Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Principals Demonstrating Principles

Elizabeth Green's piece in the NY Sun today on the anger being expressed by principals over being kept in the dark over budget cuts hits cuts to the core. Remember the mantra of the multiple reorganizations of BloomKlein was the empowerment of principals – empowerment means the ability to screw teachers and shunt them and parents out of the ed process. Green nails the World of Tweedledom in these 3 sentences.

The department's deputy chancellor for finance and administration, Kathleen Grimm, said last week that her staff began brainstorming cuts about two months ago, in November.

No principals have yet been informed of the cuts.

A Department of Education spokesman, David Cantor, said they would be informed in the next few days.

! Let's see. November, December, January, almost February. Bet if not for Green's article they wouldn't hear in May.

Featured in Green's article is Brian (Leavy) De Vale, principal of PS 257 who is one of the first principals to lay out the BloomKlein regime with a roundhouse right and couple of left hooks – a sure sign that lame duck status is descending on the BloomKlein era.

A few more choice quotes from the Green piece:

[De Vale] listed several multimillion-dollar expenses the Department of Education might cut from its central office budget instead, including ramped-up testing; a new data warehousing program called ARIS, and a process of reviewing schools through an outside contractor based in Britain. The ARIS system is costing the Department of Education $12.2 million this year, and the review process is costing $5.9 million, Mr. Cantor said. The new interim tests were to cost $80 million over five years.

To save money, Mr. Bloomberg's budget calls for scaling back the tests to four a semester from five. Mr. Klein hails all three programs as innovations that put New York City schools ahead of the country in terms of their ability to individualize teaching.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. De Vale, whose school received an A grade on its progress report, said the emphasis on data did not match his priorities. "We don't spend our day looking at flow- charts," he said. "My priority is keeping kids off the street."

The criticisms come a week after Mr. Klein released a survey showing wide approval among principals for the programs Mr. De Vale disparaged.

The survey was given anonymously, and about 70% of principals responded.

Mr. De Vale said the results were distorted because many principals were not under the impression that their answers were actually anonymous.

"This is a climate of fear," he said. "Principals don't speak the truth."

I knew Brian [as Leavy] when he worked for the District 14 office and he became principal just as they folded the districts. Brian was part of the old machine in the district and is proof that not all was bad in the old regime. I have lots of friends who work at PS 257 and there are only raves for Brian as a principal. I won't go into the reasons that he is such a good leader because having teachers, parents and children love you doesn't fit the Tweed model corporate type.

Kudos to Green for following up on the Klein press conference we both attended last week where Klein Kvelled about how wonderful principals thought he was doing. The rest of the press corps I'm sure sat there thinking Klein must be Bubble Boy if he thinks those surveys were really honest since principals have such mistrust in Tweed, sure their responses are being tracked, yet did not try to follow up on the possibility these surveys were a sham. The cracks are beginning to show, thanks to Green's work.

Make sure to check out NYC educator's take on this issue today.


Anonymous said...

It is nice to know that one's advocacy as a principal for the fair and proper funding for the children and the rights of his teachers to be left to do the work they are both trained and eager to do is noticed by the public.

I am grateful for the kind words
spoken on behalf of my work over the past 6 years at PS 257. I don't know that I was ever part of any district machine- I was more just a guy
who, as he does today, gets up every morning to go fight for his parents, children, and teachers in order to make the COMMUNITY a better place. Thanks for noticing and taking the time to share the kind words-it means a great deal.

I just happened to stumble upon this website this evening while looking for groups who will support our fight to restore the thousands of dollars removed from our budgets and came across this article- I will try to vist your site more often- It is excellent and very informative.
Keep up the fine work.

Brian Leavy De Vale
Principal PS 257

ed notes online said...

Well-deserved. Even when in the district office you had an excellent rep from the people in the field and you didn't always hear that about people in those positions.

Frankly, when you were appointed a principal I had my doubts about someone from the DO running a school. But it was quickly clear that you trusted teachers to do what they do and that is a key thing in making you a good principal.

On the machine comment, almost all people in the DO had to do certain political obligations, part of the reasons local boards were killed. The question is how to remove politics from the process so that people who want to be AP's or Principals don't have to attend political fund raisers.

That you are one of the few principals to take a public stand (when privately almost every principal will agree with you but will still fill out positive principal satisfaction surveys)is a significant step in the debate to come on whether the current system should continue. Thinking back to the positives and negatives of the "good old days" I think we should take a look back and see what worked and make another try.