Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teacher Confronts Walcott On Class Size and Charters at CEC Meeting: Walcott Doesn't Know Class Size Limits

Dennis Walcott wasn't laughing after Yelena's questions
Here is a perfect case for seniority rules and tenure. Yelena Siwinski, a teacher, chapter leader and member of the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) feels free to challenge Dennis Walcott, her ultimate boss at a public meeting over class size and charter schools. And boy does she challenge him. (Funny how I've met so many tenured, "safe" teachers over the years who were afraid to stand up for even the simplest things.) Isn't it time for more teachers like Yelena to go the public events that Walcott and other Tweedies go to and challenge them? Now I know that every attempt is made to keep this from happening - like the E4E tactic of handing out index cards for questions so they get to choose. I believe when the people running events try to protect public officials from having to face the music, more aggressive actions are necessary. By the way, where is the UFT in making these challenges? 

Here is Yelena's report she wrote up last night after the meeting.

I walked into a moderately attended CEC 22 meeting where Walcott spoke for a few minutes with the usual rhetoric which I couldn't even write down because it was so meaningless.  Then came time for questions and answers.  The first woman asked about charter schools and how could we give public schools equal money.  Walcott said that he was trying to calm down the divisiveness between charter schools and public schools and that he believed parents should have a choice and charter could be  more flexible since many of them weren't unionized, etc. etc.  He said that the UFT law suit just brought all that up again. 
Walcott talks bupkis
He also mentioned that charters shared the building equitably and that they used the BUP (Building Utilization Plan) to decide where the charters could go. There was another person before me and then it was my turn.  First I mentioned that I had been to the CDEC meeting last week and had shown a portion of the film "The Inconvenient..." and that I would be back in September to show the film in its entirety.  I said that it was produced by the Grassroots Education Movement and that it would be good for the chancellor to view it because he wasn't telling all the facts such as the BUP doesn't take into account all the services the children are mandated and that kids were receiving them in hallways, closets, and stairwells.  Also equity might seem like 50-50 between the charter and the public school but there might be 300 kids in the charter and 600 kids in the public school.  I told the audience to find out the facts that went beyond the smooth rhetoric they were being told.
Then I mentioned that I had 2 college educated daughters and that the chancellor had mentioned that we need to get our kids "college ready".  I said that one of the main questions that are asked when looking at college was how big the class sizes were.  At a good college it is usually 1:16 or 1:18 but definitely less than 1:20.  By now I was really addressing the audience.  Then I stressed that this was for an 18, 19 20 year old and that we have 5 year olds with bigger class sizes!  Then I mentioned that Walcott was recently asked the class size limits and that he didn't know them.  I asked if he could tell them to us now.  He proceeded to harp on when he had been asked the question. I actually forgot but knew that I had read it recently and that the point was what was his answer today. 
He refused to answer saying that if I was going to make a statement I should be able to tell him when. I looked at the audience and pointed out that he was not answering my question.  Since he kept going on I said that I might as well sit down since I wasn't going to get an answer.  I sat down and he called me up again saying that we should finish.  I came up again and he struggled to answer and asked me if I knew the limits.  I said  of course I did since I was a chapter leader.  He wanted me to tell him and I said that he leads our school system and that he should know them and that if he couldn't even tell us that then how could we trust him.  He then struggled and said that the class size limit for kindergarten was 23.  I told him he was wrong and sat down.

Great work Yelena! This is after TWO city council hearings when Walcott was asked what the class size limits were and he could not answer the question. What a travesty!
Leonie Haimson

Walcott then, Walcott now.
When he was head of the NYC Urban League, he sued over disparate racial impact of MTA fare increases -- Years later, when he was Deputy Mayor for Bloomberg, and the UFT sued over disparate racial impact of laying off paraprofessionals in the schools, he said it was divisive to bring race into the matter.
When he was head of the Urban League, he AND the NAACP pushed Chancellor Rudy Crew to use the Discovery Program to help kids who just missed the cut-off on the test for admission to Stuyvesant and Bronx Science to get another chance at passing, in order to increase diversity at those schools.  Now that the schools stopped using the program, and, as reported in a recent 3-part newspaper joint series by the Amsterdam News and the Manhattan Media weeklies, Black and Latino enrollment has declined at the schools, and he is the Chancellor working for Bloomberg, he responded to the series by saying that bringing back the program would do absolutely nothing to increase diversity of enrollment.
And now, he says,  his one-time ally in pushing for change in the schools, the NAACP, is divisive because they are suing over separate-but-unequal co-locations and closing of schools serving high-minority populations.  I bet he would have been part of the lawsuit if he were operating the way he used to.
More oped trash in the Daily news re the NAACP trying to tear them down, this from Walcott.  Separate and unequal indeed. 

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.


in a quandary said...

Wow Yelena, you rock! Thank you!
And Norm thank you for all that you do; for keeping us informed!

Pat said...

Great job, Yelena, in exposing how inadequate Walcott is for the position of NYC Schools' Chancellor! Thank you.

Rick Quartuccio said...

Did a five year old write her account of the exchange? Yikes. We're supposed to celebrate seniority because of this useless exchange? How is this productive?

Anonymous said...

That was awesome!