Monday, November 17, 2008

Report on Panel for Education Policy meeting (Monday, February 17).

Read Marjorie Stamberg's report below on tonight's surreal PEP meeting at Tweed. ATRs, rubber rooms (Jeremy Garrett from the Rubber Room movie was there filming), angry special ed parents because the special ed discussion was removed from the agenda because Jim Liebman had to explain the Aris system, and more. I mean, I didn't get home 'till almost 10:30. I did some taping but the battery ran out just as Leonie was about to talk. But I did get Patrick Sullivan suggesting Jim Liebman tends to drone. I think Liebman's droning drained my battery.

I spoke and read sections of this piece in today's business section of the NY Times about how Circuit City tried to save money by getting rid of its most experienced higher priced employees and is now bankrupt. A must read for its parallels to the policies at Tweed.

Well, let Marjorie tell the rest of the story.

Tonight’s PEP meeting was a vivid demonstration of the way in which the Department of Education is trampling underfoot the most heartfelt concerns and interests of students, parents and teachers. There was an outpouring of anger--from teachers confined to the “Rubber Room,” from parents and advocates for Special Education, from the ATR teachers denied positions, and from students fighting against military recruitment in the schools. Below is a brief summary of the ATR remarks shortly. But first…

The outrageous treatment of those who had come to speak on the point on “Special Education Update” was breathtaking. They, and everyone else had waited patiently for well over an hour as the Chancellor’s close associate Jim Liebman (architect of the totally bogus school report cards, supposedly based on dubious high stakes tests) droned on about the new ARIS “accountability” system. Then someone from the DOE budget cuts office unveiled a power point presentation about the “four buckets” (I kid you not, this is the way they think) where cuts will take place. When they finally got to the Special Education point, for which parents and advocates had prepared for weeks, the Chancellor suddenly ruled there was no time, the point was off the agenda until a future meeting.

People stormed angrily out of the meeting and we were all aghast that a schools chancellor would just blow off the concerns of children with disabilities! Later, an advocate for the children reluctantly came back and spoke during the public comment session. Ms. Connelly, from the Citiwide Council on Special Education, said it was a sad commentary that the Chancellor’s Panel was doling out the same cavalier treatment that special needs students too often find in this society.

Several people from the ad hoc committee to support the ATRs spoke, including myself, Angela De Souza, and Roz Panepento. We noted that the vendetta against ATRS was part of an assault on teacher tenure, and that parents should be outraged that at a time when classes are larger than ever, teachers are being kept out of classrooms. We emphasized the November 24 rally, demanding a hiring freeze until all ATRS who want positions are placed and that there be no firing of teaching fellows. Our central message is “Let Teachers Teach”—The DOE should stop vilifying and victimizing the teachers who are the heart of public education.”

Three ATR teachers spoke very powerfully about their situation – this is the real story of how DOE arbitrariness rips up people’s lives. Here are some excerpts.

Dr. Lezanne Edmond, ATR, said:

“There are over 1,600 ATRs, who are languishing and their experience and talents wasted on being bathroom and lunchroom monitors, or substitutes, instead of being utilized in the classroom, where they need to be, doing their jobs -- teaching.

“As an educator, with a doctorate in learning styles, with over 10 years of instructional experience, as well as having contributed to over 150 students obtaining their GED, I find having the talents of myself and my colleagues squandered in such a manner unconscionable, as well as an enormous disservice to the city’s students. What needs to cease is the viewing of education as a business, and instead proceed with the business of education.

Mary Najaddene, former citiwide mentor and ATR

“We, the ATRs, are the new class or rather underclass of teachers who have masters and other advanced degrees, and many years of satisfactory service. And yet we have been told unofficially by principals, ‘I’d love to have you here, but I just can’t afford you. I can get two new teachers for your salary.’ That can’t possibly be the reward you alluded to with regard to excellence in teaching.”

Robert Bobrick , ATR at Lafayette HS, said:

“‘Why is the DOE doing this,’ people ask. They can’t understand why the DOE could be so stupid as to pay hundreds of qualified people not to work, or at least not in full-time positions. You might say it is the union contract that doesn’t allow the DOE to fire incompetent pedagogues. But I say our teaching records demonstrate that we are not incompetent, we are in excessed positions because of bad DOE policies--closing large schools instead of supporting them, over-hiring new teachers and teaching fellows. Moreover, you are denigrating and defaming through mouthpieces such as the New Teacher Project -- your most dedicated teaching and school staff.”

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