Tuesday, September 15, 2009

PEP Boys (and Girls)

No rally materialized at the first meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy last night under the reconstituted mayoral control. There was some talk from the Coalition for Public Education (CPE) and GEM but nothing materialized.

There were a cosmetic few changes at the PEP. Joel Klein can no longer be the chairman of the PEP, freeing him to play with his Blackberry all night. David Chang, who has spent his years on the PEP being a bump on a log was "elected" chair.

Javier Hernandez has a report on yesterday's PEP in the Times
Newly Empowered Education Panel, Looking Like the Compliant One of Old

It had been derided as a committee of puppets, a rubber-stamp board with no clear power or purpose. So when word came from Albany over the summer that the Panel for Educational Policy would have greater power over the New York City schools, some thought things might be different.

The old days, however, did not seem far behind at the panel’s first meeting of the school year on Monday: The “ayes” were nearly unanimous, and friction was virtually nonexistent.

When Ed Notes fave Patrick Sullivan surprised everyone by nominating himself for chairman, for a second there was no "second" – until SI rep Joan Correale, who usually kow-tows to the BloomKlein crowd (the SI borough Pres is a Bloomie), figured, "what the hell" and seconded Patrick's nomination. Of course, he lost to Chang as the prearranged plan was executed.

When it came time for the Vice chair, Correale (if my memory is correct) nominated Patrick and was seconded by Bronx borough rep Anna Santos. The BloomKlein crowd then nominated Philip Barry. Patrick asked Barry, incredulously, "Philip, I'm a little surprised since you have only attended 65% of the PEP meetings over the years".

Javier Hernandez writes with tongue firmly planted in cheek:

The mayoral bloc squelched the efforts of Patrick J. Sullivan, a Manhattan parent and frequent critic of Mr. Bloomberg’s policies, to become chairman, and rejected another bid by him for vice chairman.

Instead, the panel elected David C. Chang, the chancellor of the N.Y.U. Polytechnic Institute, as chairman, and Philip A. Berry, a management consultant, as vice chairman. (As of April, Mr. Chang had attended 81 percent of the board’s meetings since 2002, and Mr. Berry 65 percent, one of the lowest rates on the panel.)

Tweed's general counsel Michael Best was chosen as Secretary and will help Chang run the meetings.

Meredith Kolodner from the Daily News was there as the panel approved $250 million in contracts at its first meeting last night. Anna Philips from Gotham Schools, as was Yoav Gonen from the NY Post. But I haven't seen any reports from them yet. [UPDATE: Anna's report- The Panel for Educational Policy returns, its imprint the same]

The emerging star of the evening was the Bronx borough rep's appointee and newbie Anna Santos, who questioned just about everything. She reminded me of Tweed's Chief Parent Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier, who did much the same in her early days on the PEP as the Brooklyn rep. Over the years she faded fast. Hopefully, Anna Santos and Patrick Sullivan will make a great team and give the rest of us two voices on the PEP.

There was a long discussion of contracts and a large group of Koreans who want geographical names of territory taken from Korea by Japan in WWII restored to their Koran names. They had lots of cameras and press with them and great tee-shirts.

Robert Jackson, the City Council education chair came by and said something that has been on my mind for years: how do they hold a monthly open meeting in a space that holds 70 people?
They close the doors not long after the meeting starts. Jackson was incensed and rightly so. On the way in we all had to line up and go through security. I set up my tripod and camera and went to the bathroom. Then the security guard wouldn't let me back in. Thanks to DOE press spokesman Andy Jacob (on my Facebook page along with boss David Cantor), who said looking at my Wave press pass, "Are you a reporter today? You can go in." Sure Andy.

A bunch of parents from a charter school were there to extol the virtues of being given "choice" which according them is everyone's right. As is their right to demand space in public schools. Trying to counter the growing bad publicity charters are getting from GEM's very effective Truth About Charter Schools pamphlet, (we handed out some copies) they kept repeating their mantra that they are public school parents.

Parent leader Kim Irby from District 13 presented an effective alternative to their view, as did GEM and ICE member Gloria Brandon. I pointed out that in most of this country parents do not have choice to spend my tax money on their own little schools, but in fact have the choice of sending their kids to neighborhood schools or pay for private schooling.

It looks like the charter school movement in NYC is organizing a presence at events to stake their claim.

I only had an hour tape for a 3 hour plus meeting so I had to do a lot of juggling and moving and shaking - this place is not only unfriendly for attendees, but for video people– and tried to get as much flavor as I could. I made sure to get Leonie Haimson's two speeches (they tape died just as she finished her 2nd one with Michael Best harassing her as she pointed out how out of compliance they are on class size reduction) and as much of Patrick as I could. I missed a lot of Anna Santos because of a pillar. We have to get her a better seat next time.

As usual, the UFT had practically zero presence. The PEP next meeting will be Oct. 20 at the Petrides School in Staten Island. I'll be washing my hair that evening.

See Hernandez' report on cuts principals are being forced to make A New Meaning for Cutting Classes

Another sad NY story of a murdered young man
The murder of robotics student Glenn Wright is reported in the NY Times Fatal Stabbing of East Harlem Resident, 21, May Have Stemmed From Mistaken Identity. One of our key FIRST LEGO League planning committee members Kris Bretton coached Glenn and there are a bunch of quotes from Danny Peralta who worked with Glenn. Danny has been working with robotics and otter after school programs at East Harlem Tutorial (and is a great photographer).

I don't want to get on a high horse here. I'll just say that long-time teachers in the inner city see this type of story played so often. Good kids dying for nothing. When one touches you even through 3 degrees of separation, it makes it all the more poignant.

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