BEST OF ALL, WE EXPECT SOME OF THE KIDS FROM THE JAMAICA HS PLAY TO PERFORM. ALSO LOTS OF SINGING - AND MAYBE SOME DANCING TOO - I'M FOR A CONGA LINE AROUND TWEED - THIS WILL BE A FUN RALLY WITH SPEAKERS MINIMIZED SO BE THERE OR BE SQUARE.
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School Closing Coalition Blog
Jan. 25, 2011
Let me begin this joyous day with the wonderful news that Rahm Emanuel has been knocked off the ballot in Chicago - temporarily I imagine - how can all that Eli Broad/Donald Trump/Bloomberg money etc. money not be able to buy the state supreme court - see one Cathie Black waiver ruling.
Yesterday I attended the final prep meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop School Closings and Charter Takeovers which is running the Jan. 26 rally. I counted at least 20 people. I'll post separately about the rally and why it is important. But I wanted to talk about how impressed I am with the people working on this - absolutely professional in every way - sound, martials, organized program, press, etc. So many groups involved - and I'm meeting new (and old) activists.
They held a phone bank at Teachers Unite on Sunday and called hundreds of people. These are full-time teachers and giving so much time and effort. I almost feel embarrassed for how comparatively little I am doing. On the home I was with a young second year teacher who just seems to be getting involved - first time I met her. She talked about how overwhelming teaching was and just how tired she always feels. I can see why we lose so many people - it is not just the teaching that is wiping people out - but all the other crap. My advice - keep being active politically with the growing Real Reform movement - even though it takes time it will provide the fuel you need to work in this system - and you will be working with some of the most amazing people I've ever met.
GEM has been the driving force in organizing the rally
GEM has become a force in the city. Last January it played a major role in the demo at Bloomberg's home. (Can't GEM do stuff in warmweather?)
The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) is about to hit its second anniversary since holding its first meeting at a diner with 4 people 2 years ago. Angel Gonzalez had come to ICE for support for the teachers union in Puerto Rico a year before and told me when he retired he would join me in political activity. "Sure" I thought. Everyone tells me that. But he did and joined ICE. But he felt ICE wasn't moving fast enough and did too much talking and not enough action (we are not youngsters, you know).
Angel suggested a committee of ICE designed to focus on ATRs, closing schools and testing and it quickly added people from NYCORE and other groups outside ICE and soon took on a life of its own. We held an all day conference on a Saturday in March 2009 which attracted a crowd. Up to that point I couldn't imagine organizing such an event but Angel pulled it all together - finally, someone with real organizing skills. And we followed up with a conference on charter schools at PACE in April and in May a march from Battery Park, past the UFT and on to Tweed. We attracted about 75 people. (Angel was wearing me out.)
It wasn't even called GEM until after that rally. In the first stage of evolution from an ICE committee into a broader based group we conceived of ourselves as a coalition of groups - a place where ICE, TJC, NYCORE, Teachers Unite and some parent activist groups could work together.
A big chunk of ICE people got involved, especially with the closing schools and charter invasions hitting us full in the face while also trying to deal with the upcoming 2010 UFT elections. The UFT seemed less important to many of us - and that might explain why we did so badly - we just didn't have the heart to waste our energies in a campaign to dent Unity.
In the summer of 2010 we went up to Harlem to support the teachers and parents at PS 123 which had been invaded by Moskowitz and met a bunch of activists, some with the Coalition for Public Education (which formed late that summer) and also State Senator Bill Perkins and some of his aides.
In July 2010 we were contacted by CAPE, a PS 15K based teacher/parent group fighting a charter invasion in their school. Kismet. GEMers came out to support them and the partnership has brought their activism and skills into the broader work and eventually some of CAPE's key people (Julie Cavanagh and Alev Dervish) began to work with GEM.
|Brian Jones and Julie Cavanagh on the "set" in Williamsburg|
The idea of Real Reformers was hatched and we held a rally at the opening of Waiting for Superman. We also have attended PEP meetings in force - how many years did I go there all alone just waiting for the day we would stand up to them in force. The fact that there is a new face on the people opposed to ed deformers - younger, dynamic activist teachers who in many cases are critical of the UFT - is a force to be reckoned with. Note recently that the Real Reformers are actually starting to get some press.
Naturally, GEM has had some growing pains - trying to set up a democratically run organization in the midst of the chaos the ed deformers have brought to the schools. After the PEP hearings on Feb. 1st and 3rd I hope we take stock of where we stand as an organization and continue to develop a democratic structure that is flexible enough to handle growth.
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.