Sunday, February 15, 2009

Loretta Prisco Testimony Before the NYS Assembly Hearings

Mayoral Control

Feb. 12, 2009

Thank you for opening this discussion. You asked for comment on the results of Mayoral Control.

I answer in one simple word:


But you have given speakers five minutes, I will elaborate.

Children fear being tested, retained, and being identified as a “1” or a “2”.

Parents fear that once labeled by their score, their child’s career will be over, their ELL and Spec. Ed. child will not get mandated services, and fear that if their child commits a minor infraction that used to result in a call home, now means an arrest.

Communities fear the labeling and closing of their schools, and the detrimental effect it will on their neighborhoods.

Teachers fear that a tap on the shoulder to comfort a child, or the return of a hug will cause them to be sent to the rubber room. Pedagogues, who once enjoyed collegial relationships, are fearful that low scores will bring the wrath of their supervisors and peers.

Nothing grows in fear – at least nothing worth harvesting.

As an almost 47 year public school advocate, a former public school student, teacher in and out of the classroom, a district coordinator, a city graduate student and college instructor, PTA member and president, member of the parent federation, and major critic – I daresay, I doubt anyone was more pleased than I that the “old” system folded and doubt that anyone had more enthusiasm than I for a new governance.

I will not repeat the testimony about the data which was to show that schools are moving toward success has been manipulated. You have heard it from extremely reliable sources.

Allow me to share one fear that I have. As our schools have become test taking factories with children trained to select from a few possible answers on tests with as few as 34 questions, I fear that we will not have a citizenry prepared to be the scientists solving the problems of survival on this planet, the social scientists to help us navigate a more complex world, the peacemakers for nations continually at war, the artists who express ideas in creative and innovative ways and help make a more beautiful world, and urban planners to help us plan our cities for healthy living – the problem solvers of the world.

Children who entered Kindergarten in 2002 are leaving 5th grade – an entire elementary school career under this administration. Kids get one bite of the apple – and this one has been, pardon the expression, a rotten one.

I am a member of a group that met over two years on Staten Island to design a school governance system. Our plan has been reviewed and approved by the Issues Committee of our Democratic Club and a caucus of the UFT.

Attached is a detailed version, this morning I want to identify our basic core principles.

1. The system must be based on democratic participation of the community with decision making flowing from the school level to a central body.
2. The DOE must be politically neutral and not tied to any one political office. A school system cannot change/adjust according to the political aspirations, career, whim, caprice, or ideology of a politician. It must be an independent office with responsibilities to the people of the City and operate within the regulations of the NYS Ed. Department and laws of NYC.

3. Benchmarks must be established and evaluations conducted by an independent agency.

4. Inherent in the system design must be respect and support for all constituents and recognition of their expertise.

5. Funding must be fair, equitable, transparent, with budget decisions made at the school level.

6. School and District lines must be drawn to preserve and strengthen the integrity of neighborhoods and communities.

7. A system of checks and balances must be put into place to give voice to all constituents.

8. Professionals creating and implementing instructional policy must have classroom teaching experience so that they have a clear understanding of the implications of their decisions. No waivers granted.

9. Schools in distress must be supported. Closing should be the last resort.

Our children do not deserve to go back to the old, suffer under the present or have the current system “tweaked”. We would like to suggest that an appointed Task Force be assigned to govern the system for the period of one year, continue the present structure, and hold public hearings to help plan for a new system.

Video links from David Bellel:

In this segment Loretta and Gene Prisco offer testimony. Lynda Bernstein is also questioned.

To review the impact of governance changes which granted mayoral control of the New York City school system Friday, February 12, 2009, 10:30 a.m., College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Williamson Theater, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Building 1P, Staten Island, NY Catherine T. Nolan, Member of Assembly,Chair, Committee on Education. Other Members Present: James F. Brennan, Daniel J. O'Donnell, Michael Benedetto, Matthew Titone, Michael Cusick, Lou Tobacco

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