Friday, November 30, 2012

From Robert Rendo: a short essay on profit and priorities

Public Education has long become a billion dollar industry, according to a report put out way back in 2007 by Thomas Meldon, professor in the Benerd School of Education at the University of the Pacific in California, and editor of Teacher Education Quarterly, and Bruce A. Jones, professor and director of the David C. Anchin Center at the University of South Florida.

In their fact finding, they state that companies that produce educational materials and supplies were (then) over the billion dollar threshold, with product lines rapidly expanding.

Fast forward almost 6 years later and in the perfect storm of NCLB and Race to the Top, profits are at a record high while teacher's pedagogical autonomy and basic job rights remain at an all time low.

Ultimately, children absorb this "system" as they're being jam packed into assembly line style teaching with frequent and numerous tests. The extent of testing narrows the curriculum by paying far less attention to the arts, foreign languages, athletics, and civics.

The high stakes testing culture created by the ruling power elite, most of whom are not educators or cognitive scientists, stands only to de-prioritize any discipline not measured by a standardized test. And it stands to reason that among the cruelest ironies of all is that standardized tests, which are empirically full of flaws and distortions, can never capture the truest, most accurate picture of a child's abilities. Yet, they dominate the landscape of a student's and teacher's worthiness. For now, the testing companies conjure up the imagery of a crass monster, a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to expire, thrashing its psychometric tail in a frenzy of might and will.

Upton Sinclair's "The Concrete Jungle" described the horrible working conditions inside Chicago's Meat packing industry, but the educational testing complex is fast producing the same tone of darkness, productivity, and obedience inside public schools. The love of learning is left to fester in the thick and grimy heat generated by the sweatshop of test-to-death academics. Such vapid curriculums will only dumb down future generations, marginalize labor rights, and fatten the pockets of upper end executive of these so called "education products and service" industries.

For fiscal year 2011, Pearson alone pulled in over one and a half billion dollars in income from its testing and publishing services. Add Pearson to other educational service companies, and one can realize an industrial complex that costs taxpayers several billion dollars annually while compromising the quality of education for the masses.

Rockaway Update: THE WAVE IS BACK - Bloomberg Visits

I got a call last night from one of the leaders of Occupy who I met last year -- he found my business card and realizing I lived out here and wrote for The Wave called. "Our Occupy Sandy crew said Bloomberg visited The Wave," he said and wanted to know what I knew. Apparently Bloomberg's visit was somewhat secretive and most of the press corps didn't know about it. So he hung out at The Wave office for an exclusive interview.

The Wave is out today with its first print edition and it is FREE. I may resume my column next week or the week after. The fact that Bloomberg went there is recognition of the importance of The Wave to Rockaway.

Here is the Wave temp web site with links to all the stories.

And here is the Bloomberg interview. He talks about the city workers and the job they did and he is totally on target. Special credit goes to the Sanitation Dept which has been working 24-7 to clean this place up. Without them we would be way behind.

Concrete Boardwalk For Rockaway On Tap

Mayor Visits Wave For Exclusive Interview

At The Wave office on Thursday, from left, City Councilman Eric Ulrich; Director of Operations Caz Holliway, Wave General Manager Sanford Bernstein; Wave Publisher Susan Locke, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings- Burford. Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped into The Wave’s temporary office on the second floor in its washed-out building on Thursday to talk about the issues facing Rockaway in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which inundated the peninsula a month ago.

The discussion was wide-ranging and inclusive and the mayor, his aides and City Councilman Eric Ulrich were expansive in their comments.
On reconstructing the iconic Rockaway boardwalk:
“I guess this settles the issue of wooden boardwalks versus concrete boardwalks. There will be no more wooden boardwalks in Rockaway or anywhere else. I don’t know that we can reconstruct the boardwalk before this summer, but it will be done,”
On city workers:
“I am proud of what our city work-ers did during and after the storm. The things that the city had control over went well. Our workers did what our taxpayers had the right to have done for them. They all worked hard and did a great job.”
On bringing back business:.
“Business has now become our number one priority. Business means that people will have a place to shop – to buy food and gas, to go to a restaurant. It also means jobs for those who got laid off because their job no longer exists. We are talking to small business to insure that we do all we can to get them back running, including private money, city money and Small Business Administration loans.”
On evacuating the peninsula prior to the storm:
“We told everybody to evacuate and a large chunk of the population did. Many did not. We thought of sending cops around and taking people out of their homes, but we rejected that. We believe that people thought that we were crying wolf, but now they know better.”
On Schools:
“Somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 60 schools were damaged and did not open when the vacation ended. We are down to five and most of them will be open in early January.”
On Looting Problem:
There was no real looting. There was a problem with burglary of homes that were dark and abandoned, but that is different than looting. Given the context of the devastation that we suffered, there was virtually no looting and local district attorneys have dismissed most of the looting arrests that were made initially.”
On the lack of electricity:
“Rockaway would have been better off if it had Con Edison rather than LIPA. National Grid is also not too great and does not even have good records about its customers. We concentrated on the larger buildings and then moved to homes. We started our Rapid Repair program to help homeowners back on line and those who signed up got the work done and paid for by FEMA. The program got emergency and potentially dangerous things taken care of – heat, hot water and electricity. More than 10,000 people signed up for the program and we have 150 teams working. We could use 500 teams.”
On issue of rebuilding in a waterfront area:
“People have to make their own decisions because there is obviously a risk in living near the water. If people don’t want to live here anymore, they can sell their property and I am sure that somebody will want to buy it.”
On the A Train:
“The trestle over Jamaica Bay was badly damaged and it will take a long time to fix it. This is not a city project, so I really can’t talk about it knowledgeably, but I do know it will take some time.”
On his continuing role in the storm’s aftermath:
“I can’t predict the future. That’s impossible to do. My job now is to make sure everybody is safe for the next 397 days and then I will be unemployed and it will be somebody else’s problem.”
2012-11-30 / Top Stories

Support Teachers Unite "Growing Fairness" Film on School to Prison Pipeline

Talk about school to prison pipeline? I once got a Thanksgiving Day collect call from an upstate prison from one of my favorite former students serving 15 to life (he got out after 28 years) who after a brief conversation handed the phone over to another fave who then told me there were 9 guys from the same buildings in the cell block.

I guess I didn't know it at the time but with some of my toughest kids I must have been doing some restorative justice given that generally I had good relations with these kids, I think because I wasn't judging them, only a specific behavior.


Not to preach once again, but there is some value in a teaching career working in one neighborhood school (in my case for 27 years) and learning lots of lessons over time. The ed deform destruction of neighborhood schools and the promotion of a teacher turnover corps (don't be dumb and stay in the classroom, go into ed policy) is making that impossible. Enough preaching.

Sally Lee of Teachers Unite uses the video below to present a project aimed to reverse the trend of turning schools into prison-like atmospheres full of police and metal detectors. TU has re-focused its attempts towards restorative justice, which can help change the climate in the relationships between teachers and children with difficult behavior patterns.

I know that some teachers want more police, suspensions, metal detectors, etc. and I know that things are often out of control. But we do not have rational people running the school system and many schools. Throwing kids out or using extreme punishment on damaged kids has no long term benefit to society or to individual teachers. I felt like a total failure when I failed with some kids and I soared when I was successful -- sorry, I never defined success as raising a test score but as being able to move child emotionally in a more positive direction -- which by the way often --- though not always -- moved the test score too.

Sally's husband Josh Heisler writes of his experience:
I am convinced that working with students and adults to resolve the daily problems that arise in the course of a week in a just and caring way is so much better than a authoritarian, top down approach that you see in most schools. The community that can exist in school is really special and practices like fairness go a long way to build these communities. I've learned that this all takes a lot work, caring communities are hard to build and even harder to maintain. It can get messy and complicated. One thing is for sure, you have to reestablish fairness at a school year after year. Students and teachers have to experience this alternative discipline model before they can see its benefits and appreciate the community it builds.

So give Teachers Unite a hand with this project and one day you might find yourself in the role of Androchles facing an angry lion who has been told of your kindness (I know, I know, this was a stretch).

There are only 16 days left to raise the $20,000 and they are a quarter of the way there. I've already sent in my hundred bucks so I can get the tee-shirt.

Here is the donation web site:

And check out this infographic:

Growing Fairness is a short documentary film and companion guide for educators and community members looking to change their school climate for the better. Featuring teachers and students, Growing Fairness will tell a story about school climate, restorative practices and their real impact on young people in New York.

We're so excited about this project that we've already started filming interviews, and before this Indiegogo campaign is through, we will have developed a storyboard for the documentary and outlined the companion toolkit, which will provide concrete resources developed by teachers for school communities to use in making a transformational shift away from suspensions and policing and toward student leadership and community empowerment.

The success of this Indiegogo campaign will determine the quality, scope and impact of Growing Fairness. Your donation will give us the ability to gather more interviews and resources from across the country to give an inspiring look at how whole school districts have taken action and introduced restorative justice to public education. Your donation will also enable us to host screenings and teacher-led workshops with communities across the country, expanding our distribution as well as the impact of the project.

Please help us make our vision a reality. Teachers Unite is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donations will be tax deductible.


Quick Update: Michael Fiorillo just sent this:
"Isolation Rooms" in Elementary Schools: Are They Treatment or Punishment?
Take a look at the photo in the story and you'll see that the question posed by the title needn't be asked.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Nation on Rockaway and Occupy Sandy

Great piece on Rockaway in The Nation.

I'm getting closer to finishing up the work I have to do to get closer to normal and I'm hoping to get over to Occupy Sandy at YANA out here to lend a hand. But at the rate they are going helping people they may be done before I am.

By the way -- rumor out there that Bloomberg came out by helicopter today and went to The Wave offices. Gotta do some checking on that.

The Nation:

PHOTOESSAY: The Sandy-Ravaged Rockaways, One Month Out

In the wake of one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the East Coast, stories have surfaced about the phenomenal job Occupy Sandy has done to bring relief to some of the most affected sites in the New York area. For anyone who has not experienced the organized chaos that have marked Sandy volunteer efforts, it may seem surprising that Occupy, the group which US media outlets have criticized for disorganization and lack of clarity, has emerged as one of the most effective implementers of hurricane relief efforts.

Not only does Occupy continue to successfully manage two major distribution hubs in Brooklyn, which daily disperse thousands of materials to other hurricane relief sites, but Occupy volunteers have proven their ability to provide aid to affected populations even when government agencies have not.

While FEMA was setting up its relief stations miles from some of the most vulnerable populations, Occupy volunteers were hiking up dark stairwells in buildings without power, bringing supplies and medical aid directly to doors. When FEMA abandoned relief efforts during the nor’easter which hit the region shortly after Sandy, Occupy volunteers were still on the ground, dispersing supplies and helping residents clear out their waterlogged homes. Pictures snapped since then have documented FEMA workers turning to Occupy organizers for information about how to best serve the neediest communities.

Ironically, one year after its organizers were routinely rounded up by the NYPD for arrest, Occupy has turned out to be the most invaluable asset to New York’s largely unprepared first responders during this $42 billion crisis. The aftermath of this hurricane has proven that the months of group discussions and deliberation surrounding economic justice in Zuccotti Park last year were not “occupied” in vain. Today, anyone who walks into one of these Sandy relief centers will see those same communication systems in use.

Volunteerism in the Rockaways is a brilliant example of Occupy’s mutual aid in action. The Rockaways’ narrow strip of land, which juts westward at the bottom of the Long Island peninsula between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy. At one point during the storm, the water from the bay and the ocean met on the Rockaway peninsula, filling the first story of many homes and storefronts with water and destroying hundreds of parked cars. Streets were left filled with piles of sand. It is also an area where Occupy’s organized volunteerism has had the biggest presence.

The surge also twisted the A train tracks off their course, which stripped residents and visitors without cars of their main means of commuting to and from the rest of the city. Immediately, the Rockaways were at a volunteer disadvantage because of its now (even more) remote location. One of Occupy’s first major contributions to volunteer relief was to establish St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park as a place where volunteers could self-organize carpools.
At the end of each day, volunteers make sure everyone who makes the trip down has a ride back to Sunset Park before dark. On multiple occasions, I have asked a volunteering stranger if they knew of a ride back to Brooklyn. Each time, word would travel to another stranger, who would walk up to me to offer a free seat. That is the power of mutual aid.

Once volunteers and supplies make it to the Rockaways, there are several locations where one may go to drop off or pick up materials like cleaning products and yard tools along the peninsula. The main Occupy hub in the Rockaways is located at the YANA community center on Rockaway Beach Blvd, between Beach 113th and 112th streets.

YANA, which stands for You Are Never Alone, opened as a worker training facility only a week before Sandy hit. Barely surviving a massive fire that destroyed the block of property just a few storefronts west of its own facilities, YANA was badly water damaged and required a complete gutting. Occupy volunteers and Greenpeace members came together at the site to support the effort. Now, powered by Greenpeace solar energy generators, the entire block hosts medical relief. hot food and the supply center where volunteers keep lists of residents who call in for assistance, whether it be a medical need, material request, or a need for manual labor.

The volunteers at the YANA site then assign people to attend to each request. Partnership efforts made with local organizations and small businesses have connected Occupy volunteers with local residents, who play a critical role in advising the unfamiliar eyes and ears, creating a relaxed, shared learning environment amid overwhelming scenes of destruction.

One YANA site volunteer, Rasul Murry, explained that Occupy Sandy volunteers are beginning to understand both the short-term and a long-term scope of needs in the Rockaways. Partnerships with local organizations and faith centers have spurred discussions about ways to support local leadership, during the storm cleanup and beyond.
“Something impressive is that we see residents go in to supply centers for help and then later come back to volunteer,” Murry explained. “There is real evidence of the beginnings of a local infrastructure that can begin to look at the longer-term needs of the disaster that Rockaway has seen for several decades.”
Murry is referring, in part, to the razing of large swaths of beach bungalows during New York’s period of urban renewal that produced large vacant land plots, and their recent infill by mass suburban style luxury condominiums, which are generally seen as paying little respect to local community needs.

Tenants on the peninsula tell me they suspect the recent real estate surge has prompted some Rockaway building owners to prefer that their properties be condemned. This way they may stop providing services to tenants, collect insurance, destroy property and repurpose it for profit. “My landlady, she’s from Brooklyn and she wants me out. She knows she can make a lot more money off someone new to the Rockaway Beach area, so she’s not turning the heat or electricity back on. She says she wants me out by the end of the month,” one resident explained.
Among the Occupy volunteers are a few lawyers who are helping organize rent strikes and pushing for mechanisms whereby the government will not condemn a building without prosecuting the landlord for failure to provide services. Murray added, “We need to assure that residents have a long lasting real voice and that Rockaway recovery does not become a replication of New Orleans, not an opportunity to systematically remove people of color.”

The horizontal leadership model used by Occupy (wherein no one is “in charge,” and volunteers may start initiatives without the official clearance of a head figure), on the one hand, makes it difficult to know if the organizing is as effective as it could be. On the other, it's working at least as well as other, more traditional relief efforts and much better than most.

A Sandy Relief Resources newsletter was started recently by a few volunteers and distributed in South Brooklyn, South Queens (including the Rockaways) and Staten Island. The newsletter provides information about disaster unemployment and hiring opportunities, staying warm without heat, emergency snap benefits, FEMA disaster relief, cleaning up, shelters and care and food and supplies. Another similar publication that came out of the Occupy splinter organization Strike Debt is the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual, which provides tips to those who will have to take out FEMA loans to rebuild their destroyed properties. As Murry put it, “the Occupy movement is a sort of organism—it generates cells that move out, bound by a broad supra-ideological consensus.”

Technology has, of course, played a huge role in the success of Occupy Sandy’s relief efforts. At the end of each day, each distribution hub submits a list of needs for the following day to Celly, a website that forwards messages to any cell phone tapped into the social network. The affiliated Twitter and Facebook channels which are updated several times per day to tell volunteers where they are needed and which supplies to bring. Camera phones have also proved useful: a sign taped up in YANA’s headquarters instructs volunteers to “Take a picture of this with your phone,” referring to a map of the Rockaways with relief headquarters marked.

Perhaps it is the adopted motto “Another World is Possible” that has mobilized thousands of volunteers to join the newly directed Occupy movement. “Last year Occupy was criticized for promoting class warfare,” said one first-time volunteer, “It’s much easier to stand behind Occupy now that we are not only critiquing the government’s assistance granted to big banks and business, but are actively stepping in to provide assistance to the individuals and small businesses that are being ignored.” For several volunteers I’ve spoken with, the Occupy Sandy effort is their first experience working within the mutual aid framework.

Occupy volunteers continue to spend donation funds as needed, with an eye towards the future. In times of crisis, New Yorkers do come together, though many residents have expressed worry that as soon as Sandy headlines begin to wane, so too will the much-needed volunteer support and supplies. “The Rockaways is New York’s ugly stepchild,” remarked one resident, expressing frustrations the Rockaway community has had with Mayor Bloomberg’s lack of attention to community concerns, both before and after Sandy hit the peninsula. While the community was still reeling in response to storm damage, the Mayor’s administration was still championing the construction of a natural gas pipeline to be built straight through the Rockaways’ Jacob Riis Park—a move which many environmental groups believe will endanger local wildlife and residents, in light of recent pipeline leaks and explosions elsewhere.

Gasland Filmmaker Josh Fox has been on the ground since Sandy hit to create a documentary “guerilla” film which will air today (November 27, 2012) somewhere in the East Village (text @climatecrime to 23559 to stay in the loop.) Meanwhile, Occupy Sandy intends to hold a long-term occupation in the Rockaways, and will use the donated funds that continue to come in to provide further support for the community’s reconstruction. You can make a donation to the ongoing effort here.

Fight the Moskowitz/Grannis Machine at Public Hearing, Dec. 5, 6PM

Harlem and Williamsburg/Greenpoint have become two of the most lucrative real estate pieces in what they consider "THEIR PORTFOLIO"...
Under the guise of improving schools they have pushed through ridiculous and unproductive co-locations and flooded our community with unwanted and unneeded charter schools. --anon.
I really want to go to this but was already committed to attending a meeting of Change the Stakes with Bill Ayres (see announcement tomorrow). I covered MS 126 as a district 14 tech specialist in the last 4 years I worked.  I have not yet received permission to publish the name of the author so I am keeping it anonymous.

Subject: Community Hearing : December 5th 2012 at MS 126 6:00 PM

It is no secret that the powers that be are out to take over every piece of real estate they can in District #14.

Under the guise of improving schools they have pushed through ridiculous and unproductive co-locations and flooded our community with unwanted and unneeded charter schools.  Make no mistake, this not an accident. It
is a major part of their agenda.  When the charter school cap was raised last year they fought and - everyone caved into them - to maintain the right to expand charter school without a saturation clause.

The reason is at the heart of the struggle: The communities they are flooding with charter schools: 

Harlem and Williamsburg/Greenpoint have become two of the most lucrative real estate pieces in what they consider "THEIR PORTFOLIO".     Just look at the name of the office that handles school closings, co-locations etc. The Office of Portfolio.

Regardless of anybody's opinion or the stated position of any politician or union, Mayoral Control, via the Panel For Educational Policy, amounts to absolute Mayoral authority.

The Panel does as they are told and has never gone against the Mayor since he fired two members for going against his first proposal.  Thus, we can expect that anything proposed, (my guess is that the Mayor and Chancellor draft the proposals for submission) will in fact be passed by the majority, as they are appointed by the Mayor.  We may not like it but that is the reality of the system that has been created and approved by the State Assembly/Senate.

That said, the reason folks like myself were so vocal about the need for the saturation clause is because we are the ones who are now  forced to live with the results of the failure to obtain such a provision.

DISTRICT # 14 IS NOW SATURATED WITH CHARTER SCHOOLS as a result of the failure of everyone to demand such a clause.   So now we are faced with yet another charter school proposal, as well as the threatened closing of one of our neighborhood High Schools.  

To add insult to injury in a case of that does not pass the smell test, Eva Moskowitz' husband Eric Grannis is now trying to open a Citizens of The World Charter School here in District #14,which he hopes to locate at MS 126.  The expansion of such a charter will only serve to drain much needed resources from our District's public schools.   I understand and respect (though I totally disagree with)  the law that allowed the charter school cap to be lifted, however, this latest school would create a situation where almost 1/3 of District #14 students would be in charter schools.  That is not equitable.  It is totally unfair and I believe it is purely political.

If Charters need to expand let it be to other Districts where parents are actually asking for them.  Our CEC is on record as being against any more charters opening in this community.

There will be a mandatory Public Hearing about this proposal.  I doubt that we will be able to change the outcome but  I encourage all of you and the families of public school students to attend.  These schools belong to the communities they serve not any one person's "portfolio".   We went into this to serve the people not run a real estate trust.

Please come out and show your support of Community Public Schools and voice your opinion about the latest proposed charter school.  Today it is MS 126 being proposed for co-location and Juan Morel Campos HS being slated for closure, tomorrow it could be your school or mine.

The Hearing for The Proposed Co-location of Citizens of The World Charter School  at MS 126 will be held on :

Wednesday December 5th at 6 PM
in the Auditorium of
MS 126
424 Leonard Street
Brooklyn, NY

I look forward to seeing you and hearing our parents teachers and school leaders speaking truth to absolute power.

Rockaway Update: Heat, Glorious Heat After Two Different Electricians Show Up

Where do I turn in my absence note for missing yesterday's Delegate Assembly and MORE planning committee meeting?

Note: My boiler is ready to go but the wiring has to be done and Pat the plumber said his electrician will contact us. No word so far.

Wednesday, November 28 went like this:
wishful thinking

Early morning -- I move my new car out of the driveway onto the muddy street. One day and it's already filthy. Rockaway is one giant dust bowl. The cleansing rain didn't cleanse enough.

10AM: Mike the air condition/heating guy sends over a 3 man crew to finish the work of replacing damaged equipment which will give us heat on the main level of the house (we already have the 3 bedrooms working off the individual room heat exchangers. All we need is for Ken the electrician to come and run a new line to the compressor and we could stop hovering over the stove burners, which we are sure is giving us CO2 poisoning. (Excuse me while I take a nap). We also need Ken to start rewiring and reconnecting our power throughout the house so we can stop running extension cords from the garage throughout the house. But my last contact with Ken was not promising. If he ever finishes I would be close to back to normal.

1PM: I'm in the midst of demolishing more sheet rock between basement and den, along with a basement closet that was never taken apart -- and I'm finding some ugly mold. I should have taken care of this before. I figure I could leave for the DA around 2:30. But lo and behold Ken shows up to run the line to the compressor. I practically beg him to connect up some of the lines that didn't get wet. He says maybe if he has time. In the meantime he tells me some bad news. He won't rewire the wet stuff in the basement which powers our entire kitchen/dining room and who knows what else until I clean up the area near the ceiling and spray it for mold. My wife doesn't want these pros in who will toss all kinds of poison around --- they want to use a fogger and we would have to abandon the house for most of a day with the cats. She wants us to mix up a solution of vinegar and water and go at it. She orders a dehumidifier to help dry out the basement. Now we did have some anti mold spraying done when the crew we hired cleaned out the basement just 5 days after the storm. But there's a hell of a lot of remaining grit up near the rafters that has to be sprayed and we have to do that before the new wiring. I'm seeing Xmas with extension cords. Ken says I should cut all the BX cables myself and pull them out. But where do I cut them so he can follow the trail when he comes back? Jeez.

3PM: So as usual I ignore the issue and just keep demolishing -- the DA is slipping away but I am having more fun. I decide to hang around to try to catch Ken who is taking a very long time running and connecting this one cable to see if he would do some more work since he is already here. I go upstairs for a bite and to warn up. When I go back down Ken is gone. The AC crew is still working and since the line is hooked up we will have heat from the main level units by tonight. I have to wait until they finish so I can shut the garage door. If they are gone by 5 I can still leave and make the MORE meeting which will be in some bar where I can drink enough to forget the mold for a few hours.

5PM: The AC guys finish and proudly turn on the heating units on the main level. Glorious feel of warm air gushing out. We now have 5 individual units to heat the entire house other downstairs.

Just as the crew is finishing I get a call from Pat the plumber. "I was supposed to call you earlier in the day. The electrician is on the way and will be there soon." While we are talking Doug the boiler electrican's truck pulls up. Well, there goes the MORE meeting. I figure a half hour to an hour to hook up the 3 thermostats. I have a FIRST LEGO Robotics conf call at 6PM so at least I can do that. It is dark and cold and I have to leave the garage door and den door open so Doug can go back and forth. The new thermostat I bought for the room that was flooded and now without sheet rock or insulation reads 49 degrees. I'm going to try to stay in the basement with Doug to make sure he runs a new wire for that thermostat and also connects each zone to where it us supposed to go -- so that if I turn on the thermostat in the bedroom the heat doesn't come up in the kitchen. "I'm not leaving until this works and you have heat," Doug says. Did I fall into heaven? This morning I had heat in 2 rooms and by tonight I will have 2 separate heating systems working covering the entire house. Boy am I looking forward to Doug finishing so I can have a nice dinner and relax watching TV.

Doug doesn't finish until 11:30PM. Yes, I said 11:30 PM.

I was down in the basement with him almost every step of the way as it got colder and colder. I had no idea of the complexity of this wiring job. The new boilers have so many backup/safety features he has to connect all these weird little color coded wires, in addition to installing all kinds of doo-dads. And then test them. "You mean these are not ready to go?" I ask, naively. Doug spends a lot of time crawling around on the awful floor that 4 weeks ago had almost 8 feet of water. I wander around the basement looking at all the work I have to start doing to clean the grit up off the beams.

We hear all kinds of action on the street all evening -- front loaders and little wildcats racing up and down the street with loads of stuff from demolition on the block.  My wife urges me to get my car back into the driveway. Good idea. We even see a street cleaner come down pushing the dirty mud away from the curb and into the middle of the street -- nice. But he has to go around the car stuck in front of my house. If only my neighbor across the street who had a messed up car towed out of his driveway and in front of my house can get the lying people who are supposed to tow it away to actually come and get it the crap might have been cleaned. It's been there for weeks and they keep promising to take it away.

Doug, who is from Brooklyn but now lives in Jersey, is amazing. Careful and deliberate working through the evening not complaining. If I knew I tell him I would have gotten him pizza -- except there are no pizza places open in Rockaway -- or any food stores nearby. So in sympathy I try not to eat and be as cold as he is -- though I do sneak upstairs every so often to warm up a bit.

Well, I learn a lot from Doug -- at the very least I can hook up the thermostat wires. He tells me all of them had been wet and  have to be changed --- no light job given they are snaked through the walls. One has the insulation stripped off -- he tells me they were run along the heating pipe -- a no-no. That one is easy to replace so he runs a new line into the damaged den right up the stairs. And he does it right -- taking a lot of time -- I mean it is past 11PM. And then he installs the thermostat in the den where I will keep the temp at 50 degrees so nothing freezes. How long a drive home does he have? Two and a half hours -- commercial vehicle and he can't drive on the Belt. That means he won't get home until --- I can't even do the math. And until he walked out at 11:30 he never showed on iota of being in a rush. Wish I had that patience.

I know this has been one boring post but I had to get this long day out of my system. At least I found another reliable electrician in Doug who said he would come back if I needed him just in case I can't get Ken back soon. "Next time I promise to get pizza," I tell him.

MORE Happy Hour Tomorrow, Fri 4-6 Brooklyn

WHAT: A happy hour! Get to know MORE, (Movement of Rank and File Educators) and meet other educators interested in transforming the UFT.

WHERE:    Freddy’s Bar in the Backroom  627 5th Ave. (Between 17-18th St.) Park Slope, Bklyn       (see below for transit options)

WHEN: This Fri, Nov 30th 4-6

WHY. . . .
The UFT is the most powerful union in the city. And its OUR union! Yet most members feel discouraged by our leadership's lack of. . .well. . .leadership. 
MORE (Movement of Rank and FIle Educators) believes in a member driven, social justice, social movement oriented union.
 We envision a union that educates, organizes and mobilizes the membership.  Remember the contract. . . imagine a UFT that spent the last 3 years mobilizing the membership around a contract fight instead of. . .  doing nothing. Imagine a UFT that brought the discussion around OUR evaluations to us, and let us decide what was acceptable. 
 A MORE leadership would mean a union that defends the rights of teachers, promotes membership engagement in all aspects of education and joins in the fight against racism, poverty and the other social injustices that we and our students face every day.
Come, have a drink, relax and meet other educators from District 15 and beyond who share this vision and want to know MORE about how they can get involved. 
Meet some of the teachers who will be running on the MORE slate in the union wide elections this spring and build solidarity with your fellow educators.

Subway: R to Prospect Avenue in Brooklyn, F/G to 4th ave and 9th st.
Bus: B63 to 5th Avenue and either Prospect Avenue or 18th Street.

Questions or RSVP (not necessary, but helpful) sam_p_coleman@yahoo. com

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rockaway Update: Singin' in the Rain

But perhaps most disturbing of all, when I heard that the bridges supporting the shuttle train tracks to Rockaway Park had been completely wrecked, I got a chill.  It took 6 years to get the bridge rebuilt and train service restored, after the trestle fire of May, 1950.  Let’s not even think about it… Vivian Carter at Oy Vey Rockaway blog.
Well, it doesn't look like we will have train service to Rockaway for a loooong time. How about starting over with a monorail of some sort similar to the link to the JFK? Service often sucked anyway --

Some people might think it is a bad sign to pick up a new car in lousy weather. Not me. Yesterday's full day of fresh water cleansing rain was a welcome sight. It hasn't rained in the month since Sandy and the sense of freshness washing away some of the muck was invigorating. I almost felt like standing naked in front of my house but luckily for all passed on that, especially as PS 114 reopened yesterday.

Plus it gave me a day off from the crap I had to do outside. Besides, the new Honda CRV was ready to be picked up at noon and I was rearing to go. I got an exact replica of the car I bought at the end of June so it was like being right at home. Andy Feldman didn't have to review how the car works and due to the rain didn't even have to wipe it down. And paying was just so easy --- deposit the check from Geiko and take the money right back out again. Other than some of the taxes I broke even.

Monday was an active day out here with two sets of workers -- Pat the plumber sent his guys to finish installing the new burner -- other than wiring up the thermostats -- he has to send his own electrician, so we still don't have our regular heat. And Mike the air conditioning/heating guy sent his crew to replace the compressor which was hanging only 2 ft off the ground. The removed all the old inside and outside stuff and today may be back to hang the new units which will also pump some heat -- except I still need Ken the electrician to come back and run a new line since the old one was covered with salt water in my basement. Their hanging it 8 ft off the ground like the one on the other side of my house --- ugly but until the predicted 25 foot sea rise comes --- and maybe sooner rather than later it seems -- I am good for a while.

My fellow Wave columnist Vivian Carter is back up and running at Oy Vey Rockaway ( with some wonderful commentary and pics where she points out the important fact so many of us who figured we wouldn't die from 4 feet of water missed: fire. The only moments of panic we felt was the smell of smoke -- we thought it was our house -- and looking out at the ocean surrounding our house there seemed to be no way out. We finally realized it wasn't us and didn't find out until the next morning that almost a whole block had burned down 4 blocks away. Many of our friends saw the flames from their houses and watched them jump from house to house, terrified that it would burn the neighborhood down like happened in Breezy Point. Vivian was closer to the fire.
I survived Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast coast of the United States at about 9 p.m. on Monday, October 29.  I sent a panicked text message to a friend a few minutes later that said:  ”the entire basement and first floor is flooded, and the house is shaking.  My car is filled with water up to dashboard.  The whole 400 block here has water half way up first floors!”  That panic was nothing compared to how I felt a few hours later as I watched the embers of the Harbor Light Restaurant fire blowing hard to the north, landing on the Maroneys’ house, just across the back yard.  I only managed to sleep once I was assured that Bulloch’s gas station was not going to blow up, as tanks are always sealed off from such catastrophes, these days.  The risk of fire was something the OEM brochure on hurricanes didn’t mention. Something few of us had thought of.

Read Viv's wonderful account of the impact on the commercial district and her fabulous pics of which these are only a sample.

Today I might actually take a shot at going to the Delegate Assembly and the MORE planning committee meeting following for a change of pace. I took the great Accountable Talk piece - Real Questions for our Unity Leaders a and made a quick 2-sided leaflet. If I get there early I may make some copies and distribute some. MORE has lots of stuff to give out but I feel there is a need for some stronger stuff attacking Unity.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

E4E Bans People From Walcott Event Today

E4E is an unethical undemocratic group, to say the least ...

The dishonest slimebags at Educators 4 Excellence are at it again. After sending out plea after plea for people to come to see Walcott spout his nonsense today -- you know, part of the pressure to get the UFT to agree to enslavement and send the diminishing E4E teachers back to their schools to lobby for the DOE, they withdraw the invites of people who might actually raise a question with Walcott-- like why promote the use of VAM when it has a 50% failure rate?

This was sent by one of our contacts:

From S. Braithwaite - Monday, Nov. 26
So It seems I was just uninvited from the talk with the Chancellor tomorrow. I was actually CALLED at home by Jonathan Schleifer, the executive director of E4E!

We had a somewhat spirited discussion about why I couldn’t/shouldn’t attend. :-} I highlighted the fundamentally undemocratic nature of their policy for the event and how this wasn’t really a conversation about evaluation but a chance for the chancellor to be told what he wanted to hear. Basically his argument was that the event was ONLY for members of E4E and based on my previous email I wasn’t really a “member” even though I had signed their pledge. Side bar  - after attending one of their events in the past (free movie screening) they kept emailing me trying to get me to go to lunch with their folks. After initially ignoring them, I finally responded that I wasn’t interested as based on what I had seen of their organization of was highly suspicious of their motives.

I find this really remarkable and extremely telling about the organization and how fragile they are politically.  I’m definitely adding this to the scrap book.
Please if anyone is going let me know if you identify non-E4E members in attendance at the event. I painted him into a corner on that point, and he alleged that only E4E members would be in attendance.
 Gloria from MORE added:
I was uninvited to the free showing of "Won't Back Down" 30 minutes prior to movie time via a telephone call.  The guy (forgot name)  said they were overbooked and since I was not a member, I could not attend. This  despite the fact that I had signed up on-line without needing to be a member.  E4E is an unethical, undemocratic group, to say the least.


E4E is also working its magic in LA

E4E in LA

Hello folks, The group Educators 4 Excellence...
Jose del Barrio12:17am Nov 27
Hello folks,

The group Educators 4 Excellence may have recently contacted you in regards to teacher lunch-ins, “thank you” breakfasts, or education Galas.

I think it is important for folks to know that E4E is not a UTLA endorsed organization and it has no affiliation with UTLA. If they are on campus it is at the will of Santee Administration and/or other teachers at Santee with Admin permission. Lastly, this group platform is in direct contradiction with longstanding UTLA positions.

After researching this group, you will see their platform will:

1. Destroy hard earn seniority rights
2. Link students test scores to teacher evaluation
3. Merit –pay
4. School “choice” aka Charter Schools etc..

Lastly, you may have been invited by E4E to a “Gala” that will be hosted by none other than School Board President, Monica Garcia. The same Monica Garcia that has approved school giveaways, teacher witch hunts, furlough days, etc.. She is no friend to Public Education.

I am not sure how each of you feels on these issues, but please make sure you read up on and know what these “non-profit” reform groups are about and enjoy the bagels they bring in the morning.

It is all on the Educators for Excellence Website:


Jose Lara
Social Justice Educator/Chair
UTLA Central Area
A Declaration of Teachers’ Principles and Beliefs

We, as educators, believe that it is our duty to prepare our students for college, the workplace, an...

When the NY Press Corps Stops By

Aw shucks, I thought they were all coming to see me. But it was just that PS 114 up the block was reopening. They had been busing kids every day -- big buses out front in the morning and delivering them back in the late afternoon. It is a big day to have all that over. It took a month to get it back.

I went over to the NY1 truck looking for Lindsey Christ to offer her some warmth (we have the fires going on the stove) and some hot coffee but she was not there. She said she might be around later but we are picking up our new car at Bay Ridge Honda today. Same model, same color as the one I bought 3 months ago. Deja vu all over again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Happened to Public Education on Election Night?

The Always Amazing Joanne Barkan Does it Again


Rockaway Update: Positively Dystopian

But then I saw a light -- one store still standing seemed to be the HQ of Occupy Sandy with a big green sign saying "Global Warming?"
Monday, November 26, 2012
This is mostly cleaned up now

Sunday morning I felt I was in the final scene of the original Planet of the Apes (spoiler alert) when Charlton Heston, who thinks he has been on another planet, comes upon a wrecked Statue of Liberty and realizes humanity had destroyed itself.

We're a month into post Sandy. I haven't been getting out and about Rockaway much other than basic entering and leaving, with a few side trips to the parking lots where the cars were towed to grab certain items and my license plates. These lots, full of wrecked cars, are on the bay side, so I haven't really seen much of the beach side, though we did take one walk to friends on a beach block and saw some of the devastation to the beach houses around 137/8th St. where the wonderful singer Kenny Vance* who grew up in Belle Harbor, had his beach house totally destroyed.

My friend Susan who lives in a 10 story building facing the ocean on 106th St. left town a few days after Sandy after finding the boardwalk and 4 ft of sand in her lobby. She left us her car. She came home Sunday morning and I picked her up at Laguardia. As we came into Rockaway over the Cross Bay Bridge driving on Shore Front Parkway along the beach I felt like Heston. The concrete skeletons of the support structure the boardwalk had rested on were sticking up like ancient dinosaurs. There seemed to be no beach with the ocean running under the concrete structures.

We turned into the courtyard of the building where loads of cars were parked, along with all kinds of maintenance trucks and a trailer which was probably a boiler. "Drive to the lot behind the building so I can see if my spot is available," Susan said. The lot was full of dead cars mixed with some live ones, some of the cars had clearly floated. The entire Rockaway peninsula is a cemetery for thousands of dead cars. It is almost incomprehensible. Everywhere you do you still see dead cars.

Susan told me to take her car since there was not spot. On the way home I passed more devastation. The stretch of Rockaway Beach Blvd between 116th and 108th street had a few blocks of rubble -- all stores are gone. Looked like another fire had hit them.

But then I saw a light -- one store still standing seemed to be the HQ of Occupy Sandy with a big green sign saying "Global Warming?"

Up for today: Air conditioner guys come to replace the compressor that was hit by the storm. When it was put in 7 years ago I insisted it be raised off the ground --- it was -- 2 ft. Now I'm having the new one hung 8 ft -- I don't care how ugly it looks. Since it is also a heat pump it will give us heat in the main area of our house when/if the electrician comes to run another line to replace the one that was compromised by sea water. But if the plumber comes first to finish installing the boiler that will give us our regular heating system back. Hoping both are done by the end of the week.

Did you know that NY State law says the insur co can't remove your car until the turn your plates in? Tomorrow we pick up our new Honda CRV so I am paying ins for 3 cars even though I already relinquished the titles to the dead ones to Geiko. My first stop will be the DMV and then I go tool shopping with a chain saw my priority. Here's why.

Inundated by Mormons
If I knew I might have considered Mitt. These guys and gals are all over the place. A few stopped by -- father and daughter from Virginia and a guy from Astoria -- they have Mormons in Queens? I took them to my backyard to check out a 20 ft high leaning emerald gold arborvitae, which we planted as a 4 ft shrub almost 30 years ago. "Get a chain saw and cut most of it down to give it a chance to survive" the lead guy said. He seemed to know what he was talking about. I didn't say I would put it on the roof of my car and drive to Canada.

Who knows what lurks inside our walls? 

Mold: that is the fright word you hear all over. A group called Friends of Rockaway which will focus on the Rockaway Park (149-116th St) area is holding Sunday 3PM meetings at St. Francis church, the hub of relief efforts. We went to the meeting yesterday in the warming tent where volunteers were serving food, etc. and heard a mold expert scare us to death. The costs of spraying, washing, etc are high (65 cents a sq ft). Mix bleach or vinegar with water and start spraying. And don't close up those walls for weeks or put insulation in even with winter coming to let the air circulate. Mold spores hate cold. So do I.

*A Kenny Vance storm story I heard. Friends live on 136 on the bay block, 5 blocks away from Vance's former home. They found a box of Vance CDs in prime condition on their lawn and some letters that had floated over from his house --- just a sense of the power of the surge.

I hear The Wave office is reopening today. Yay!

Another Parent Vents at Teach for America

The organization is disorganized, unresponsive and over promises. The worst part is they throw these kids into situations that they will likely fail  .... If you know someone or if your child is considering this, DON'T let them go. There are other ways to teach and help the school system. Please.  ---Parent of TFAer
A TFA parent left this comment today on a March, 2009 post: A Parent Vents At Teach for America --
My daughter is in Teach For America and nothing has changed since this [A Parent Vents At Teach for America] was first written. The program succeeds because they recruit well and once the best of the best leave this program they do good things because they were good to start with, not because they got something from TFA. The organization is disorganized, unresponsive and over promises. The worst part is they throw these kids into situations that they will likely fail in, but they hire kids who won't quit, so they create a significant problem for the students. My daughter is breaking down and will likely need therapy before this is over and I am trying to get her to quit. Such a terrible shame. If you know someone or if your child is considering this, DON'T let them go. There are other ways to teach and help the school system. Please. 

March 19, 2009

A Parent Vents At Teach for America

Hi D,
I have a friend whose kid just signed up for Teach for America. Wasn't that the program that gave [your daughter S] so much trouble? Care to elaborate? I'm sure they'd be interested in more info. Maybe [S] can write directly to her son. Thanks.

Hi L,
Teach for America only has one program, which is for recent college graduates from prestigious universities with no or little educational experience and training. TFA gives them about one month's worth of training, mostly in record keeping, along with room and board, but nothing else. TFA then puts them in an inner city classroom (for which they get an undisclosed fee of about $1,500 to 5,000 from a school district), based on the totally erroneous assumption that high achievers can get by with determination, some mentoring (which in S's case was denied by the elementary school in Brooklyn she was assigned to two days before school began), and taking a few mediocre education courses.

S initiated all types of interventions at the school directly, through Teach for America, through her union, and through an attorney we hired to get Teach for America to intervene at the school to get the mentoring she was entitled to, but TFA told her she was not working hard enough at being a leader. S also attempted to get a transfer to a school which wanted an untrained, uncertified teacher, and TFA flatly refused the request. TFA also refused to provide us a copy of the contract between TFA and their teachers, as well as between TFA and the NYC Department of Education.

TFA also flat out lied to us when they said S would be flown to NYC for placement interviews before her "training" began. They also mislead us to believe that the placements took place during training. Finally, we were upset to find out that there was no compensation to get her to NYC, while she lived in their dorm, and while she was on her own for one month between the end of training. She only got her first pay check in October, which meant she was dependent on us for about a half-year after our first parent's briefing from Teach for America..

We also discovered that because of its foundation supporters and general philosophical outlook, that TFA is fanatically anti-union. They never tell their trainees that they will be in a unionized work force, and their staff even told us in writing that if they were to attend a meeting at S's school with a union rep present, that TFA would fire them from their staff positions!

Later we discovered the work of the foremost scholar on teacher education, Linda Darling Hammond of Stanford (who was Obama's chief education adviser during the transition period). She totally slams Teach for America and told us S's experience was not that unusual. She also is an advocate for serious teacher training, which means getting an MA after graduation instead of five weeks of summer school training.

Bottom line, it was a horrible experience in a horrible program. Your friend's son should turn to a serious program in teacher training.

A few of the articles we got, largely from Prof. Darling-Hammond, are attached. I will also copy an education blogger in NYC, Norm Scott, who published something we wrote about her experience in TFA. He may have more material. Also an old friend, who is now the president of the state Federation of Teachers, may have more thoughts, especially about TFA's strong anti-union outlook.

Darling-Hammond article is posted at
There is also a pdf of a Slate article but only available as a pdf from email.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leonie Haimson: Educate All Kids Like Sasha and Malia

Obama’s education policies are failing children, except for his own. 

BY Leonie Haimson
Rather than follow blindly in the path of privatization and unleashed free-market competition that led to the collapse of our economy, it’s time for Obama to start listening to parents and teachers. Cramming kids into classes of 30 or more and putting them on laptops while supervised by novices will never enhance their creativity or critical thinking skills.
Now that Barack Obama has been re-elected president, it’s time that he start making good on the education issues he emphasized during his campaign. While in speeches and in ads the president seized on Romney’s statement that class size doesn’t matter, the truth is that Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan has dismissed the importance of class size nearly as strongly. Worse yet, Duncan proposes cutting federal funds that districts can use to hire teachers at a time of sharp increases in class size.

While Obama inveighed against “teaching to the test,” his administration has injected even more test prep into our schools by mandating that teachers and schools be evaluated by means of unreliable algorithms based on test scores. His wrong-headed Race to the Top program and No Child Left Behind “waivers” forced districts to adopt punitive policies like school closings and mass teacher firings that further undermine the opportunities of our most at-risk students. His Department of Education has wasted billions by financing the expansion of merit pay, high-stakes testing, online learning, charter schools and Teach for America, none of which has a positive record. The latter program puts earnest young college grads in classrooms with the most at-risk students after only five weeks of training.
Rather than follow blindly in the path of privatization and unleashed free-market competition that led to the collapse of our economy, it’s time for Obama to start listening to the priorities of parents and treating teachers as professionals. Cramming kids into classes of 30 or more and putting them on laptops while supervised by novices will never enhance their creativity or critical thinking skills.

On November 6, voters throughout the country, including in Connecticut, Indiana and Idaho, rejected corporate-style education measures and candidates. In only two states did these policies prevail: Georgia, which approved an appointed state board that can authorize charter schools over the objections of local school boards; and Washington, which will allow charter schools to be instituted for the first time, but where the margin of victory was paper-thin and might still be reversed. In both cases, these pro-charter campaigns were financed primarily by wealthy billionaires like Bill Gates and Alice Walton (of Walmart fame), who outspent their opponents by more than 10 to one. In both cases, their measures were opposed by a coalition of local school boards, state PTAs, teachers unions, civil rights and good government groups, which are becoming increasingly vehement in their resistance to the damaging tide of budget cuts, class-size increases, privatization and high-stakes testing that is overtaking our schools.

Instead of pauperizing, standardizing, digitizing and privatizing education, we know what works to increase opportunities for children. Just witness the sort of education Obama’s own daughters receive: small classes with plenty of personal attention from experienced teachers, a well-rounded education with art, science and music, and little or no standardized testing. By instituting these reforms in the 1970s, Finland was able to turn around its school system and now outranks nearly all other nations in student achievement. If it’s good enough for Malia and Sasha, it should be good enough for inner-city public school students in New York City or Chicago.
Across the country, resistance to corporate-style education is growing in intensity and breadth. The grassroots coalition of parent, teacher and civil rights groups that worked together to win critical battles on November 6 must double down and make our voices heard, so that Obama will understand that he is on the wrong track. It’s not too late to for him to reject the favored policies of billionaires, corporate consultants, testing companies and privateers. These policies defy common sense and research, destroy the morale of teachers, treat our children as data points, and threaten to run our public schools into the ground.

Leonie Haimson is a parent advocate and executive director of the New York-based advocacy group Class Size Matters. She is also the editor of the NYC Public School Parent blog and a founder of Parents Across America.