Friday, April 30, 2010

The Ballad of Evan and Sidney

Boy are these guys getting coverage - from all sides. First ,Gotham gave them creds and then mention in the NY Times. On the good guys side, Accountable Talk joined Chaz and South Bronx School with his post the other day. One of the things AT points to is the slick E4E web site.

It's certainly nicely done, as it should be--it's powered by Media Mezcla Campaign Engine, which provides tools for politicians to run campaigns. I wonder how two low-salaried teachers managed to put up a website using expensive software that politicians use in their campaigns? A suspicious person might infer that these two fine newbie teachers somehow managed to hook up with powerful, moneyed pols, but we all know that couldn't be, could it? In any case, one of their goals is to join the "debate" on how to improve schools, apparently by eviscerating them. Toward this end, they have a blog that does not accept comments. So much for debate.

People often ignore things from experienced teachers like AT, Chaz and SBS- just gripers they think. Curmudgeons. So how much do I love it when Miss Eyre, who blogs at NYC Educator, and is more of Evan and Sidney's generation than ours, exhibits some tech saavy of her own with this comment over at Accountable Talk:

The plot thickens:

I wonder why two obviously proud young educators would wish to keep the registrant name of their website private. After all, we know their names! Evan and Sydney! Just two squeaky-clean kids puttin' together a little PAC, havin' a little fun! Right? Right?

I checked some of the clients of Media Mezcla Campaign Engine:

Education Reform Now

Harlem Success Academy

Democrats for Education Reform

Ahhh, the usual suspects.

But then again there is this:

State Senator Bill Perkins, New York

I don't see the web site or blog as all that fancy and it seems you don't need a lot of tech skills to do it. So why pay for Media Mezla when you can do it for free?

Charter Operator Dirty Tactics (With DOE Complicity) Undermine Public Schools

Updated: 8am with new info from PS 241, Harlem

One of the basic tenets of the Ed Deform movement is the fragmentation and destabalization of local community schools. Why? To remove the stake locals have in their public schools. Note how charters can draw from a much wider catch basin than zoned public schools. (The destruction of community is an issue we must explore further - but see Lois Weiner's video where she spoke after Diane Ravitch at NYU and explored so many implications of "The Plan" at We hope to have Lois as a guest speaker at an upcoming GEM meeting.

The tactics used are many. One of the key issues that arose at the Perkins charter school hearings was the confrontation between Perkins and John White over the release of student information to charter operators. I have some good video of this which will be up in a few days.

Another lesser known tactic is to redirect pre-k kids from the public school they attend into the charter kindergarten by making it more difficult for parents to register their kids in the public school.

We first heard about this from our friends at PS 123 in Harlem where this tactic shunted kids to Moskowitz' Harlem Success and ended up reducing PS 123's pre-k population from (I think) 3 classes to 1. By the way, HSA at PS 123 has an illegal pre-k (not part of their charter) but calls it something else.

Before you know it, Moskowitz will be finding out the names of every pregnant woman and trying to enroll their kids before they are born.

Here is an email I received from a high school teacher who is shocked at these tactics.

Hi Norm,

I’ve met you a few times. I thought of you when I heard the information I am about to tell you. I have a very good friend who teaches a pre K program in Brooklyn. She told me that parents of children in her class are receiving letters saying that their child is accepted at______ (whatever the local charter school is).

There are several problems with this charter school tactic.

These parents never applied to the charter school.

How are the charter school operators getting names and addresses of these parents if they never applied to this charter school?

Someone, somehow, is supplying this operator with names and addresses from the pre K database. Is this even legal?

This friend also told me that the school that houses the program she works in used to automatically enroll any Pre K kid in the kindergarten once they are old enough. This year, this same school is making parents re-register their kids in the school if the parents want them to go to kindergarten in the same school.

Why is this new procedure now in place?

My friend is advising parents to be careful with charter schools, and that they should visit the charter first, ask a lot of questions, and not jump to enroll their kid even if the charter is aggressively soliciting “business”. What do you think? My friend is very upset and disturbed, since this charter operator is trying to lure kids away from her school, and using her program as a jumping-off point. Thanks for any ideas you can offer.

I asked my friend to ask a parent if she could actually take a look at one of these letters. She hasn’t actually seen one, but the parents, whom she has a wonderful relationship with, were complaining to and questioning her about these letters.

Another teacher writes:

The DOE is also sabotaging our Gifted and Talented program...they are offering kids who pass the test who are currently enrolled at my school, other schools - NOT mine.

And another just sent this:

You might want to add that at 241 DOE took away PreK to severely affect enrollment. We have many families who need and want PreK and are struggling to get their kids in any PreK which has now resulted in our losing these kids for Kindergarten and forever! Enrollment sabotage is real and thriving here!

We are responding and will contact the local political forces, who are strong anti-charter school people in the area.

Then got this:

Norm a friend of mine got one of these letters from LaCima Charter in Dist 16. I will ask her for a look. Can we ask for their lottery results? I believe that we should demand that the CEC and President's Council to be required to sign off with a passed resolution on their application to ensure the community is well aware and most importantly the parents in the community are saying yes to them.

The Takeway
By the way, let me not get away without a shot at the UFT (the Unity slugs are all down in Washington DC at the NY State United Teachers conference - just so you know why your local slug is not in school - I ran into one of them yesterday at a rest stop in Maryland). Why are teachers finding out about the DOE/charter school tactics from parents and not from their union so they can mount a defense? But then again, the UFT has its own charter school (one of the major errors they have ever made) issues to deal with.

That is what GEM is doing. Trying to assist these schools where they can in the absence of the UFT. Don't get me wrong here. We welcome the UFT if they get moving and will work with them in mounting a defense. But first they must raise the alarm system wide about what is happening so teachers can begin to educate and organize the parents and other teachers in their schools.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Passion of NY State Senator Bill Perkins

School Scope Column in The Wave: Friday, April 30, 2010

(Ed Note: The first section is an expanded rewrite of a posting from a few days ago, now tied into the Bill Perkins charter school hearings.)


by Norm Scott

"These guys must be crazy," I was told by someone I know. He was referring to those who keep fighting no matter how bleak things look. "Why would someone of retirement age stuck in the rubber room not just retire," he said? I can't explain it but I understand it. Why stand up to BloomKlein when they own the world, including the press (except the Wave, of course)? Or the UFT leadership?

Not that there is any comparison in terms of danger, but I thought of that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Or the people who stand up for human rights against Putin in Russia no matter how many of their friends are killed. Or any number of people throughout history who were mad as hell and wouldn't take it any more.

I thought of this as I was watching the academy award foreign language winning film The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina). One review states: "A thoroughly entertaining murder mystery, The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) stars Ricardo Darín as a retired prosecutor who can't let go of a 25-year-old rape and murder that he considers still unsolved, but solvable."

Benjamin, the detective, is relentless in pursuing answers. But the movie is really about passion. His 25 year unrequited passion for his married boss, who may have had similar passions (they keep you guessing.) The unending passion of a husband for his murdered wife. Benjamin's alcoholic sidekick Sandoval helps track the killer by figuring out he is a passionate soccer fan. "You can change almost anything," he tells Benjamin. "But you can't change passion. It will always win out."

I find many Humphrey Bogart films fall into this category. In "Deadline-USA" he edits an independent newspaper standing up to the mob while it is being sold to a Rupert Murdock type publisher who will kill the paper so his sleazy NY Post prototype will have a monopoly. Bogart gets the gangster in the end but loses the paper. However, his speech to the judge about the need for a democracy to provide divergent points of view is a must see. In Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not" Bogart is a seemingly cynical boat captain who does the right thing by his rummy helper (Walter Brennan) and a woman on the loose (Lauren Bacall), finally standing up to the WWII German tyranny by helping resistance fighters. And then there is Casablanca, my favorite movie of all time, where Bogart (Rick) jumps off the fence and begins a beautiful friendship with the resistance.

Maybe passion is what explains so many inexplicable actions by so many people. And thank goodness for these crazy, passionate people. If not for them we would all be living like the zombies in that revolutionary Apple commercial at the 1984 Super Bowl. Or like the drones at Tweed.

The Passion of NY State Senator Bill Perkins

Speaking of joining "The Resistance", a national network has been forming to fight the attacks on public education with lots of action in Florida (where some teachers engaged in a sick-out), Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC where a dissident, Nathan Saunders is running for president and if elected would throw a spear at a dirty contract deal being set up by Superintendent Michelle Rhee and AFT President Randi Weingarten.

With it being open season on politicians, NY State Senators have been amongst the most ridiculed in the nation. Our own Malcolm Smith, Pedro Espada and recently deposed Herman Monserrate are prime suspects. But then comes along Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, who gives you a little faith.

Perkins, you see, has been one of the lone politicians to swim against the charter school tide, not only in NY but perhaps the nation - including President Obama, whose market-based support for undermining the public school system takes him as far away from being a socialist as possible.

Pretty gutsy stuff for a Harlem politician to push back against the policies of the most popular president in history in the Black communities. And Perkins has been vilified. The sleazy NY Post has been rabid, with up to three articles, editorials and columns a day attacking him for holding hearings examining the activities of charter schools.

If you have read the Wave over the past few months on the activities of Malcolm Smith and his Peninsula Prep charter school, you know what "activities" I'm talking about. Scandal after scandal has emerged about these schools that put our tax money into the hands of private interests with little or no oversight. Their partners in crime at BloomKlein headquarters are aiding and abetting them by favoring charters over the public schools they run, especially with the co-location shenanigans where they purposely declare a public school underutilized - see our own Goldie Maple here in Rockaway, where parents have attempted to push back.

Perkins leads an emerging line of resistance coming from Black and Latino/a communities undergoing the charter school influx. Harlem is the epicenter, with 28 charters, and more Harlem politicians are joining Perkins.

Hedge fund managers and other Wall Street types who led us into the world of financial meltdown support charters. (Why miss an opportunity to get their fingers on public funds?) Democracy Prep charter school founder Seth Andrew is so outraged at Perkins that he is calling on his buddies on Wall Street to raise a massive amount of money to defeat Perkins who is running for reelection this year. In what may shape up as the modern equivalent of "The Battle of Hastings" in 1066, the Norman conquest of Britain, Wall Street backed armies, joined by charter school advocates, will invade Harlem this summer in an attempt to knock Perkins off as an example to any politician who might dare to question how charters are misusing public money. I know of at least one Norman who will be there standing with Perkins.

Perkins' hearings were held on April 22 and started at 8am. I was the last speaker when it ended at 9pm. Boy, was I hungry, since I got there at 10am with my trusty little video camera and tripod. See some amazing parent voices on the ednotesonline you tube channel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Did Times' Medina Accuse Klein of Racism?

When I read this late last night, I blinked.
Buried in Jennifer Medina's story on the ten thousandth reorganization at Tweed is this:

Santiago Taveras, who less than a year ago was appointed the deputy chancellor of teaching and learning, will now be in charge of community engagement. Mr. Taveras has been one of only two Hispanic members in Mr. Klein’s cabinet; there are no African-Americans among the department’s top officials, and all of those who received salary increases in the latest change are white. About 70 percent of the system’s students are black and Hispanic.

Whoa! That is a HEAVY statement coming from the Times in the midst of an article like this. Medina should do a story on the enormous drop in the number of African-American teachers in the 8 years of BloomKlein. See our May, 2008 post on this issue: Racial Policies at Tweed: Disappearing Black Teachers.

Leonie Haimson said:
So much for Joel Klein’s claim to be a great civil rights hero of our time.

She had more comments on the article:

I don’t get the headline of the Times article, which is reprinted here ….does the mandated curriculum change? I don’t think so.

Generally, I don’t see this as a big change in the DOE’s laissez-faire attitude, generally allowing principals to run their own schools however they like, including violating the law, as long as test scores go up. Clearly the educrats care not at all about teaching and learning, having eliminated that division entirely.

Clearly, they care not at all about the impression that the bureaucracy at the top and the salaries are increasing while they are threatening massive layoffs to teachers.

The outrageous thing is they are pretending that the following is their rationale for these changes:

“New school governance legislation has increased external oversight. Sustaining our reforms will require us to redouble our commitment to an open public dialogue."

Come on! That’s like justifying the proposal on laying off senior teachers by saying that it give parents more power, when we know quite the opposite is true.

See also and

Ed Notes Prediction:
Klein will be hiring an African-American within the next half hour.

Alternate headline: A Deputy Chancellor in Every Pot

Oakland Teachers Plan One Day Strike April 29

Click to enlarge. PDF available upon request

Hey Norm,

This is Jack Gerson, a voice from the past. I've been meaning to drop you a line for a while, since every once in a while I've seen you reference something I've written, and also to compare notes about the privatization in Oakland and New York (I think that to some degree they track each other).

Anyway, as you may know OEA is locked in a pretty fierce contract struggle with our school district. We've been bargaining for more than two years, and we've been without a contract for nearly two of those years (I'm on our bargaining team). Five days ago the district imposed their "last, best and final" atrocious offer -- no raise (we're the lowest paid teachers in Alameda County); larger class sizes; the "flexibility" to eliminate the adult education program, etc. We're doing a one-day strike this Thursday (April 29), and will build the campaign to force them to lift the imposition and give us a decent contract.

I've attached a pdf file of a flyer / ad that four of us wrote, and which has been approved by our executive board. It was intended to be a full-page ad for the Oakland Tribune, but we decided not to empty our campaign fund at this time to pay their exorbitant rates. Instead, we're going to mass distribute it to our members and the community, and will try to go viral with it on the web. It tells a good piece of the story. There's more -- but given space limitations, the rest will come in the next thing we put out.

Anyway, I've attached it. If you can give it any play, I'd appreciate it.

Hope you're doing well. Maybe we can get together next time I'm in NY.

In solidarity,
Jack Gerson

Jack Gerson was part of the early 70's resistance here in NYC and worked with "Another View" which was based in District 14 before expanding into a citywide group that became the Coalition of NYC School Workers, some of the same people who helped form ICE in 2004.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fact finder calls on Bronx Science administrator to step down- Riverdale Press

Yes, there has been a reign of terror for years at Bronx High School of Science (search our archives for stories.)

I'm amazed that the fact finder also recommends that chapter leader Peter Lamphere, who has been active in the opposition, also transfer when the crimes have clearly been perpetrated by Reidy and Jahoda. I recently met one of the young math teachers hounded out by them (luckily she landed in a great place) and she told me Peter is one of the best math teachers she's seen. That 20 math teachers in one department filed a complaint should have been cause for an instant response from Tweed. Here is the classic case for why seniority rules MUST be maintained. If the geniuses at Tweed had a clue and wanted to make a serious case for eliminating seniority, they would have been smart enough to not let these lunatic supervisors run rampant.

Why this took at least a year or more to come to a decision, giving the Bronx High admins time to go after more people, is something some of the "impartial" NYC Ed press should take a look at. And by the way, if you are going to write articles on seniority, why is only the Riverdale Press reporting on this important story going on at one of the elite schools? (And I can tell you some stories about what Valerie Reidy has done to students but I'm waiting for the statue of limitations to run out (meaning the kid has to graduate.) And ditto for the principal at Stuyvesant - just wait till June.

Fact finder calls on Bronx Science administrator to step down
By Kate Pastor

An fact finder has substantiated 20 Bronx Science teachers’ complaints that an administrator harassed and intimidated them.

In May 2008, the vast majority of teachers in the school’s math department filed a Special Complaint charging that Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda attempted to make changes in the math department by focusing on four untenured teachers. They claim she harassed them, treating them like children in an effort to meet the goals set out for her by Principal Valerie Reidy.

“It would be difficult to have heard the testimony of seven of the complainants, to have read the statements of the 13 others and to have listened to the June 10, 2008 audio recording of the meeting in Jahoda’s office and not conclude that Jahoda has a confrontational style that is intimidating and demeaning,” according to the arbitrator’s report issued on April 15.

The fact finder, Carol Wittenberg, concluded that Ms. Jahoda and UFT Chapter Chair Peter Lamphere should transfer out of the school, that the school remove all ‘letters to the file’ issued to the complainants during Jahoda’s tenure and that actions affecting teachers who transferred out of Bronx Science be rescinded.

"After hearing extensively from all concerned, the Fact Finder is convinced that the education community at the Bronx High School of Science, one of the flagship high schools of the Department of Education, needs to see substantial change to overcome the disruption caused by the events and to begin the healing process," the report said.

The recommendations have been sent to School Chancellor Joel Klein, who will make a final decision in the case.

This is part of the April 22, 2010 online edition of The Riverdale Press.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you. Click here.

Tweed Power to the Parents: Hand out a button

A major part of the Ed Deform neo-liberal program is to totally disenfranchise the major stakeholders - parents and teachers. For teacher readers of this blog, I am posting some parent reactions so you know you are not alone in facing Tweedle takedowns.

In the light of the Tweedie position of "Deputy Chancellor for Community Engagement" the following question was asked on the NYCEd listserve:

What the implications for the currently existing parent involvement/engagements structures and staff?

Some responses:

That they neither engage or involve parents. Have you been made aware of the current elections for the Citywide Council on Special Education or the Citywide Coouncil on English Language Learners? Do you realize that only 4 candidates for the CCSE positon showed up at the Brooklyn hearing and no one for the CCELL? Are you aware of the fact that there were only a few people in the audience and only one person was from a Presidents Council? The cost of this fiasco is 25,000.00 dollars. It may be a pittance in the scheme of things but it would pay for an aide in some school that needs one.
Another use of the position would be to quell any dissent from the community...but that is too Machiavellian. heaven help this poor son of a gun.

Power to the Parents my eye!

Another parent says:
The reason for this fiasco is that “Power to the Parents” is a contractor. They’re a bunch of recent Ivy-league grads who know nothing about the communities they’re supposed to recruit from and even less about how to find and engage public school parents as they’re recently out of diapers themselves. Their only virtue is that—when they were initially hired at least—they cost less than KPMG.

A few of us from the Manhattan High Schools Presidents’ Council dealt with them extensively when they were first hired (for the 2008 CEC elections); they came in totally clueless and, even with lots of hand-holding, were almost comically ineffective. Suffice it to say that a big part of their communication plan was the distribution of “Power to the Parents” buttons.

I have a file on all this, which I intended to dig up anyway in advance of Thursday’s WNYC forum on education coverage, which I will attend. I first got ticked off at WNYC—and specifically Beth Fertig—for her fawning, uncritical coverage of “the first online election” even in the face of emails from actual parents detailing how DOE perpetrated a fraud on the system.

Paola de Kock


The NY Times, parroting DOE spin, says: “[t]he moves are intended to give principals more power to determine what kind of instruction they use at individual schools, rather than using only suggestions developed in central offices.”

Without a trace of irony, the article goes on: “The changes underscore a substantial shift that the department has made under Mr. Klein, who early in his tenure focused on centralizing control of the system and developing a uniform citywide curriculum.”—or, more succinctly, much to-ing and fro-ing at DOE.

DOE is also doubling the number of Deputy Chancellors (from four to eight), and “spending nearly $500,000 more, although it is possible other positions will be eliminated.“ Not exactly chump change in a system where PAs must chip in to buy paper and lab supplies. And, in the world of education, the number of administrative positions does not get reduced—ever. That’s the lesson of every RIF that’s ever taken place in higher education and it won’t work any differently here because the people who do the actual teaching—be they professors or teachers—are at the bottom of the educational industrial complex food chain. Back to DOE. The most interesting question to me is what exactly will Santi Taveras be doing as Deputy Chancellor for Community Engagement beside providing some color to DOE’s top echelons? (where, the Times notes, there are no African-Americans and only one other Hispanic). I was hoping—partly because Mr. Taveras is a genuinely nice guy—that he’ll be supervising OFEA, but it looks like Martine will continue as mistress of her domain. Instead, we learn from Klein’s “Dear Colleague” letter that Santi will work closely with the Panel for Educational Policy and other external-facing offices to engage and work with stakeholders.” It sounds like he’ll be trying to convince parents DOE really cares—a job at which the current “engagement” officer evidently failed.


Reactions to Playing Musical Chairs at Tweed

More changes announced Monday. I won't bore you with details but only reactions.

Leonie's take:

Greenberger jumping up to COO…looks like Photo has been demoted to head of finance.
Marc Sternberg, former TFA and principal of Bronx Lab, founded in 2004, only six years ago, now head of Portfolio Planning; Where is John White? Demoted? Fired? Who can tell?
No longer any office of Teaching and Learning (at least they’re honest about this; they haven’t had any interest in teaching and learning in years.) And poor Santi Taveras now definitely out of the swing of things:

As part of the DOE’s broader effort to bring the perspective of public school families and community partners to policy decisions, Chancellor Klein will create the new position of Deputy Chancellor for Community Engagement and appoint Santiago Taveras, who has served for the past year as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, to that role.

But perhaps in order to assuage the hurt feelings of all of these guys, they will all be given the rank of Deputy Chancellors!

How that aligns with the need to cut the bureaucracy, who knows?

And from an astute and knowledgeable high end contact with connections.

So Marc Sternberg is the new boss of Portfolio (Charter school expansion ) office at DOE among 1000 other things.

He is listed as a White House fellow working for Arne Duncan .. my reading of the white house fellows program says they may not be paid but are paid by the white house fellows do we now have a white house employee actively engaging in running the NYC portfolio office while NYS has still already reached its cap on charter schools? This would be what I would expect but it seems totally biased as the man taught only 3 years then went for an MBA and wound up working for Victory Charter schools... the whole thing seems like a conflict of interest when you consider that the Office of portfolio development decides on what spaces are to be given to charter schools... very disturbing and seems problematic. I see it as more of the charter invasion from Obama through Duncan and their Democrats for Education reform friends right through to Bloomberg Klein and the Business world's charter movement- dangerous rich enemies to be feared.

Monday, April 26, 2010

NY Mag Story on Moskowitz and HSA by Jeff Coplon

When I heard that NY Mag had done a piece on HSA and Moskowitz, I immediately thought: another puff piece. But then I saw Jeff Coplon's (he's no low life Steve Brill) wrote it. While some commenters felt he tilted towards Evil, I don't agree. Jeff is one of the best writers when it comes to these kinds of pieces. For those HSA people who might scream that he was unfair to HSA, Jeff also did a similar comprehensive NY Mag piece on NEST, an exclusive public school on the lower east side - NEST+m: An Allegory - an article full of insights into the kinds of manipulations principals go through to get the kids they want in a school.

Read the full piece at

This picture is worth a million words. Anyone know how to spell "fabissoner?"

One former HSA teacher commented:

I worked at Harlem Success for 2 years as a teacher. The last page is completely true---they counsel children out with learning disabilities and behavioral difficulties because they do not want their test scores affected. It is beyond shocking and morally disgusting. I could not work there any longer because of it. Also, the part about 10 minutes of test prep a day---totally untrue. Try two hours. At least.

I have extracted some of the more telling sections. On special ed:

At Harlem Success, disability is a dirty word. “I’m not a big believer in special ed,” Fucaloro says. For many children who arrive with individualized education programs, or IEPs, he goes on, the real issues are “maturity and undoing what the parents allow the kids to do in the house—usually mama—and I reverse that right away.” When remediation falls short, according to sources in and around the network, families are counseled out. “Eva told us that the school is not a social-service agency,” says the Harlem Success teacher. “That was an actual quote.”

In one case, says a teacher at P.S. 241, a set of twins started kindergarten at the co-located HSA 4 last fall. One of them proved difficult and was placed on a part-time schedule, “so the mom took both of them out and put them in our school. She has since put the calm sister twin back in Harlem Success, but they wouldn’t take the boy back. We have the harder, troubled one; they have the easier one.”

Such triage is business as usual, says the former network staffer, when the schools are vexed by behavioral problems: “They don’t provide the counseling these kids need.” If students are deemed bad “fits” and their parents refuse to move them, the staffer says, the administration “makes it a nightmare” with repeated suspensions and midday summonses. After a 5-year-old was suspended for two days for allegedly running out of the building, the child’s mother says the school began calling her every day “saying he’s doing this, he’s doing that. Maybe they’re just trying to get rid of me and my child, but I’m not going to give them that satisfaction.”

At her school alone, the Harlem Success teacher says, at least half a dozen lower-grade children who were eligible for IEPs have been withdrawn this school year. If this account were to reflect a pattern, Moskowitz’s network would be effectively winnowing students before third grade, the year state testing begins. “The easiest and fastest way to improve your test scores,” observes a DoE principal in Brooklyn, “is to get higher-performing students into your school.” And to get the lower-performing students out.

The piece above triggered this response from one of our contacts at PS 241:

The part about PS 241 enrolling the "more difficult" of a set of twin kindergartners, who were both enrolled at Harlem Success Academy, says it all for me.

Harlem Success Academy counseled out the "more difficult" twin, but kept his "easier" twin sister. This took place around the second month of the school year. PS 241 is clearly the better school. PS 241 can educate students that Harlem Success Academy cannot, because we are a school of experienced, professional educators. Inexperienced HSA teachers and administrators stand around dumbfounded, unable to understand, intervene or help students with special needs. HSA teachers repeatedly call the same parents to the school and give them laundry lists of their child's misbehavior. HSA teachers apologize to these same parents and tell them they have to call or they could lose their job. This is not a reflection on the HSA teachers, who lack the skills that experience provides. It is what happens when you give too much power and influence to an over privileged and educationally ignorant, self-proclaimed savior of Harlem children.

PS 241 is filled with students who HSA teachers would be unable and unfit to teach. And for the record, the mother of the twins has already enrolled the "easier twin" at PS 241 for next year.

Here's more from Coplon

English Language Learners (ELLs) are another group that scores poorly on the state tests—and is grossly underrepresented at Success. The network’s flagship has only ten ELLs, or less than 2 percent of its population, compared to 13 percent at its co-located zoned school. The network enrolls 51 ELLs in all, yet, as of last fall, provided no certified ESL teacher to support them. After a site visit to Harlem Success Academy 1 in November, the state education department found that the school had failed to show evidence of compliance with its charter and with No Child Left Behind, which mandates ESL services by “highly qualified” teachers.
As the face of the social-Darwinist wing of the local charter movement, she’s been cast as the grim reaper of moribund neighborhood schools, a witting tool of privatizing billionaires, and a Machiavellian schemer with her sights set on the mayoralty. “She’s the spokesperson in demonizing the public schools,” says Noah Gotbaum, president of District 3’s Community Education Council. “Eva’s philosophy is that you’ve got to burn the village to save it.”
A pristine stairwell is one more step toward her objective: a data-driven, no-excuses haven for learning, where all children excel and shoestrings never come undone.
traditional schools in Harlem face plummeting enrollments—a sign, Chancellor Joel Klein likes to say, of parents’ voting with their feet. But State Senator Bill Perkins draws a different conclusion: “What you’re seeing is people fleeing out of a four-alarm fire.” Charter schools, Perkins says, “are at best an act of desperate faith.”
Most charter operators, observes Sy Fliegel, president of the Center for Educational Innovation, “ask for space very quietly and hope they can get it. Eva asks for schools.” Co-location, as she once put it, is a “Middle East war.” As her beachheads roll out and roll up, one grade per year, her need for real estate sparks resistance. Police were called last summer when she brought movers to take another floor at P.S. 123, piling the zoned school’s belongings in the gym after it neglected to vacate on time. Stringer flayed her “thug tactics”; Moskowitz dismissed him as a “UFT hack.”
Moskowitz identified five zoned schools that had declining enrollments “and suck academically.” In October 2008, she informed Klein that she was “most interested in” P.S. 194 and P.S. 241 in Harlem. Two months after that, the DoE moved to shutter those two schools and pass their buildings in toto—a first—to Success Charter Network. But there was a problem: Success could not accept all the children to be displaced. For one thing, the network has no self-contained classrooms for the profoundly disabled; for another, it takes in no new students after the second grade. At an incendiary public hearing at P.S. 194, zoned- and charter-school parents roared each other down, neighbor against neighbor. In a colonial metaphor that made Moskowitz shake her head, one resident compared her to Tarzan’s Jane—“back again, swinging through Harlem not with vines, but with charter schools.” When Klein stayed the closings in the face of a UFT lawsuit, he also advised the zoned schools’ parents to “seriously consider” moving their children to Harlem Success.
Moskowitz has already burned through three principals at Harlem Success Academy 1, taking the reins each time as the school’s de facto leader. The latest was Jacqueline Getz, a highly regarded veteran from P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side, who took the job last summer and resigned within weeks. (While Getz declined to comment, she told a confidante that there were “things going on that she could not in good conscience let happen.”) Her presumptive successor is Jacqueline Albers, a 26-year-old alumna of Teach for America. Critics point out that Albers fits the profile for much of Moskowitz’s top leadership circle: young white women with thin résumés. “The people they have making decisions are inexperienced and undereducated,” a former network staff member says.
For Moskowitz, success is a family affair and a shared obligation. Parents must sign the network’s “contract,” a promise to get children to class on time and in blue-and-orange uniform, guarantee homework, and attend all family events. “When parents aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Fucaloro says, “we get on their behinds. Eva and Paul Fucaloro are their worst nightmares.” Infractions can range to the trivial: slacks that look worn at a child’s knees, long johns edging beyond collars. Recidivists are hauled into “Saturday Academy,” detention family style, where parents are monitored while doing “busy work” with their child, the ex-staffer says. Those who skip get a bristling form letter: “You simply stood up your child’s teacher and many others who came in on a Saturday, after a long, hard week.” At the last staff orientation, according to one Success teacher, Moskowitz reported telling parents, “Our school is like a marriage, and if you don’t come through with your promises, we will have to divorce.”
New students are initiated at “kindergarten boot camp,” where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides) and the art of active listening (legs crossed, hands folded, eyes tracking the speaker). Life at Harlem Success, the teacher says, is “very, very structured,” even the twenty-minute recess. Lunches are rushed and hushed, leaving little downtime to build social skills. Many children appear fried by two o’clock, particularly in weeks with heavy testing. “We test constantly, all grades,” the teacher says. During the TerraNova, a mini-SAT bubble test over four consecutive mornings, three students threw up. “I just don’t feel that kids have a chance to be kids,” she laments.
even the lottery losers made distinct progress compared to their zoned-school peers. Though they didn’t close the achievement gap, these children held their own—unlike their traditional-school classmates, who lagged further behind the suburbs each passing year. While charter-school lotteries may be blind, they are hardly random; by definition, their entrants are self-selected. The least stable families—the homeless, say, or those with a parent on dialysis—might not find their way to apply. And there is the rub: If charters’ populations skew toward more motivated students, they cannot fairly be compared to come-one-come-all zoned schools.
One problem with “school choice,” as writer-activist Jonathan Kozol noted, is that the “ultimate choices” tend to get made “by those who own or operate a school.” At stake is not just who gets in, but who stays in. Studies show “selective attrition” in the KIPP chain, among others, with academic stragglers—including those seen as disruptive or in need of pricey services—leaving in greater numbers.

Bill Perkins Charter School Hearing Videos - Parent and Community Voices

New You Tube channel: ednotesonline

Today's NY Post is already throwing up candidates to oppose Bill Perkins. They will raise lots of money. But they will be facing people in the streets like the speakers here.

This particular panel was very inspirational. The ed deformers should be nervous, very nervous.

I know all of the people speaking here except Sonia Hampton, who is a delightful discovery for me. Many of the things they say will blow you away. It is growing voices like these from the community that is the biggest form of resistance to BloomKlein since no one cares much what teachers say. A very important point is that the ed deformers and charter school forces cannot accuse them of being tools of the UFT. Some work with GEM. But just watch them all in action and try to tell them they are a tool of anyone. [Still being processed from this batch: Jim Devor and Rosie Mendez which will be added to this post later.] Also, don't forget to check out my video in the post below this - I was the last speaker at around 9pm. I spoke after 3 HSA parents spoke. Nice people and we had a good chat afterwards. But I challenge the HSA political machine supporting BloomKlein and mayoral control while at the same time attacking the failures of the very school system they are running.

Lydia Bellahcene, Parent PS 15K. Lydia was there all day - from even before I arrived at 10- with her young child, who just may be the best behaved child I have ever seen in my life. Lydia makes an awesome presentation here. I've gotten to know her through the PS 15/PAVE battle and she is one of the main CAPEers. She never ceases to amaze me. That the actions of BloomKlein have led to activating her and people like her is a sign of their ultimate failure.

Khem Irby, Parent District 13, Brooklyn- another awesome parent advocate. Khem is always there for everyone. She makes a statement for Leonie and for herself.

Sonia Hampton, Parent PS/MS 149, Harlem. This is the first time I've seen Sonia and my mouth fell open at her testimony. I wanted her to go on forever.

Bill Hargraves and Akinlabi Mackall do a lot of community organizing in a number of spheres including the Coalition for Public Education, which has been exploring opportunities to work together with GEM.

These parent and community voices have been so strong and it's been a pleasure getting to know them over the past year. Ed Notes has often been looked at as a voice for teachers. But since I began teaching I had the utmost respect for many of the parents I met. I can honestly say I had fantastic relationships with the parents of the kids in my class. I worked very hard at it. The first day of school I gave them my phone number (see KIPP, we did it 40 years before you). That built trust and helped enormously, though they rarely called. Kids were very rarely able to divide me from their parents or use them against me. It had a big impact on their behavior and created an extremely positive climate for all of us. Teachers must find ways to create links to parents, both educationally and politically. Without a joint alliance, the forces of BloomKlein and neoliberalism, which has a basic aim of sowing divisions, win out.

I started a new you tube channel - ednotesonline - and future videos will no longer be listed under norscot2, though you can still access the 77 videos I already posted there. Other videos will be posted at the GEMNYC you tube channel.

If traffic gets too heavy for all these videos and slows up the blog, let me know and I will pull them and leave just the links to you tube.

All videos must be 10 minutes so I had to do some trimming to get them in. So if you see yourself and a bit is missing that is why.

Coming in next batches: Magnificent Mona and cohort charter school parents rake over charter school operators, followed by the John White interrogation on how charter schools get parent info.

Bill Perkins Charter School Hearing Videos -Norm Scott

I was Last and Least
But since I took the footage, I get to put my video up first.
I spoke after 3 HSA parents spoke. Nice people and we had a good chat afterwards. But I challenge the HSA political machine supporting BloomKlein and mayoral control while at the same time attacking the failures of the very school system they are running.

More videos in next post

Seniority and Layoffs in The Times

There was an interesting article in the Sunday NY Times on the attack on seniority. In some ways one of the fairer ones I've read in that it presented a variety of points of view by at least quoting Arthur Goldstein on how dangerous it was to give vindictive principals the choice.
See Last Teacher In, First Out? City Has Another Idea.

Here are some key points:

...a New York Times analysis of the city’s own reports on teacher effectiveness suggest that teachers do best after being in the classroom for at least 5 years, though they tend to level off after 10 years.

“You want to keep a rookie who looks good relative to other rookies, even if it’s not that great relative to all other teachers, because they are going to turn into a really good teacher,” said Douglas O. Staiger, an economics professor at Dartmouth who has worked with the city on teacher quality studies. “The question is: Are our current methods good enough at figuring out who those teachers are? I’m not sure where you draw the line on that.”

Arthur Goldstein, the chapter chairman of the teachers’ union at Francis Lewis High School in Queens, said that Mr. Klein and his supporters were trying to pit teachers against one another.

“I understand how they feel — I lost my job four times and nobody ever helped me,” Mr. Goldstein said of the younger teachers. “I don’t have a principal who is crazy now, but I’ve had other principals who would have fired me in a New York minute. It had nothing to do with teaching — things he would take as a personal insult.”

In 2008, New York City began evaluating about 11,500 teachers based on how much their students had improved on standardized state exams.

A Times analysis of the first year of results showed that teachers with 6 to 10 years of experience were more likely to perform well, while teachers with 1 or 2 years’ experience were the least likely.

The analysis could not account for differences in the makeup of the 11,500 classrooms, like how many of them had large numbers of students with learning disabilities.

In essence, the Times' research is saying that the 6-10 year teacher are the ones to keep even if seniority rules were eliminated. Since those are in the mid-range salaries before the heavy longevity increases begin, this "research" gives principals an excuse to dump 2nd decade teachers even if they don't keep the newbies.

It was nice to see reporter Jennifer Medina interview Arthur Goldstein, who makes essential points. In 1975 13 teachers, some who started 6 or 7 years before, were excessed from my school. Most were sent to other schools as seniority bumping went on all over the place. Even out 20 year guidance counselor was sent elsewhere as my district eliminated all of them. But within a short time things evened out and those who actually lost jobs started being recalled. Many left the system but others did come back. Some got recertified in shortage areas. Don't forget that layoffs go by license.

The article talks about the young teachers who are upset at seniority rules and the organization some of them have founded.

Mr. Borock, the Bronx teacher, said that the layoffs would discourage newer graduates from entering the profession. “If you have a number of job opportunities, as many of us did, and you have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you could lose this job really quickly,” he asked, “why would anyone want to go into that?”

He joined a group created recently by other young teachers, Educators for Excellence, to lobby against seniority rules, taking on their own union

Let's see now. Mr. Borock has many job opportunities (in this economy? - please tell) and reports are emerging that the founders of Educators for Excellence may be leaving teaching, as 50% of the new teachers do within 5 years. So the idea that newer graduates, many of whom were driven into teaching by the economy anyway, would not do so is interesting. I can't tell you how many young teachers I hear from who are dying to get into the system. Something about health care and maybe even pensions - oh, gosh, these are not things teachers should talk about - that's stuff about "adults" and it's all about the kids.

So Mr. Borock if he's laid off should take all those job opportunities. There are plenty of people waiting to take his place when they start rehiring.

Add on
Chaz has some thoughts on E4E:
The Educators4Excellence Group Is Just A Stooge For Bloomberg & Klein's "Education On The Cheap" Policy

And as usual, South Bronx School has been going wild.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bullied and Bribed: A Poem About Rhee, Parker and DC

Bullied and Bribed
by Arjun Janah

Michelle Rhee, and Parker tried/
To cut a deal. And Randi, too./
She's bold as brass, is dear Michelle./
And lying? Why, she does that too.//

Can Gandhi lie? No, he cannot./ **
George Washington, he puts to shame./
Oh dear, oh dear! What have we here?/
It seems the deal they cut is lame.//

She fired the teachers, saying she/
Was facing deficits so deep./
But now, a surplus is, she claims,
For she has promises to keep.//

Or smoke to blow? The council's mad./
It's clear that much is fishy here./
She needs the power. They've been had./
Such disrespect is tough to bear.//

So welcome, pols, to this our world,/
Where students, those who are sincere,/
And teachers, into pits are hurled./
With leaders bold, why should we fear?//

We should, because, and yet again,/
They try to be too smart, and so,/
They usher in yet more of pain,/
As we are bribed and bullied more.//

So don't be bribed. To bullies, say,/
"Your heart is small, your mind is wee./
We teach, and we are here to stay./
If you want change, a teacher be!"//

So listen up, Obama, hear!/
The ones you trust are flinging bull!/
Perhaps you should, those workers, hear,/
Whose plates, with endless work, are full!

2010 April 24th, Sun

** Natwar Gandhi, the D.C's C.F.O., disputes Rhee's sudden claim
of a
budget surplus to finance the raises she had dangled to cut the deal with
Weingarten and Parker that gave her the firing powers she craved.

Her new-found "surplus" replaces
the "deficit" she had claimed earlier
-- and utilized to fire teachers.

Arjun teaches science in a NYC high school


A joke for a rainy Sunday

The following is an actual question given on a University of Arizona chemistry mid term, and an actual answer turned in by a student.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over. So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct .....leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'

Saturday, April 24, 2010


"These guys must be crazy," I was told by someone I know. He was referring to those who keep fighting no matter how bleak things look. "Why would someone of retirement age stuck in the rubber room not just retire," he said? I can't explain it but I understand it. I could add: Why fight Unity Caucus? Why stand up to BloomKlein when they own the world, including the press?

I had no easy answer for my friend but I thought of that guy standing in front of the tank in Tianamen Square. Or the people who stand up for human rights against Putin in Russia no matter how many of their friends are killed. Or any number of people throughout history who were mad as hell and wouldn't take it any more.

I thought of this as I was watching the academy award foreign language winning film The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina) on Friday. One review states:

"A thoroughly entertaining murder mystery, The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) stars Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens) as a retired prosecutor who can't let go of a 25-year-old rape and murder that he considers still unsolved, but solvable."

Benjamin, the detective, is relentless in pursuing answers. But the movie is really about passion. His 25 year unrequited passion for his married boss, who may have had similar passions (they keep you guessing.) The unending passion of a husband for his murdered wife. Benjamin's alcoholic sidekick Sandoval helps track the killer by figuring out he is a passionate soccer fan. "You can change almost anything," he tells Benjamin. "But you can't change passion. It will always win out."

Maybe that passion is what explains so many unexplainable actions by so many people. And thank goodness for these crazy, passionate people. If not for them we would all be living like the zombies in that revolutionary Apple commercial at the 1984 Super Bowl. Or like the drones at Tweed.

Add On
I saw Bogart in "Have and Have Not" last night and there is a similar relationship between him and the Walter Brennan character who also makes a case for drinking, just as Sandoval did.

The Howler Ravished by Ravitch

The Daily Howler, who taught in Baltimore for many more years than Michelle Rhee, did a 4 part series on Ravitch which is very critical from a certain point of view. He posits the question: if Ravitch was wrong once, who is to say she isn't wrong again? Lots to digest here and I don't necessarily agree, but I'm making it available all in one place for people to peruse and criticize. His final conclusion is certainly worth pondering:

Long ago, we liberals quit on this topic. We left the field to conservatives, to business types, to “educational experts.” (We left the field to Wendy Kopp!) Those people actually seem to care. Your side is AWOL, uninvolved.

I've been pondering this idea about the UFT/AFT. Shanker abandoned "this topic" when he supported the Nation at Risk in '82, backed the Clinton Goals 2000 in the 90's and after his death when the Feldman/Weingarten team supported NCLB. In other words, fighting for full funding for public education instead of looking towards market-based low-cost gimmicks like incentives. Looking at outcomes rather than incomes for solutions. Take a look at Rolan Fryer's mea culpa at John Thompson's post at TWIE where Fryer says, " "’To my surprise, incentive programs that rewarded process seemed to be more effective than those that rewarded outcomes." DUHHH!

The battle for real ed reform from teacher unions ended almost 30 years ago, leading them down the path of trailing the ed deformers. And yes, there was a Ravitch/Shanker alliance through much of this standards/accountability process.

Read it all at Howler on Ravitch

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bill Perkins Charter School Hearing: The Longest Day

Updated, Friday, April 23, 7am and 8am

Just back from the Perkins charter school hearings. Shades of January PEP hades.

I took almost 8 hours of video - it didn't end until after 9pm I think - and I was the last speaker with about 6 people in the room. I just read the Gotham live blogging by Anna and Maura at Gotham along with comments. In the live blog they lost some necessary background (or being so young they missed some subtle points). Also in the attempt to be balanced there is some tipping and not enough skepticism over some things pro-charter school people say and some extra skepticism over what some anti-charter people say. It is nice David Cantor gets to testify to Gotham privately. Why don't I get to do that too? And actually taking the questions of Assemblyman Michael (I want vouchers - along with buying an Edsel) Benjamin seriously- give me a break.

For Gotham to make this the lead based on a typically biased article in the Post is tipping:

Rise & Shine: Could charter stance push Perkins out of office?

Was this the take away from 12 hours of hearings? I call it tipping. If people want to go there just watch the army of people who come out to defend Perkins if he comes under attack from Wall Street (see below.) I NEVER get involved in political campaigns but I would for this one.

Here is what I remember - I'll add to it in the morning if more comes back to me. (I WOKE UP AND ADDED A BUNCH).

I got there at 10am. The street around 250 Broadway was filled with a bunch of Harlem Success Academy people demonstrating.

Peter (I assume Goodman from the UFT - and father of the former UFT middle school charter principal) left this comment at Gotham.

Got to 250 Bdwy at 8 am … room was full and no one allowed in … charter school parents (?) arrived with anti-Perkins, anti-UFT signs, and young white guys in suits clearly in charge. I asked they who they were and who they represented, they scurried away.

TV crews identifying themselves as “independent” media were doing interviews. Saw NY1, WNYC, NY Teacher reporters interviewing … after an hour the “picketers” left.

Take whatever Goodman has to say with a grain of salt but I also saw signs of these HSA "shadow" organizers at previous events.

I was able to get in with my press pass from The Wave and some HSA charter school people, having seen me at various meetings, started screaming about it but the guards let me in.

Got up to the packed hearing room but as press I was able to squeeze my teeny camera and tripod down in front - thanks to UFT pfotog Jack Miller for making room for me - he was working hard all day. By the way, the room had a fair number of Unity Caucus UFT people so it looks like they filled the seats while Harlem Success was outside demonstrating. There were lots of complaints from HSA people about favoritism showed to the UFT but there were also plenty of non-UFT community anti-charter people present too.

I caught the end of Diane Ravitch and she was fabulous. Mulgrew did a good job - except when he had to waffle on the performance of the UFT charters - but he even didn't do too badly on that. He was so much clearer that Weingarten ever was so it was a breath of fresh air - and his wise guy attitude served him well when he came under attack. I liked his performance and shook his hand as he left. Next came the NYSUT guys and I turned off the camera to save tape but so much of their testimony on charter school malfeasance was so compelling I turned it back on.

The $10,000 UFT contribution to Perkins came up when Perkins asked Mulgrew to check his pockets to see if he was in there. I watched the Post's hitman Carl Campanile as this exchange took place. I was going to go over and ask why he didn't look into how much money pro charter school politicians received but he works for the Post (which also had Yoav Golen there - pretty interesting to have the same event but I think I also saw Rachel Monahan and Meredith Kolodner from the Daily News who did that story on charter school malfeasance that was referred to so often during the hearings, so this is considered a pretty big event.

One of the state senators, Craig Johnson, was totally pro-charter, so the pro-charters got their digs in through him. He was pretty well prepared and Mona Davids accused him of being a shill for the charter school association. An assemblyman from Harlem named Michael Benjamin was also pro charter - his questioning was somewhat ridiculous but it is so long ago I forgot why - I just knew I was seething to question him and break him down. Oh, I remember - he attacked the UFT over not supporting the community in 1968 - real grandstanding since the mayor got control because of perceived problems with community control.

Will the NY Post report how much money these guys got from pro-charter forces? I think someone said Johnson got $65,000, a paltry sum compared to the UFT giving Perkins 10 G's. By the way, I took some video of Post reporter hit man Carl Campanile when he wasn't taking notes on some testimony that might damage his boss.

Magnificent Mona (no longer moaning) Davids was there with her crew of charter school parents who are on our side (one person active on Leonie's list came over to whisper I should be nice to MM since she has shifted - I am being nice though we still disagree a bunch.) They talked about parent and teacher rights at the charters and stressed that they wanted to protect teacher rights to assure they speak out against the abuses of charters since they were the only ones willing to stand up for the kids and some were fired. That was the very reason for tenure in the first place and many of us have been arguing that it is teachers who defend kids, not supervisors who often are the ones who want to cover up.

There was some contention when John White and the SUNY and State Ed Dept reps were on the panel discussing how charter schools get approved and monitored, with most of the fire directed at White. In previous testimony, Councilman Jackson talked about how his constituents were getting calls and mail about charter schools, even at private numbers and Perkins wanted to know how that information got into the hands of the direct mailing company - Vanguard- that has a contract with the DOE. One of the few times I ever saw the usually inflappable White (one of the Tweedies parents seem to despise the most) show signs of sweating.

Things between Perkins and White flared up again over Democracy Prep's Seth Andrews' threat to raise money from his Wall St. buddies to go after Perkins with Perkins trying to get White to discuss whether there should be an investigation over the involvement of someone running a NYC chartered school in the political arena. White responded that only if school funds were involved. Perkins did not come off that well in this exchange but he was getting real hot over the issue, as were his colleagues Velmanette Montgomery and Inez Barron. This allowed White to regain the high ground and he recovered to defend the DOE against Assemblywoman Inez Barron's criticism of the results city grad rate and test results, which I felt she could have done more effectively. But her track record as an educator (teacher, principal) gives her great creds and she said she would track down stats for future fisticuffs.

As I sift through the tapes, some of the White segment should go up first.

By the way, the crew from District 15 and PS 15 were shocked to actually have Velmanette Montgomery actually recognize that PS 15 and Red Hook were in her district since she has never responded to their pleas for assiatance in their battle against PAVE. Maybe a sign the heat being applied by the CAPEers from PS 15 and strong allies like Jim Devor, CEC15 head, who also testified, is having some impact.

I ran out of tape after 5 hours so I took an hour off to get something to eat (a Cubano sandwich with rice and beans) and go to J&R and buy some more tapes - and check out the new Macs. I almost didn't go back.

But I was glad I did as a bunch of good buddies were about to speak. Bill from PS 123, Lydia from PS 15 (with what I consider the single most powerful testimony of the day - this should be the tape that goes up first), Akinlabi from CPE , Jim Devor from CEC15 and a bunch of others I am too tired to remember. I have to check the video. (By the way, they streamed the entire day's testimony as a webcast and the guys taping said the entire tape will be up on the web soon.

A bunch of pro charter school people came next - Peter Murphy who Perkins tweaked often about his editorials was one.

And Harlem Link founder Steve Evangelista threw in the kitchen sink as he trashed the two public schools he taught at as the reason he started his own school. He had a whole list of what seemed from my experience to be legitimate complaints but some seemed a bit off. He complained that he had all these pullout teachers coming into his room in his former public school and wasn't allowed to talk to these people. I wonder what would have happened to him if he did? I can't conceive of a teacher who felt it important to discuss kids with colleagues not doing so.

It seems he had 2 bad schools and has used that to bludgeon the public schools, teacher unions, etc. I heard lousy testimony about a few charter schools too and pleas to not judge all charter schools based on that. Did he try to find a better public school? It would seem that fighting to make the public schools a place for people like him to work in and to serve the 98% of the kids left out of charters would be a worthwhile political fight.

As someone who felt the same type of frustrations, I was equally frustrated by his testimony that used just about every Ed Deform buzz word - my favorite was OUTCOMES. You know what outcomes are Steve? Finding out what happened to your kids in 20 years. Many of us back then and the teachers I work with now in GEM did not run off to start our own schools and serve a little corner of 2 percenters while abandoning the rest. They stay and fight and even risk their careers.

The fireworks really flew when he called Perkins a liar and Perkins responded - I have to check the tapes for details.

One interesting comment he made: he is competing with Harlem Success to some extent now - and may the best school win. It is capitalism, isn't it? But I don't think he has to worry since Eva has enough schools in Harlem - how much creaming can you - and is moving on the skim off the south Bronx.

I was the very last speaker as the rumble of people's stomachs almost drowned me out and made the point that John White extolled charter schools as performing so much better that the public schools he runs. He also bragged about the enormous demand for charter schools - from people running away from the schools his bosses manage.

I was on a panel with 3 passionate charter school parents from HSA who are very proud of their kids and their school. I said I couldn't blame them for making a decision to not have their children attend schools they see as not being the best for their children.

There were many signs at HSA supported events talking about public school failrues. But then HSA use parents in a political manner to support mayoral control - at the big HSA rally they gave out cards to every attendee urging them to support the continuation of mayoral control - giving power to the very people who were managing the schools they were running away from.

As I often say, charter schools are about political ideology, not education.

One of the parents was a very nice guy who carries a pack of 20 books around that his daughter had to read. I told him next time we would get public school parents to come with a pack of 30 books their kids had read as proof the public schools work better than charter schools. I see HSA bringing fork lifts with stacks of books to upcoming meetings.

The parent is a policeman and I asked him what would be his reaction of he worked in a high crime area and the mayor said it was his and his colleagues' fault - their union you know - if only the cops would donate a few extra hours a night just think of how many more cops on the street and how crime could be reduced. So a solution would be to set up a competing precinct down the block run by private agency but using public money.

I hope he thinks about that scenario the next time HSA does its union bashing.

Oh, yes, I pointed out that HSA brought 2 nice shiny buses and a professional videographer and sound guy to the PEP meeting. A nice piece of change - I know, I know it is private money (that could have gone to the classroom but when you have everything why waste it on that?).

As I said - political, not educational.

In the end we had a very nice chat on the way to the subway and promised to keep the discussion going.

On the way into the hearing I heard, "Mr. Scott" and there was a former student from my school from around 1970-71 waiting on line for some other business. She told me her son was a special ed teacher. Now get this - I also had her son as a student - in the early 80's yet - scaaary. But she had him when she was even scarier young - like young teens, so not impossible. I think he may have been in the same 4th grade class as the other kids I have recently connected up with. He went through some issues I think as a teen so this was good news - YIKES - GOOD NEWS, WORKING FOR THE DOE? That's the 2nd student from that class to become a teacher. Didn't I learn them better? So far all of the kids I've connected up with recently have done pretty well in the world. Other than the one who got out of jail after 28 years. Makes me less pessimistic.

Perkins Hearing and CAPE on PEP

Lots of people are heading over to 250 Broadway for NY State Senator Bill Perkins' hearings on charter schools. The UFT has called out retirees to be there at 8. Charter school operators are using their hedge funds to bring out their troops and community activists are breaking open their penny jars to get people out too. We will be there for part of the day with video camera.

I have 45 minutes of great footage of charter school parents speaking out against charter school lack of transparencies, abuse of children through excessive discipline and other transgressions that are getting swept under the rug. They spoke out at Leonie Haimson's Class Size Matters parent outreach session on April 10. I will put up short segments on you tube. Here is the first one:

Maura Walz at Gotham has a good report on the way the DOE distorts school space issues so they can shoehorn in charters. This was a topic of conversation at the PEP meeting Tuesday night. She opens with:

The head of a national advocacy group for improving school facilities is warning that a Brooklyn school building cannot support a charter school expansion plan that the citywide school board approved last night.

Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century Schools Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that helps both district and charter schools plan their building space, composed a report on how space is used at Brooklyn’s P.S. 15. The elementary school shares space with PAVE Academy Charter School, which will expand in the building while it awaits construction of its own private building. Filardo’s report, prepared at the request of New York’s Campaign for Fiscal Equity, was submitted as testimony against the city’s plan at last night’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Here is the latest report from CAPE on the PEP meeting.

PEP Meeting: Repeat Performance

With less fanfare than previous meetings, but all of the pointless nonsense, another PEP meeting ends predictably. The police cars outnumbered the fancy buses that brought supporters of the charter school Harlem Success Academy (in their matching orange shirts) which causes one to wonder what the DOE is so afraid of. If you need that much security at a meeting about schools something is NOT RIGHT! And it wasn’t right. It was not right to watch the mayor’s appointees mindlessly vote in favor of every co-location on the agenda. It was NOT RIGHT to watch a DOE representative whisper in the ear of a certain panel member when she did NOT agree with facts shared by P.S. 15 teachers and parents. It was not right when Kathleen Grimm defended the statements of the P.S. 15 EIS by simply parroting the very statement in the EIS. Read more about this and other nonsensical happenings here. Charter school supporters are all about school choice. One audience member compared it to selecting Pepsi or Coke. What no one seems to mention is the fact that the man who insisted on controlling our public schools for the last eight years had a CHOICE to improve all existing community schools and did no such thing. School choice is ultimately the mayor’s choice. He chose to outsource our city’s education reform to any random person/corporation who decides to open a charter school. He allows the chancellor to choose which schools to close and which schools to cram together in buildings not designed to support multiple schools, compromising the learning environment and school climate for all who attend or work in the schools. Coke or Pepsi, really? What about the notion that all parents and students deserve high quality community public schools!?!

Thank you to the PEP members who questioned the faulty Educational Impact Statement and who voted against the co-location of PAVE Academy within P.S. 15K! I wonder how much longer we must wait until this “process” in fully exposed for the sham it is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charter School Parent Scripts Trash Joel Klein Management

One of the consistent themes at last night's PEP from many parents at Harlem Success and PAVE calling for choice was how BloomKlein managed public schools had failed their children, their other relatives and goodness knows who else. It is pretty funny to watch. One HSA parent, an entrepreneur/businesswoman told us about her awful zoned school when she was a kid growing up in Harlem, a school with a horrible principal. She moved back to Harlem and said the same principal was still there 20 years later. There were lots of signs saying "Don't reward failure." Did anyone see Moskowitz' emails to Klein trashing his management of the schools and calling for the kinds of changes that would improve schools for all kids, not just lottery winners?

Another theme was the talk about the number of people on the wait lists. So how come HSA has to send out glossy recruiting brochure after glossy recruiting brochure if there are so many people on the wait list? It's known as building false demand.

This has been on the sidebar of Ed Notes for a few weeks:

Upper West Side Parent Comment on HSA Mailings

Last school year, at a D3 CEC meeting, outraged parents brought with them the HSA mailing that featured photos of a peeling, worn public school door and a shiny, freshly painted charter school door; the text asked where the recipients would rather send their kids. I feel like that was the first HSA mailing that many of us received & it was so outrageous that I think I saved one. John White was at the meeting and didn't have much to say about HSA's 'message,' but when asked why public schools didn't get funds and assistance to do the same glossy PR, he promised the K-2 school under discussion that they would receive comparable DOE help marketing themselves (...that has, to my knowledge, not materialized). At a subsequent meeting, when the mailings kept coming, parents asked what list they were on and who exactly had access to their children's info. The CEC said that mailings were done by a service which printed labels with names of public school parent s/children in the zip codes the sender selected. We were told that the actual names and addresses never went to HSA but were affixed to the mailers by the mail house.

I have been receiving these mailings (in duplicate!) for two years in your friend's same zip code; I always send them back marked return/remove from mailing list, which of course never works. The latest came today: "Around here, every child is college material."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Unity Caucus Engages in Randi Bashing

Reports are coming in quite a variety of sources about mid to low level Unity Caucus people trashing Randi Weingarten and extolling the heroic attributes of Michael Mulgrew. Did this great ad commisioned from David Bellel reach deep into the Unity psyche? Don't bet on it.

That they are all hitting at once is a sign that these are not isolated incidents, but a result of some higher up decisions, probably to protect Unity's flank as the Washington and Detroit situations deteriorate and she is up to her ears in the middle of selling them out. I even got one report that there was talk of throwing Randi out of the Caucus. One ICEer asked: What role, if any, does Michael Mulgrew have in this? Is it the Young Prince slaying the Old Queen to consolidate his authority? And, if so, does it suggest some independence on his part? I am not ready to cede that the UFT can show independence from the AFT unless Mulgrew has ambition beyond the UFT. Just watch the 800 Unity hacks vote up every single Randi initiative in Seattle for a sign.

These reports are almost too funny for words, but Michael Fiorillo found some:

If it's true that Unity people are now going around speaking ill of Randi, then their hypocrisy and cowardliness is despicable. Where were these people when she was undermining the union and the public schools? Well, we all know, don't we? They were uncritically cheering her on, and hissing those who spoke up. Wilhelm Reich had a great phrase for it: "At your feet, or at your throat."

Michael Fiorillo

Another correspondent echoed Michael:

My Unity friend is saying the same thing, but wont ask Randi critical questions while in Seattle [at the AFT convention which our dues are paying the freight for 800 Unity slugs to go and vote as one.]

A third point of view was a bit more sympathetic to Randi's plight:

When she was in NY, it seemed as though she could control things more - the spin, the players, etc. She had a machine that could get out to the schools and sell just about anything. When she got to Washington, it all seemed to break loose and she lost total control. The attacks on public education became more outrageous. I am sure she is not at all happy with what she must deal with.

You know those 91 percenters? They will see Mulgrew go in the same direction as Randi as the walls crumble since he has no long-term answers. Watch panic set in if the charter school cap gets blown and the UFT starts to hemorrhage members. Don't forget, Randi was very popular for a number of years. I wonder who they are thinking about to replace Mulgrew next decade?

A Proud 9% Dissenter

Add On:
Just back from the PEP meeting at Prospect Heights HS in Brooklyn. Evil Mousekewitch came out with 2 shiny new buses filled with people wearing orange Julius colored tee-shirts. She also brought along a 2 man videographer team. Almost felt like a Bar Mitzvah. Nice spending of that hedge hog money flowing in.

Our buds from PS 15 were out in force and they made the usual great points. PAVE was there too and between them and the HSA crowd, we heard some deep stuff: choice, blah, blah, blah, I pay taxes and demand space in any public building I want to occupy (how about Gracie Mansion since it's not being used), blah, blah, blah, all kids are scholars, we are graduating in 2120 (ask Evil if she is also paying for college), choice is a biblical, the devil UFT is the problem - Job 1:12; Job 2:6-7. Blah, blah, blah.