Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whipping up a Delicious Souffle of The Resistance

Even though I can't cook, one of the fun things of this "job" is gathering together the ingredients to make a delicious souffle. A people souffle, of course.

Yesterday I took part in as tasty a meal as I've had in a long time.

I whipped this lunch up for a visit to New York by parent activist Sharon Higgins -Perimeter Primate and The Broad Report blogs. I've never met Sharon, but she has been a blogging buddy. Originally the two of us were going to meet for lunch, but I figured this was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the break and gather a selection of activists and defenders of public education in the NYC area.

The resistance LIVES!!!

Add a quart of major NYC parent activists.

Toss in a bunch of teachers from some of the active groups in the Resistance:

A dash of ICE

A pinch of NYCORE

A pint of GEM

And for dessert, CAPE.

We were limited to 8-10 people due to the space in the restaurant - Karavas in the Village, which is where we often end up at these small political events. Security was tight. If BloomKlein got wind, an entire swath of resistance fighters refusing to accept their mantra that "resistance is futile" could have been compromised.

Conversation was sharp and tart as I sat there swiveling my head as if I were at a tennis match.

Sharon told us about a salon she hosted for Bay area resisters. (It reminded me of a few parties I had held out here a couple of times.) It's a great idea. People need to get together outside meetings and rallies just to talk. Oakland teacher/activist/writer Jack Gerson attended. Jack was in Another View, the first activist group I ever joined, for a while in the early 70's when he taught in NYC.

Sharon filled us in on doings in Oakland and how she got started trying to take back her daughter's school from the invaders. She talked about what they had done to the Oakland schools (read more on her blog.) Did you think the first through 200th Klein reorganizations were ludicrous (like why drive out experienced educators and replace them with people who know nothing). Well after hearing Sharon's story, it is clear more than ever that this is a national plan. Ahhh, the value of show and tell.

We brought her up to speed on The Resistance in NYC. The parents talked about a national network, just as we are looking to develop one among teachers. We all talked about the actions we have planned here.

I realized on the way home that even though I knew almost everybody there real well, a surprising number of them hadn't met each other. And parents and teachers don't often get to sit down for 3 hours in a non-meeting setting and just talk. And talk. And talk. Three hours wasn't enough. Talk with an action plan takes some time.

My swiveling neck hurts but my brain is exploding from the stimulation.

I can't repeat much of the classified conversation. But Tweed better start battening down the hatches.

Rally to save Paul Robeson High School

I received this email from Adele Pham, who made a very professional video for Robeson:

Hi Norm,

I made this video about the rally to save robeson:

I am interested in helping kids organize their own documentation of what is happening but in an organized way that connects students from all of the closing schools. There would need to be some kind of united front if you will on video production.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Student Calls for Help in Making a Video to Defend His School

I received a call from a 10th grader at the Academy of Environmental Science asking for assistance in making a video. So far he and his crew have been trying to do it with a cell phone and that has been tough. They want to borrow a video camera or get some help with their video on Jan. 4, the first day back. They plan to show it at the Jan. 5 meeting at their school, which is at 410 East 100 street, Manhattan. If anyone out there is interested in helping them get their video together contact me at

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NYC Murder Rate Down? Where Did Bloomberg Bury the Bodies?

Today's good news was that this year NYC will have the lowest number of murders since record keeping began. Bloomberg is crowing. But those of us in education who know how Bloomberg jukes the stats, cannot help but be skeptical.

But how can he juke the number of murders, you might ask? When you're dead, you're dead.

If you are a fan of The Wire, you will remember how Marlo Stanfield's hit crew somehow managed to do over 20 people and leave no bodies by sealing them up in abandoned housing? Don't bet against Bloomberg's having a couple of hundred missing persons being "housed" on empty city property.

Marlo Stanfield and his crew Chris and Snoop hired as consultants by Bloomberg to "keep" murder rate down.


January 7, 2010, Jamaica High School - 6 PM - Sharp!!

Calling all Alumni and friends of Jamaica High School!

Join the Hundreds of others there showing the passion ---this has just begun. - Save Jamaica High School - Calling all Jamaica High School alumni! Calling all those tired of the politicians lying to us and making horrible decisions!

Council member Leroy Comrie told us to e-mail every day Joel Klein, and Mike Bloomberg at and say that the people will not let them close Jamaica High School. That they cannot justify this action.

The funding for Jamaica HS went to other schools. Keeping the school open didn’t mesh with the plans to revitalize Jamaica and its shopping district…. so this grand and one time glorious institution will be shuttered forever and this was decided a long time ago.

Help keep JHS alive and return it to the crowning jewel it once was. Help ensure that the funds are spent here instead of closing it down and opening up 2 other smaller schools. JHS will not accept 9th graders in 2010 and those who are there will still graduate….but, with what funding? What skills will they graduate with? What attention will these students receive? It is apparent that not only to these decision-makers not care about these students but they have deceived us by planning this move a long time ago and keeping silent about it.

The building is land marked. If the bulldozers come to take it down, I would not be alone in lying in front of the machines daring them to move.

Check out the Save Jamaica High School on facebook and see the momentum.



Steve Koss comments on PTAs to be neutered under new policy

Auctions, raffles would be banned; Dept. of Education employees forbidden to hold offices

From Staten Island Advance, posted on Norms Notes: PTAs to be neutered under new policy

Steve Koss responds:

This is beyond insane, reflecting a power-crazed school administration gone completely delusional. They are apparently so paranoid, they cannot tolerate the notion of an independent, well-functioning parent body seeking to help their children's schools recover from the non-stop educational and budgetary knee-capping being administered from Tweed.

I'm truly sorry that I'm no longer a PA officer, as I had been for the previous two years. Were I still President of my son's school's PA, I (and my board) would deliberately act in opposition to every one of these "policies" and dare the DOE to do something about it. I'm sure their P.R. machine would love the publicity of seeing a parent being "fired" from his son's school on the grounds that he was trying to sell cupcakes or organize an auction. That would look great in the Daily News, NY1, and probably Rachel Maddow or Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

When will parents finally wake up and say, "Enough is enough!" to this nonsense? There's only one acceptable response to all this, and that's to ignore it entirely and dare the DOE to do something about it. If I still could, I'd not only do so, I'd rub it in their faces. I've never seen anything so outrageous -- lucky for Klein he's the superintendent of the parent/sheep of NYC public schools and not a district in Long Island or Westchester. If he tried something like this in a community with real parent involvement, he'd be run out of town on a rail in a matter of weeks, if not days or hours.

Steve Koss

Tweed to Place Entire Schools on MTA

Tweed has changed the locations of schools (ie, Bronx parents who got their kids into a school fairly convenient travel wise and expected them to spend their 4 years there just love it when they are told the school is moving to Brooklyn) on the fly. But there is a solution. Following up on a recent Ed Notes scoop (Tweed Solves Problem of ATR/Student Nomads), we have learned that these schools will now be placed in the last car of the A train on its Washington Heights to Rockaway run - and back.

"It's a win-win," said new Tweed spokesperson David Cant. "Instead of building schools we use current infrastructure in underutilized cars and will pay the MTA for the use of these cars and the installation of portable Smart Boards." Tweed will also contribute to the upgrade of the speaker systems in the subway cars so the constant announcements of principals can be heard more clearly.

SOS (Schools on Subways) will start at 10am after the rush hour and end at 3pm before the evening rush. An extension of the program set to run from 12 midnight to 4AM is being negotiated with the MTA.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tweed Solves Problem of ATR/Student Nomads

With the announced closing of 20 schools about to create an enormous number of ATRs, teachers without positions and students with no nearby schools to attend, the high priced consultants at Tweed have shown their worth by coming up with a brilliant solution.

"We know that both ATR teachers and students will be spending many hours on the subway looking for a school," said TJ Pimplish, a Tweed spokesperson. "All they have to do is meet in a subway car and learn while travelling the subway system. Subway cars can hold up to 200 people, but class sizes will be limited to 100."

The DOE will sign a contract worth $2 billion with IBM for ARIS Eight, a computer system that will keep track of the moving trains and its passengers.

ED NOTE: Make sure to check out some fun comments.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Everybody Must Get Assessed"

Posted on Facebook by Mark Naison:

"Everybody Must Get Assessed" To Be Sung to Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women"
“Everybody Must Get Assessed”
To be Sung to Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women”

Well, they'll assess you when you're trying to be so good
They'll assess you just like they said they would
They'll assess you when trying to go home
And they'll assess you when you're there all alone
Their obsession, is teaching to the test
Everybody must get assessed

Well, they'll assess you when you're walking on the street
They'll assess you when you're trying to keep your seat
They'll assess you when you're walking on the floor
They'll assess you when you're walking through the door
Their obsession is teaching to the test
Everybody must get assessed

They’ll assess you on the day you enter school
They’ll asses you till you feel just like fool
They’ll asses you when you’re trying to teach your class
They’ll asses you whether it’s History or Math
Their obsession, is teaching to the test
Everybody must get assessed

They’ll assess you to get you to assess others
They’ll assess you until you become Big Brother
They'll assess you and then say they are brave
They'll assess you when you're sent down in your grave
Their obsession, is teaching to the test
Everybody must get Assessed

The WAVE on Beach Channel HS, updated

Here are reports from Wave editor Howard Schwach in the Dec. 25 edition. It is worth putting the comments of BCHS student Chris Petrillo up first. He was scheduled to meet with Joel Klein on Weds. but reports came in that he was dissed. You can see Chris challenge Dist. 27 Supt, Michelle Lloyd-Bey at the Dec. 15 meeting here. Chris appears around 1:40 seconds into the video.

Truth from the mouth of a student

Chris Petrillo, who will be 18 shortly after the present school break, says that, for him and his fellow Voyager Learning Community students, the problems began with last year’s cuts to the school budget.

Petrillo, who has been in the learning community for all of his BCHS career, told The Wave on Monday that the program was really good for the first three years he was in it.

“We had 20 students in a class and a group of teachers assigned just to the learning community,” he said. “Each of the four learning communities were themed. We could zero in on one area – like Science – and we really got a good education.”

Then, at the end of his sophomore year, the DOE made massive budget cuts in the school, excessing 32 staff members.

A number of teachers who taught the learning communities were cut. Class sizes went to 35 from 20 and some classes were cut entirely.

“We now have learning communities in name only,” Petrillo, who is leading the student drive to keep the school open, said.


DOE’s Own Facts Don’t Support BCHS Closing

Towards the end of the 2008-2009 school year the Department of Education issued on its website a “Quality Review” for Beach Channel High School. That report was the final assessment by a team of “experts” who spent a few days in the school. That review rated the school as “Proficient,” clearly not the top rating possible, but not the bottom either. The Quality Review report commented on how the school had gone from “academic poverty” to proficiency, mostly by instituting four “learning communities,” each focused on a single theme and each taught by a discrete staff of caring educators. Shortly after the report was released, the DOE cut 32 staff members from the school’s budget – most of them young teachers in the learning community program. The cuts forced class size in those critical classes to 35 from 20 and took away many of the support personnel assigned to the program.

There are many students and staff members who believe that the school was set up to fail by a city agency that has other ideas for the building – a charter school owned by State Senator Malcolm Smith and backed by former Representative Floyd Flake, two of the most powerful politicians in the state. They may well be right. In the past few years, two new schools began drawing the more educationally motivated students – the brightest — from Beach Channel. The Channel View School for Research began a high school organization and the Scholars’ Academy, a gifted magnet middle school, began a high school as well.

That left only those who could not go elsewhere at Beach Channel. Of its 1,330 students, nearly one-third are special needs students – a very high number for any comprehensive high sch ool. In specifying why the school needed to be closed down, District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay said that the school no longer served its students and that the parents were unhappy with the school as well. Yet the last school survey showed that 85 percent of those parents responding said that they were happy with the edu cation their student was getting at the school.

There is something not quite right about the closing of the only comprehensive high school on our isolated peninsula. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done before the Educational Priorities Panel [Panel for Educational Policy], beholden to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, makes its final decision on January 26. It is probably already a done deal, but once the vote is taken, it is written in stone. We can’t allow that to happen.

BCHS Quality Review: ‘Proficient’

By Howard Schwach
Shortly before the city’s Department of Education decided to phase out and close Beach Channel High School, the Rockaway Park school earned a “Proficient” rating on its 2008-2009 Quality Review,” records show.

Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay and Ewel Napier from the DOE address the crowd early in the meeting that was held at the school last week. Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay and Ewel Napier from the DOE address the crowd early in the meeting that was held at the school last week. “Beach Channel is a large comprehensive high school that through leadership, vision and resource management skills of its principal is starting to emerge from a period of academic poverty,” the DOE’s own report says. “The road has been long and challenging but one which the entire staff appreciates, is beginning to reap the rewards for their endeavors and sustainability. The students respond by attending more regularly, participating more fully in the life of the school and leaving many of their personal issues at the gates of the building.”

A group of students wait to speak at last week’s meeting. A number of them challenged the superintendent about her contention that the school no longer addresses student needs and that parents have lost confidence in the school. A group of students wait to speak at last week’s meeting. A number of them challenged the superintendent about her contention that the school no longer addresses student needs and that parents have lost confidence in the school. The nine-page report, which calls the school “Proficient,” says that “much of this transition [from academic poverty to proficiency] is due to the formation of a number of small learning communities within the large school.”

“Establishing the school’s small learning communities is a major factor in raising attendance and in the development of a safe and secure environment for learning,” the Quality Review report says.

Yet, it is these very learning communities that the DOE “imploded” last year by cutting staff and increasing the number of students in each class, some of the school’s senior students charge.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, BCHS UFT chairperson Dave Pecoraro and student Chris Petrillo wait to speak to the DOE officials present at the meeting.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, BCHS UFT chairperson Dave Pecoraro and student Chris Petrillo wait to speak to the DOE officials present at the meeting. Chris Petrillo, who will be 18 shortly after the present school break, says that, for him and his fellow Voyager Learning Community students, the problems began with last year’s cuts to the school budget.

Petrillo, who has been in the learning community for all of his BCHS career, told The Wave on Monday that the program was really good for the first three years he was in it.

“We had 20 students in a class and a group of teachers assigned just to the learning community,” he said. “Each of the four learning communities were themed. We could zero in on one area – like Science – and we really got a good education.”

Then, at the end of his sophomore year, the DOE made massive budget cuts in the school, excessing 32 staff members.

A number of teachers who taught the learning communities were cut. Class sizes went to 35 from 20 and some classes were cut entirely.

“We now have learning communities in name only,” Petrillo, who is leading the student drive to keep the school open, said.

Gerlisa Hills, 18, another senior in the same learning community agrees.

“All the good education ended,” she said. “The school did not have money for the number of teachers the program needed, and most of the teachers who left were from the learning communities. I have a stake in this building. My parents went here and my sisters. This is really going to impact the kids who want to come [to BCHS].”

“When the budget was cut, Beach Channel did not have enough money to sustain the small learning communities, which had been working so well,” Petrillo added. “The students lost the structured, nurturing environment that these communities provided.”

Opponents of the closing say that the school lost all of the better students to both the Channel View School for Research, which shares the same building with BCHS, and the Scholars’ Academy, the district’s gifted magnet school, which is right across the street.

The DOE website says that the school houses 1,330 students. Of those, 240 receive English as a Second Language services and 239 have In - dividual Education Plans denoting special education services. That means more than one-third of the students at the comprehensive high school have special needs.

The DOE held a public meeting to announce the closing and to address questions from the school community and local residents.

At that meeting, held at the school on December 15, District Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay told the 125 participants that the school had to close because it was no longer serving its students.

Lloyd-Bay told the meeting, “We are only messengers here. This is done, and the question is, how do we move forward?”

“The statistics show that this school is no longer equipped to help students move ahead,” she added. “The parents have expressed their dissatisfaction and it is time to phase out and close the school.”

Yet, according to the results of the last school survey, completed in the 2008-2009 school year, statistics on the DOE’s own website show that, while less than half of the parents completed the survey, of those who responded, 81 percent of the parents said that they were “happy” with the education their children were getting at BCHS.

In addition, 83 percent of those parents who responded said that they had an adequate opportunity to be involved in their child’s educational experience.

Why then, if the parents are not unhappy with the school and it re - ceived a “proficient” rating, is the school being closed?

Lloyd-Bay, who is not responsible for the district’s high school, but was the only local school official present at the last meeting, did not return calls for clarification.

It seems, however, that the DOE is sending a mixed message by closing a school that the agency itself says is improving.

One of the areas in which the school is doing well, the Quality review says, is working with fewer teachers and less money.

“The school’s use of a diminishing array of resources does not affect student learning,” the report says.

The Education Priorities Panel [Panel for Educational Policy], which has to vote on January 26 whether or not to phase out and close the school, will host a community meeting in the school auditorium at 6 p.m. on January 6.

At that meeting, three commissioners will hear community comments, but there will be no questions allowed.

Columbus HS: In Defense of Closing Schools, Victims of Charter Invasion - a Rally

There are lots of meetings coming up for closing schools. If you have more info or videos of your schools or need assistance in posting videos, contact me at See below for the list of schools (thanks to Seung OK for compiling the info. Excuse the formatting as I don't have the time to fiddle with the html.)





Details of Columbus HS defense: Meeting Jan. 7, check time - 8pm seems late.

Reads Christine Rowland's piece in GS on Columbus HS here:
And then joins the Facebook page to Save Columbus here:

Columbus student, teacher and principal defend their school in Ed Notes video of the Dec. '09 PEP meeting.

Date Time Closing hearings-rallies-conferences-meetings Forum location

5-Jan 6pm school for community research and learning hs 1980 lafayette ave, bronx
5-Jan 6pm academy of environmental science and Renaissance Charter 410 East 100 street, manhattan
5-Jan 4:30 PM GEM= joint planning meeting Rally 21st Cuny grad center
6-Jan 6pm Frederick Douglas Academy III (6 -8) 3630 3rd ave, bronx
6-Jan 6pm beach channel HS at Beach Channel HS
7-Jan 8pm Columbus HS 925 Astor Ave, Bronx
7-Jan 5pm global enterprise hs 925 Astor Ave, Bronx
7-Jan 6pm Paul Robeson hs 150 Albany Ave, Bklyn
7-Jan 6pm jamaica high school 16701 Gothic Drive, Queens
8-Jan 6pm choir academy of harlem hs 2005 madison ave, manhattan
11-Jan 6pm norman thomas hs 111 E 33st, manhattan
11-Jan 6pm Kappa II (6-8) 144-176 East 128 st, manh
11-Jan 6pm alfred e smith HS 333 East 151st, Bronx
12-Jan 6pm william h. maxwell vocation hs 145 pennsylvania ave, brooklyn
12-Jan 6pm business, computer applications and enetrepe hs 207-01 116 ave, Queens
13-Jan 6pm academy of collaborative education (6-8) 222 west 134 st, manhattan
13-Jan 6pm ps 332 (k-8) 51 christopher ave, bklyn
13-Jan 6pm School for academic and social excellence (6-8) 1224 park place, Brooklyn
13-Jan 5-7pm Forum: The challence of Charter Schools: by NYCORE Cuny GRAD Center
14-Jan 6pm New Day Academy Hs 800 Home St, Bronx
14-Jan 6pm metropolitan corporate academy 362 schermerhorn st, bklyn
16-Jan 10am Citywide parent conference: Leonie Haimson (Norm Siegel -guest spk) School of future- 127 E 22nd st, Manh
19-Jan 6pm Pave Charter invasion of PS 15 71 sullivan st, Bklyn
19-Jan 6pm monroe academy of business law HS 1300 boynton ave, bronx

26-Jan 6pm PEP meeting Brooklyn Tech High School
28-Jan 4:30pm-7pm Charter School Forum/Discussion Polytechnic Institute - Downtown Brooklyn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Utter Farce of the Beach Channel HS Closing (and the other 19 schools) Part 1

This column for The Wave was submitted today but was delayed until the Jan 1 edition. It may need some updating by then depending on reports of the meeting between Beach Channel student Chris Petrillo who was supposed to meet with Klein and possibly Bloomberg today. I spoke to Chris yesterday and he said he would defend his school from being closed. (You can see Chris on tape from the Dec. 15 meeting here.)

by Norman Scott

It's been a busy two weeks and my blog has been humming with activity since so many school closings were announced by Tweed. With the holidays coming, I'll keep this report shorter than usual and urge those who want more in depth coverage to read Howie Schwach's reports and check out my blog.

I videotaped much of the meeting held at Beach Channel on Dec. 15. The star of the meeting was student Chris Petrillo who challenged Michelle Lloyd-Bey, the DOE hit woman sent in to lead the sheep to slaughter. "Were we set up to fail," Chris asked, pointing to the placement of Scholars Academy and Channel View to drain away the better performing students? "Why are you closing us? Why not just fix us?"

Lloyd-Bey's pathetic response to Chris was, "Yes you should have been fixed. But for whatever reason it didn't happen." Sure. "For whatever reason" was the best she could do. Lloyd-Bey said she was not the superintendent for high schools and the current superintendent just became superintendent of District 20 and a new person was coming in as Tweed moves deck chairs on a ship sinking faster than the Titanic. The outrage of closing so many of the schools may prove to be Tweed's iceberg. (And do not forget the creation of so many teachers without positions who still have to be paid, known as the ATR conundrum. Some see the massive school closings as a political move to create pressure on the UFT to give up the ATRs, but I will follow up with more on this on the blog.)

Chris made such an impression that as we went to deadline he was supposed to meet with Joel Klein and possibly Bloomberg on the afternoon of Dec. 23. We hope to get some reports for the next column in two weeks. We are efforting to get Chris together with student leaders at Jamaica HS and Maxwell HS to build a united front of students defending their schools. (A recent student led demo against the rescinding of free MTA cards may be a precursor.) If a student activist network grows, this will be more than an iceberg for Tweed. Think "fast moving glacier."

Lloyd-Bey spent the entire meeting absolving herself and the DOE of responsibility and having almost no answers for Chris or the other speakers. "Why didn't they send someone who actually know something," people incredulously repeated over and over? Lloyd-Bey has been a major fixture in District 27 and Rockaway schools for a long time and played a role in the closing of Far Rockaway High School, one of the reasons for the influx of so many students that led to the destabilization of Beach Channel. Lloyd-Bey (one day we'll explore more of her history) is a typical Kool-aid-drinking agent of Tweed who only talks about one-way accountability in blaming the schools and teachers. She and another Tweedie repeatedly stated that only 50% of the teachers had the "right" to apply for jobs at the new schools if they were "qualified." Howie Schwach asked how they could not be qualified if they are already teaching at BCHS?

By the way, the one thing that Lloyd-Bey said at the meeting that was completely true was in responding to a teacher who questioned why teachers had to look for new jobs with this rejoinder: "It is in your contract." BCHS Unity Caucus Chapter Leader Dave Pecoraro, who is known as a good CL was standing on line at the time waiting to speak as I gave him the high sign because he supported the 2005 contract.

Clearly Lloyd-Bey agreed with the decision to close Beach Channel and said so openly. When I raised questions as to whether BCHS was given the resources to succeed, she recited the usual litany of options that have not worked at other schools and pretty much said, "Ask your administration where those resources went," in effect throwing the principal under the bus.

It was pointed out repeatedly that one of the options Tweed has before closing a school is leadership change, something they no longer seem to be opting for since almost all principals working today have come under the BloomKlein era and would entail an admission of failure. Another of Tweed's icebergs. Is the DOE so devoid of leaders that this option is not to be considered? It is interesting that BC's principal Dr. David Morris remained out of the auditorium for most of the meeting. "The apathy and inaction since the announcement by Dr. Morris speaks volumes," said a commenter on my blog. Morris must have been promised a safe haven if he doesn't lead a battle to keep the school open (there do not seem to be ATR principals). Contrast his actions to the principal of Columbus HS in the Bronx who led her school's teachers, parents and students at the PEP meeting two days later to stand up for her school. The principals of Jamaica HS and Maxwell are also encouraging teachers and students and parents to fight to keep their schools open.

Under the new governance law passed this summer, all school closings must be voted on at a Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting. Tweed ran into another iceberg by scheduling all 20 closings and lots of other business for the Jan. 26 meeting which was scheduled to be held in Staten Island. Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan requested a change in venue as outrage poured out at this farce and Tweed backed away and moved the meeting to Brooklyn Tech HS.

Three politicians, Lew Simon, Erich Ulrich and Audrey Pfeiffer made strong statements at the Dec. 15 BCHS meeting. But they are just words without action. The entire control of the school system has been handed over to madmen and women by the politicians and making nice at a public meeting does nothing to change things. Ulrich did take some follow-up action with a petition that expressed his outrage at not being informed by Tweed of the closing of a major school in his district. But will he make a strong stand to save Beach Channel? As a Bloomberg supporter don't bet on it.

Oh, were you wondering where our own PEP rep from Queens stands on the closing of large Queens schools like Beach Channel HS and Jamaica HS? There is talk about putting pressure on the Queens PEP member Dmytro Fedkowskyj. We'll see how he votes on Jan. 26. He is clearly a puppet of Borough President Helen Marshall, who in a sea of suck-up to Bloomberg borough presidents (excluding Scott Stringer who appointed Patrick Sullivan) leads the pack. She even has less respect than Brooklyn Bloomberg lackey Marty Markowitz. If Fedkowskyi goes along and votes to close schools in his constituency he should be called on to resign and we can only hope thousands of students from Beach Channel and Jamaica HS show up at Helen Marshall's door. The next meeting at Beach Channel will be on Jan. 6. (To be continued.)

See my blog for video of the Beach Channel meeting and reports of the raucous December PEP meeting held so far up in the north Bronx I thought I was in Canada. They really need to hold a PEP meeting in Alaska where Joel Klein can declare: "I can see data from here!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ignore the UFT Elections At Your Own Peril

The closing of schools and the invasion of charter schools seems to have put the UFT elections, which begin in earnest in early January, on the back burner.

With James Eterno, the ICE/TJC candidate for UFT president to oppose Mulgrew being in the awkward position of having to put his main energy into leading the defense of his closing Jamaica High School (and having to work with Mulgrew to accomplish that) the campaign has not been a priority. I have been racing around covering charter and closing school issues and certainly have neglected my responsibility in discussing the election. Thanks to ICE's Ellen Fox who has kept her nose to the grindstone, and Joan Seedorf, who has done amazing work as the Manhattan rubber room rep, I have been reminded about my responsibilities. We met last night to work on our candidate list.

More teachers and even students have been activated than ever. Even the UFT is being moved to a higher level of activity. The closing schools ties into the creation of ATRs. Unless Tweed gets the UFT to give up on ATRs through public pressure and the use of the state legislature to do something there will be lots of instability. Imagine a floating crew of thousands of dislocated teachers and students. Closing 20 schools was done intentionally and there is no clearer sign that this is a political not an educational agenda that may come back to bite them.

Rumors are floating that Bloomberg will issue an order to give no teachers tenure that is not tied to test scores. Expect some vicious attack as a follow-up to the closing schools to force the issue. There will not be a UFT contract for years unless the UFT gives on these issues, something they cannot afford to do, especially with a UFT election coming up. But if Unity wins by the usual 80% margin all bets are off.

That is why the larger the vote for ICE/TJC the more that will stiffen the spine of the leadership.
Readers of this blog often rail against the UFT but when it comes time to sign up to run against Unity many back off. There is fear out there that the UFT will leave you hanging if you end up under attack or in the rubber room if you are openly with the opposition when in reality, the UFT often bends over backwards to assist activists who they fear have the ability to spread the word.

It is important for people to see this election as part of the fightback against BloomKlein. I don't expect to win much in actual positions but just as the high Thompson totals has made Bloomberg less able to do his thing, a high vote total for ICE/TJC will accomplish the same thing. Even if you don't want to run, ICE/TJC needs lots of help in getting petitions signed and turning out the vote and making sure people don't screw up their ballots. Ignore this election at your own peril.

What do you have to do? Contact me to let me know how you can help. If I don't hear from too many of you, you're all goners.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Wave's Howard Schwach on Beach Channel High School Closing: What Isn't The DOE Telling Us?

Howie gave me permission to publish these 2 pieces he wrote on Beach Channel HS due to its immediacy (WAVE articles on the web are embargoed for 2 weeks). First is his commentary followed by his report on the informational meeting held at Beach Channel on Dec. 15. There were stories out yesterday that local Republican recently elected Erich Ulrich is outraged at not being notified by the Tweed death squads that a major high school was being closed in his district. Sources are talking about putting pressure on the Queens PEP member Dmytro Fedkowskyj but he is just a tool of horrendous Queens borough president Helen Marshall. One day we can only hope thousands of students from Beach Channel and Jamaica HS show up at her door.

Here are links to my reports on the meeting with video attached. (I have more video which got sidetracked by my working on the PEP meeting vids.)

Tweed's Shameful Performance at Beach Channel High...

Note the video of the senior at Beach Channel named Chris confronting Michelle Lloyd-Bey, the DOE flunky assigned to put a public face on the death squad. Rumor has it that Chris and Joel Klein somehow made contact and Chris supposedly has a meeting with Klein lined up where Chris will argue the case to save his school. And Chris is a senior who will not be affected by the closing.

Beach Channel Meeting Video #2
In this video Schwach and I confront Lloyd-Bey, who denies she played any role in the influx of kids from Far Rockaway HS but in fact played a major role in the closing of Far Rock which was the exact cause of the influx of kids to Beach Channel. Have these people no shame? Guess not.

The Rockaway Beat

Beach Channel High School Closing: What Isn't The DOE Telling Us?
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Beach Channel Drive High School Beach Channel Drive High School So, the Department of Education has announced the phase-out and closing of Beach Channel High School, something that I have been predicting for months.

The DOE went a long way in destroy ing Beach Channel High School by placing two competing programs in Rockaway, one that drew all of the high level students and the other that took the rest of those who could read and write.

If you do not believe that the Scholars' Academy, with its own high school, right across Beach Channel Drive from BCHS drew some of the top students that might have attended BCHS and that the high school unit of the Channel View School for Research drew the rest of the motivated students, just talk to some parents.

What BCHS was left with were all the students who could not get into those two schools.

I spoke with Deputy Chancellor John White last week, shortly after the announcement was made, and he told me that there will be a new school in the BCHS building next year to share the facility with the Channel View School for Research.

That school, he says, will be designated as 27Q324, housing 432 students in grades 9 to 12.

He also said that the school would not have an "admission screen," meaning that it will take any student who wants to attend.

That begs the question: If the students are going to be the same, what sense does it make to close the school in the first place?

If the Far Rockaway High School closing is any example of the way it will play out, then many of the students who would have been slated for Beach Channel High School will wind up instead at mainland schools such as John Adams. There is no place else to go because, for the first time in more than 120 years, there will not be a comprehensive high school on the peninsula.

White was right when he said that the change will be good for the security of the neighborhood and for the community in general.

The questions that need to be asked are, will it be good for Rockaway's students, those who can't earn their way in to the new schools; and, will it be good for the mainland schools where the Rockaway kids finally wind up?

First of all, I believe that White was being disingenuous in his answer to my question about whether or not the new school would be for all Rockaway students.

Perhaps I'm being too tough on him. Perhaps he is being lied to by his bosses just as we are.

In any case, I believe that the new school at BCHS will turn out to be a charter school hosted by State Senator Malcolm Smith, and will quickly become the high school equivalent of his Peninsula Preparatory Academy that now runs in some trailers in Arverne By The Sea.

Call me skeptical, but I see it coming. It's almost as if the DOE set out to destabilize the school so that Smith could eventually have it as his own.

After the announcement of the phase-out of Far Rockaway High School in 2007, many of the thugs who could not find places in the new, small schools at the Far Rockaway Edu ca - tional Campus were sent in stead to Beach Channel High School, completely destabilizing that school.

We've written about this previously.

From The Wave edition of November 30, 2007.

The opening months at Beach Channel High School were marred this year by a spate of disruptive incidents, including drug possession, weapons possession, fighting, insubordination to school security agents and staff, and even an attack on the school's dean. Most of these incidents were perpetrated by students who were transferred to the Rockaway Park school from Far Rockaway High School, officials and school staff say.

In all, sources say, more than 50 students who are zoned to attend Far Rockaway High School because they live nearby showed up at Beach Channel High School in September with transfers in hand.

A Beach Channel High School staff member, who asked not to be identified because he had no permission to speak with the press, said that many of the transfers were problem students.

"Some of them had criminal records, some had been suspended for fighting and for theft," the source said. "Others were gang members in their home neighborhoods and were at war with the gang members at Beach Channel [High School] even before they got here."

The source told The Wave that two administrators at the school outlined the problems caused by the newcomers in a memo that was sent to Department of Education officials.

While this newspaper was denied access to the memo by DOE officials, a source at the school said that the memo detailed the problems caused by the transfers, including the 50 who came from Far Rockaway High School. In addition, 16 other transfers came to BCHS from alternative programs, including some who had been incarcerated. Eleven came from full-day special education programs, including the hospital day school program.

"[The transferred students] caused lots of mayhem in the building for the first few months," the source said. "From the beginning of September

until mid-October, more than 25 of those students were involved in disciplinary actions, some of them very severe. They were a real problem."

Last month, the DOE placed BCHS on its list of "Impact Schools," those that require special attention and more school security resources.

That designation came after an incident where a Far Rockaway High School student got into the building and joined transfers from that school in beating another student in the cafeteria. And, while the DOE admits that there were many problematic transfers to Beach Channel High School, a spokesperson said that the school was not being singled out in any way.

"Beach Channel has not been singled out as a dumping ground for troubled students," deputy press secretary Andrew Jacob told New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman. "I don't see how anyone can make the argument that one school is being favored or disfavored over any other."

He said that many of the Far Rockaway students were sent to Beach Channel simply because that school had open seats and is close to Far Rockaway.

"There is nothing out of the ordinary about the process of getting their transfers," he added. Any large high school in the city is going to be dealing with students from a wide variety of backgrounds."

Will this progression of closing schools and reopening them for a small percentage of the original student body, sending the "unwanted" elsewhere and proclaiming victory continue with the Beach Channel closing?

Will the "other school" at BCHS turn out to be a charter run by a politicallyconnected local such as Mal Smith or Floyd Flake, as we have perdicted?

Only time will tell.

Lots Of Angry Questions; Few Answers At BCHS Meeting

By Howard Schwach

City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the BCHS meeting on Tuesday night while Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and UFT Chapter Chairperson David Pecoraro await their turns. City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the BCHS meeting on Tuesday night while Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and UFT Chapter Chairperson David Pecoraro await their turns. District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay looked like a hockey goalie unable to stop the slap shots coming at her hot and heavy in the Beach Channel High School auditorium on Tuesday night.

A question about where the majority of students would go after the school was phased out and closed.

"I can't answer that question," Lloyd- Bay said.

A question about where teachers would find new jobs and whether or not they would be fired should they not find a new position in a year.

"I don't have that information," Lloyd-Bay said.

A question about why the school did not receive the support it needed to stay afloat, support that has already been promised for the new school that will take the place of BCHS.

"I wasn't involved, and I really can't answer that question," she said.

About 125 parents, students, school alumni and staff gathered in the auditorium on Tuesday night to find answers as to why their school was being closed and what would happen next.

Department of Education representative Ewel Napier speaks as District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay backs him up. Department of Education representative Ewel Napier speaks as District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay backs him up. Because the district's high school superintendent was "attending another meeting just like this one elsewhere," Lloyd-Bay, who is the superintendent for elementary and middle schools, was thrown into the breach. As the questions got angrier and her answers more evasive, the meeting turned into a shouting match.

Ewel Napier, the DOE's deputy borough director for the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, began to read a list of a dozen bullet points about what students and parents should do under the phase-out and closing plan.

Although the plan still has to be voted on in a January 26 meeting in Staten Island, both he and Lloyd-Bay acted and spoke as if it were a done deal.

The school's UFT chairman, Dave Pecoraro, however, says that the city agency is in for a fight.

"More than 2,000 years ago, the Maccabees revolted with a much smaller army and against a greater foe than we face," Pecoraro said. "As long as we are above ground, we have a fighting chance."

Parents and alumni wait to speak. Parents and alumni wait to speak. "The new school slated for this building will seat only 125 kids. We have double that coming in each year. Where will the other kids go?" he asked.

Denise Sheridan, a mother of a special needs student at the school, said that her daughter was getting a good education at the school and that she feared that would change during the phase-out period.

"The city is setting our kids up for failure," she told The Wave outside the auditorium. "I have no idea where my kid will get her services, because I am sure the new school will not take special needs students."

Dr. Davis Morris, the school's principal, was also standing outside the auditorium, as if he were not invited to the meeting.

He declined to comment on the meeting or on the closing of his school.

"We are all soldiers here," Morris said. "We all follow orders."

Parent Denise Sheridan speaks to officials as Democratic District Leader Lew Simon waits. Parent Denise Sheridan speaks to officials as Democratic District Leader Lew Simon waits. Lloyd-Bay added to that when she told the meeting, "We are only messengers here. This is done, and the question is, how do we move forward?"

"The statistics show that this school is no longer equipped to help students move ahead," she added. "The parents have expressed their dissatisfaction and it is time to phase out and close the school."

Maria Camacho, the personnel liaison for the citywide operations center, angered many in the crowd when she said that teachers at the school would have to reapply for their jobs and that only 50 percent of them could be hired for the new school, the others being forced to move into the "open market system."

"Those teachers who are qualified for the new school can be rehired," she said.

When an ex-teacher said that he was confused, because all of the teachers presently in the school had to be qualified to hold their jobs, she answered that the new principal and a panel of others would have to decide whether the teachers were qualified for that school, which brought catcalls and angry shouts.

Special needs teacher Patti Holloran asks where her students will go as other students wait to speak. Special needs teacher Patti Holloran asks where her students will go as other students wait to speak. Where would those teachers who were deemed not qualified find jobs?

Camacho shrugged and said, "They would have to go elsewhere or become district teacher reserves [teachers without jobs who fill in as subs.]"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announc - ed last week that he is moving to fire all DTRs who have not found a permanent job in one year.

In many cases, however, the excessed teachers are more costly than new teachers, and principals are quicker to hire the cheaper teachers, experts say.

A number of angry parents stood in line to take the microphone to charge that DOE officials set up the school for failure by sending students from the closed Far Rockaway High School who destabilized the school and then by diverting much-needed resources to both the Scholars' Academy and the Channel View School for Research, a school that shares the building with BCHS.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich was angered because no advance notice of the closing was sent to his office and because no plans were apparent for those students who would not be admitted to the new school, which will open next September.

"If they can't get into the new program, there is no place in Rockaway for them to go," Ulrich said. "If they can't get a free bus pass and can't afford public transportation off the peninsula each day, where are they going to go?"

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was also angered.

"You had a responsibility to have somebody here tonight who can answer these questions," she said. "People came here to find the answers to their concerns and all they get is 'I can't answer that, and the person who can is not here.' "

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon also challenged Lloyd-Bay.

"You force our kids to go off the peninsula for school, then you take away their bus passes and add a toll on the bridge. You have laid-off parents and single parents who can't afford that. Somebody has lost their mind," he said.

There will be another meeting at the school on January 6 at 6 p.m., Napier said. Three members of the city's educational panel will be present and locals can make statements, but no questions will be allowed.

The Educational Priorities Panel will meet on January 26 in Staten Island for a final vote on the closing.

Locals are petitioning the board to move that meeting to a more central location for Rockaway residents.

"It's another example of the way the DOE treats us," a parent said. "There are no schools being closed in Staten Island, and that's where they chose to hold their meeting."

Pecoraro was more sanguine.

"I didn't know that there was a blizzard coming, but this meeting was a real snow job," he said. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

NY Mag says The Wave is the 'Tenth Best Reason To Love NYC'

I'm proud to write for The Wave:

The honors for Rockaway's weekly, The Wave (, keep piling up. Recently the Village Voice named the paper the best community paper in NYC. And now NY Magazine follows up. Funny how they never mention the education columnist. Here is editor Howard Schwach's piece from last week's edition:

The prestigious New York magazine has named The Wave as the tenth best reason to love New York City in its latest issue, which hit the newsstands on Tuesday.

The weekly glossy magazine touts Rockaway as a "reporters dream," writing, "While The Wave covers every eighth-grade graduation and Little League parade, the paper also boasts a genuinely first-class investigative re - porting division. Some of the stories The Wave has reported this year: the booming population of registered sex offenders residing in Rockaway; the proposed closing of many of Rockaway's adult homes; the saga of Kareem Bellamy, a convicted murderer whose 25-to-life sentence was overturned based on evidence now suspected to be fraudulent; the financial controversy surrounding Demo cratic district leader Gerald ine Chap ey. These are not the type of stories one finds in a community paper."

Wave managing editor Howard Schwach told New York Magazine writer Alex French, "This is a real newspaper. The stories we follow are often blotter items in the Times or the Post, but they're important stories to Rockaway, and the people who live here aren't going to get that news anywhere else."

For the story, French interviewed Schwach, Wave publisher Susan Locke, Wave general manager Sanford Bernstein and reporter Nicholas Briano.

French says that he first came to Rockaway to cover the story of Bobby Vaughn, a gangster surfer who opened a surf shop on Beach 116 Street. He came to The Wave to get some local color and to find out how the community felt about the new business in town.

"I was very impressed with The Wave and the way it covered all of Rockaway," French says. "I wanted to find out more and I pitched the idea of including the paper in our year-ending 'Reasons to Love NYC' edition."

French also interviewed Congress - man Anthony Weiner, who is often excoriated by the local paper.

Weiner recently went on the Congressional Record praising The Wave for being named "The Best Community Newspaper in NYC" by the Village Voice.

"Make no mistake, when I get bitten by The Wave, I feel it," Weiner told French.

But, the congressman said, every Friday he sends a staffer to buy the paper for him and if he's in DC, he gets parts of the paper faxed to him.

"I cancel my subscription to the Times two or three times a year," he told French. "But, I can't do without The Wave."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Angel Gonzalez Stars in The Taking of PEP, One, Two, Three

In this third posting of video I took at the Dec. 17 PEP meeting, Angel Gonzalez of GEM and ICE stars as he takes over the meeting and pulls a real deaf ear and a rubber stamp out of his pocket while ICE/TJC presidential candidate James Eterno and another ICEer hold up the ICE/NYCORE banner we made last year calling for the end of schools closing, the defense of ATRs and an end to high stakes testing.

Later I'll put up more video with Leo Casey's statement - compare it with Angel's on the militancy meter from zero to ten. Casey, by the way spent the meeting with his head down texting as much as Klein did - probably to each other. (A New Action blogger had a cryptic hint of similar criticism without mentioning Casey by name - of course. Don't want to jeopardize those Exec Bd seats, you know).

By the way, note how Mulgrew is now saying "Fix schools, don't close them." How creative Mike. I guess you has been [sic] reading Ed Notes and ICE and GEM material. If we thought the UFT would take a militant position beyond just words, we would be glad to see them adopt our positions. Do not hold your breath.

There is some commentary from me on my trek to the Bronx and a few words at the end. WARNING: holding the camera in front of your face up close and personal can make you look even more grotesque than usual.

More PEP videos on Ed Notes
PEP Rally for Patrick Sullivan

PEP Boys (and Girls) December Meeting: Cracks Show in the Bloomberg/Klein Monolith

Sunday, December 20, 2009

PEP Rally for Patrick Sullivan

The NYC so-called rubber stamp Board of Education is known as the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP). Most are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg. Five are appointed by the borough presidents. Patrick Sullivan is the Manhattan borough rep and until recently has been the lone voice truly representing parents. At the Dec. PEP meeting held in the north Bronx, Patrick again led the charge, but this time he had some support. A bus company that has been convicted of bribes and a contract for software for prof. development are challenged by Patrick. The crowd responds and Klein, Michael Best, David Chang and the other rubber stamps look nervous. If they want to be rubber stamps let's not let them be comfortable about it. Will future PEP meetings ever be the same?

You know that Der-ick Je-ter chant at Yankee Stadium? When you're done watching this video, chant Pat-rick Sull-i-van, Pat-rick Sull-i-van.

Norman Thomas Rally Video

PAVE's Spencer Robertson: Billionaire Slimebag...and Liar Too

There is such an important post at the CAPE blog, that I am cross-posting it here below. The parents at PS 15 held a demo yesterday. Spencer (daddy, give me a school) Robertson didn't take it too well.

CAPEers think old Spencer is showing cracks. Head o
n over to CAPE and add your comments.

Oh the outrage that the NYCDOE gives Robertson $26 million to build his play school because daddy is a billionaire, just a sliver of
the massive corruption under BloomKlein. And they talk about the awful old decentralization days when a local school board member took home a dilapidated piano.

As a companion piece, read another brilliant post by Leonie Haimson on the NYC Public School Parent blog titled:

Charter schools: the new polo ponies of the wealthy

Leonie points out that daddy Robertson is the 147th richest man in America. Why should he have to give Spencer a job when he can get we tax payers to foot the bill?

Follow this trail:

....Julian Robertson himself is careful not to pay NYC taxes , by making certain to spend under 183 days in the city. The state recently brought a lawsuit against Mr. Robertson senior for failure to pay taxes, but Robertson won this case, by proving that he had carefully worked out the minimum number of days he would reside in the city and having his scheduler keep records of this:

"...Mr. Robertson designated an assistant, his scheduler Julie Depperschmidt, to keep a careful count of where the Robertsons were from day to day in 2000 and to make sure they did not spend 183 days or more in New York City."

Spencer Robertson's wife Sarah is Director of Talent Recruitment at PAVE , and head of the board of Girls Prep Charter School, which has caused considerable controversy of its own by seeking to expand within a District 1 public school building.

Another member of the Girls Prep board is Eric Grannis, husband of Eva Moskowitz, who makes more than $300,000 a year, operating another string of charter schools and who herself has been eager to expand her schools even further into the buildings of existing public schools in Harlem.

Leonie points to "this article about a "secret" meeting that took place last May, between Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Julian Robertson and other members of the Billionaire Boy's club, about how to coordinate their charity "efforts".

UFT: Silence of the lambs
Before you read the CAPE piece, let me point to the silence of the lambs at the UFT on these type of issues no matter how much Leo Casey whines about real estate grabs. Note the same Bill Gates the UFT is partnering with in a plan that will lead to evaluating teachers.

And note the name Eli Broad as part of the crew above. He gave the UFT charter schools $1 million. And he was a major factor in the publication and publicity campaign for Richard Kahlenberg's "Shanker was right about everything" bio, which was designed to soften teacher unionists up for "the program." (Read Vera Pavone and my review of the book if you want to know more.) So who is in bed with who(m)?

Dammit, I wanted to write a piece that the real mismanagers have been the UFT, not the DOE, where BloomKlein have managed the dismantlement of teacher rights and the take over of swaths of public schools for private interests. Now, Under Assault's assault on the UFT has beaten me to it:


"MISMANAGEMENT CENTRAL is Unity Caucus, which is taking us whitewater rafting down a very long and angry river without paddles, lifesavers, or strategic thinkers at the helm."

Finally, one more point made about the UFT leadership by South Bronx Teacher in this post:
....the top 1,400 sycophants working for Joel Klein will be getting raises totaling $12 million dollars, including 475 that already make over $100K. That is bugging me, but not as much as something else I read in the Daily News article.

What is bugging me, perplexing me, annoying me the most is Mike Mulgrew's response. Mulgrew, and I must think of a pet name for him, blabbered, "The chancellor has the right to make his own judgments about what his managers deserve." No outrage Mike? No stern consternation? Not even a tsk tsk?

CAPE: Will the Real Spencer Robertson Please Stand Up


Today a group of parents picketed PAVE. They used their voices to demand accountability and honesty from the DOE and PAVE's founder Spencer Robertson. Teachers stood by on the sidelines, as not to participate in political action on the school block, but wanted to support the parents who braved below 20 degree weather to exercise their civil rights. Spencer Robertson chose to exercise his mouth and showed who he really is.

We should start by noting that Mr. Robertson's cracks began to show earlier this week when he told the school's building council that PAVE had all the money they needed to build their own building and that they would sign a contract for their space in 45 days (interestingly right in line w/ the timing of the PEP vote- maybe we can expect another grand announcement like the one we experienced this fall at the CEC meeting when they fake announced their space plans for the umpteenth time). What is even more interesting is one of PAVE's board of directors announced yesterday, they need an additional six million dollars to build (in addition to the 26 million in taxpayer dollars they have already been awarded by the DOE and the six million they have already fundraised). The board member also noted they already own a property in Red Hook on Henry and Mill Street. So, now we know for sure the real Spencer Robertson in a liar.

It is important to note that all of this discussion about a space or no space, building or no building, money or no money is irrelevant considering the agreement was made to the community for a two year co-location, which expires this June. Instead of acknowledging the fact that they, Spencer and his board, have misled the community and had no intentions of leaving in two years, they act like they are doing PS 15 a favor in assuring everyone they have every intention of leaving... some day, but they can't say when and the details of where and how change daily. Robertson ignores the negative impact his school and his actions have had on the educational programs at PS 15 and further the division it has created in the community. So, we know the real Spencer Robertson believes he is not accountable to the people of Red Hook or the children of Red Hook. We know his only interest is his charter empire.

This morning, as parents picketed outside, Spencer called the police and PAVE parents wrote on blogs demonizing PS 15 parents for standing up for what is best for their children, both denigrated PS 15 parents and teachers calling their actions political and tried to shame them for supposedly involving and scaring children (it is important to note this picket was purposefully set to begin after PAVE students arrived at school so no children would be forced to walk through the picket). What was happening inside? PAVE students were led in chanting, in PS 15's auditorium while our children arrived and our teachers and families set up our holiday fair in the gym next door, ...we are a charter, a mighty, mighty charter, this is our school, you can't move us... So now we know Spencer is not only Orwellian, but he, unlike the teachers and parents at PS 15, actually does indoctrinate his students with propaganda.

During the parent picket, Spencer stood next to the only two white men on the line and presented his case, women and tan people need not be spoken to. He thought he was reaching his good 'ole boy network, instead he got an earful. Apparently this shook him so much, his only recourse was to attack the dedicated teachers, who said and did nothing, who merely stood in silence, separate from the picket, to support parents who were standing in freezing weather, to highlight their true commitment and dedication to this community they proudly serve. As the teachers filed in the building to pick up their students, Spencer turned to them and said, "So this is what it takes for you to get to school on time." Oh no he didn't! Now we know that the real Spencer is a desperate man, a cynical man, and too low for words.

The teachers at PS 15 are one of the most dedicated and hardworking groups of educators in the city. Despite tremendous obstacles, and by every measure, they succeed with their students. You value test scores, take a look. Some of the highest reading and math scores in the city. You want programs; take a look, many teachers volunteer their preps, lunches, and Saturdays organizing and running programs for students, parents and the community. While Spencer Robertson pockets 26 million dollars from the DOE, teachers at PS 15 scrounge for paper and write grants at nights and on weekends to make up for the more than 10% cuts the DOE has placed on our budget in the last year. This man has the nerve to defile our teachers in this way?! We should note this isn't the first time he has done this; in an email earlier this year he called our teachers lazy.

Late and Lazy. Hmmm. How many of his teachers work with parents in the community? How many of his teachers volunteer their time? How many of his teachers have been serving Red Hook for ten years or more? How many of his teachers buy their own supplies? How many of his teachers procure their own funding for the school? Do we see his teachers or for that matter him on Saturdays or Sundays or in the evenings in Red Hook? It is the typical neo-liberal/neo-con strategy: say it is so and so it is. You have to wonder if these people believe their own lies, or if they are so cynical the lies easily slide off the tongue without a second thought.

Spencer Robertson has painted himself as the son of a philanthropist who cares so much about children and inequality he gave up a privileged life to help minority children have access to a better education. The real Spencer Robertson needs to stand up. The truth is, Spencer Robertson is the son of a billionaire who is used to getting what he wants and will protect his own interests and will propagate his own agenda at the cost of anyone or anything that gets in his way. His strategy, along with BloomKlein and the entire charter/privatization movement, is to divide communities, demean and demonize teachers, disenfranchise parents, and dismantle existing successful public schools, particularly in minority communities that have a history of limited organization and mobilization.

Spencer and his cronies picked the wrong school and the wrong community to manipulate and mislead. Regardless of what happens over the next month, as long as this man is in PS 15, and most likely as long as he drives into and out of Red Hook each workday, he will face an outspoken group of people who know who he really is. We will be his mirror, maybe he can hide from himself, maybe he can even hide from the PAVE families who entrust their children to him, but all darkness comes to the light. Eventually the cracks will accumulate to a fracture and the facade will come crumbling down; the real Spencer Robertson will be left standing, most likely alone, on display for all to see. Hopefully the parents and teachers of PS 15 will still be around to pick up the pieces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Historical Perspective of Education Notes

A short history of Education Notes, its relationship to the UFT leadership, the formation of the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) and the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) was distributed in the hard copy Dec. '09 edition of Ed Notes at the Delegate Assembly, where I have been handing it out almost every month since 1996. That's pretty much the entire Brazilian rain forest. There is a pdf available for downloading if you wish to share it with someone who has no life. (

I began publishing Education Notes in 1996 at Delegate Assemblies because I was frustrated at the process that allowed the chair, usually the UFT president, almost total domination of the procedures. If you wanted to get the floor to make a resolution they had total control over who got to speak and if you were too outspoken on issues not liked by the leadership, you could easily get shut out. By distributing Ed Notes before meetings, I got to say my piece, whether I was called on or not. Ed Notes grew in size from one sheet to a 10-14-page booklet and then in 2002 when I retired, it became a full-sized 16-page tabloid published 4 times a year.

Having come out of the opposition movement to Unity Caucus in the 70’s (I was mostly inactive in the union from the mid-80’s through the early 90’s) I became active again when I replaced a Unity Caucus chapter leader in 1994 at my elementary school, which had a “my way or the high way” principal for over 15 years and we had butted heads all the time. My becoming chapter leader freaked her out and I began publishing a school newsletter, often once a week. That freaked her out even more and I began to understand the power of the press, even at the most local level.

I took a look at the opposition groups and didn’t find much that appealed to me. New Action was the major opposition caucus and was fairly ineffective though it did win support in the high schools by winning the 6 high school Exec Bd seats on a regular basis. Six out of 89 gave them little leverage and after leading the successful battle against the first 1995 contract to be rejected by the membership, they started fading. PAC, a smaller opposition group was totally focused on the teachers who were losing their licenses when they didn’t pass the teacher exams. Teachers for a Just Contract took positions I agreed with, but I thought they focused too much on a narrow range of issues.

I would attend UFT Exec Board meetings and was so frustrated at the way New Action would deal with Unity, so often cowed into submission. There didn’t seem to be enough fight in them, though a few like Marvin Markman and James Eterno were at times effective. But New Action leader Michael Shulman was the dominant player and so often seemed to throw a blanket over the Caucus.

Thus I figured the only way to create some change in the union was to appeal to what I felt had to be a progressive wing of Unity. At that time, Randi Weingarten was about to take over the union and presented herself as leading that progressive force. She reached out to me, claiming she agreed with me on so many issues, sometimes through late night email exchanges. Her people whispered that she was going to make changes in the union to democratize it and even make changed to liberalize Unity. But absolute power --- you know the drill.

By 2001, it was becoming clear that Randi was not only not liberalizing the union, but also making it more undemocratic than ever. As a small example, the new motion period ever since I became a delegate in 1971, took place immediately after the question period. Suddenly, if Randi didn’t like a resolution I was proposing, she either eliminated the time altogether or pushed it to the end of the meeting. She became more and more of a demagogue. In 2001, I became increasingly restive as she started supporting merit pay schemes and mayoral control, and I became increasingly critical of her and Unity Caucus, seeing that whatever progressive wing there might be (and I had plenty of conversations with people who came off that way) was cowed by Unity Caucus discipline. It became clear that the caucus was like a black hole. Once you went in you never came out.

Many of the positions Ed Notes took in the late 90’s - opposition to high stakes testing and the ridiculous accountability it engendered, unbridled principal power, drastic reductions in class size, support for chapter leaders under attack, a stronger grievance procedure, total opposition to merit pay, a broader curriculum not based on standardized tests began to attract some of the few independent delegates not affiliated with the other opposition groups. People like Michael Fiorillo.

The New Action Sellout
For activists in the union, the dirty deals made between Randi and New Action Caucus in 2003 whereby they wouldn’t run a presidential candidate against her in the 2004 elections and she wouldn’t run Unity Caucus candidates against their 6 high school Ex Bd candidates was a seminal event. Dissidents in New Action who opposed the deal contacted me. James and Camille Eterno, Ellen Fox and Lisa North. They were outraged at the sell-out, especially over the fact that all of a sudden, New Action members were on the union payroll.

Eterno, who had been serving as a New Action Ex Bd member for years, turned down that guaranteed opportunity. We called a meeting of the New Action dissidents and the independents I had been meeting through Ed Notes. Incredibly impressive people like John Lawhead (now chapter leader of Tilden HS), Sean Ahern, Jeff Kaufman and Julie Woodward. Added to that were some of the people who I had been active with in the 70’s: Ira Goldfine, Loretta and Gene Prisco, Paul Baizerman and Vera Pavone.

Formation of the Independent Community of Educators
Out of that meeting on Halloween 2003 came the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), which decided to run a slate in the 2004 elections and challenge New Action for those 6 high school seats, which given the fact that Unity was not running for those seats, we had a chance.

In the meantime, TJC was emerging as another group willing to challenge the Unity/New Action alliance. There were some differences and some ruffled feelings at the time but TJC and ICE united to run one group for those 6 seats, and surprise, surprise, we knocked New Action out of the box by getting more high school votes than they did. This put Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno, along with some strong people from TJC on the Board. For the first time, I saw some fight at these meetings, as Eterno now out from under the New Action blanket, teamed with Kaufman to run Randi ragged. The schlep into the meetings every 2 weeks now became worth it.

By the 2007 elections Randi was desperate to get Kaufman and Eterno out of her hair at these meetings and took her alliance with New Action one step further. She ran a joint Unity/New Action slate for 8 seats, including the 6 high school seats. Thus, every Unity vote would also be a vote for these New Action candidates. Shulman, like a porno salesman with dirty pictures approached one of the former New Action members who was with ICE and offered one of these positions. He was turned down.

Thus, New Action, which actually tells people they have these 8 seats on the Ex Bd without telling them how they got them, tries to claim they are independent. But dare them to declare their independence by running directly against ICE/TJC and without Unity support and see what they will tell you. Shulman actually has the nerve to brag that he refuses to take the double pension from the UFT he could get for his job.

In the upcoming UFT elections, ICE/TJC are running a full slate for the officers and Exec Bd, with an outside chance to win back those 6 high school seats as a beachhead on the Ex Bd to force the leadership to examine its disastrous policies on mayoral control, testing, closing schools, charter schools - you name it, they have been wrong. In response to New Action’s contention its qualified support for Unity has helped the union, I ask them to show us where. By abandoning its historic role opposing Unity, no matter how weak that was, it left a vast vacuum that ICE and TJC have struggled to fill.

ICE/TJC Candidates for HS Ex Bd
There is a superb slate running for all positions, but for now I’ll focus on the six high school candidates, who if elected will have an impact:

Michael Fiorillo is an ICE founder, when Michael speaks or writes on the educational issues of the day, people sit up and listen. He was the chapter chairman at Newcomers HS and is now the delegate.

Arthur Goldstein was recently elected as Chapter Leader of Francis Lewis HS, one of the most overcrowded in the city. Widely published in numerous newspapers and a regular at the Gotham Schools blog, Arthur has established a national reputation as a witty and incisive commenter. In his short time as Chapter leader, he has led the battle to address the overcrowding issues. His commentary on the conditions in the trailer he teaches in has embarrassed Tweed on numerous occasions.

John Lawhead, now chapter leader at Tilden high school, was an ICE founder. He contacted me when he found a copy of Ed Notes in his mailbox at Bushwick HS and wrote some articles. His depth of knowledge on educational issues, particularly on the high stakes testing, is astounding. I went with him to a conference of activists opposing NCLB (remember the UFT/AFT was supporting it) in Birmingham Al, back in early 2003 and hobnobbed with the national resistance to NCLB and high stakes testing. There is not one ICE meeting that goes by that John doesn’t say something that puts things together in a way that makes me say “Aha!”

I’ve known the TJC candidates for years, but I’ll leave it to them to provide more details in their campaign literature.

Kit Wainer, chapter leader of Leon Goldstein HS in Brooklyn for many years, was the ICE/TJC presidential candidate in 2007. Every time I hear him talk at a meeting, he makes complete sense and says it in an amazingly impressive manner.

Marian Swerdlow, who was a long-time delegate from FDR, has been a stalwart of the opposition for almost 20 years. She is as good as anyone I’ve met in breaking down an issue and analyzing it. For years Ed Notes published her awesome DA minutes, which she is still producing. They are not to be missed. If for nothing else, it is worth seeing her on the Ex Bd for those delicious minutes. Imagine the impact Swerdlow, with her ability to think on her feet, would have when Unity tries to pull its shenanigans.

Peter Lamphere, chapter leader at Bronx High School of Science, has been engaged in an epic struggle with a horror story of a principal. Peter was one of the leaders of the 20 math teachers who filed a complaint over harassment. He is as impressive in a public forum as anyone I’ve seen.

Formation of GEM
I must conclude with an account of the origins of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), which has been leading the battle against charter, schools and school closings. GEM emerged out of an ICE committee addressing the ATR issue in Jan. 2009. Spearheaded by John Lawhead and Angel Gonzalez, a recent retiree who had been part of the FMPR group supporting the teachers in Puerto Rico and had come to ICE for help and joined, the committee began to address the issue of the roots of the ATR issue by bringing together NYCORE people who were fighting high stakes testing and people from closing schools (it was Lawhead who put these concepts into a neat package for us). GEM held a conference and a march from Battery Park to Tweed last spring and during the summer worked up in Harlem to support the teachers and parents being invaded by Eva Moskowitz’ Harlem Success schools. In a short time, GEM has become recognized throughout the city as the group to go to for support, since the UFT has left such a vacuum. be continued