Saturday, September 22, 2012

Teacher Julie Cavanagh and Parent Lydia Bellahcene: A Real-Life "Won't Back Down" Story

Our story doesn't fit into simplistic narrative that the makers of “Won’t Back Down” would like to portray:  that teacher unions are the main obstacles to school reform.  We don’t believe that closing public schools and opening charters are the answers to any of the problems that public schools face.  Our fight is against the billionaires and hedge fund operators who are intent on undermining our public schools in their fierce campaign to privatize the system. Sad to say, our story won't be the subject of any Hollywood film, and it does not have a Hollywood ending, but it is real and should serve as a cautionary tale for parents, educators and all others who believe in fighting to preserve and strengthen our public schools as the centerpiece of our nation’s democracy.
Parent Lydia Bellahcene and teacher Julie Cavanagh, a member of Movement of Rank and File Educators, tell their own "Won't Back Down" story fighting a charter invasion in their school on the NYC Parent blog, a story a told in the film "Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman".

I met Julie in July 2009 after her group contacted GEM for assistance in their fight. Julie joined up with GEM soon after and has become one of the most dynamic voices for the Real Reformers, in addition to proving to be a supreme organizer with a high level of leadership skills. Over the past year she was involved with organizing the new MORE caucus in the UFT. She gave birth 10 weeks ago to her son Jack.

We fought the invasion of PS 15: a real-life "Won't Back Down" story

Lydia Bellahcene and Julie Cavanagh

The following was written by Julie Cavanagh and Lydia Bellahcene, a teacher and a parent at PS 15 in Brooklyn.  This is their real-life “Won’t Back Down” story, unlike the Hollywood version featured in the film of the same name that will open nationwide on Sept. 28.  You can also check out my review of the movie.  If you are a parent or educator and have your own real-life Won't Back Down story you’d like to share, please send it to us at  Thanks!
The movie “Won't Back Down” is a work of fiction but is said to be based on real life events.  It tells the story of a teacher and a parent in a 'failing' school who join forces to 'save their school'.  The tale is a powerful one and some viewers may find themselves rooting for the protagonists.   We too identify with the film, but not because we belong to a poorly performing school.  Instead, we have fought to save our successful public school from the invasion of a charter school, which is not a story that the pro-privatization producers of the film would be likely to tell.

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