Monday, August 1, 2011

SOS Report: Back Home

Previous coverage:

Left DC around 1:30 Sunday, got home at 9pm (loads of traffic and drop-offs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.) Amazing and heroic driving by Julie Cavanagh even though using no hands while turning around to the back seat is a pretty unique method of freeing me from driving. Hey, I could have driven using my left arm. My CRV came through - except for dead battery Sunday morning. More on that in future post.

So many stories, so little ability to type. If I could type with 2 hands this update would run forever. Luckily you will be spared. I'll have to put up a few of these as long as I can remember. I'll say one thing about the GEM crew I went with: I was back in camp as a 10-year old. I laughed so hard at times my broken wrist took on a life of its own. What fun to see a group that can stand up and argue policy with the best of them also get real silly. But I'll embarass them all another time - maybe with pics - if I don't get bribes.

The showing of our film to this audience was an important event and got a really great response. Julie and Brian were treated like rock starts. Both Susan Ohanian and Debbie Meier were in attendance. But more on the film, which was shown in multiple cities over the weekend in a follow-up post.

There are lots of analyses out there as to what really happened over the past 4 days around the Save Our Schools conference and march. It is hard not to mix the political with the personal. There was minimal union involvement - intentionally, though the NEA and AFT gave $25 Gs each. So much of this bubbled up from the classroom. I really liked the people running SOS. The entire 4 days were rich in content to such an extent that the march itself was only one factor.

Estimates run from 5-8000 mostly teachers (k-grad school), parents, policy people, some administrators, and superstars like Ravitch, Kozol, Meier, Matt Damon, etc. Kozol and Meier did not just give speeches but hung around for all 4 days of the conference to mingle and build for the future - when we left  around 1pm yesterday Kozol and Meier were still there.
A few of the Gemers who took good care of me in DC: Left: Jones, Dervish Right: Donlan, Cavanagh

To me the entire trip - and why I wanted to go so badly - is/was about building relationships locally (our GEM crew bonded and our work will be better for it) and nationally. How great to see Susan Ohanian and Juanita Doyan again after 8 years - when we gathered in Birmingham AL to oppose NCLB. How nice to see the rest of the world catching up. We distributed buttons made by Juanita all over the place.

See this "We're not gonna take it" montage on you tube ( where you can see a glimpse of the GEM banner and Julie wearing her Diane Ravitch tee-shirt.

It was such an era of good feeling I went over to Leo Casey at the Friday night reception and said "Let's make up" and shook his hand. (I mean I hugged Joel Klein.) Leo was gracious. Leo and my close pal (and chauffeur) Julie Cavanagh have an excellent relationship so does it make sense for me to be so hostile? Maybe it reflects a shift in my attitude about the UFT/AFT in the context of my work with GEM where our position vis a vis the union is: we are doing what we are doing because the UFT doesn't but if they want to come along they are welcome. It's more complex than that, but some of my colleagues have been critical of me when I just let it fly without any analysis or reasoning behind it. So despite my outreach, don't expect any lessening in my criticism of the UFT, just less personal attacks. Won't be as much fun though. (A shout-out to Michael Mendel, who called my wife this weekend to see how I was doing. What a love-fest this is turning out to be.)

There's so much to report maybe it's best to return to some chronology from where I left off Friday, which I'll do in upcoming posts where I'll fill you in on who we hung with and more about the turn-down from the White House meeting on Friday.

In the meantime:

How nice to see The Reflective Educator, James Boutin (thanks for the shout out to GEMers, James), again.We talked about working together in the future no matter where he is located.

Here are links to his excellent reports:

SOS Conference Day One

SOS March in DC

Matt Damon:

Stories in WAPO

More on this Story

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. Thanks for the shout out, Norm. Always great to see you too.

  2. That paragraph on your relations with the UFT is scary to say the least. You've always maintained your disagreements with UFT are professional and not personal The ATR agreement shows there is not any difference in UFT policy. Please don't New Actionize yourself Norm. UFT is not coming along with GEM anytime soon.

  3. Glad you guys made it home safely, It was nice to finally meet you. While I am glad the 2 major unions donated money, I don't think I would have gone if their leadership was also part of the podium. The unions also have to change their positions on using tests for evaluations and I haven't seen any movement on Randi's part.

    It was a wonderful event. A great turnout--and not one word in the NYTimes or major network news. Makes one wonder if the First Amendment is still in effect with so many corporations having so much influence over editorial policy.

    Now it's time for you to rest up.


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