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!"