Friday, December 16, 2011

PEP: Same Old, Not Same Old

Updated: 12:30PM
Read Leonie's take: Last night's PEP meeting approving a further expansion of the DOE (Department of Eva) and Walcott's falling poll numbers

Occupy the DOE was out in full force at tonight's PEP Meeting despite attempts to keep the public away by holding the meeting in Queens. -----Gloria Brandman, GEM/ICE
What kind of public body has to meet about our school under armed guard?- Brian Jones

I have so much to report with video to go that I don't know where to start. I've spent a lot of time trying to put something together but will have to do it in multiple posts. The UFT other than getting some buses (a good thing that helped attendance) stayed under the radar with a few officials hanging out - they seem to back away when having to confront the Moskowitz machine.

See the video of the opening Mic check here or at you tube.
So what looked to many like just another PEP meeting where people get up and rail at/plead with the slugs on the Panel (except Patrick Sullivan and an occasional voice of independence from another borough) only to be ignored (which was the SAME OLD last night) the new factor was the combination of forces (mostly teachers with some parents) that constitute the "Occupy the DOE" movement which has been in existence for about 6 weeks.

Why go to PEP meetings when the outcome is predetermined? It is the one time a month where all the forces battling ed deform can get together in a setting where they can take the fight to the horse's mouth, often in front of the press. The PEP and the outrageous conduct of the puppets is an organizing tool to grow the movement. The 1% understands that and that is why they moved the meeting. I believe that did affect attendance but there is another opportunity every month.

Enormous police presence connected to fear of Occupy
This issue was addressed by Brian Jones in this video:

Certainly the Occupy movement and the ODOE in particular has lead to a high degree of police presence and I spent much of the evening arguing with police over where I could be.

On one side of the auditorium, they actually set up gates to pen in the press and on the other side, where I spent much of the evening, not wanting to be penned in, one crowd control plain clothesman said, "Don't you know what a press box is," pointing to the 2 white boxes on the floor? "I've been covering these events for almost 10 years and this is the first time I saw a box on a floor."
"Things have changed since Occupy Wall Street," he said.
"So this is as much about containing the press as in controlling the audience," I said. He wouldn't respond. As we were talking, 2 cops came up with these barriers and penned me in. Jeez, the attention being paid to control, control, control. I spent some time just turning the camera on the cops themselves, which made them very nervous. (After the walkout with the group gathered outside holding a meeting, the cops stood almost arm to arm in front of the building as if to block re-entry but when I turned my camera on them, the moved out of the way - I have to say, that I have generally had friendly feelings towards cops, but since OWS some have turned nasty and intimidating and I'm not thinking positively - I told a bunch they are on the wrong side - I know they are only doing their jobs but there are ways of doing it without being nasty.)

When I went up the aisle later to get footage of Eva Moskowitz and her (all white) crew the same guy came over and told me to go back to my box, claiming there was a complaint about me. "She is a public figure and I have a right to cover her," I argued. "This is about showing favoritism."

There were some new rules with threats to remove people for shouting out. And there was a confrontation when they tried to remove Leia Petty and were shouted down (I'll have video up of this confrontation later).

Passionate voices from schools under occupation/Low Key Success
As usual, there was much eloquence from the schools themselves from teachers and parents while Success, knowing the outcome, only brought along a relatively few people.

See this revealing interview with 2 somewhat cagey parents who are reluctant at first to even admit where they live - which turns out to be Brownsville and not Bed-Stuy where the Brooklyn Success school is located. Eva can cast as wide net - or has to - to fill her schools. But when you spend $1.6 million on advertising, you do catch some fish.

There is some irony here when you notice these pics I took of Eva and her not exactly diversified crew.

If you look carefully in the back row (or back of the bus) you can see a few parents who were there to speak for Eva  – there is some irony when Black parents are being used to get Eva a school full of white kids with parents who are avoiding schools with Black children.)

Growth of Occupy DOE is Key
Some people measure growth in thousands but as I said at the meeting last night, I have been there from almost the beginning a decade ago when I was often one of few voices standing up challenging their policies. Then came the GEM years since 2009 when we tried to deal with closing schools and charter co-locos with a relatively small handful of people - and give credit to GEM for getting a lot of this started. While getting worn out, we also made loads of alliances towards building a movement of opposition. We also did a lot of performance art at these meetings.

These alliances  – working with NYCORE and Teachers Unite, with support from the traditional caucuses like ICE and TJC (which have not been as active as groups in this aspect of the movement - but then again, many key ICEers have been working full time with GEM) – have begun to blossom, especially when tied into the Occupy the DOE movement, where a coalition have been holding organizing meetings every Sunday afternoon. Alliances with various parent groups around the city when they come under attack have been fruitful. Eva's move into Cobble Hill has been a gold mine of amazing people - teachers and parents. The key will be whether these people remain active - so far in the past once the school-level battle was over, we saw no more of many people. Hopefully, the Occupy concept has mobilized a greater number of people. To me this is the key outcome so far but we have to wait and see.

A special shout-out to NYCORE which has brought a great number of young teachers to the table (they are meeting tonight at 6 at NYU and I bet there will be at least 50 people there.) If you check the video I posted of the Mic Check to start the meeting you will notice how many there are. And notice that these are teachers - young teachers - unafraid of going head to head with their ultimate boss, Dennis Walcott.

The closing down of Walcott's little shindig in October (Video of Occupy PEP), followed by the General Assembly meeting on the steps of Tweed (OWS Comes to the DOE: General Assembly on Steps of...) gave some legs to the growing movement.

So when I see hundreds of people shlepping to Queens I get optimistic. The Occupy movement seems to have given organizers a mechanism for moving and activating people.

I really love Eva (and you can see it is mutual) because she alienates so many people and really is at the fault line of how political influence dominates ed decision-making and is such a great organizer for us. With her is Jenny Sedlis, her PR person who has to do so much damage control (other charters hate Eva too) she is kept hopping all the time and is paid accordingly. Strangely, Jenny and I have  a nice relationship. Hard to explain how we can be on opposite sides and get along. I know after reading Michael's comment that PR people know how to play people. We had a long talk at last year's Gotham Party and I didn't see her as a phony. My philosphy is to not make things personal but focus in the political. But when I detect a phony I do make it personal (like I increasingly feel about Walcott). I told Jenny I would hire her to do PR at Ed Notes. But when will public schools get PR people at 6 figure salaries?

 When the crew walked out I followed them and filmed some of the outside stuff but went back in for a while. I left before the vote. Here are some pics. More later.

Noah Gotbaum from CEC 3 - Yes, Victor and Betsy

Check Out: State Supreme Court's overturning of Peter Lamphere's "unsatisfatory" rating that appears on the front page of this week's Riverdale Press: . The DOE wants to appeal and fire Peter, an outstanding math teacher (they have to go to the Philippines to get math teachers but want to fire a top level guy who was being persecuted politically). I castigated Walcott at the PEP on this last night.


Poll shows nyc residents approve of Occupy, disapprove of Chancellor Walcott


  1. Of course it's possible to have a "nice" relationship with Sedlis. Her specialty is PR, where "nice" - corporate nice, where they're "nice" about denying your insurance coverage, giving you a fraudulent loan, stealing your pension or taking over your schools - is part of the job description.

    She and her ilk are trained to be "nice" until the moment their overseers rip out our hearts and proceed to eat them.

  2. I know. I'm just a sucker when people are "nice." I know it's part of the game of control but I can't help responding.

  3. I love you dearly Norm, but the truth is you lost this all important fight. And maybe doing a mic check made you all feel better, but it did not deter the vote that was predetermined.

    So now what? Go to more meetings and do mic checks so you can "feel" the activism or do you now put your energies on something that will have a much greater effect--that is, supporting and getting votes and money to candidates who will not be beholden to the charter movement in the next election. Quinn already met with them and got a nice piece of change. I bet the UFT endorses her too. But GEM has to start getting people aware of Quinn and finding a better candidate. That means knocking on doors, going to schools and starting fundraisers.

    btw, how did Marshall's rep vote???

  4. I think you missed the point of my post or I wasn't clear. The vote of the PEP is irrelevant as long as we have mayoral control. We have no ability to compete for money to candidates with the charter school/ed deform lobby. We only have bodies to put on the line.
    This is not about us feeling good but about building a movement. For the first time we have the ability to shut down a PEP if we want without the UFT. If you've been standing alone like I was for so many years you would be heartened at our growth. But we need to increase it by 10 times. When there are so many people that they can't expel them all we have control.
    Coming soon - let's do a mass demo opposing Quinn. That will have more impact than us trying to raise pennies for some mythical candidate who will not sell us out.
    And we need bodies to stop the UFT from endorsing her. Put a thousand teachers in front of 52 Broadway and we have something going. The UFT won't listen to backroom voices until there is a show of force. Mulgrew has to run again in 2013 and soon after he wins he will endorse Quinn. Connect the dots and start now.

  5. Oh Norm, You are getting the numbers, and you will get the money too. I will call you after the holidays to see if we can meet and devise a plan.

    Of course a mass demonstration in front of union headquarters is part of it, but I really doubt they give a s#@t about us.

    IT'S THE MONEY NORM!!! And the grassroots has it. Every $1 adds up. We can learn a lot from the Obama campaign.

    So how did Queens vote??????

  6. I left before the vote but based on reports Patrick was only No I assume he voted with Bloomberg. Remember that Wave piece. He and Helen Marshall read the Wave. They have a speak out column. I'm a broken record. Coming from another area of Queens will have an impact.

  7. Also - my interest is in organizing people. I don't want to get involved in money issues. we can never compete. Don;t fool yourself into believing Obama won with money from little people. Wall St and Gates etc were the bulk. The little people line is there to fool people into not believing Obama is controlled by the wealthy.

  8. You always say NO to the money. I am going to start calling you Jack Benny.

  9. Also start calling me 39.
    You are right. I tried raising money when I took Ed Notes citywide and it was costing me thousands a year to put out and it was so distasteful I swore off it forever. I stay away from raising funds for ICE and GEM and believe me, GEM has zero in the bank. But I am not good at it and why waste time doing soemthing I'm not good at? Hopefully others (you?) will take on these tasks since my efforts are better used in other areas.

    Oh - on Queens rep - Leonie reports he abstained. Gutless.

  10. Thank you Norm. I know it would be a difficult task, but it is necessary to educate the members of the UFT what Unity, New Action, TJC, ICE and GEM are and what they represent. I have asked hundreds of teachers this year and only some of the Chapter Leaders have any idea. I would estimate more than 95% know virtually nothing of the various caucuses in our union. If this could change, maybe we would have a real union.


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