Thursday, May 23, 2013

Walcott Misuses Public Funds and Public Space For Political Ends and Must Be Held Accountable

Guest column By A. P. Salamander

If ever there’s been a moment revealing how grossly Mike Bloomberg has diminished and twisted the office of Chancellor of Education from an independent advocate of students to a highly paid political shill of the mayor, it was found in Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s transparent politicking of behalf on Bloomberg before an audience of principals at Brooklyn Tech High School this past Saturday, May 18. This is no small matter. For a public official to be publicly politicking in a public building to publicly paid civil servants under the pretense of a conference on public education is utterly immoral and cannot possibly be legal.

To give you some context, a teacher wearing an “Occupy the DOE “ button on his or her overcoat at school can be cited and written up for professional misconduct. 

Consider Walcott’s act in the context of the following rules from the Department of Education’s Chancellor’s Regulation D-130,
(http://docs.nycenet.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-86/D-130__1-15-04.pdf) which clearly states, “ School buildings are not public forums for purposes of community or political expression.”
And: “ Any officer or employee who violates the provisions of this regulation is subject to disciplinary action.” 

And: “ No rallies, forums, programs, etc. on behalf of, or for the benefit of any elected official, particular candidate, candidates, slate of candidates, or political organization/ committee may be held in a school building.”
And: “The use of any Department of Education school after school/business hours by any person, group, organization, committee, etc, on behalf of any elected official, candidate, candidates, slates of candidates or political /committee is prohibited.” 

Walcott either does not know the regulations he is meant to enforce or does know and does not believe he must adhere to them. Either way it is a horrific abuse of power and one for which Walcott should resign or be fired. 

Wolcott’s hyperbolic harangue against unnamed Democratic candidates who have rejected 12 years of Bloomberg education policies and were painted by Walcott as pawns of the teachers union, received wide media attention. Remarkably, neither the legality of Wolcott’s rant nor the waste of public funds was mentioned in any of the press coverage the event received.
Indeed, as reported in Saturday’s New York Times, Walcott even announced the “campaign” and the speech beforehand. 

“Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, is planning a campaign to remind voters of what he sees as the administration’s chief accomplishments, including rises in graduation rates and test scores. He will call on the candidates to put forth a compelling vision for city schools.
Mr. Walcott will begin his effort on Saturday, in a speech before nearly 2,000 school administrators. He will warn that the school system could fall into disarray if the policies endorsed by the Democratic candidates are put into effect.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/18/nyregion/schools-chancellor-to-strike-back-at-candidates-critical-of-mayors-policies

Walcott’s transgression can not be allowed to pass as nothing. Walcott must be held accountable for his actions. 

If you agree, call the Special Commissioner of Investigation at 212 510 1500 and demand an investigation. If enough of us do, we cannot be ignored. 

See article below.
New York Schools Chief Warns Against Changes




Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, spoke at a conference on Saturday.

By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ
May 18, 2013

Warning that the fate of New York City education was “hanging in the balance,” Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, suggested on Saturday that the school system was at risk of falling into disarray in the hands of a new mayor.
Mr. Walcott, in his latest salvo against the Democrats running for mayor, said city schools had reached a “new day” and that efforts to chip away at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s 11-year reform effort were misguided.
“Halting the momentum of this extraordinary transformation would be a tragedy,” Mr. Walcott told an audience of more than 1,100 school administrators gathered for a conference at Brooklyn Technical High School.
The Democratic candidates for mayor have promised to reverse some of Mr. Bloomberg’s signature policies, including closing low-performing schools and providing space to charter schools. Those promises have caused distress in City Hall, though the Republican candidates have generally embraced the approach of Mr. Bloomberg, who leaves office at the end of the year.
Mr. Walcott’s speech seemed intended to be a rallying cry before a friendly crowd, but the response was muted. While his calls for preserving the authority of principals and eradicating nepotism were met with applause, some principals seemed uninterested in his message.
Laughter broke out in some corners after Mr. Walcott explained that he was not looking to be a kingmaker. “I don’t like to involve myself in politics,” he said.
Renel Piton, the principal of Brooklyn Lab School, said he shared Mr. Walcott’s concern about the candidates for mayor and did not want them to “gut reform for the sake of gutting.” Still, he said he was surprised the chancellor chose to use a speech at an academic conference to weigh in on a political battle.
“We need to focus on what’s going on in schools,” Mr. Piton said. “I don’t come on a Saturday to listen to their views on the candidates.”
Brian DeVale, principal of Public School 257 in Brooklyn, applauded when Mr. Walcott began discussing the old way of running schools, before the State Legislature handed the mayor authority over the school system in 2002. Mr. DeVale, an opponent of mayoral control, said he thought Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Walcott were too authoritarian in their approach.
“I sat and listened to a political lecture from an administration I have no interest in,” Mr. DeVale, who is a union representative, said after the speech.
John C. Liu, the city comptroller and a Democratic contender for mayor, said he was puzzled by Mr. Walcott’s suggestion that the candidates were pandering to the teachers’ union.
“Candidates respond to complaints and concerns about the status quo,” Mr. Liu said in a telephone interview. “Candidates don’t manufacture concern.”
Even the Department of Education’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, waded into the political fray, urging principals to support efforts to overhaul the school system.
Mr. Polakow-Suransky said he was so distraught by the attacks on the campaign trail that he called the chancellor of the Washington school system, Kaya Henderson, for advice.
In response, according to Mr. Polakow-Suransky, Ms. Henderson offered a variation on an African proverb: “The elephants are going to be fighting, but don’t forget to tend the grass.”

5 comments:

  1. Walcott's speech on May 18 clearly violated Chancellor's Regulation D-130. The regulation provides that "all school personnel shall maintain a posture of complete neutrality" while on duty. Notably, the DOE encouraged attendance by advertising the following incentive: any principal who attends the conference will receive one compensation day that can be used between June 27 and August 30. I will definitely file a written complaint with SCI and the Office of Legal Services.

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  2. TeachmyclassMrMayor(andyoutooMrMulgrew)Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 4:42:00 AM EDT

    Administration held accountable? Since when?

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  3. We must hold this apostle of accountability accountable. If a teacher pulled a stunt analogous to what Walcott did they'd be on the cover of the Post and out of a job. Let us hold this lap dog's "feet to the fire", in the words of his master Bloomberg.

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  4. Administration will be held accountable when enough of us demand it and have the will to sustain our demand. The law is on our side. So too would be public opinion if enough of us worked to make sure the public is informed.

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  5. I'd be very curious to see an invoice as to how much Walcott's speech cost the taxpayer . You have principal pay, security and God knows what else. At any rate, it would be sweet to see it deducted from Walcott's salary.

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