Daily News article pointed to how Smith, with impoverished Rockaway schools enveloping the district he supposedly represents, gave a hundred thousand dollars to the charter school he founded. His supporters argued that he "divested himself" from the school. Don't you love the corporate terminology? And we find that the Victory Schools charter management company took over $750,000 in "management" fees. Victory's CEO is Margaret (Peg) Harrington who ran NYC high schools - you know, those "failing schools" that people like her supposedly ran into the ground to the extent that BloomKlein had to come riding to their "rescue" - by destroying them.
To top it off, the article said: "In 2006 and 2007, Smith received a total of $12,000 in campaign donations from Steven Klinsky, who founded the school's management company, Victory Schools Inc. Victory officials said that Klinsky's donations were meant as a show of support for Smith's pro-charter school stance. Smith recently introduced a bill to double the amount of charters allowed under law."
Gee, I'm sorry I didn't buy that bridge in Brooklyn Malcolm Smith was selling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAPE In Action: PS 15/PAVE Redux, UPDATED

UPDATED Jan. 20, 9am:

CAPE Communique:

Oh what a feeling...

Juan Gonzalez on PS 15/PAVE in Daily News:

Nothing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein can say will calm the furor and sense of betrayal parents and teachers at Public School 15 in Brooklyn have felt for the past few weeks.

Read more:

Jan. 19, 11pm

Just back from taping a rigorous debate at the meeting tonight at PS 15 over the extension of PAVE at the school, with an overwhelming majority of people urging the PEP to vote down the PAVE extension. Even the local politicians broke new ground tonight in supporting PS 15 and urging a rejection of the extension. I have 2 hours of video with some very good speeches. Jim Devor was such an amazing prosecutor I was ready to plead guilty. To anything.

A bunch of GEMers (who are also ICEers) showed up to show support and speak, along with parent activists CEC13 Pres. Khem Irby and CEC1 Pres. Lisa Donlan, along Brooklyn College Professor David Bloomfield, who heads the Educational Leadership school that trains principals (we assume in a slightly different manner than the notorious Joel Klein Leadership Academy.) As a retiree, I never cease to be amazed at the working teachers in GEM/ICE/CAPE who show up to meetings and events all the time.

CAPEers sent these notes:
You all are an amazing group! What a great GEMTASTIC bunch of people. I am so glad to have met all of you and to be working with you! Thank you for your time, energy and support, you rule!

We want to thank you so much for coming tonight, especially out to isolated, little Red Hook, to support us and 'the cause'. It means so much to all of us to have such amazing people in our lives and behind us. Regardless of what happens in the coming days, it is comforting to know that we have what is just on all of our sides and that we are all committed to fighting the destructive educational policies of this Mayor together. You are all in our fondest thoughts.

A GEMer responded:
The energy, information and commitment that you and your colleagues in CAPE put forth have motivated us to continue on with our united struggle. Thanks to all of YOU.

Press Release

Media Contact: John Battis: ,

Lydia Bellahcene:,

Brooklyn, New York
January 19, 2010

Parents and Teachers Fight to Protect Their Community Public School:

Red Hook, Brooklyn’s AAA School, PS 15, The Patrick F. Daly School at the Center of New York City’s Charter School Invasion Struggle

When and Where:

· Rally and Public Hearing: 1/19/10, Rally, 4:30 on the corner of Richards and Sullivan Street in Red Hook, Public Hearing, 6:00 at PS 15, 71 Sullivan Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Upcoming Events:

· Citywide Rally and March on the Mayor’s Block: 1/21/10, Rally begins at 4:00 on the corner of 5th Avenue and 79th Street, the park side, Manhattan.

· Rally and PEP Meeting: 1/26/10, Rally begins at 4:00 across the street from Brooklyn Tech High School; PEP meeting begins at 6:00.

Today concerned parents, students, teachers and community members rallied and made public comment in opposition to a DOE proposal that would continue the placement of PAVE charter school in their public school building, PS 15, beyond the two year agreement made in 2008. The proposal would allow PAVE to remain in PS 15 until 2015, which would cause irreparable harm to the services and programs provided to Red Hook’s students. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Councilwoman Sara Gonzales both made statements on PS 15’s behalf noting the destructive and less than transparent actions by the DOE that have promoted the division of the Red Hook community at the expense of our children’s successful public school.

“Expanding PAVE within our school is unfair and detrimental. It does not promote “choice” or “reform”. The EIS is a “cut and paste” job void of any meaningful information about the real impact on our community. We demand an honest and public assessment that dares to identify the real and obvious problems with this proposal.” John Battis, Parent, PS 15

“What the DOE is proposing will hurt my three children who attend PS 15, and in particular our special needs population. Children should not have to receive services in closets and hallways. The DOE should not be treating our children like they can be thrown away like garbage.” Lydia Bellahcene, Parent, PS 15. “The DOE says that special education services, science rooms, art rooms, and intervention are luxuries, parents disagree. PS 15 is an AAA school, and the Mayor and Chancellor should not be setting policies to divide, shrink, and undermine our great school.”

“I have seen PS 15 grow dramatically over the last nine years and know firsthand the valuable services and programs we provide to the Red Hook Community. The proposal to extend PAVE’s stay beyond the two year agreement is an outrage and devastating to our community. It will destroy Red Hook’s AAA public school.” Marie Sirotniak, Teacher, PS 15.

“The policies being put forth by the DOE are a clear attempt to privilege charters at the expense of our public schools. No one at PS 15 questions a charter’s right to exist, but we seriously question the destruction of public education, particularly successful public schools, to benefit charters. It is clear now, that from the beginning PAVE and the DOE intended this stay to be longer. It is also clear they are very connected, as the DOE has just allocated 26 Million dollars to PAVE for a building, which at the earliest would be completed in 2013. This while our school budgets have been slashed and students and families are going without. The implementation of these policies robs Peter to pay Paul; this is not what our education system should be reduced to.” Julie Cavanagh, Teacher, PS 15.

Please find below an open letter from concerned parents of PS 15K:

January 19, 2010
Dear Chancellor Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, Panel for Educational Policy Members, and the Office of Portfolio Development,

We, the parents of PS 15, The Patrick F. Daly School in Red Hook, Brooklyn, respectfully demand that the Educational Impact Statement regarding the extension of the co-location of PAVE Academy in PS 15K be withdrawn. Simply put, the EIS is wrong and cannot be the basis on which PEP members decide the fate of our school. The most glaring and galling error is in the assessment of the building's current utilization percentage. The assessment does not reflect reality. For example, many of our school's rooms are serving children with special needs and current regulations do not allow these rooms to have higher occupancy. Also, the EIS anticipates that PAVE Academy will continue to exponentially expand its enrollment over the next 5 years while our school will be compelled to cut enrollment. Yet the EIS states that no child will be displaced and that there will be "no impact on PS-15." The EIS is contradicting itself! The fact is that the co-location of a charter school within our school's building has already had negative repercussions for our children who attend PS 15.

The Educational Impact Statement posted in December of 2009, for a 45 day comment period leading to a January 26th PEP vote should be deemed invalid. This document simply does not represent the true educational impact of the change in utilization the document supports. Once the EIS is amended, our community will ask for the proper 45 day review period, as required by law. Therefore, we ask that the vote on this proposal be withdrawn from the 26th PEP meeting date so that the Department of Education can not only re-examine the contents of the current EIS, but we also ask the DOE re-evaluate the desire to force a continued co-location on our school community. Our community was promised a 2 year limit on this arrangement. We have already seen the negative impact the co-location has had on scheduling, program offerings, and related service providers. We currently have no empty or underutilized rooms in our school building - should the EIS authors actually visit our school this would be evident to them.

PS 15 is a thriving, successful school. Its great improvement in every realm, over the past decade, has been based on many things: teachers, parent involvement, community support, and a properly sized facility to house all of 15's excellent programs. Cutting our building in half will set back all of our efforts which have resulted in the only successful public school serving Red Hook.
We respectfully ask the DOE to withdraw the EIS, remove the PAVE extension issue from the January 26th PEP meeting, and fully re-evaluate the policy and the ramifications of this proposed change in utilization. We stand united in fully supporting the original two year agreement and ask that PAVE Academy vacate PS 15 in June of 2010. We do not accept further sacrifices at the expense of our children.

A copy of the School Leadership Team’s public hearing presentation is attached to this release.