Sunday, June 5, 2011

If You Could Do One Thing to Improve the Schools, What Would It Be?

That was a question asked by a parent at the Community Education Council 13 sponsored showing of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" at PS 3 in Bed-Stuy yesterday.

Julie Cavanagh responded: Get rid of Tweed.

Yes. Tweed, the black hole of education where billions of dollars fall in, never to be seen again – certainly not in the classroom.

We have had lots of discussions recently comparing the current state of administration after a decade of mayoral control of schools and what existed before. More and more people who were familiar with the old neighborhood based administration of grades k-8 (high schools were always centralized) that existed from 1969-2002 are coming down on the side of "the old days" even with all the problems (which the ed deformers disparage with the fervor of religious fanatics - hey, there would be NO charter schools if the old district system were in effect.)

Remember: Klein first took apart the districts and created regions and then took apart the regions and created Children First Networks as Tweed implemented reorganization after reorganization. We haven't done enough to examine the CFNs which many say are total wastes. Here are some thoughts from some of the respondents to these questions sent out on a listserve:

What are you feelings about the helpfulness or not of the CFN networks and clusters? Where could be cut without affecting the classroom?

A  NYC principal responds with great insight: ELIMINATE TWEED
Networks were created as an alternative to District Offices which were eliminated under Mayoral Control. The Districts simply made sense as they were community based. If there was some corruption – and there was – it pales in comparison to the large scale theft of public funds by the new system. Look at City Time alone and all of the money spent on no bid contracts. The entire point of mayoral control was to dictate where the money would go and it is sure not the classroom: The public networks and private corporations that run some of them simply grew too large and are not based in the communities they serve. Some networks have schools in different boroughs. It was a devious but brilliant divide and conquer technique. Our District stayed together. In unity there is strength.

What would I cut? Well to start with: Eliminate Tweed itself. SELL IT OFF TO A DEVELOPER.... I have never been there nor had anything but bureaucracy directed at me from there. Eliminate the Office of Portfolio Development – what does it say about an administration that views the school buildings as real estate? I never thought of our buildings as holdings in a"portfolio" but that's why I am an educator not a billionaire.Then get rid of the office of accountability, a hiring hall for twenty something non educators who care nothing about schools but can't find work on Wall street which many of their daddies ruined....

As to networks some are good some bad. I am in nice one (had to join something). I think they are oversized and should be scaled down substantially. That said, some schools with newer principals may rely on them more. This is the problem: does anyone think for a
moment a NY wealthy white suburban district would put up with a "network" running their schools? Local control is good enough for Scarsdale and Great Neck. NYC should have it too. We need local school boards with full powers as stated under state education law, not a rubber stamp, loaded panel for educational policy with an 8 out of 13 mayoral majority who he can fire if they vote against him.

I believe most money should be in schools. Now this next piece may be controversial, BUT I don't even see why we need a Federal Dept of Education. More waste and Red tape that does not do anything for my school but tie us up with testing and paperwork. If I could give back my federal dollars and be removed from federal testing requirements I would do so and write grants to make up the difference. The big secret is that many of the big shots Klein hired ran schools that used portfolio assessment. In fact Richard Mills (former NY State Ed Comm) hated standardized testing when he ran Vermont (overwhelmingly white) but when he came to NY he could not find a test he did not want to give the children- a hypocrite and corporate puppet.
Our problem is that the Democrat party has been taken over by Democrats for Education Reform via their Wall street dollars.. real parent protest will have to happen but it is hard as the charter movement has great media outreach and brainwashing ability via the major money it receives...

Our only blessing here in NYC is that folks are starting to see through the long lie after 8 tears. In the words of the Rolling Stones:
"Tiiiiiiiiiime is on my side"
A  college professor adds:
These are some great points. Bloomberg took over the school system with the idea that application of business principles to education would eliminate corruption, increase efficiency and produce "results" in terms of higher test scores and better graduation rates. At the time, few chose to question whether the business principles applied might make the school system MORE corrupt and less efficient. Now we know better. We have seen how those responsible for "accountability" in the financial system-ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor's- gave AAA ratings to bundles of worthless mortgages, leading to the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars and the collapse of some of the nation's largest banks. On their watch, executives of banks and hedge funds enriched themselves on a scale no neighborhood politician could even imagine, while millions of working people lost their jobs and homes. This same ilbegotten wealth is now flowing into the charter school movement and into efforts to create complex rating systems for schools teachers and principals. But teachers, parents and even students are starting to wake up and see that the people now taking over their schools are the same ones who, through their corruption and greed, triggered the worst economic crisis in American history. They are taking to the streets, and in NYC at least, some members of the City Council are starting to listen.

I don't necessarily agree that time is on our side. Will the local ed world take a united stand and oppose mayoral control? Mulgrew attacked the Panel for Educational Policy at the NAACP press conference, but carefully avoided attacking mayoral control. And a leading parent organization, and I heart that a rep of a leading and influential parent organization made a statement recently that the problem is not mayoral control by the mayor. That is very dangerous ground considering the mayor for 20 years in a row will be Giuliani and Bloomberg. And the 12 years of Koch were not golden for education either. And I would probably throw in the 4 years under Dinkins too. So why will the UFT and other orgs try to sell the idea that when we get "our" mayor, things will be rosy? (I remember when we had our mayor - Abe Beame in the early 70's and he laid off 15,000 teachers.) I'm betting the  UFT will stick with mayoral control no matter how they try to disguise their position because to them the alternative of a community based system is as much bigger threat.

In future posts we'll get into why the UFT has always and will always support the most centralized system they can get.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.


  1. I have been doing a little bit of my own research on the UFT, and their presidents. So far, it sounds as if Al Shanker was the most radical with the 1968 teacher's strike, amongst other issues that were brought up during his years as President.

    (It was interesting too as to why the teacher's strike started. It was just a small similarity as to what is happening now in the school system).

  2. Shanker was not radical - the very opposite - but that is too complex an issue to address in the comment section.

  3. Besides getting rid of Tweed, get rid of mayoral control. Make sure that no billionaire becomes mayor. Get rid of every principal who does not have 15-20 years of teaching under his/her belt. Get rid of the Leadership Academy. Go back to districts and get rid of Children First Network, which are top-heavy with administrators who had a few to no years in the classroom. Get rid of Fair Student Funding; we all know that there's no fairness in the funding when teachers' salaries are tied to the funding formula and senior teachers are too costly to hire them on the open market. Most importantly, GET RID OF THAT FREAKING STATE WAIVER THAT ALLOWS PEOPLE LIKE CATHY BLACK TO BECOME A CHANCELLOR AND EVENTUALLY MAKES A FOOL OF HERSELF!!

  4. Applause for Zulma-Nail on the head!!-As far as corruption, CFN admins,sometimes know nothing about what they are administrating [wear three or four hats]-take a look at some of the overtime in some of the CFN's-their lack of knowledge is being taken advantage of.

  5. @ Zulma and Anonymous...It was clearly stated..Well done!

  6. @ Norm, I am getting that Al Shanker was a rather interesting man. I have been reading a lot about him as well as Sandy Feldman. I haven't gotten to any other presidents yet.

  7. Zulma said it all...zulma fo chancellor

  8. As far as the CFN structure being a waste-if someone from a CFN is willing to be truthful with you, they will tell you how much they hate it-just the geographic design of the whole network thing is a joke-same Network has schools in 2 or more boros.

  9. Anon 4:31
    I don't understand this:
    "take a look at some of the overtime in some of the CFN's-their lack of knowledge is being taken advantage of."

    What overtime? For what? Aren't they supervisory? How are they being taken advantage of? by whom?

  10. NO MORE CFN'S (whatever that really is anyway)! Bring power back to the districts. Superintendents are just title figures who go over budgets and oversee principals. What is the point of having a superintendent in the city school system at this point? They are similar to the English monarchy, just figureheads.


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