Following are excerpts from my bi-weekly column in the Feb. 8 issue of The Wave (www.rockawave.com), Rockaway Beach, New York's weekly community paper. It includes some expanded pieces previously posted here.
by Norman Scott
There’s a story floating around about a recent visit Randi Weingarten made to PS 106 in Rockaway to address the issue of whether Principal Marcella Sills deserves designation as one of the UFT’s top ten “Principals from Hell.” Weingarten was not happy when she was forced to go upstairs to sign in, Sills’ way of showing her who was the boss. Weingarten said she was going to complain about the way Sills treats teachers (and most other people) to good buddy Kathy Cashin, who appointed Sills. Lot of good that will do since Cashin is currently fairly powerless (we’ll see where she stands when the post BloomKlein smoke clears) while running a Learning Support Network where she has to hustle to get client schools.
At least one teacher at the school claims there are records of observations in her folder signed by her that never took place, and that she never signed.
If you believe the stories going around the school community, there may well be more than one teacher involved.
The Wave worked on that story in June, at the end of the last school year, but the teacher involved, who acknowledged to a Wave editor that Sills had inded forged the teacher’s name to bogus evaluations, refused to go public, saying that the school investigator was going to take care of the problem and she did not want any further trouble from bogus ratings.
BloomKlein empowered principals. So, what’s a little forgery?
I had my own run-in with the haughty Sills a few years ago. She sure is a snappy dresser – I guess she doesn’t have to worry about little kids clutching at her with affection. I came to the school to give teachers leaflets from the opposition caucus, ICE, and she denied me access to the mailboxes, one of the few principals in Rockaway to do so. She used the term, “Not in MY school.” I should have asked to see her deed.
Ironically, the literature was critical of Randi Weingarten and the UFT leadership. But no matter how critical of Weingarten I’ve been, when it comes to the Battle of the Queen Bees, I’m rooting for Randi on this one.
Mayoral control, school governance and the UFT
UFT governance borough meetings are venting mechanisms – basically dog and pony shows. The UFT is philosophically committed to a system based on some form of centralized control which they will not be moved off no matter what people say even though Randi is talking liek she is unhappy with mayoral control. Expect some tweaking. The UFT will support Bill Thompson for mayor and sell it as a way to have mayoral control with your own personal mayor.
When you say you are opposed to mayoral control UFT leaders will come back with: We don't want to go back to what we had. I'm not so sure anymore. The trick to is to come up with an alternative – some kind of decentralized system that will work. Keeping the schools away from politicians as much as possible is the key.
The downfall of the old decentralized system was due to the machinations of political forces controlling the schools where “Dialing for Dollars” was a metaphor for so many patronage jobs. So, how do we minimize the use of schools as a base for political operations?
One intriguing idea is to truly empower the neighborhood school as the basic unit (not Joel Klein’s phony empowerment.) Create a fair system of School Leadership Teams controlled by teachers and parents and local community forces. Let them be the ones to choose the principal from a list of people who have been certified by the state.
Form districts by giving each school one rep (or base it on a ratio of number of students). Some plans have an intermediate step of using the middle schools and its feeder elementary schools as a unit.
Each district sends a rep to a central level. The central operation would provide services and monitoring to the schools. They could also choose a chancellor to oversee things and to allocate money, which would still come from a central level. Power doesn't reside on top but at the place where it is needed – at the school level. The devil will be in the details, but it is a plan worth exploring.