Friday, December 31, 2010

UFT/AFT Long Time Support for Shutting Down Schools

Former UFT and AFT President Sandra Feldman: “If a public school is not doing the job it is supposed to do, I think it ought to be closed down and redesigned.” 

What does that mean - supposed to do?  Shanker said much the same thing from the early 80's on - the true beginning of the sell-out to ed deform.

*  “I don’t think having money out as a carrot is going to work.” — Feldman on merit pay.
 Don't think for a minute Feldman or Shanker would have opposed the various merit pay schemes floated through MulGarten.

Then head on over to Norms Notes and re-read the Newsweek Gate-Weingarten piece and tell me which side the UFT/AFT is on.  Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten

Afterburn: Mike's EIA archive also had this tidbit.
*  Linda Darling-Hammond of the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future:
Her stance on alternative forms of teacher certification caused some controversy among the crowd. Terming these programs “education lite,” Darling-Hammond claimed they “keep salaries low and use teacher education as the cash cows to fund the law school and the engineering school.” Her view angered many proponents of alternative certification, particularly those who were holding a workshop at the conference to introduce their programs to the participants.

Happy New Year, ya'll.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh, the Irony: Deny Black Waiver Post Dec. 23 hearing comments of parents and lawyers

At the end of the hearing on Dec. 23 I did short interviews with some of the participants. Below is about 4 minutes of irony given the outcome.

The full video coverage - see for yourself what went on in front of the judge and decide if he made a good legal decision or was it politically tainted. Read the judge's decision:

Part of a series of videos.
28 minute Norman Siegel presentation:
State Attorney General and City Corp Council defense of Black - so you can see just how lame it is.
Roger Wareham presentation:
Eric Snyder presentation:
Rebuttals from all sides:
Post-hearing reactions:

Deny Waiver Coalition Response

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Norman Siegel (Attorney)          347-907-0867
Mona Davids                                 917-340-8987
Noah E. Gotbaum                          917-658-3213
Lupé Todd (for Asm. Jeffries)      917-202-0116

Parents Vow To Continue Fight For Quality Education In NYC
Albany Supreme Court Judge Sides With Education Commissioner;
Rejects Challenge To Steiner-Black Waiver

On Wednesday, December 29, Judge Gerald Connolly of the Albany County Supreme Court denied the petitions submitted on behalf of 13 parent Petitioners and one teacher challenging New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner's waiver of employment requirements for Cathleen Black so she could assume the office of Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. 
The Petitioners, including New York State Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries (D-57) and members of the Deny Waiver Coalition, contend that Ms. Black does not have the qualifications necessary under New York State law to oversee the educational system that serves their children and, furthermore, that Commissioner Steiner misinterpreted State law and exceeded his authority in granting the waiver to Ms. Black.

Attorney Norman Siegel, representing the 14 Petitioners, stated the following:  "We are disappointed with the Court's decision.  We believed that there would be a different outcome and that Ms. Black's waiver would not be allowed to stand.  I will be consulting with the parents and teacher to determine their next step." 

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a parent Petitioner, said, "The decision by Judge Connolly is extremely disappointing but we will not throw in the towel with respect to the effort to improve our public schools system. Cathie Black remains unqualified to be chancellor. We will make a determination about whether to appeal shortly."

Parent Petitioner Mona Davids said, "I am disappointed in Judge Connolly's decision but not surprised.  The decision to grant a waiver to Black who is clearly unqualified shows our children that it's not what you know but who you know. The appointment of unqualified Black has served as a catalyst to mobilize parents throughout the city to fight for a quality education for our children."

Noah E. Gotbaum, parent Petitioner, stated, "This case is just the beginning of the movement of parents and educators to fight for our 1.1 million kids and to stand up against the current business model of education and its constituency of out-of-touch billionaires."

Teacher Petitioner Julie Cavanagh was unhappy with the decision.  "I am saddened by the decision handed down today, but I am inspired by the brave parents, educators and citizens who stood up and fought for justice and for their voice to be heard. I stand firm in the beliefs held by the Deny Waiver Coalition; our children deserve a qualified Chancellor with the education credentials the law requires."

Parent Petitioner Patricia Connelly said, "While I am profoundly disappointed with today's decision by Judge Connolly, I for one am not ready to let this illegal and immoral waiver stand.  I join my fellow petitioners in demanding that the public be restored to our rightful place at the table in protecting and promoting a truly democratic public education system here in New York City."

Parent Petitioner Shino Tanikawa, said, "I am deeply disappointed and puzzled by Judge Connolly's decision.  However, I am, along with the others, determined to continue fighting for what is right."

Chris Owens, a parent Petitioner, expressed his frustration with the perspective of Commissioner Steiner and the Court.  "Unfortunately, this judge ignored the true intent of the Education Law - to protect the quality and integrity of education management in New York State.  Given the current state of our streets, I am uncomfortable with someone who only has management credentials handling this City's education storm and the future of my two sons."

Ms. Black was nominated by Mayor Bloomberg on November 9, 2010 to succeed outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein.  Commissioner Steiner granted the waiver on November 29.

Attorneys Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum, representing the 14 Petitioners, were joined by attorneys Roger Wareham and Eric Snyder, each representing additional New York City public school parents who are also challenging the Steiner waiver.  Three separate Article 78 petitions challenging the waiver had been filed and were consolidated during the court hearing.

Parent Petitioners were Assemblyman Jeffries (Brooklyn), Hon. Chris Owens (Brooklyn), Ms. Mona Davids (Bronx), Mr. Noah Gotbaum (Manhattan), Ms. Khem Irby (Brooklyn), Ms. Lydia Bellahcene (Brooklyn), Ms. Patricia Connelly (Brooklyn), Ms. Monica Ayuso (Queens), Ms. Mariama Sanoh (Manhattan), Mr. John Battis (Brooklyn), Ms. Latrina Miley (Manhattan), Ms. Shino Tanikawa-Oglesby (Manhattan) and Ms. Maria Farano-Rodriguez (Staten Island), as well as teacher Petitioner Julie Cavanagh (Brooklyn).

# # # 

Visit the Deny Waiver Coalition website:

The DENY WAIVER COALITION ("DWC") is an association of public school parents and educators as well as concerned community leaders opposed to granting a waiver of employment qualifications to Ms. Cathleen Black, the proposed Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.  The DWC also supports improvements to the Chancellor selection process.

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OwensRallyMona Davids Speaks At Lawsuit Press Conference

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Supreme Court Rules for Black Despite Strong Arguments Against Her Nomination, Parents Stand Firm

UPDATE:  SupremeCourtDecisionOnWaiver_101230.pdf

If you've seen the videos I posted apparently the lame pro-Black arguments won out - or maybe it all didn't make a difference.  Now some of our allies think this is a good thing for all over time. But let's wait and see.

Meanwhile, my wife's co-worker who manages large systems and numerous employees in a large hospital called today to say she is more qualified than Black. And my wife who also managed at the same place just reminded me she has a Masters in Public Administration from NYU. I'm sending Bloomberg her info just in case Black makes a total mess.

One thing I thought was funny was how even some attorneys at the hearing gave Black the benefit of the doubt about her managerial ability - large budgets, lots of employees, managing large facilities - when the largest number of employees is supposedly around 2000 - and in fact she was being kicked upstairs.

Thanks to Queens Teacher 
Update: Story is now here. Money quote from Mayor4life Bloomberg:

"This decision should bring an end to the politicking and grandstanding and allow us all to focus on what matters most: continuing to improve the quality of education we offer New York City’s public school children..."
No doubt he'll give those 1.1 million schoolchildren the same attention he gave the snow around their homes.
I have bad news for his dishonor- it's only just begun.

NY Times report here (and there will be an appeal.)

Well anyways, here is a report I wrote with Lisa Donlan based on the notes she took at the hearing for The Wave to be published in the Dec. 31 edition. Lisa and I are working on putting her extensive notes into some form of historical record to go with the videos so next time they choose someone even less unqualified than Black - why have any degree at all?

Lawyers for Three Groups Fighting Black Nomination Get Hearing in Albany

by Norm Scott and Lisa Donlan 

With designated NYC schools chancellor Cathie Black due to take office on Jan. 3, a hearing was held on December 23 in Albany over three lawsuits opposing the nomination with State Supreme Court justice Gerald Connolly presiding.

Attorney and Brooklyn parent of two children Eric Snyder made the first argument followed by Roger Wareham representing two parents and famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegel representing one teacher and 13 parents, including Brooklyn State Assemblyman Hakim Jeffries.

Snyder claimed that all routes to qualifications for Chancellor outlined in the law require a graduate degree. The legal question seemed to hinge on the fact that while State Ed Commissioner regulations relating to how the education law is to be applied explicitly require a graduate degree, the education law itself (revised in 2007) does not explicitly do so. Snyder argued that the statute refers to the regulations and the regulations are explicit in NOT allowing the waiving of the higher degree requirement. The legal problem seems to be to puzzle out the intentions of the law: is a Master’s degree required by law or not?

Waivers for past chancellors, all of them lawyers but not meeting the qualifications for the Chancellorship (Joel Klein and Harold Levy among others) were granted because a JD degree is considered equivalent to a Masters. Black only holds a BA. The judge pointed out that he was “cognizant” of the disconnect between the statute and the regulations. Snyder claimed that State Education Commissioner Steiner’s decision in granting the waiver relied on the regulations and not the statute.

Norman Siegel claimed that even in granting the waiver, Commissioner Steiner pointed out that Black lacks skills in many critical areas: educational standards, curriculum, accountability and the use of performance data, preparation of great teachers and turning around low performing schools, only granting the waiver on the condition that a deputy with these skills be appointed. Chief Accountability Officer Shael Polokow-Suransky was subsequently given the position but Mayor Bloomberg affirmed that Black would be totally in charge.

Siegel said that the statute makes no provision for a chancellor to rely on a staff for these qualifications with the law specifically referring to how “the candidate” (and never a plural or team or staff supported candidate) shall meet the requirements laid out in the law for the position of Chancellor (termed by Roger Wareham as a "shadow" Chancellor as second in command to palliate the lack of training, credentials and experience of the candidate). "Thus one can make an irrefutable inference as to the intentions of the legislature on this matter."

Wareham reviewed Black's lack of qualifications, interest, knowledge or involvement of any kind in public education and said the over 1 million children would be done irreparable harm with the appointment of a Chancellor who was not even qualified to teach, let alone supervise teachers who all must hold a Masters. "If this nomination goes through I can foresee the day when even a Bachelors degree is waived," said Warenham.

"Black has exceptional experience in dealing with large organizations, collaborating, leading, engaging diverse stakeholders, building relationships and managing facilities and money," said Assistant Attorney General Kelly Munkwitz, who represented Steiner and NY State, claiming that what Black didn't get in the classroom was covered in her career as a magazine and newspaper publisher.

This led to some discussion over the nature of substantial experience, private vs. public sector, the experience that would inform decisions making, the role a second in command with qualifications could play, and the fact that surely an educator with substantial management experience could have been found. Wareham pointed out that indeed context does mater when it comes to qualifications for decision making in public education, citing several coaches/sports teams managers who by the same logic would be as qualified to run our public school system as Black by these standards.

"This is about the individual best suited to run a school system that's the size of a fairly large city," said Assistant Corporation Counsel Chlarens Orsland who represented Bloomberg. None of the lawyers pointed out that with a $23 billion budget, 1700 schools and 135,000 employees, managing the NYC school system is far out of the range of Black's managerial experience in organizations with no more than 2000 employees and budgets not even one tenth the NYC schools budget. "What does she know about facilities management," asked one observer in the gallery?

The respondents made mention of the unique nature of NYC school district, which the law mentions in several places may require unique requirements for NYC as an argument for the Black waiver even though this section of the law does not make this exception explicit. Had the Legislature wanted NYC to have different requirements for the NYC chancellor the law would state so claimed the lawyers challenging Black.

Death Panels, Bloomberg Style

With Ambulances Stuck in Snow, City Resorted to Triage

A woman with stroke symptoms in Midwood, Brooklyn, waited for an ambulance for six hours, finally arriving at the hospital with telltale signs of advanced brain damage. In Forest Hills, Queens, bystanders waited for three hours next to a man lying unconscious in the snow before they were able to flag down help. And in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a mother in labor who started calling 911 at 8:30 a.m. on Monday did not get an ambulance until 6 p.m., too late to save the baby.
As a blizzard bore down on New York City on Sunday and Monday, 911 dispatchers fielded tens of thousands of calls, trying to triage them by level of severity, from snowed-in cars at the low end to life-threatening emergencies at the highest. But even the ambulances assigned the most serious of the calls sometimes could not get there. At least 200 ambulances got stuck on unplowed streets or were blocked in by abandoned cars, city officials said Tuesday.
As the backlog of calls grew — it ultimately reached 1,300 at its highest point — an unusual directive went out across the computer screens within ambulances, emergency workers said. It told them that after 20 minutes of life-saving effort on a nonresponsive patient, they should call a supervising doctor, who would make the call about whether to give up. While it is rare for a person to be revived after 20 minutes, it is usually up to the medical crew to decide when to call the doctor.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bloomberg is Understanding!

by Lynne Winderbaum, retired teacher and Bronx HS UFT District Rep and Executive Board member
Posted to NYCEdNews listserve.

No one should say that our mayor is not understanding of how unique challenges can affect the statistical measurement of one’s job performance. And so it was that I listened to Mayor Bloomberg explain with a bit of impatience and annoyance that the city’s performance in the wake of the snowstorm was not up to par because of a series of unique challenges. He begged for understanding because, you see, it was the biggest effort to clear snow that the city has ever seen, there were a large number of city agencies and personnel involved, there were near white-out conditions, and hundreds of city buses and dozens of ambulances were stuck in the snow.

But the mayor should be aware that all that matters is the outcome, not the difficulties inherent to the job. The data shows that the average response time to structural fires in 2008 was four minutes 33 seconds. The average response time for medical emergencies in 2008 was four minutes 30 seconds. However, in this case, data released today show that the FDNY had a 3-hour delay in response to critical cases, like heart attacks, and 12-hour delays for non-critical calls. A five alarm fire in Elmhurst raged for 3 hours when firefighters were delayed by the blizzard conditions.

Surely, firemen and EMT’s are to be judged “ineffective” when it comes to a response time so far below the city standard.

It is incumbent on the news organizations, for the sake of our citizens, to FOIL a list of all firemen and EMT’s that were on duty during this time period and to identify them by name in the newspapers. The mere fact that response time data was influenced by so many factors beyond their control, as detailed by the mayor above, is no excuse to fail to reach or exceed the standard of response time expected by the city.

The Fire Department of the New York is expected to comply with the request of the news agencies for the release of names and response times recorded in this snapshot of time. Extraordinary challenges notwithstanding, emergency responses to all calls should be within five minutes.

UFA objections that FDNY personnel who were not on duty during this time period would not produce data, and therefore would not be publicly judged as are their colleagues, are unfounded. UFA objections that response time data does not reflect the totality of the job and are unreliable are unfounded as well.

Perhaps there should be merit bonuses for the fastest responders to ensure that firefighters show more dedication to their work and our citizens’ welfare. Those who take on the most challenging conditions are no exception. Data is king and the statistics are the only objective way to measure the value of the workers.

It is also unfounded to excuse the longer response times from any engine companies who were impacted by the increased demands created by the closure of firehouses in their neighborhoods.

It is commendable that the FDNY receives the gratitude of the citizenry and the satisfaction of knowing they have saved lives and property. But these things are not measurable as are response times.

It is incomprehensible that in the face of this disappointing data the mayor would excuse FDNY performance by saying, ““And I want them to know that we do appreciate the severity of these conditions they face, and that the bottom line is we are doing everything we possibly can, and pulling every resource from every possible place to meet the unique challenges…”

Oh wait. Nobody wants to privatize the fire department or find reason for it to be run by corporate interests who have scant experience improving performance in fire and medical emergencies. Nevermind.

Lynne Winderbaum, retired teacher
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:


Why would the UFT/AFT not take a strong stand against charter schools and school closings since both lead to severe reductions in teachers belonging to the union and thus weaken the union? This was a question asked by a young teacher at a recent meeting.

My short response was that their prime directive is holding onto power and any fight back would require organizing the rank and file into a potent force which would require democratizing the union (once you wake people up they make demands) which would in turn threaten their hold on power. Thus they will readily accept a smaller membership - which they can control in a very tight manner. And after all, fighting the oligarchy pushing ed deform is one big job and isn't it better for the leaders to be on their good side and hope for some goodies from Gates and Broad (who gave the UFT charter $1 million) along the way. (Don't worry, they know you're with them and understand when you mouth off a bit for the benefit of the members.)

And then I came across this from a piece by Chris Hedges (Chris Hedges on Orwell and Huxley).
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Great Satire: Last Stand for Children First And Accountable Talk


I swear I was going to write something along these lines below but I can't top Accountable Talk. However, wouldn't it have been perfect if the storm came one week later on Jan. 2 in the in between period between Klein's leaving on Dec. 31 and Black taking over on Jan. 3? Imagine the conversations on Jan. 2 as the snow was falling. 

Schools Open Today, "Chancellor" Announces

In her first major decision as presumptive "chancellor", Cathie Black announced today that despite the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on NYC, public schools would be open today.

Read SMORE at AT

Julie Cavanagh on The Dangers of Edu-Philanthropy: Education's Trojan Horse

Julie Cavanagh

Julie Cavanagh

The season of giving is upon us. In the month of December, most Americans find themselves ignited with a civic spirit and generously give of their time, their talent, and their treasure. At my little school in Red Hook, Brooklyn we aim to make giving a value that is present throughout the year. Our school, and hundreds of schools across New York City and the country, participate in the Penny Harvest, a Common Cents program.

The Penny Harvest is a program that is aimed at igniting the civic spirit of a new generation and teaches children about the importance of philanthropy. Students harvest pennies throughout the fall. Common Cents turns those pennies into dollars and the children turn those dollars into good deeds. Common Cents awards each school's "Student Roundtable" a grant. Roundtable students engage in a democratic process to identify local and global needs and design service projects and make donations to causes they, and their school as a whole, feel are important. Students at my school have assisted BARC animal shelter here in Brooklyn, they have created a certified bird habitat, and have started a GRRReen Campaign at our school, which includes holding an annual GO GRRReen festival to increase their community's environmental awareness.

The children in my school have certainly learned what philanthropy is through our partnership with Common Cents; we have been named a School of Excellence because, school-wide, our children engage in a myriad of service projects and programs, which ultimately empowers them to make a positive difference in their world. From my perspective -- as an urban educator -- empowerment is the most important element of a program that serves children and families who have historically been disempowered. All too often, decisions are made for subsections of our citizenry without their input; often, the decisions being made do not wholly benefit those they are intended for. If only we worked to empower those that have been so often left behind, we could engage in policy discussions that would move our society forward. Instead, we ignore the actual stakeholders, particularly when it comes to education policy, creating results that are often not beneficial to the intended targets.

As the saying goes, "Nothing about us, without us," and I love those who have added to the end, " for us."

Our students are well on their way to becoming engaged, and thoughtful citizens. They have learned that everyone has something to give, no matter how small. More importantly they have learned that giving is an act that reminds us all of our interconnectedness; that our efforts should be spent benefiting the many, not the few, and that when even one of our citizens suffers, we all suffer. The grown-ups who largely consider themselves philanthropists today, particularly edu-philanthropists, could use a lesson from my students.

From Gates, to Broad, to Bloomberg, edu-philanthropists have been pouring their time, talent and treasure into education. They tout themselves as education reformers, but, largely, their dollars are not simply good deeds. Instead, their gifts are thinly veiled attacks on our public education system. Edu-philanthropy is education's Trojan horse.

Read more: The Huffington Post

Parental Choice: Mona Davids Responds to Michael Benjamin

"I am tired of hearing folks say parental choice but not telling parents that you give up your parental and civil rights and your mouth is duct taped when you enter most charters by the folks like Walton who hijacked it."   - Mona Davids, President NY Charter Parents Association

While many of us consider Mona Davids a strong ally in the struggle against the ed deformers she deserted less than a year ago, many of us oppose the political use of "parent choice" in the push for charters because we understand the end game is the takedown of the public school system with the result that there will ultimately be no choice - sort of like the "choice" you have between Republicans and Democrats. One day we wil convince Mona that we can fight for real choice and variety of programs within the public schools as Lisa Donlan has often pointed out she helped put into effect on the old District 1 (lower east side) school board.

But here, her nuanced response to outgoing State Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, who hopes to fuel his career with charter school supporterd funding, is worth noting. Benjamin's performance at the Bill Perkins charter school hearings last March was fairly obnoxious, especially when he questionned Mulgrew who stood up to him fairly well. I have some tape of that which if I ever get time I will dig out.
Dear Ms. Davids -

I'm on the Host Committee for BAEO's Symposium 2011. I am helping to raise $50K so we can have the best possible Parental Choice Symposium in the NY/NJ Metro area. The symposium will be held March 3-5, 2011 in Jersey City, NJ. (See details below.) A number of charter schools from the 79 AD have been invited to participate. I hope you will assist me in making sure NY parents learn about education reform and how it enhances parental choice. Please consider responding to the appeal below and support BAEO's 2011 Symposium.

Michael Benjamin
Member of Assembly (thru 12/31)
Mona replies
Huh?? I think Mr. Benjamin must have forgotten when he refused to let me speak on his panel at his charter education workshop last February. Heard it was a blast with CPE unexpectedly rocking up for that workshop.

Never heard of this org but see they received Walton funding.

So, they just target black families for charters. Hmmm.

Since I'm persona non grata in charterland for not knowing my place, having the audacity to expect accountability and transparency, parent rights, independent pa/pta's, student rights, qualified and certified teachers, compliance with iep's and IDEA etc.---- all those things black parents should not expect, this may be of interest to others...

I'm all for school choice, I help parents who want to go to charters and those being pushed out but want to stay anyway. I don't want anyone telling me where I can or cannot send my child.

However, I am tired of hearing folks say parental choice but not telling parents that you give up your parental and civil rights and your mouth is duct taped when you enter most charters by the folks like Walton who hijacked it.

Like working for Walmart, you have no rights once you accept the job...guess it's better to start training those black children now while in school so that by the time they're adults, they'll know their place and be great Walmart workers.

Hey BAEO, what about doing a workshop on sped rights or parent rights in charters? Even better, a workshop on charter law and parental rights in a non-profit education corporation.

It's time for parents to make educated choices on education, be transparent and explain what a non-profit education corporation is.

Mona Davids

Read Larry Cuban at Valerie Staruss' The Answer Sheet

By Larry Cuban
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and top policymakers have promoted and funded small urban high schools for nearly a decade. Then Bill Gates said in his 2009 Annual Letter that while these small urban high schools had accomplished much for students they had largely failed to improve academic achievement. No more big bucks for this initiative. No other foundation executives or federal/state officials, all of whom had tripped over themselves in hailing small urban high schools, said "Oops!"
Ditto for charter schools. Policy elites across both political parties for the past decade have promoted charter schools to offer urban parents and their children choices they would not have in district regular schools. A 15-state study concluded that, indeed, 17 percent of charters offered “superior educational opportunities for their students.” Nearly half of the charters, however, differed little from regular public school “options,” and here is the kicker: 37 percent of the charters “deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
Continue reading this post »

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some links on a lazy Sunday blizzardy evening

I'm feeling pretty lazy these last few days, treating myself to some downtime after the trek up to Albany to tape the Deny Black Waiver lawsuit presentation - (and if you want to check it out, all 2 hours of video are up in segments - links below) - so I'll just let others do all the work.

South Bronx School nails a lot of what's ailin' NYC teachers at this point in a great post on how teachers have their heads in the sand:  Apathy And Ignorance At The DOE

Reality Based Educator slams Joel Klein's farewell interview: NY Times Fails To Hold Klein Accountable Today. Here's the link to the interview The NY Times conducted an "interview" with outgoing NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein.

Leonie Haimson also slams Klein: Poor misunderstood Joel Klein and has her own version of his Xmas card: Joel Klein's holiday card

And this one came in from a reader:
This is truly funny!!!  But, there's also some truth in the humor.  Take this with a grain of salt.

I added Teachbad to the blogroll - truly doesn't like teaching and focuses the blog on that aspect. Check out the films.

Keep an eye on my blogroll for other great posts. I'm going to shovel some snow and then watch a movie. (Oh, if you want to call me on my cell or send a text, don't bother. My phone died tonight.  Only emails till I get another.)
Here is the 28 minute Norman Siegel presentation:

Here's the State Attorney General and City Corp Council defense of Black - so you can see just how lame it is.

Roger Wareham presentation:

Eric Snyder presentation:

Rebuttals from all sides:
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Keeping UP With the Susans (Ohanian)

I know, we are call overwhelmed with incoming info and I can't post it fast enough. And I'm sure in this holiday with people busy and travelling a lot of these posts will go by the wayside. But I am trying to space these at least a couple of hours apart.

Susan Ohanian produces such quality summaries almost every day, we just can't stop reading. In fact you almost don't have to read the entire article she links too. Her comments are so right on. Here is a selection from her last post but you can get the links to all of it at Norms Notes.

By the way, as you read you will be reminded of how deep this attack on public ed, teachers and the unions go while the only institution that could provide any sort of defense - in our case the UFT/AFT - lies helpless, wiggling on the fence. The only defense is to capture the union. The main focus of organizing our fellow teachers must first be to give them the kind of info Susan and others are providing to try to get the rank and file move to action - remember the mantra of this blog is: EDUCATE, ORGANIZE, MOBILIZE! 

The UFT will continue to miseducate and obfuscate the issues so we have to do it ourselves. That was the idea behind the founding of Education Notes in 1996. It gave me a way to communicate with the people who attended the DA even when so many were Unity. But I made enough contacts with others there to help create ICE in time for the 2004 elections after the New Action sellout to Randi (perhaps her most brilliant move) and we then helped create GEM in 2009, which is not a caucus but an organization geared toward defending public education. I've seen the base expand but is is a slow and sometimes painful process. Still, we are all reaching such a limited audience and need a broader base, which can only be provided if we can activate more people - even if just to pass on the info.

Read John Powers' missive giving you some blueprints for action in the post below this. Create your own list of contacts in your school and beyond. Pick the stuff that appeals to you and send it out. Even once a week. Here's the link to John's comprehensive list of ideas:  What Can You Do To Counter the Unity Spin? Suggestions from John Powers

First, a couple of cartoons:

The Attack on  American Education
Robert Reich, with  info from Death of the Liberal
Wall Street Pit

A must read.

Ohanian Comment: Putting these cuts to education in context, in Death of the Liberal Class, Chris Hedges points out that US military spending consumes half of all discretionary spending. And the corporations that profit from permanent war need us to be afraid. Fear keeps us penned in like livestock.
The collapse of liberalism, whether in imperial Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Weimar Germany, the former Yugoslavia, or the US, was intimately tied to the rise of a culture of permanent war.
The US spends $4 billion a month in Afghanistan, where there are 1.5 corporate employees for every member of the military.

The education agenda is a war agenda.
Logic and facts won't stop big money. We need a revolution.

Reader Comment: From the article: We should experiment with vouchers whose worth is inversely related to family income.

Yeah, just what I need from people with zero background in education: more experiments on my kids.

Funds misuse, nepotism feared at Texas charter schools

Ohanian Comment: There's gold in those charter hills in Texas.
I like this justification for charter school nepotism: "relatives bring a unique passion." I wonder how many of the public realize that these are their taxpayer dollars. Here's what deregulation brings:
Sherwin Allen's family, including two brothers, his wife and their two children, earned nearly $700,000 last year working for Children First Academy campuses in Dallas and Houston, according to Texas Education Agency records. The campuses enrolled a total of 750 students.
I repeat: These are taxpayer dollars.

Rick Scott's School Plan for Scoundrels
Stephanie Mencimer
Mother Jones

Conservatives have been plotting for years to blow up the public school system. Now, Florida's incoming governor Rick Scott is poised to light the fuse.

The Florida governor-elect's proposal to overhaul the state education system is a fraudster's dream.

Reader Comment: If Jeb Bush carpet-bagged his way to fame and fortune raping the fortunes of the state of Florida and insuring his brother was crowned President of the United States while destroying what was at one time the most progressive public school system in the south: well, wait. This is Jeb Bush on steroids.

Yes, Rick Scott is a criminal ... he is already talking about what he is going to do with Medicare and Medicaid (means testing) and reducing reimbursement rates while concurrently the state is opening up a for-profit medical school (yes, in six short weeks you too can be a teacher, preacher ...) ...
Rick Scott is a dangerous man, having him as Gov. will destroy what is left of our beautiful home, a tropical paradise now lost. . . . 

What Can You Do To Counter the Unity Spin? Suggestions from John Powers

John Powers was part of Unity Caucus from Aug. 2009-June 2010 and has some excellent insights on basic organizing. Ed Notes exists to disseminate information and support these efforts so plug in. Our mantra is to EDUCATE, ORGANIZE, MOBILIZE. Each comes in succession. People must have information as a basis for organizing and people must be in some way organized before they can mobilize masses needed to have an impact. Thanks for the work John.

Here are a few things that you can do:

1. Start an email list and forward articles of interest...articles that challenge the "Unity Caucus" line. Members may at first experience "cognitive dissonance" but this is a wonderful opening for follow-up discussions and Q and A's. You can invite UFT activists to attend an after-school function [Norm here - feed me and I'll come] or you can invite a few people to one of the many UFT activist meetings and happenings. Start small. Set small, achievable goals. But think big. If there is a source of confusion or contention in the school with the administration, you and others can use it to help make your Unity CL stronger or if need be, marginalize him or her and show yourselves to be true unionists. 

Note: A Unity cog reading this will immediately assume I mean doing something "militant" or "reckless." However, you would be surprised how effective just a few people can be in a small or large school setting. Communicating effectively with administrators can go a long way. Politely "gumming" up an absurd policy that they would like to pass down to staff can reap many rewards. Many of us should get together to devise a tactic book that goes more in depth here with lots of examples to support each tactic. And when all else fails, “militant” actions at the school level can include informational protests outside of school in the morning and or afternoon hours. Over the past year, I pleaded with a number of Unity leaders to "take it right to the doors" of individual horror schools and principals with the aforementioned demos. Their response: Nothing. There is the new "Twilight Zone" in the New York Teacher. Not a bad start. BUT WHY NOT TAKE A STAND OUTSIDE OF EACH OF THE SCHOOLS PROFILED IN THE TZ PIECE. 
[Norm here: I had a reso up at the DA calling for these demos as far back as the late 90's. It included calling for extraordinary protections for chapter leaders from harassment.]

2. Create a "fact sheet" that shows all of the decisions and policies that Unity has created and then explain to your colleagues that this is what a Unity CL stands for. Ask your CL at the next meeting if he or she is a Unity CL. Why do so many Unity CL's keep their affiliation a secret? Is it because on some level they are embarrassed or do not want to have to pledge the party line in front of a group of people. I was a Unity CL for ten months. I immediately told every UFT member in my chapter via a letter and a follow-up discussion. Many were surprised considering my prior UFT activist work and my issues with the Unity Caucus but I explained what I believed at the time were the right justifications. Looking back I have no regrets. I am that much more informed and confident in my views today regarding Unity's inability to work towards a more democratic, bottom-up model of unionism. This flaw continues to hamper their ability to provide a strong, clear and concise vision of what K-12 education should encompass now and in the near future. It has also led them down the road of appeasement and not "compromise" as they claim. The leadership is an insulated, unimaginative, elite-minded, group of over-paid "professionals."

3. Create your own newsletter.

4. Does your CL forward or make available in some format each week's CL newsletter. If not, why not? I take mine and just forward it to every UFTer in my school and follow-up with more pointed articles of interest or commentary. This helps us to have a more informed chapter meeting.

5. Our UFT constitution says that every CL must hold at least six CL meetings per year. Does this occur? If not, why not? This should be challenged. Ultimately a CL can be recalled if he or she does not fulfill his or her duties. 

[Norm here: Let me add that holding a meeting with a union "guest" dominating the entire time and taking questions at the end to me doesn't constitute a meeting that addresses the issues we face even though "legal" in terms of the UFT constitution.]

6. Create a study group/ed policy book club (even if it is once per month).

7. Ask your CL if you and others can help him. Explain to him or her the importance of delegating tasks to other UFTers. This creates solidarity. 

8. Attend demos and rallies with a group of UFTers from your school.

9. Attend a delegate assembly with a group of UFTers from your school and collect all the literature that is handed out downstairs. Then take a seat in the new “off-site” visitor room and enjoy the show. Watch for the lack of discussion. Watch the president “filibuster’ the time away so that nothing gets done. Much of what our UFT presidents past and present discuss at DAs could be typed and presented to delegates to read while they wait for the DA to begin. A quick powerpoint presentation could also be used to minimize the excessive amount of time that is wasted on blabbing and blabbing on. Less talk. More action. If my advice were taken, delegates would actually be able to discuss, debate and vote on the many resolutions that get pushed into the trash bin of “never-never land.” A few years ago, Randi was late for a DA and Michael Mendel chaired the first half of the DA. We went through every resolution. It was amazing. Everyone felt a sense of accomplishment. Randi walked in, recognized it and declared, “hey you like that…let’s do it that way in the future.” YEAH RIGHT. I’M STILL WAITING. THE UNITY DA IS WORSE THAN OUR CONGRESS.

10. Get your older vets to sit down and talk about what teaching and learning was like before Klein, Duncan and Obama. Let them talk about the pros and cons with thenewbies. More important, have them talk about their lives, families, children, etc. Just let them talk. Newbies are not union conscious because of the Unity flaw mentioned above but also because they are young. It’s normal. It’s important to help them visualize their futures and the importance of pay, benefits, tenure and due process. This can be linked to the attack on these sacred, union principles. In other words, help them visualize, “imagine if” scenarios.

11. It may be possible to activate some older vets precisely because they are nearing retirement and feel that they have nothing to lose and that they can go out fighting and setting an example for the newbies and all otherUFTers at your school. 

12. Create a film series. Perhaps it can be held at your school or in your home. Screen important films related to unionism (“Norma Rae”?). Show “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery” in order to discuss charter schools and the push to privatize education. Consider some of the films related to the economic crisis like “Capitalism: A Love Affair” and “Inside Job” and pose questions that force UFTers to think about why the working class has to bare the brunt of the budget cuts if Wall Street is to blame (amongst other things/institutions). Supply UFTers with information about Andrew Cuomo and his desire to go after our pensions. If you create a film series or a book club, etc., you can ask others to help you organize and prepare for the events. All of this helps to build solidarity and teaches some prerequisite skills related to activism. I am exhausted. I will stop here. I will reflect more and perhaps present a Part 2 later. 
Better yet, perhaps other UFTers can chime in and further develop, revise and organize my initial thoughts above.

Happy Holidays!

In Solidarity, 

John Powers

After hearing lawyers optimistic Cathie Black's waiver to be overturned

"Munkwitz, representing Steiner and the state, countered that Black has exceptional experience in dealing with large organizations, collaborating, leading, engaging diverse stakeholders, building relationships and managing facilities and money."

Munkwitz has got to be kidding.Managing facilities? She couldn't manage even one school. And how about her experience dealing with "large" organizations -  like 2000 employees compared to the NYC schools with - 130-150,000 and a million kids and 1500 schools?

After hearing lawyers optimistic Cathie Black's waiver to be overturned
* December 24th, 2010 4:16 pm ET

A lawyer for parents challenging the appointment of Cathleen P. Black to be the next city schools chancellor says he’s optimistic his client’s will emerge victorious.

Lawyers for the parents appeared in court in an Albany court room yesterday arguing that Black lacks the required educational experience or academic credentials to serve as head of the nation’s largest schools system.

Judge Gerald Connolly did not immediately indicate when the court might rule, but Attorney Norman Siegel said he and other attorneys received an E-mail from the judge last night asking for cell phone numbers where they could be reached over the holidays. He said that makes him think that a
ruling is likely to come next week, before January 3, when Black is scheduled to take over the reins.

Under state law and related regulations, school superintendents have to have a master's degree or higher, 60 hours of graduate work, a professional certification and three years of teaching experience.

However, the education commissioner can grant a waiver to the "exceptionally qualified" candidate that has "training and experience that are the substantial equivalent of such requirements."

Lawyers argued that Education Commissioner David M. Steiner’s waiver of requisite education and experience was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore unlawful.  Siegel acknowledged that Steiner has discretion, but that such discretion must be in compliance with the law.

Attorneys for parents and teachers say that there are two key legal issues in play – first that Black lacks a graduate degree, a requirement that he believes can’t be waived and second that the basis for the waiver was flawed because Steiner relied on the skills of others in deciding to grant the waiver.

“One of the overriding clouds over the court room was the right of public officials to act independently,” Siegel told  “We’re not asking the court to second guess a public official; rather we’re simply saying that they have to act within the bounds of the law – when they fail
to do so it’s the role of the judiciary to intervene.”

Siegel said he is optimistic that his side will emerge victorious, especially because the defendants conceded his key legal argument.

“Not only did David Steiner’s waiver say that Cathie Black would be relying heavily upon staff, but when asked about that by the judge, [Deputy Attorney General] Kelly Munkwitz conceded that point,” he said. “That alone could mean victory for us.”

Munkwitz, representing Steiner and the state, countered that Black has exceptional experience in dealing with large organizations, collaborating, leading, engaging diverse stakeholders, building relationships and managing facilities and money.

"What Ms. Black didn't get in the classroom, she got in the scope of her career," Munkwitz said.

Siegel, one of four lawyers fighting Black's waiver says that regardless of which side wins, he expects an appeal to be filed. will continue to bring you the latest developments in the controversy surrounding the appointment of Cathie Black as New York City Schools chancellor.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mona Davids on Ross Global Charter School

Mona is quoted in an article on Ross Global, Ross Global Charter: In Battle Over NYC Charter School, It's Heiress vs. Parents which I posted on norms notes. Here is a follow-up comment from her. Of course we disagree about the concept of charters which Real Reformers oppose as destructive of public education.

This is a poor performing, mismanaged, badly governed charter. There are many more out there in NYC.

Even the DoE's charter school office (which provides poor oversight of schools they authorized, which is why NYCPA got the legislature to strip them of authorizing new charters) said,

"The Ross Global Academy Charter School has not achieved sufficient academic success, and is not a sufficiently viable organization," education officials wrote in the report.

Read the full report submitted to the Regents last week at:

It's unfortunate it took five years for the DoE to act. There are DoE authorized charters in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th year that need to get shut down now. With the same issues as RGA, poor academic achievement, high student attrition, teacher turnover, leadership turnover, financial mismangement, cronyism, huge conflicts of interest and dysfunctional boards.

DoE is going to let those corrupt failing charters continue to operate with public funds even though they're failing our kids - because these schools have 5 years to experiment and destroy our kids futures.

Lastly, there are good charters in NYC, but you don't hear about them because they're busy educating all our kids, respecting parents and student rights, and working with their communities.


Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:

Getting to the Crux - or Crud - in Ed Deform

As Jonathan Kozol observed in an article in Harper's:
Some years ago, a friend who works on Wall Street handed me a stock-market prospectus in which a group of analysts at an investment-banking firm known as Montgomery Securities~described the financial benefits to be derived from privatizing our public schools. "The education industry", according to these analysts, "represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control" that "have either voluntarily opened" or, they note in pointed terms, have "been forced" to open up to private enterprise. Indeed, they write, "the education industry represents the largest market opportunity" since health-care services were privatized during the 1970s. Referring to private education companies as "EMOs" ("Education Management Organizations"), they note that college education also offers some "attractive investment returns" for corporations, but then come back to what they see as the much greater profits to be gained by moving into public elementary and secondary schools. "The larger developing opportunity is in the K-12 EMO market, led by private elementary school providers", which, they emphasize, "are well positioned to exploit potential political reforms such as school vouchers". From the point of view of private profit, one of these analysts enthusiastically observes, "the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada".
And as a companion piece:

Five Educational Myths (used to fuel ed deform)
  1)  It all happens in the classroom.
      Learning requires reinforcement through homework and studying, otherwise, whatever is taught in the classroom will not be retained. This is one of the reasons for poor test results.
  2) The teacher is the most important factor in learning.
     Student attitudes, motivation and effort are the most important factors in learning. If these factors are lacking, no teacher will be successful. Test scores are primarily a reflection of these factors.
  3)  More money will improve education.
     Education budgets have been continually rising for many years will little results. NYC has an education budget of approximately 20 billion. Federal money has been increasing to schools. Student attitudes, motivation and effort are the factors which money can not buy.
  4) Smaller Learning Communities (including smaller schools) will improve education.
    Smaller Learning Communities have been around since the 1980's with little results. It is a cosmetic fix as class sizes are generally no different than other schools. Smaller Schools (last ten years) only get better results when student populations are changed. In ten years, smaller schools will combine and the large comprehensive high school will return due to poor results and cost effectiveness.
 5) All children must be prepared for college.
   Many students have no desire to go to college and due to their own choices, lack the skills necessary. We see evidence of this in the extremely low CUNY 2 year and 4 year graduation rates. High schools must focus on the needs of these students by primarily preparing them for the workforce.
James Calantjis

Deny Waiver Hearing Videos

Last Update:Sunday, Dec. 26, 8:45pm

I'm putting up unedited videos of sections of the hearings as they process. If I have time I'll pull extracts.

Here is the 28 minute Norman Siegel presentation - he went third but since I am working with and documenting the Deny the Waiver Coalition, I am giving it priority.

One thing - I felt that there was an acceptance of sorts that Black's experience in managing large corps was a real asset - it was never pointed out that the largest number of employees she managed was arounf 2000 as opposed to the 130,000+ NYCDOE. Not even close.

Here's the State Attorney General and City Corp Council defense of Black - so you can see just how lame it is.

Roger Wareham presentation:

Eric Snyder presentation:

Rebuttals from all sides:

Banned in Jamaica (HS)

Jamaica HS, long on the target list of the DOE for closing, has a story to tell. And here the students tell it in a play exposing educational apartheid in the building. Ironic given yesterday's PBS Newshour report on how Joel Klein has chopped the large schools. The report partially told the other side about how kids not accepted to the small schools went on to the nearest large one but left out the story of how small and large co-exist in the same building with one school clearly favored over the other.

What's interesting is that the students from both ends of the stick wrote this play and were stopped from performing it. I hope we can get people to sponsor performances around the city - maybe as one person suggested, on the steps of Tweed or in front of City Hall.

The ICE blog where Jamaica HS chapter leader James Eterno often blogs about the situation at the school (STUDENT PLAY BANNED) and Valerie Strauss at WAPO had details.

A student play blasting N.Y. school reform is banned

By Valerie Strauss
Fourteen students from two New York City schools -- Jamaica High and Queens Collegiate -- wrote an impressive play about school reform under Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, based on the classic play “Antigone.” They were rehearsing to perform the play -- complete with music, visual projections and lights -- when they were told that their principals had decided not to allow them stage it. The play, titled “Declassified: Struggle for Existence (We Used to Eat Lunch Together,” was banned.
According to a teacher who was working on the project with the students, the principals sent word that they were uncomfortable with criticism of Klein and Bloomberg, and they would not allow the Dec. 17 scheduled performance to go on in the Jamaica High auditorium.
It's hard to even fathom the thinking that went into the decision to stop the kids from performing a clever work that they created and that expresses their opinion of school reform that has affected their lives.
Eight years of business-driven reform under Klein were centered around standardized tests used to grade schools, and many of the troubled ones were either broken up into smaller schools or closed. Klein repeatedly pointed to rising test scores as evidence of his achievement, but recent revelations that the scores rose because the tests got increasingly easy to pass burst that success bubble.
The decision to ban the play shows a fear of upsetting authority -- not exactly the civics lesson you'd want kids to learn in an American school.
The students were inspired to write the play in part by a blog post by Jamaica High School teacher Marc Epstein, called "The Triumph of Academic Apartheid." It details how Jamaica High, a storied school, was slated to be closed (along with dozens of other schools) based on what Epstein explains were faulty data and assumptions.
For those interested in reading the work the kids wrote, here it is. It's not too long, and worth reading.

The Teacher's Side of the Banned Play

Huffington Post has printed Brian Pickett's account of the banned play at Jamaica High School. He is the teacher of the after school drama course that included students from both Queens Collegiate and Jamaica HS.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DWC: Albany Road Trip

Thurs., Dec. 23, 7PM

See NY1 Story here and AP story here.

Just got back from Albany for the Deny Waiver Coalition Cathie Black Waiver law suit. I got up at 4AM so I will old off on the details of the court case and leave it to the video which is being processed tonight. And therein lies a tale.

I was told the other day to fax a request to tape and asked Chris Owens, one of the parent plaintiffs if he could take care of it and he did a great job but as of last night I hadn't received word from the court. Early this morning before I left I had an email from Chris with the letter attached. I printed them out and it turned out to be very lucky I did.

I left at 4:45 to pick up Lisa Donlan on the lower east side. Got there at 5:20. Lisa was loaded down with coffee, carrot cake and truffles. We hit a rest stop at around 7:30 where she treated me to the big meal with hot cakes at McDonalds (over 1300 calories - called my wife to give her the news and tell her to reinforce the floor boards.)

Hit Albany by 9AM, parked and headed to court house. Chris had told me I couldn't bring a camera in and he was right - I had to leave it with security - even my voice recorder.

Got to court room - 3 cases - Eric Snyder - parent, Roger Wareham and Norm Siegel. Siegel wasn't there yet - so I went up to clerk and asked about my faxed request to tape. She said she didn't get it. I gave her my copy - she said she'd go show it to the judge.

Judge Connolly came in with my letter and announced my request would be first on the agenda but he was waiting for Siegel and his partner Herb Tietelbaum. When they came he asked if anyone objected to my taping and of course the people suing didn't.

The reps defending Black - from  State Attorney General and NYC Corp council had differing responses. The former said no objection as long as I had proper press credentials but the Bloomberg rep of course objected because little ole me with my tiny camera shooting from the back would - as Noah Gotbaum tweeted:

They said the videotaping: "doesn't benefit the dignity of the court" (!)  You can't make this stuff up...

Judge Connolly, who seemed very reasonable and fair throughout, asked me to do a short presentation on my credentials. I wasn't exactly prepared but I said I was ed editor of The Wave and was also covering for the Chicago based Substance for print and video. Also that I had been chronicling ed events on video for a possible documentary. He asked how long it would take me to get ready and I said 5 minutes to go down. Mona Davids tweeted:
Bloomberg's lawyers are objecting to Norm Scott videotaping and recording the hearing. AG's office has no objections.
Yes, to democracy!! The judge approved Norm Scott's request despite Bloomberg's attorneys objections!!!!
Go Norm. Yippee!!!!
A woman also asked to tape and even though she didn't ask prior permission he was lenient and we raced down to get our stuff. We were joined by a woman who introduced herself as the NY Times' Sharron Otterman, whose work has been impressive, especially on Cathie Black, so it was a pleasure to meet her.

Here are some pics I took and this afternoon"s press release.

Norm Siegel

Eric Snyder

Patricia, Shino, Lisa

Mona and Patricia

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Norman Siegel (Attorney)          347-907-0867
Herbert Teitelbaum (Attorney)   518-441-9412
Mona Davids                                 917-340-8987
Noah E. Gotbaum                          917-658-3213
Lupé Todd (for Asm. Jeffries)      917-202-0116

Cathleen Black Waiver Hearing Completed In Albany 
Public School Parents Fighting for a Qualified Chancellor
See Victory in Court Challenge Against Commissioner Steiner

Earlier today, attorneys Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum appeared before Judge Gerald Connolly in the Albany County Supreme Court on behalf of 13 parent Petitioners and one teacher to challenge New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner's granting of a waiver to Cathleen Black so she may assume the office of Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.  Ms. Black was nominated by Mayor Bloomberg on November 9, 2010 to succeed outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein.  Commissioner Steiner granted the waiver on November 29.

The Petitioners, including New York State Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn / District 57) and members of the Deny Waiver Coalition, have contended that Ms. Black does not have the qualifications necessary under New York State law to oversee the educational system that serves their children and, furthermore, that Commissioner Steiner misinterpreted State law and exceeded his authority in granting the waiver to Ms. Black.
The parents, educators, and community members now await the Court's decision, which may come before the end of the next week.  Regardless of the outcome, however, the legal challenges to Steiner's waiver have already confirmed that Black's appointment by Mayor Bloomberg and the granting of the waiver by Commissioner Steiner represent a serious "disconnect" between these policymakers and the citizens they serve.  New Yorkers recognize this problem and have opposed the appointment of Ms. Black by a margin of two-to-one.  Since early November, the Deny Waiver Coalition has worked to make sure that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard. 

As parent Petitioner Noah E. Gotbaum stated, "Parents and educators believe that this waiver has broken the law.  We are hopeful that Judge Connolly will hold that Mayoral control stops at the courthouse steps."  Gotbaum is the President of Community Education Council 3 in Manhattan.

Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum were joined by attorneys Roger Wareham and Eric Snyder, each representing additional New York City public school parents who are also challenging the Steiner waiver.  Three separate Article 78 petitions challenging the waiver had been filed and were consolidated during the court hearing, which started at 9:30 AM. 

The Office of the Attorney General and the Corporation Counsel had each responded to the anti-waiver petitions on behalf of New York State and New York City respectively.  At the hearing, Ms. Kelly Minkowitz represented Attorney General Cuomo acting on behalf of Commissioner Steiner, the New York State Education Department, the New York State Board of Regents, and the University of the State of New York.  Mr. Chlarens Orsland represented the Corporation Counsel's office acting on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York.  During the hearing, all sides presented oral arguments and answered questions posed by Judge Connolly.

The Judge, who appeared to have reviewed all of the legal submissions thoroughly, did not specify when a decision would be forthcoming.  Observers believe that it could be handed down as early as next week.
Prior to today's hearing, on Wednesday, December 22, attorneys Siegel and Teitelbaum filed their Memorandum of Law with the court in response to papers presented by the Attorney General's office and the Corporation Counsel.  The Memorandum reinforced four points that were discussed during the Court hearing.

First, Commissioner Steiner could not provide a "substantially equivalent" qualification for Ms. Black that would "provide her with the requisite knowledge, skills and experience" in subject areas that Steiner himself identified as "critical," including educational standards, curriculum, staff development and turning around low-performing schools.
The fact that Commissioner Steiner improperly looked beyond Ms. Black's qualifications to the qualifications of potential staff in assessing whether or not she herself possessed the necessary knowledge and experience was the second argument.  Third, nothing in the relevant State law provides for a waiver of the requirement that Ms. Black have earned a Master's degree or higher -- and she does not have one.
The fourth argument was the fact that the Petitioners' challenges to the waiver are only asking for appropriate enforcement of standards put in place by the New York State Legislature and the New York State Commissioner of Education, and that the Petitioners are not requesting extraordinary action by the Court. 

Siegel and Teitelbaum referenced the fact that, in 1983, Education Commissioner Gordon M. Ambach fulfilled the intent and letter of the law when he refused to grant a similar waiver request on behalf of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., who actually had more extensive education and public policy experience than Ms. Black -- who has none -- but still not enough to meet the appropriate and legislated standard for the position of Chancellor. 

As Commissioner Ambach stated in his decision, "The certification requirements are intended to assure that there is proper training and experience for educational leadership.  The determination to be made by the Commissioner in any case where an exception to regular certification is requested is not whether there is potential for or promise of effective service by the candidate, but rather whether the candidate currently possesses 'exceptional training and experience which are the substantial equivalent of the stated requirements and which qualify such person for the duties of a superintendent of schools.' "

To the extent that there were no surprises during the Court hearing, attorneys Siegel and Teitelbaum were cautiously optimistic regarding the outcome.  "In our Constitutional democracy, when government officials do not adhere to the rule of law, it is important for the judiciary to uphold the rule of law," said Siegel.  "We are hopeful that the Supreme Court in Albany County will grant our petition in all respects."

Parents present in court today were also encouraged by the day's proceedings.

Mona Davids, parent Petitioner and President of the New York Charter Parents Association said, "Today marks the beginning of a new era of parent involvement in public education. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired and we will continue to advocate for quality public schools and education leadership in New York City.  We will no longer allow the Bloomberg administration to violate our rights and education law."

Patricia Connelly, Petitioner and a parent of a student with special needs in Brooklyn, stated, "I am grateful that we still have the judiciary to turn to for refuge and possible redress, even if we have to travel miles from home during the holidays to seek it."

Shino Tanikawa-Oglesby, parent Petitioner, and leader within NYC Kids PAC and Community Education Council 2 (Manhattan) concluded, "Governance by lawsuit is not a good way to run our school system. I hope the Court will see the importance of our petition and recognize the implications of a negative ruling." 

"Simply put, parents and educators are no longer going to accept a 'business model' which 'contracts out' our school system to hedge fund managers and other institutional interests, while treating parents and teachers as 'competitors' and excluding us from having any input into our children's educations," said Noah E. Gotbaum.

Assemblyman Jeffries (Brooklyn), Ms. Davids (Bronx), Ms. Connelly (Brooklyn), Ms. Tanikawa-Oglesby (Manhattan) and Mr. Gotbaum (Manhattan) were Petitioners who could attend the hearing. 

Parent Petitioners who could not attend the hearing included Hon. Chris Owens (Brooklyn), Ms. Khem Irby (Brooklyn), Ms. Lydia Bellahcene (Brooklyn), Ms. Monica Ayuso (Queens), Ms. Mariama Sanoh (Manhattan), Mr. John Battis (Brooklyn), Ms. Latrina Miley (Manhattan), and Ms. Maria Farano-Rodriguez (Staten Island), as well as teacher Petitioner Julie Cavanagh (Brooklyn).
Over the objection of the Corporation Counsel's representative, the Court granted a request to videotape the proceedings, which were then recorded.

# # # 

Visit the Deny Waiver Coalition website:

The DENY WAIVER COALITION ("DWC") is an association of public school parents and educators as well as concerned community leaders opposed to granting a waiver of employment qualifications to Ms. Cathleen Black, the proposed Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.  The DWC also supports improvements to the Chancellor selection process.

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OwensRallyMona Davids Speaks At Lawsuit Press Conference