Friday, March 6, 2009

NY Times Takes Sides on New York's School Chancellor

...want to Guess Which Side the Times is on?

NY Times reporter Elissa Gootman has been subject to criticism from parent leaders in NYC after her kiss face article on Joel Klein, Taking Sides on New York’s School Chancellor.

Patrick Sullivan, the lone voice representing parent interests on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), that joke of a board of education, said:
I spoke to Elissa Gootman for some time about this article. And while I did say I felt Klein was "sincere", it was solely in the context of he is sincere in believing his mission is fixing the system for low income families. I also said his policies were wrong, his implementation consistently poor, his contention that he's empowered to make all decisions on behalf of our chilren appalling and many other criticisms that didn't make it into the article. She had an idea about how to paint Klein and clearly picked bits and pieces to paint that picture.

She had also wanted to contrast Klein as an ideologue against Bloomberg as pragmatist. I made it clear to her that was not in any way a valid view. There is an effort now to dismiss the problems of schools governance as simply a question of Klein's style or about the person running the system, not about the governance structure. We need to keep the focus on the failings of the structure that allows parents to be systematically and completely shut out of our childrens education.

Leonie Haimson, a parent who has been one of the most vocal critics of Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg to the extent that officials feel it necessary to monitor her comments and respond.

The last five people quoted are all ideological allies or friends of Joel Klein. Throughout the article, there are nine supporters and four (somewhat) critics. Not exactly a balanced article. And unfortunately the reporter [Elissa Gootman], seemed to buy Klein’s line that what he has done has provided more equity and that only middle class parents reject his leadership. I know of few involved parents in any part of the city of any background who support his policies.

I disagree with Leonie here. It isn't only the reporters who buy Klein's line. Even if Gootman were inclined to do the type of investigative reporting that people like Meredith Kolodner of the Daily News or Elizabeth Green of the former NY Sun and now Gotham Schools have done (which I doubt) the NY Times would have no interest in exposing the BloomKlein follies. When the Sun went under and people were discussing whether the Times would hire Green, I knew they wouldn't and even told Green that even if it came about she would never be allowed to cover stories like she did at the Sun.

Thus, it is left to students at the Columbia School of Journalism to investigate the No-Bid contracts of BloomKlein.

My comment on the listserve focused on Patrick's statement, "There is an effort now to dismiss the problems of schools governance as simply a question of Klein's style or about the person running the system, not about the governance structure."

If you read UFT propagandists you see this theme of Klein's style constantly reiterated. How Randi finds Bloomberg easier to work with than Klein and rumors that the UFT will only support mayoral control if Klein goes.

One must ask how a union with national roots can focus on Klein when it full well knows for the past 10 years that a similar scenario was played out in Chicago with Vallas and then Duncan and in other cities with similar problems. San Diego with Bursin and Alvarado and Washington with Rhee and Fenty.

The focus on Klein is a distraction for the real national fight that is necessary to understand what is happening in NYC in a national context. That one of the main forces that is capable of leading a fight to defend public education tends to frame the issue in terms of the personality of Joel Klein, leads one to question which side it is really on.


Anonymous said...

Red Alert! Rhee Reform ! BRING THE SERVICES TO THE CHILD ! 100 % MANDATE ON INCLUSION !WHERE ARE SERVICES TO THE CHILD AND SUPPORT TEAMS ? What's happening to our American School Buildings in an economic crisis ?

Anonymous said...

A Conference to Defend Public Education ! Hope CNN covers it and the rest of America watches ! Go New York ! Tell Anderson Cooper ya need some help !

Anonymous said...

I sent the following letter to the Times in response to Gootman's puff piece-

Dear Editor-
I hope that future installments in your series looking at mayoral control will provide a more balanced picture of the record of Bloomberg/Klein and more diverse voices from groups with the most at stake- students, parents and teachers.

When Klein obtained union agreement to do away with transfer seniority and then began closing embattled schools throughout the city, the ATR problem- a pool of teachers with tenure but no job- was created. This miscalculation has cost the city more than the total budget of many school districts and should probably have cost the Chancellor his job. When a school is closed, teachers must find new jobs in the system and students must find places in other schools. The students with poor records end up in the remaining large high schools, making it impossible for them to function effectively.

Through no fault of their own, long established schools are being destabilized and the DOE is only too happy to subject them to closure, as well.

These are only two examples of the failures of mayoral control. Many more would be brought to light in your series if the voices of students, parents and teachers are given the attention they deserve.

The author is a NY City teacher with 22 years of experience.