Sunday, May 10, 2009

Class Size Skinny Awards Attracts Rock Stars of Education


I'm much more of an ed/pol junkie than a music fan. So, was I more impressed with last Sunday's A Night With Pete Seeger or Leonie Haimson's Class Size Matters fundraiser Honoring Ravitch, Jennings (Eduwonkette), Babad this past Thursday night at Jerry's Cafe on Chambers Street?

Leonie sure knows how to put on a party. Imagine: Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier (one of my ed idols since the early 70's) bridging their differences in person with Eduwonkette Jennifer Jennings. And her mentor and co-blogger Aaron Pallas, alias Skoolboy, also present. With superb satirist Gary Babad (who read us an "email" from Klein). And Patrick Sullivan. And of course, that force of nature, as Diane put it, Leonie Haimson.

Did Ravitch/Meier/Haimson/Jennings trump Springsteen/Baiz/Emmylou/Melankamp? Close. I'm an edugeek supreme.

Many parent leaders were there and some UFT officials showed up. There were even surprise guests, including some from the DOE and a Gotham journalist named Green, reiterating she is not biased. Okay, okay, already. Whatever she says. (She is irresistible and as much a force of nature as Leonie.)

I finally realized that Leonie had dubbed the award "The Skinny" as a take on the Broad (rhymes with toad) award. Duhhhh!

Leonie introduced each honoree with a gracious speech. I'll admit that as part of the anti-high stakes testing crowd, there was a lot of resistance to Diane Ravitch over the years. But even if she had not modified some of her positions ("I don't know if it's because of Deborah or Leonie," she said) her charm and wit can win anyone over. Once, at a Manhattan Inst. luncheon for Chester Finn, which she moderated, and I was the lone critic in the room, she whispered in my ear something like, "Good to see a voice of disent. I agree with you." That sure firmed up my spine
in hostile territory when I got up to ask my question.

Diane pointed out that she had resigned from the Hoover and Thomas B. Fordham Foundations and was more proud of being of the Class Size Matters board. She talked about what Leonie does on a slightly skinny budget. I expected her to pull out a shoestring.

Leonie introduced Gary by reading some of his satire, which in the bizarre world of Tweed, is often taken seriously. She said she started the NYC Public School Parent blog partly so people could read his funny stuff.

Jennifer, whose Eduwonkette blog in its short time of existence (less than a year) created a national sensation, made waves last week with her report on the school force-outs. (April 30 press conference on rising discharge rates). It caused some serious consternation at Tweed as they scrambled to respond.

In her speech, Jennifer was kind enough to give me credit for suggesting she start the blog. Frankly, I didn't remember. But I do remember her sending me some of her amazing research and I kept asking her to figure a way to share it with more people and offered to let her use Ed Notes if she wanted. We did have lunch (on the day BloomKlein received the Broad award) in Sept. 2007 and she asked me questions about blogging and we discussed how to protect her identity. Three days later she had the prototype up and the 'kette was off to the races.

Leonie, who has a good relationship with Randi Weingarten, also was kind enough to say some nice things about me despite the fact there were UFT reps in the room. She also gave me credit for urging her to blog and I do remember that. I actually started the Norms Notes blog solely to find a way to save Leonie's amazing comments and analysis on the web. Finally, after the Feb. 28, 2007 famous rally that brought so many people opposed to BloomKlein (I met Patrick and Diane for the first time that night) together, Leonie informed me she and Patrick were starting the NYC Parent blog. It's been a wonderful addition to truth, justice and the American way of democratic criticism.

It was good to see good buddy David Bellel get recognized by Leonie for his amazing dedication and work for the cause. I did recruit him to do some video for us at the GEM rally on Thurs May 14 starting at Battery Park and marching up to Tweed, after passing by 52 Broadway to call on our buddies at the UFT to join us. (I will be stationed there from 3:30 until they pick me up.) If you can't get there in time to join the march, go directly to Tweed and wait for us.

You didn't think I would let you get away without a plug, did you?

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