Monday, May 26, 2008
Still Quacking at Bronx High - Updated
NYC Educator reports today on the ongoing situation at Bronx High School of Science, one of the elite schools in New York where the administration has called in child welfare services to charge a child of dissident parents with educational neglect, as described fully in the Riverdale review article. The full pdfs of the articles on the right are available on request (and they are worth reading - does anyone know how I can post the pdf's?)
While known for attacks on teachers (which seems ok to the anti-teacher world out there) the Bronx High administration under Reidy has also engaged in attacks on students and parents.
I became personally involved with a Bronx High student not long ago when he contacted me through this blog for assistance and advice. Charged with the horrendous crime of bringing up the cartoon you see below on a school library computer (which the student denies doing), he was threatened with suspension and even expulsion. He was in the midst of studying for an AP exam (and he's only a sophomore) and was very concerned about the distraction over the incident. I called Advocates for Children, who did not have someone available to go with him to a hearing at the school where he had to bring up his parents (imagine, his parents had to take a day off from work over this nonsense.) He asked me to go with him but we felt that might prove to be provocative. I had him talk to some teachers and admins I know at the school to get more advice.
I can't tell you how impressed I was with this student, as we had many email and phone conversations. He even contacted the chancellor's office and they punted it right back to the school. But his idea to not take it lying down was what kids should be learning, though he ended up with a one day in school suspension and no entry on his permanent record, which he felt ok about – maybe it was fairly light because the story had gotten out of the box. We talked about the bigger lessons: you don't always have to take the crap, but when you think you are getting a good deal, take it. I think we may be hearing some great things about him in the future.
We've been following the Bronx High Quacking story here and here since we were contacted by Dr. Bob Drake*, a chemistry teacher who was U-rated and fired for starting the "Reidy is a Quack" campaign when she started calling herself "Dr." after receiving an honorary PhD.
There were always principals who abused their power - from the days I entered the school system and before. Empowered principals under BloomKlein and the eviscerating of the UFT Contract have made things much worse for teachers, students and principals, but expect the Klein apologists to attack the victims.
To the Regressive Ed reformers, whatever a principal says and does, even if he/she rolls steel balls around and talks about stolen strawberries, is ok. The teacher is always wrong. If you are the best teacher but show disrespect to the monarch, it's your head and sadly, there are actually totalitarian-like people out there who think teachers should lose their job for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance. The rubber rooms are loaded with them.
When a Bronx High teacher resigned last fall, he started his letter to Reidy this way:
" I am writing to inform you of my resignation effective today, November 10, 2006. Although most of the staff, particularly the young and untenured, are in mortal fear of even having a conversation with you to discuss issues pertaining to their professional lives because of your infamous reputation for “dismissing” staff members that question; I am confident that this drastic step has earned me the right to a fearless, legitimate opinion which will shed light on the severity of how teachers are treated under your administration.
The entire letter is here.
So do you check your first amendment rights at the school door?
If a principal behaves in ways that are outrageous, what is the recourse?
In a so-called democratic society, the actions of despotic principals is not acceptable.
Look for my follow-up post (to come) on my own experiences as a teacher and chapter leader with a semi-despotic principal. After hearing the stories today, the next time I see her I will give her a big hug.
* We went with Bob to a PEP meeting where he presented his case to Joel Klein's deaf ears who ignores the fact that there are U-rated teachers for political reasons. After Bob left, he found that many school districts outside NYC were very happy to have him teach, and at a much higher rate of pay.