Sunday, April 8, 2012

Educational Stop and Frisk Infects Schools: The Michael Stanzione Files Continued

Corporatism is the new racism. This fact is proven every day in all of New York City’s schools. 
The battle against corporate school reform does not stop at standardized testing and school closings. It must also include the fight against a top-down, dictatorial manner of running each school building.
The common theme among the corporatists is that minority communities have nothing to offer, should have no voice in their educations and need direction from outsiders in order to live properly.

[Stanzione's] disciplinary measures are tantamount to NYPD’s stop and frisk. Of the three teachers he has reassigned, two of them have been black. The other was a legally blind white man. Of the several disciplinary meetings he has had over the past two years, only one was with a white teacher. The latest teacher he has reassigned, a black woman, is facing termination for a joke she made on Facebook. Yet, when Stanzione received at least two separate complaints of sexual misconduct about another white teacher, no reassignment took place. One of the students who had complained was merely transferred out of the teacher’s class.
 Having attended the school under two different administrative regimes, I can tell you that during its 'golden years'--- the years in which it was run by the principal who preceded the 'honorable' Mr. Stanzione ECO was always filled with students during after school hours because these teachers willingly sacrificed their precious and personal time to aid and assist us in whatever ways possible.--- former HS of Economics and Finance student in email to Ed Notes.
Above ..... excerpts from the essay below

How Bloomberg's Educational Stop and Frisk Infects Schools:  A Case Study - High School of Economics and Finance


by a team of Ed Notes reporters

The Bloomberg regime in New York City has been marked by a war on the minority community. Whether it is stop and frisk, closing large community schools or evicting poor religious congregations from school buildings, Bloomberg’s message to minorities is that they are not welcome in his city. The hint has been taken. The black population of New York City has steadily decreased in the 10 Bloomberg years, as has the percentage of black teachers to such an extent they have been referred to as the "disappeared."

While those who oppose Bloomberg’s corporate philosophy rightfully stand against school closures and co-locations, the fact of the matter is that even the schools that have not been closed, the so-called "successful" schools, are still thoroughly infested by the Bloomberg ethos. It is easy to ignore these schools because they fly under the radar and never draw much media attention. We should be mindful that the battle against corporate school reform does not stop at standardized testing and school closings. It must also include the fight against a top-down, dictatorial manner of running each school building.

Principal Michael Stanzione plays the race card in disciplining teachers
The High School of Economics and Finance has reflected what this dictatorial control means.  The principal, Michael Stanzione, has stated that he is a CEO and the public school he runs is a business. His hiring practices reflect a certain stereotype of what professionalism looks like in his mind  – mostly young and white. Twelve of his recent hires are white and two are black. There are currently no black male teachers whatsoever at the school. All of the administrators he hired have been white men.

Of the several disciplinary meetings he has held over the past two years, only one was with a white teacher. When Stanzione received at least two separate complaints of sexual misconduct about a white teacher, no reassignment took place. One of the students who had complained was merely transferred out of the teacher’s class. Those who fit Stanzione's image of corporate professionalism at the school seem exempt from being anything wrong.

Of the three teachers he has reassigned, two of them have been black. The other was a legally blind white man. Whoever does not fit this image are subject to disciplinary meetings and counseling memos as they face out-and-out destruction of their careers.

His disciplinary measures towards teachers are tantamount to NYPD’s stop and frisk.
The latest teacher he has reassigned, a black woman, is facing termination for a joke she made on Facebook.

At the two days of her 3020a hearing last week there was an outpouring of support from the school community for the teacher. The people in the audience: alumni, former co-workers and well wishers, spent hours in that cramped hearing room to be present for a woman who had given them so much when they needed it. She had done so many things outside of her classroom duties and organized so many school functions that the students voted her Most Valuable Teacher last year. The testimonies all bore witness to the fact that this teacher was hard-working, dedicated and respected.

They bore witness to Stanzione testimony –
  • They saw it when he claimed this teacher’s Facebook joke was a danger that warranted him going after her license.
  • They saw it when he was asked about why the students, who had made similar jokes on her page, were not similarly disciplined for their “dangerous” jokes.
  • They saw it when he was forced to admit under cross examination that he shared the Facebook comments with students who had never seen them, claiming he was ordered to do so by DOE legal, seemingly unconscious that he committed the very act he accused the teacher of doing because he was "following orders."
As he sat there playing with his hair, putting on the act of a concerned principal, it became obvious that his only concern was to target a teacher that had dedicated countless unpaid hours to his school in order to build some sense of community. This is not the Stanzione way because it is not the DOE way. This teacher’s philosophy and image was not in step with the corporate vision he has set out for the school.

None of these facts will be examined if or when the story of this teacher’s case ever reaches media outlets like the New York Post. They will publish the teacher’s name, school and quote the joke she made. They will try to paint her as crazy and impossible to get rid of because of “tenure”. She will be painted as a “danger” to her school.

The color of her skin will certainly make it easier for them to make such a claim, just as it did for Stanzione.

This teacher’s biggest sin was going out of her way to create a caring environment for the students at her school. It does not matter. The Post has celebrated the charter schools that treat their mostly minority students as savages in need of correction. They have celebrated the corporal punishment, forced marches and “no excuses” mantra that underpin everything charter schools do. They celebrate it because they believe that this is what people in the inner city need. The assumption is that minority students are somehow dysfunctional, in need of paternal guidance from their social betters. And the Post will join in with glee in this persecution of yet another black teacher.

A double standard at the school
A parent, an officer in the PTA, who ratted out the teacher by bringing the Facebook joke to Stanzione's attention, is rumored to have bought cruises for her child’s guidance counselor, a gross violation of DOE policy that brings up all types of conflict of interest issues (counselors have direct access to transcripts). But it is allowed to slide in the mini-corporatocracy that exists at Economics and Finance. And why not? Is not Bloomberg allowed to give away hundreds of millions in no-bid contracts to his own cronies? Is not nepotism rampant at Tweed? It is perfectly in step with the type of unethical back-scratching that defines Bloomberg’s DOE. Plus, the PTA officer is a wealthy woman with the correct skin color. Why should she not be allowed to do whatever she sees fit?


Phantom clubs while burying sports programs
There was a time when the school’s sports program was listed on the school’s Wikipedia page which included an entry about the basketball team making it to the playoffs in 2011.

Team Winning
• Quality of Life Competition
2007:won quality of life award with $17500 scholarship.
2008: borough Manhattan leaders.
2011: Manhattan winners.
• National History Day Competition
• Winners, 2010 New York City Regional (2) 1st place; (2) 2nd place; (1) 3rd place.
• Winners, 2010 New York State (1) 2nd place; (1) 3rd place.
• Winners, 2011 New York City Regional (3) 1st place; (2) 3rd place

Mysteriously, this information was taken down in favor of the listing of school clubs, some of which are phantom as they do not exist anymore.

Why take down the information about the sports program, especially basketball? Could it be that it would project an improper, un-corporate-like “image” of the school?

The insidious culture created by Bloomberg infects the schools in less than subtle racist ways
One of the major mistakes of Albert Shanker’s 1968 teacher strike was that it drove a wedge between school employees and the communities in which they served. It is a wedge from which we have never recovered. Bloomberg has been deaf to the protests that parents and community leaders have organized in opposition to his polices. And why not? He controls the Panel for Educational Policy. There is no democratic way for communities to let their opposition be felt, like there was when there was a popularly elected Board of Education.

Bloomberg, and the administrators that do his bidding like Stanzione, are insulated from any accountability. There have been principals who have sexually harassed their staffs or have abused their power, yet the DOE has taken no steps against them.

An former student at Eco, now in college, describes the atmosphere of the school before Stanzione took over:
“Having attended the school under two different administrative regimes, I can tell you that during its 'golden years'--- the years in which it was run by the principal who preceded the 'honorable' Mr. Stanzione, Eco (as we all so affectionately used to refer to our alma matter), was always filled with students during after school hours because these teachers willingly sacrificed their precious and personal time to aid and assist us in whatever ways possible. Whether it was just sitting there listening to whatever adolescent problems pervaded our lives, or teaching us how to play the guitar, encouraging us to reach for the stars and then some, or spending countless hours going over the same passages in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" just to calm our nerves for the upcoming AP exams, Eco was the place to be after school hours. It was things like this that kept many, if not all, of us from getting into the typical kind of mischief attributed to adolescents. When the class of 2008 graduated, there wasn't a week that went by where several of us didn't go back to visit these people. It wasn't that we couldn't cope with college life; it was simply that these people changed our lives/ profoundly impacted our lives for the better. We never forgot it, nor will we ever forget it.”
But that free association and flow between students and teachers is now gone. Through Stanzione’s educational stop and frisk policies, alumni can no longer freely come back to the school.

This is the educational issue of our times. The corporate drive to reform schools involves the elimination of popularly elected school boards, the institution of zero tolerance policies and the disappearance of the black educator. The common theme among them is that minority communities have nothing to offer, should have no voice in their educations and need direction from outsiders in order to live properly. It is the culmination of that wedge Albert Shanker drove between schools and communities 44 years ago.

The students at the High School of Economics and Finance deserve better. They do not need to have their most dedicated teachers disappeared because they do not fit in with the corporate image that a paranoid principal desperately tries to instill. The sad thing is that corporatists like Bloomberg and Stanzione do not see themselves as racists. They do not consciously go out of their way to discriminate. This is not how racism looks in 2012. Racism hides behind a corporate cloak. It celebrates certain images and values that are far-removed from the values of poor and minority communities. This is why the corporatists can be so heavy-handed in their reforms. It is why their lickspittles in middle management like Stanzione can be so vindictive in their manner of leadership.

This is a worse form of racism than the Jim Crow type that pervaded the south up until very recently. It is worse because it is so thoroughly convinced of its righteousness, so thoroughly intolerant of criticism and so utterly powerful that it is near impossible to challenge. It is like an irresistible wheel rolling over anything in its path with unconscious consistency.

Unconscious is the right word for it. There can be no conscience in a program that seeks to rip the heart out of communities and deprive people of their livelihoods. The alumni and concerned members of the public who have shown up to this teacher’s termination hearing are getting a lesson in just how unconscious the corporate agenda can be. To them, this teacher was a human being who provided them with guidance. To her principal, this teacher is an inconvenience to the robotic manner in which he executes corporate school reform.

Corporatism is the new racism. This fact is proven every day in all of New York City’s schools.


1 comment:

  1. As a graduate of Eco all I can say is that I am glad Stanzione is finally getting some exposure. Even we as students saw the fear in our teacher's faces when he walked into a classroom. When he wasn't yelling at someone in the hallway, it seemed he was hiding in a corner somewhere looking to catch someone doing something. I feel bad for the students there now.

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