Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vera Pavone: Why there must be accountability for police and due process

After my last post on the NYPD, where I pointed out how MORE was being trashed from the left for calling for due process for police, Vera sent these thoughts, and I totally agree.
Due process does not mean automatic amnesty for all police no matter what they do. It includes investigation, prosecution and punishment of the guilty. All the guilty—not just those frightened, poorly trained, overly aggressive and socially challenged officers who are quick to use deadly force, manhandle, bully and otherwise abuse people who they are told to target. 

It also includes their superior officers who send them out to do their dirty work, as well as the top officials who determine policing policies and practices. Thus, due process allows us to locate the dangerous behavior of certain police in a context that is not necessarily of their own making.

Due process also protects those police who become whistle blowers, or who refuse to follow directives they view as discriminatory, unjust, dangerous to the public, or patently illegal. Or those who choose not to protect all those in the police chain of command who are misusing their power.

To my way of thinking, due process is the better way to achieve full accountability and to make changes in both policing policies and the behavior of individual police.

Teachers: Wear Blue Handcuffs on Tuesday to Support Innocent Teachers Arrested by NYPD

Congrats, Chaz - and I say this as someone who refused to march in Staten Island because of Sharpton's presence - you're now officially identified with the gentrification/White Backlash wing of the UFT and teaching profession.... I hope you continue to feel the same crush on your NYPD "union brothers and sisters" if/when one of them is called upon to investigate/arrest you, based upon the claims of some vindictive Principal or student. See how much "solidarity" they show you then... Michael Fiorillo
On Tuesday Wear Blue To Support Our Fellow Union Members In The NYPD. - Outside of our union leadership, the ultra-leftist elite, and racial arsonists, there is a groundswell of support for the police ..
Instead of calling for wearing blue how about calling for police to get PD like teachers are forced into so they learn how to treat people who are agitated, or mentally ill in a manner we teachers are expected to treat people - because when we don't, expect someone in blue to cuff you and take you away.

Well if people are going to get ridiculous, so am I. So much for the MORE bashing crowd for supposedly not defending teachers - so quick to jump on the NYPD bandwagon. Show me one time Patrick Lynch and the PBA has come to the defense of any teacher? Exactly who put Portelos in jail for 30 hours? Did Lynch say a word?

I left this comment on the blog:
Your friends the police came to my old school when the principal trumped up a bogus charge on a teacher who in sitting a girl who ran out of the room repeatedly in her seat - yes 5 cops in the middle of the day - they didn't even look at the child - took the teacher out in handcuffs and didn't release her till the middle of the night - when she called me - a social justice guy - for help - and yes, me a social justice guy did help - arranging press for her and taking her to ex bd meetings. In essence you are attacking me and defending the cops who will arrest your ass in a minute. Ask Patrick Lynch if he did one thing to defend teachers who are under assault. It is we social justice people who believe in the defense of people wronged - teachers, students and parents and yes, people who are choked to death. I wonder if it was one of your students who was lying dead in the street if you would feel the same way. Instead of wearing blue wear handcuffs.
I've heard all kinds of excuses for excessive police response. "They vus just following orders" - I thought the Nurenberg trials took care of that issue.

I guess I was scarred politically by racist police early on when I and a young female vista worker were coming out of a community school board meeting c. 1971 where the District 14 community, with 95% of the kids being black and brown, rallied against a school board controlled 7 out of 9 seats by whites, including 3 from the Satmir Hasidic sect - they had such interest in the public schooling of black and brown kids.

A cop car slowly drove by and slowed down - "N-gg-r lover" they called to us. I would have said something but I might have ended up choked. So I grinned and bore it. And if they had choked me the PBA would have defended them to the hilt. And if I had gotten their badge numbers and reported them for the slur do you think much of anything would have happened to them?

Maybe things have changed. But maybe not. A neighbor, an Irish woman and former teacher in her 70s just a week or two ago was talking about the arrogant young cops she has run into when her car or her daughter's car has been stopped. "They have no respect," she said. "They think their uniform gives them the power to do anything and treat people anyway they want."

Instead of calling for wearing blue how about calling for police to get PD like teachers are forced into so they learn how to treat people who are agitated, or mentally ill in a manner we teachers are expected to treat people - because when we don't, expect someone in blue to cuff you and take you away.

Yes I have met some good, friendly cops. But there are too many stories for me to jump on the NYPD bandwagon - just like I would never jump on the Council of Supervisor (CSA) bandwagon as another union we have to support.

Go ahead and march for union solidarity with other unions - and other than one time I believe when the PBA joined in - they will be absent.

But when Campbell Brown comes after police version of tenure I will be there to support their due process, which by the way, MORE did in its statement (
The March for Justice and Unity) and got slammed for doing that from the ultra-left (The Left and Right Attacks MORE on Garner March Po....).

Since I discovered today that right wing MORE bashers are claiming not to be aware of the slashing at MORE from the left, here is one example:
MORE’s response has been the strangest kind of talking out of both sides of your mouth. MORE promotes photos of a handful of MORE people at the march while at the same time giving credence to the concern that a police officer, who has yet to be even arrested or charged with a crime, should be given “due process.” What?! I don’t understand the logic of saying MORE supports the the fight for racial justice while writing such nonsense. I think it is one thing to engage in a debate and discussion within a democratic organization. But then the organization needs to take a position. MORE has not taken a position. Therefore, you side with the police by default.
After writing this blog I default the default.

Charter schools making big profits for private companies

10 Investigates found new ways charter schools companies are profiting off education: real estate and high rents...

Ms Moskowitz doesn't care about these children if so the would help the ones that really need help

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Success Charter Attempt to eliminate its at-risk a...":
Yes those success academy school are shameless using the children to get what they want and they don't even care. The have a so called strict policy on behavior, not taking into consideration that mostly all of the children come from public schools that they so much despise. Their suspension rate is also higher,they kick kids out that they cant deal with or don't want to deal with throwing them back into the same situation the claim the want to help correct. These charter schools should have to pay rent for using space in public schools for that matter they get enough private funding Why don't they just build their own schools. They are taking space away from children that don't get accepted or the ones they throw out anyway. Ms Moskowitz doesn't care about these children if so the would help the ones that really need help. I shouldn't really be surprised because the majority of the staff, teachers aren't really teachers meaning they have no background in education which makes a huge difference. Its all about the money with these people at the expense of the children. Charter schools like this need and should be stopped....

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Moaning Mona Moaning and Video: Mona Davids 2009 Racist Rant Against Julie Cavanagh and PS 15 Teachers

Moaning Mona is moaning again - this time about Campbell Brown not working with her  and her law firm leaving Mona high and dry. Read the joyful news here:
NYC Parents Union ‏@NYCParentsUnion

Campbell Brown does not speak for #DAVIDSvNY We are INDEPENDENT, GRASSROOTS PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS who can speak and advocate for OUR children
Moaning Mona won't back down when there's a chance for a payday - she once told me she doesn't swallow - one of her favorite vulgar expressions. That was over my questioning her support for the vicious anti-teacher movie, "Won't Back Down," one of the biggest box-office failures even with a top cast. I assume the producers didn't come across with the green stuff because Moaning Mona stopped talking about the movie.

I always knew that you would see the marks on Mona's head from the 10-foot poles - that Campbell Brown wouldn't touch the toxic, backstabbing Mona - even Brown has one scruple.

So let me take you back to 5 years ago to show you a video I've been saving. Here was a post from the PS 15K group, CAPE:
We had to share this video from our friends over at GEM of Mona Davids, president of charter school parents association, and from the Bronx (even though she came to apparently criticize teachers for speaking when they do not live in Red Hook), whose given charge is to go into other people's communities and try to divide parents and teachers.... CAPE, Sept. 2009
I posted on ed notes in July:

When the teachers of PS 15 in Red Hook showed up weekend after weekend to help the victims of Sandy, many of whom were students at the school, did anyone notice Mona Davids there?... Ed Notes, July 7, 2014

I was reminded of this video when I was in Prospect Park in July attending the 2nd birthday party of Jack Cavanagh, son of Julie and Glenn, along with other teachers from PS 15 whom Mona attacked so viciously in this video from 2009, using her standard race-baiting language.

Julie had invited parents of children in her class and I spoke to one. Julie teaches special needs kids of the highest order. I spoke to one of the parents who just raved about this tenured teacher who has been able to stand up for children, parents and teachers and her school time and again -- because she is tenured. His child has been in Julie's class for the past 3 years, with one more to go. "What happens with middle school," I asked, knowing that leaving Julie must be causing some anxiety. "Whatever she says," he said pointing to Julie. "All the parents trust whatever she says. She has already started looking for the best options for us." There are principals out there who would resent Julie's advocacy and without the tenure protections she would be at risk.

Note in the video how Moaning Mona makes the bogus claim that she represents the parents and ALL charter school parents through her now defunct organization. And then she attacks the teachers as being carpetbaggers even though she herself floated down to Red Hook Brooklyn from Co-op City in the Bronx. It wasn't long after that Moaning Mona Davids found herself in a battle with the people running the charter school her daughter attended and changed her tune - for a while.

So next time you run into Moaning Mona, hopefully not with your vehicle, ask her why she wants to get Julie fired for her advocacy for her kids?

Here is the full Sept. 2009 post on the CAPE blog, less than 2 months after first meeting Julie. It was our support for her and her school's battle that began to cement our personal and organizational relationship - something that groups active in the UFT should never forget.

Concerned Advocates for Public Education

Monday, September 21, 2009

We had to share this video from our friends over at GEM of Mona Davids, president of charter school parents association, and from the Bronx (even though she came to apparently criticize teachers for speaking when they do not live in Red Hook), whose given charge is to go into other people's communities and try to divide parents and teachers... won't work here. Just about everything she said was erroneous or divisive. We can yell too... the difference is we have facts on our side and we are a untied front. Why would anyone try to silence teacher voices, who would know better the negative impact on OUR children (that's right our children- parents' children, teachers' children) during the school day than them? Wouldn't it be disturbing if teachers weren't united with parents and speaking up? If you want a blow by blow account, see the Gotham Schools comments below in the article about our struggle:

Click on our GEM and EdNotes links for more information and video... Thanks and a big shout out to NORM!!!!

Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco - Loretta and Gene Would Be So Proud

A part of the impetus for the change is due to the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, a small woman with fuchsia glasses.... Epoch Times
UPDATED: August 31, 2014

At last night's (Friday, Aug. 29) ICE meeting we talked over old times about Loretta and Gene, two education fighters for social justice for their entire lives. They had been founders of ICE and were sorely missed. (Oh what would they be doing over in Staten Island over the recent events - they would be in the  midst of the battle over  some of the open racist crap coming out of some teachers.)

We had to meet in Staten Island when Gabby was born in the summer of 1975, just before the major upheaval of the massive budget cuts and strike to come. I remember at a meeting at the Priscos in late Aug or early Sept, Loretta standing on the stairs and burping the 2 week old Gabby.
In elementary school, Horowitz-Prisco once advocated for her cafeteria to offer peanut butter and jelly as an alternative to hot lunch. Her parents were schoolteachers and political activists for equal opportunity in education. From a young age, Horowitz-Prisco realized that children are a silent group, in terms of political power.
Thus, Gabby came into the world in the midst of a very active period for her parents and their friends and she has never stopped.

By the way, Gabby went to NYU Law and was one of legendary constitutional scholar Derick Bell's favorite student, even co-teaching classes with him.

I had the honor of sitting next to Bell's widow at Gabby's wedding.

She was one of the honored speakers at the dedication of an edition of a New York University Annual Survey of American Law.

See video:

How lucky we are that Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco uses her legal skills in the interests of social justice.

Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for sending this.

This Is New York: Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of Juvenile Justice Project on Protecting Children

By , Epoch Times | August 30, 2014
Last Updated: August 29, 2014 9:07 pm

Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco the Director of the Juvenile Justice Project in her office in Manhattan on Aug. 18, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco the Director of the Juvenile Justice Project in her office in Manhattan on Aug. 18, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

​NEW YORK—For 23 hours a day, and for more than 300 days, there was nothing. There was nothing except the screams from nearby cells. The screams that drove the teenaged Ismael Nazario to wail, and press himself against the solid door of a 6-foot-by-8-foot room where he was held in solitary confinement. 
There was no human contact sans the stench left behind by former Rikers Island inmates who had occupied that cell.
Nazario was one of the many minors in New York who are imprisoned with adults each year. In 2008, there were 3,570 youth under the age of 18 who were admitted to jails in New York City, according to government data.
New York is one of two states that prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Around 100 teenagers are housed in solitary confinement at Rikers Island at any given time, reported the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Earlier this month, the United States attorney in Manhattan released a report documenting Rikers prison guards’ disturbing brutality, including an incident that resulted in the skull fracture of an inmate.
The crime and punishment discourse has shifted from the conventional wisdom that prisons are not supposed to be nice places. Media coverage of the issue has sparked a public outcry, leading to the recent resignation of Florence Finkle, a top investigator at the New York City Department of Correction.
A part of the impetus for the change is due to the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, a small woman with fuchsia glasses.

Art Therapist, Attorney, Reformer

Horowitz-Prisco is the director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correction Association (CA), an independent nonprofit that advocates for prison reform.
At dinner parties, she talks about children in solitary confinement.
“It’s not everyone’s favorite party conversation,” she said. “But I don’t stop. We need to talk about these things.”
Day in and day out, Horowitz-Prisco is speaking publicly, researching, analyzing bills, or testifying at City Council hearings.
The CA is the only private organization in New York that has unrestricted access to prisons.
The organization was one of the first to address the crisis of AIDS in prisons in the ’80s. In recent times, it was involved in the passing of legislation such as the Safe Harbor Law, which prevents sexually exploited children from incarceration for prostitution.
The walls in her office are plastered with drawings from children. A meditation crystal rests on her desk to balance the bleak nature of her work. One may wonder why this former aspiring art therapist from Staten Island, turned attorney, turned policy analyst, cares so deeply about prison reform?

(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
In elementary school, Horowitz-Prisco once advocated for her cafeteria to offer peanut butter and jelly as an alternative to hot lunch.
Her parents were schoolteachers and political activists for equal opportunity in education. From a young age, Horowitz-Prisco realized that children are a silent group, in terms of political power.
“Children don’t vote or have a lot of spending power. They don’t lobby. They don’t always have advocates for them the way other groups do. But I really think humanity rests on this. The cost of not caring for children is our collective well-being, the fate of a planet, a society, our ability to be happy,” she said.
She decided to become an attorney during an experience in college, when she volunteered at a shelter for runaway and homeless teenagers.
Advertisement:Replay Ad

There, she felt that lawyers and judges were in power.
“I felt that decisions made about their lives were not consistent with their own sense of where they would be safe,” she said.
So she became a lawyer. She worked for the Legal Aid Society and also the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked to expose the FBI’s surveillance of religious, political, and ethnic groups.
In the end, she decided to come to the CA to work on policy reform, where she met Nazario.

(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

The Human Capacity to Change

After Nazario was released from prison, he became a case manager for the Raise the Age campaign, which argues that psychologically, adolescents are still children, and placing them in the adult criminal justice system has perverse effects.
“He’s a young man that I now work with as a peer,” Horowitz-Prisco said. “Just because a child or an adult makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean that we should perpetually punish them for the rest of their lives.”
For two years, Nazario worked with at-risk youth from ages 12 to 17. He is currently doing similar work with Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides resources for youth and formerly incarcerated people.
“No one is solely the worst thing they have ever done,” she said.

Video: Why are New York’s youth being lockeup like adults?

Warning: Some images may be disturbing.
This Is New York is a weekly feature that delves into the life of an inspiring individual in New York City. Read a new feature every Saturday online, and every Friday in print. See all our TINYs here:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

MORE Moves Towards the Center

"MORE is a communist organization," someone said to me yesterday. And this not a from red-baiting Unity slug, but from someone who has run on the ICE and the MORE slates. I was even shocked to see a reader of this blog tweet the same thoughts. Shame on her.

Would I and James Eterno and Mike Schirtzer and Julie Cavanagh, independent thinkers, be in a group think organization?

I have fought against the sectarian, push-button ideologues on the left, many fundamentally anti-democratic, since the early 70s. In fact the creation of ICE itself was a reaction against the sectarian left. Maybe that was why ICE was so super democratic it never had any formal leadership and almost talked itself to death.

By the way - the ICE consensus democratic system was in direct opposition to both the sectarian left and the Unity Caucus model -- which by the way is modeled from the sectarian left -- more on that in an upcoming post.

Did ICE have leftist oriented people in it? Yes. But independent leftists mixed with centrists and social democrats, which I increasingly identify myself with - along with a libertarian streak.

Would I waste my glorious retirement years working in a group controlled by push-button ideologues? Hey, we are an open group to pretty much anyone is welcome - well, I guess not if you are in the Ku Klux Klan or someone who is clearly anti-children and openly racist - who, unfortunately, are emerging from behind their rocks and showing their true colors.

I'd rather be in a group with ideologue leftists, who at least, even if wrong-headed at times, have a political model as a basis for their activism rather than naked self-interest. And no one in MORE or ICE (other than a certain lunatic) ever does children bashing.

And let me say - I taught in one of the poorest communities of the city with kids with many discipline problems but also - they were still a small minority. Most kids and parents were lovely and when I see teachers only talk about the problem kids I see red - and not the kind MORE is being attacked about.


To show you one example of the left battling each other, check out this piece at Counterpunch:

The ISO Versus Socialist Alternative: Sectarian Delusions on the American Left

There are some people from both ISO and SA involved in MORE. Some of the best people I've ever met, though I don't quite get it all. Reading the article above makes me think they have a hell of a lot on their minds to worry about than controlling MORE.

ICE Meeting Friday - ICE and MORE - A Lesson for New Action

At the MORE meeting with New Action last October, we offered the ICE model to New Action as a way for their people to work within MORE for our common aims while keeping their caucus alive. They rejected that offer.
ICE will be holding a rare meeting tomorrow. These meetings take place when people feel a need to talk to each other in a relaxed atmosphere where few decisions have to take place.

ICE (Independent Community of Educators) was founded in late 2003 as a reaction to the deal between New Action, then the leading opposition caucus in the UFT, and Randi Weingarten, by supporters of Ed Notes and others - ie, people invited to leave New Action for opposing their deal, which led to seats for New Action on the UFT Ex Bd and job opportunities in the union.

ICE ran candidates in the 2004, 07 and 10 elections, jointly with Teachers for a Just Contract. But both caucuses had very different ideological backgrounds and methods of operation and there was very little interaction or cooperation.

In 2009, members of an ICE committee dealing with ATRs, testing and closing schools (soon amended to include fighting charter invasions) attracted people from outside ICE, including some from NYCORE and eventually people from other charter battles, like Julie Cavanagh and the crew from PS 15. By that time the committee had been spun off into a new organization that became the Grassroots Education Movement to defend the public education system. Not being a caucus in the UFT, many segments within and without the UFT were comfortable and ultimately the UFT oriented groups began to talk to each other about a big all inclusive tent for a new caucus - which became MORE.

Merging the ideologies and interests has not been an easy process, as the lessons of the march on Staten Island proved. See my piece lambasting the undemocratic ultraleft holier than thou ideologues - The Left and Right Attacks MORE on Garner March Position: I'm Shocked, There Are Social Democrats in MORE. And I do a number on the right wing racists too.

So, anyway - here is an announcement I sent out to the listserves. I'd love to invite every Ed Notes reader - because the rice pudding is so good. But there are only a few seats left - but shoot me an email if you are interested and I'll check.
ICE is meeting  Friday Aug 29 at 4:00 pm. Please RSVP if you haven't yet dome so if you are coming as there is limited space.
ICE meetings are usually the best place to go for real open discussions on issues impacting UFT members. People actually learn. Everyone gets to speak, as often as they like. Meetings don't end until everyone is satisfied that they had a chance to share their views, think about what others are saying and followup. That learning process leads people to an ability to modify their views and compromise during the course of the meeting (except for the rigid ideologues, who often don't stay very long because after all, they know it all and have nothing to learn and are only there to proselytize their views on others.) 

Of course size matters so this is not a criticism of MORE which has more people at meetings, though some ICE people do get frustrated at the more restricted environment of MORE meetings.

James Eterno has suggested we don't just chat n chew but work from a real agenda while chewing and chatting. Darn. Here are his suggestions, supplemented by some of mine, which means we will probably still be chatting and chewing at midnight.

1. ICE stayed together and did not disband in 2012 as TJC did after MORE was formed. I did not want ICE to stick around so we could merely get together and eat once or twice a year. We continued as an organization with a role to play in the union and education debates independent of MORE.
Note from Norm: At the MORE meeting with New Action last October, we offered the ICE model to New Action as a way for their people to work within MORE for our common aims while keeping their caucus alive. They rejected that offer.

2. We need to pay our respects to Gene and Loretta Prisco. We lost both of these wonderful people since we last met as a group. (Those who want their comments published will be videotaped).

3. Is ICE still needed?
If ICE still exists as an organization it should say something and take 
some positions, not just be a space for Jeff and I to share our personal views.  Our purpose as an organization should be on this agenda. Perhaps we are no longer necessary and should disband as TJC did in 2012. We can still get together and eat when we want to.
4. State of MORE and ICE's part in it.  Amazing young people have bred new life into opposition to Unity in the UFT. What, if anything, does ICE want to achieve as part of this opposition? Where do we see it heading?
(Combine items 3 and 4).

5. An ICE endorsement for Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary. Locals around the state are endorsing her. MORE probably won't do it so why not ICE? See support statement from James Eterno on ICE blog.
Norm amendment: ICE also endorses Green Party in general election.

6. NYSUT's Stronger Together. 
A legitimate statewide opposition to Unity is forming. The entire year at NYSUT should be reviewed. I propose ICE formally support Stronger Together. Some of us are already involved so why not formalize it if ICE still wants to play an active role in the union and education worlds? 

7. Midnight special - Discussing the controversy inside and outside MORE over the march, the UFT support of the march, what could have/should have MORE done? Not for voting, but for comment: did MORE do the right thing?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Charter Angst: Democracy Prep Parent Ready to Pull Child After 5 Days

All I see every morning and evening is this tall man dressed in bright clothing yelling at the parents every single day since school started... parent at Democracy Prep

DP founder Seth Andrews - or Eva Moskowitz in drag
Oh the joy in this comment on another beloved crooked charter, especially with today's news (see Perdido) about Eva Moskowitz and her move to the financial district - call it "Wall St. Empire" - which might make a good HBO series to follow the gangster-ridden "Boardwalk Empire" - with Eva playing a gun moll who makes Steve Buscemi's character look like a nun.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "On the Democracy Prep Plantation: When Zero Tolera...":
All I see every morning and evening is this tall man dressed in bright clothing yelling at the parents every single day since school started. There sending kids home because of their uniforms and the uniform company still has not delivered the ordered uniforms to the school. I think their pushing the kids to hard to prep for college and not letting them be kids. I'm still trying to understand why if they have table, chairs and benches inside of the gate why are they making it a big deal to lock out parents, grandparent and elderly outside the gate when they could be waiting patiently on them benches.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mainstream Media Picks up NYSUT Officer Pension Story--

-- which we broke on Ed Notes - Sellout Fever: Newly Elected Revile - er - Revise .... Thanks for not crediting, Capital

Law lets NYSUT officers accrue 2 pensions simultaneously

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ALBANY—Under a law approved in the final days of this year's legislative session, New York State United Teachers' elected officers will, for the first time, be able to simultaneously accrue time toward their state and private union pensions.
The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last month, allows NYSUT officers to accrue time toward their pensions through the state Teacher Retirement System while serving as union leaders. More specifically, it lets school districts offer paid leaves of absence to teachers who vacate their classroom positions to work for the union, while NYSUT reimburses the district for the officers' salaries and benefits.
After NYSUT officers serve for five years, they become vested in the union's private pension system, spokesman Carl Korn said. Therefore, officers could eventually be earning time toward both—a benefit former NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi said is inappropriate.
“I would not have supported putting [the new law] forward,” Iannuzzi told Capital on Tuesday. “I think the officers have to make a decision whether they're going to get credit for years within the NYSUT pension system or T.R.S., but I would not have been comfortable with being able to get credit for [the same] year in both.

“I got credit for my 34 years of teaching [through T.R.S.], but my credit in the NYSUT pension system started after that time, and that's my understanding of the way it was for all officers before me and during my term,” Iannuzzi said. “That's probably the appropriate way to function.”
Korn said the law was a technical amendment. An existing 1972 law allowed officers in local teachers unions to continue accruing time toward their public pensions, but the language was unclear as to whether the same benefit applied to officers of NYSUT, a statewide organization. The law now explicitly applies to “statewide affiliates” as well as their local member unions.
“The question was raised of whether NYSUT was a local employee organization,” Korn said, referring to the original wording of the law. “There was ambiguity. This was a technical bill that added the statewide organization.”
He said other statewide public employee unions have the same benefit, including the Public Employees Federation and Civil Service Employees Association.
The Legislature considered the bill at the same time Cuomo and lawmakers were negotiating changes to the state's teacher-evaluation system. The bill was introduced in early June, when Cuomo's office was engaged in closed-door negotiations with NYSUT over changes to the rating system. The Assembly passed the pension bill on June 19, the same day Cuomo announced he had reached a deal with the union, and the Senate passed it the next day.
Korn said the pension bill was not part of the teacher evaluation deal. Cuomo's office did not return a request for comment.
Korn didn't specify the origin of the legislation, which was sponsored by Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who chairs the chamber's education committee, and Assemblyman Peter Abatte, a Brooklyn Democrat. Neither sponsor immediately returned a request for comment.
Korn said NYSUT leaders supported the legislation, which he remembers emerging in “late spring.”
NYSUT president Karen Magee was elected to lead the union in April. Iannuzzi, who was ousted after serving as president for nine years, said the bill did not surface during his administration.
“The bill was never put forward during my nine years as president,” he said. “I would not have supported putting it forward.”
Given that NYSUT holds elections every three years, the law could provide some security for new officers who are not yet vested in the union's pension system. Without this law, NYSUT officers who stop accruing time toward their state pensions would risk not serving long enough at NYSUT to be vested in the union's pension system.
Korn said he didn't know if NYSUT's elected officials would seek to take advantage of the new benefit, although he said some might. He said the law creates no costs to taxpayers, school districts or NYSUT.
E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, criticized the new law, particularly since it allows union officials to earn pensions through both systems at the same time.
“Why wouldn't they attempt to do it?” McMahon said. “There are undoubtedly retired NYSUT officers who are collecting teacher pensions and NYSUT pensions; they just never before had the benefit of qualifying for both at the same time.”

Black and Latino plaintiffs win back pay in Gulino v BOE

Before ed deform - or maybe an early stage of it - one of the first shots at teachers of color was the lifting of licenses from experienced teachers over a test - even if those teachers had excellent ratings.

One of them was in my school, an impeccable pre-k special ed teacher who had worked her way up from a para. My principal loved her. But she kept freezing every time she took the test. Sometimes she missed by a point. She failed it many times, finally giving up and losing her teaching license. My principal arranged for her to be a para in the same pre-k special ed classroom - now being taught by a first year teacher who was being mentored by the teacher who just lost her license to teach. After about 2 years she ventured back to the test with an attitude she had nothing to lose - and passed it with flying colors- the pressure was off I guess - and she was reinstated as a teacher. Without the support of my principal (full disclosure - as Chapter leader I fought with her for years) this teacher would have never survived in the system. So kudos to the principal and given the amount of slime in today's system, I would hug her today.

A new caucus called Progressive Action Caucus was formed in the late 90s, led by Marc Pessin, a superb organizer (there were other issues with Marc that I won't go into at this point). They held monthly meetings packed with teachers on the cusp - sometimes a hundred or more. Ed Notes was in its early days and I made a resolution at the DA calling for the UFT to find a way to protect these people. No dice. (Another reso I made in that period to curb the impact of high stakes test for children was also turned down.) The UFT leadership was just as test crazy as the deformers.

Eventually, thousands of licenses were lifted and these teachers lost their jobs. Pessin organized a law suit in federal court. I went to some of the hearings in front of famed black judge Constance Baker Motley - we felt this gave them a chance. No dice -- Motley ruled against them.

A decade passed and low and behold this email came into the MORE Discussion list from Sean Ahern.
Black and Latino educators in New York who took the LAST exam and  were denied employment, dismissed or demoted  as a consequence between 1995 -2004 are eligible for back pay and benefits.  The notice below was sent out to all those currently identified as eligible. It is estimated that between 8,000 -15,000 are eligible. The Gulino v BOE case was  dragged out for 20 years by the BOE/DOE.   If you know someone who might be eligible have them contact:

The Garden City Group, Inc. at:
Gulino v. Board of Education 
PO Box 9000 #6543
Merrick, NY 11566-9000
Mail E-mail


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Left and Right Attacks MORE on Garner March Position: I'm Shocked, There Are Social Democrats in MORE

This is -- or should be -- absolutely the end for MORE and its sponsors in the ISO and other opportunist organizations. This is what social democracy looks like... Comment on MORE position (The March for Justice and Unity) on Garner march.
i wondered if they would take a position on whether to come to Saturday´s march. The answer is no. It is a referendum on racism in NYC, and they have capitulated to staten Island white racist sentiment. After a lot of blather, they say "some members will attend as individuals...." comment on listserve
MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march.   ... MORE statement on the march
There are maybe fifty teachers here, twenty from MORE Caucus.... Arthur Goldstein on Staten Island at the march.
Now that the march led by Al Sharpton and his UFT ally, Michael Mulgrew, is over, it is an opportunity to put some things in perspective with respect to the often difficult internal discussions that went on in MORE, which has come under attack from the ultra left and the right. We must be doing something right. So, as the ultra left assaulted MORE, it turns out MORE had one of the largest contingents at the

march, including people who were opposed to the UFT and MORE taking positions as an organization, but were in favor of participating as individuals.

This is what democracy really looks like, a condition that seems to make both the left and right unhappy.

You mean MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march?

Oh heavens, why do you allow such people in your organization? You must be racists. Or worse, social democrats.

The ultra left wants a group like MORE to run roughshod over the views of people in the group that may not agree with them - and of course, those people must be racists. They should be purged from MORE in the view of the ultraleft.

They want only a JALO - Just Another Left Organization -- not a caucus that can actually build to the center of the UFT to challenge Unity - but a small ideologically centered group to push their ideology.

I've seen that act for over 40 years - I'll give some examples in follow-up posts ---

That is what democracy looks like on the far left - my way or the highway, always leading to splits. There is the old joke - put 2 trotskyists in a room and you get 3 groups.

But the interesting thing is that even if MORE were a JALO, they would be attacked for not being the particular flavor of JALO of the sectarian leftist group that is doing the criticizing. Ask any of them to explain why there are so many tiny fragmented left groups - and how theirs differs - and turn on the snooze alarm.

I laughed when one of MORE's biggest critics called on people to march with her group, which as far as I can tell has managed to coral only one UFT teacher in over a decade - her. Someone please send me a photo of that line of march.

Randi joins MORE - go to it ultraleft- attack an ISOer for taking a pic with Randi

OMG - Do I spy my mentor Angel Gonzalez on the left - where else? And there is the Cavanagh clan front and center. And the tallest guy in the room - Arthur Goldstein in the rear

Luckily, and probably to the chagrin of the Unity machine, this is an example of the shocking conclusion on the far left --- MORE is not a JALO -

---- despite the charges from the right in the UFT that MORE's social justice position somehow means we don't care about teacher issues. You know - let's only talk about teachers, never the children, and when we do talk about the children let's make sure to bash them as violent and misbehaving miscreants - and their parents too. 

Some of the comments bordering on open racism on some of the blogs make me shudder in embarrassment.

Oh how nice teaching would be if there were no children around to interfere with it.

And oh, the hand-wringing over the abandonment of our brothers the police and their union the PBA, which has never lifted a finger to defend teachers on any issue and will arrest a teacher on a dime of complaint.

On the UFT facebook page announcing support of the march there was a flurry of anti-Mulgrew comments, with Sharpton being a major point of contention. (Personally, I ain't a-marching anymore with Al Sharpton under any circumstances -- see today's NY Times on how his stature has risen due to the march.) Some MOREistas were cheered by the anti-Mulgrew comments. Others were dismayed.

I just love being part of a group with such diversity of opinion, a mortal sin in the world of the ultra-left.

Inside MORE we had a right leaning crew who were critical based on the idea we should stick to teachers issues and also support the police as union brothers. This crew often views things as social justice vs. trade union issues. I and others don't view them as contradictory. And it must be pointed out that narrow trade unionism usually gets you nowhere -- while in Chicago, the intertwining of social justice with trade union issues has resonated internally and externally.

Our pal Assailed Teacher emailed a response to those in MORE who called for unqualified support for the police.
One thing to consider is the role of former NYPD detectives in investigating teachers. So many teachers have had their careers destroyed due to SCI investigators stalking them, overstepping their bounds and lying at 3020a hearings. The above-the-law ethos that has overtaken the NYPD has also overtaken DOE investigations. This is part of the reason why principals feel so empowered going after expensive and/or outspoken teachers.

There is a correlation between the authoritarian manner in which the communities we serve are policed and the authoritarian manner that teachers in the schools of those communities are policed. I understand the arguments for union solidarity. However, the police are a different animal altogether. When was the last time a police officer felt conflicted about arresting striking workers or protesters who advocate for workers' rights? When was the last time a police officer refused to make a frivolous arrest of a teacher at the behest of the DOE? Where have the police been when teachers and public schooling in general were being attacked? 

The biggest argument against joining the protest is the presence of Al Sharpton, who has been an advocate for charters. That is the one sticking point with me. 

However, as the issue of police brutality continues to flare, I think MORE can be well-served by showing how authoritarian policing practices have seeped into SCI/OSI. Maybe it is something that can be explored.
Let me say this - PBA head Patrick Lynch would let any teacher hang - like has anyone seen one word from him or the PBA on the actions of rogue detective Louis Scarcella whose actions led to people serving enormous amounts of time? Our pal Peter at SB, supporting tantrums by Patrick Lynch, is living in a dream world when he says:
At a time when we as teachers and a union need all the support and backing we can get to show a lack of support to our union brethren is not right. Yes, it's been said that the NYCPBA has done squat for us, well someone has to step up and do squat first, why not the UFT?
Criticism came from all sides, even internally, including a MORE stalwart:
What is missing from the statement is MORE’s endorsement of the march and support for the call issued by the UFT to participate. This undercuts the claim that MORE is the social justice caucus of the UFT. I am out of town but would have joined the UFT contingent. I fear that MORE has shot itself in the foot if not the head....Sean Ahern 
Also internally there were calls from the non-left MOREistas to stay out of this as an organization. Some were opportunistic I felt - Mulgrew is in trouble over this, let's take advantage by appealing to the right wing of the UFT.

Others felt the UFT had no business getting involved and neither should MORE, even though they personally supported the march and would attend. Some have cops as family and friends - "How can I face my friends if MORE takes a stand for the march," said one?

Over on the left inside MORE, support for the march was a no-brainer. While everyone agreed that Sharpton was a problem, there was support for Mulgrew's decision.

In the MORE center there was an anxiety-ridden attempt to stay true to democratic procedures - as opposed to a Unity like loyalty oath where we see the lemmings march to whatever tune the leadership will call --- to take all views into account in forging the MORE position that has come off to some as wishy washy.

Something that can be supported by the group consensus if there are all sorts of views inside a democratic functioning caucus, the center view - sorry folks - this is what democracy looks like in organizations that do actual organizing and outreach rather then proselytzing a narrow point of view.

------which I guess brands some of us as a dirty word on the left -- social democrats.

I and many others in MORE are proud instead of being ashamed of that label.

The attacks from the "ultra-left" - push button leftist sectarians who have the only true beliefs and are at their most vicious attacking other leftist groups like ISO which has people in MORE, as do other leftist groups like Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and Progressive Labor. While there is no  right wing in MORE, there is the social democratic wing which creates a vibrant yin-yang that echos the history of left of center groups going back to before the Russian Revolution.

Naturally, it was the always awesome Julie Cavanagh, who is not easy to categorize politically - other than as a Budhist, who came to the rescue with both an amazing personal statement (For Deion)
and writing the bulk of the MORE official position (The March for Justice and Unity) in an attempt to capture the consensus of the internal debate -- with support from our only registered Republican, Mike Schirtzer who made a strong argument for some statement of support for the police. I and others were opposed to including that statement in support of the police and I had hours of argument with Mike over this. Julie, who I always listen to implicitly, worked with Mike on phrasing that point and made the case for inclusion.

Julie is solution oriented. What point, she reasoned, do we gain from merely bashing the police, when in fact teachers and police come into so much contact in schools? Don't we want our kids treated better as kids and as adults? Isn't it better to keep open the lines of dialogue with police to see if we can work together to make things better for kids of color who grow up to be adults of color?

That girl just makes so much sense. But the ultraleft would rather rant and flail away at "killer" cops than actually work towards solutions. [Some cynics claim there is utter joy in some left circles when a cause like someone getting murdered drops into their laps so they can vent their moral outrage].
i wondered if they would take a position on whether to come to Saturday´s march. The answer is no. It is a referendum on racism in NYC, and they have capitulated to staten Island white racist sentiment. After a lot of blather, they say "some members will attend as individuals...."
Talk about blather. The person who made this comment shows up at events with a small group of people, mostly college students - I'm sure there were more MORE teachers who attended the march --  If you organize - or think you are organizing in a forest and nobody hears you organizing, did you really organize?

Then this comment on the MORE statement about police - the very point that has set off the ultra left into a frenzy, claiming that by this statement MORE was giving into the pro-police Staten Island wing of MORE:
This statement by MORE is an unspeakably vile declaration of support to the police. The call for "due process" for "all workers" is a reference to the killer cops. It bends over backwards to say MORE is not "anti-police' (sic). It goes beyond this usual ritual reformist statement to explicitly refer to "our brother and sister officers" and states: "we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us".
Yes, let's call for due process for all teachers, even those who have committed crimes, but not for police. I know, let's turn the cop over to ISIS and have a public beheading.

Below the break, for your pleasure, are some highlights of the outrage.

Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" Blows the Lid on Ed Deform

We are awash in a sea of books on education produced mostly by non-teachers, pseudo-journalists, often with more than a tinge of bias. It seems that everyone covering the education wars spurred by ed deform must write a book. We hear about building better teachers, teacher wars, and how we learn, just to name a few. But books by real teachers who might actually know something always seem to take second place in the mainstream media.

When teachers do write books they are often about their experiences with children or about the tricks they have learned. Many of them are from teachers who had a cup of coffee in the classroom before going off to write a book. John Owens' "Confessions of a Bad Teacher" was an enjoyable read, exposing the kind of monster principals we hear about so often. But John only taught less than a year, and coming from the publishing world, to which he returned soon after being forced to resign, he didn't have the full picture.

Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" is much along the
same lines as John's book, but with the perspective of a decade long teacher working in the particular hell created under the Bloomberg/Klein era.

Laurel also entered teaching as a 2nd career, from the fashion industry, just as Bloomberg took control of the NYC school system. Her book is a year by year chronicle of her life in the classroom in a hell-hole of a school in a high poverty area of the Bronx where each succeeding principal (there were four over her ten years in the system) was worse than the one before. Laurel makes us party to the hilarious and often tragic parade of idiot principals, from the aptly-named Cruella to the ego-maniac Guido to Principal Dearest to Rosemary's Baby.

What makes Laurel's book special is that she does not just tell a story about one school's dysfunction. She ties the insanity of the national, state and citywide policies and how they impacted on the day to day functioning of her classroom and her school. Just about every one of her supervisors from the principals on down took whatever policies were being handed down and managed to implement them in the worst possible way imaginable.

After a decade of trudging into her school through a neighborhood rife with poverty, she finally left teaching around the time the Bloomberg era was in its final death throes.

Finally freed from living in a horror movie, she was able to write her book free from the anxiety of retaliation. Well freed is a relative word. One day there was a knock on her door and standing there were 2 guys from one of the city or DOE investigative arms. They were there to harass her over the book with some bogus story that she was violating something or other in writing about her experiences and her school. Since she didn't name names or the school and the fact that she was no longer employed by the DOE, she was able to respond by slamming the door in their faces.

Laurel did a great radio interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC: Ten Years in a Bronx Public School - WNYC (

Laurel is also a MORE and BAT supporter.
More links to reviews, etc. below the jump.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

UFT History in a Graphic: Caucuses from 1960-2014

NOTE: People are having problems reading the graphic - I am trying to get a pdf loaded but having trouble - email me if you want me to send you the pdfs - 
UPDATE: I found a way to replace unreadable jpgs with semi-readable pdfs.

I just finished reading Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August" about the first month of WWI. Almost every issue we face today can be related back to decisions and outcomes a hundred years ago and beyond that.
We need to know some history of the UFT in order to fully understand things in context. I created this flow chart in attempt to get some history on record.

I created this for the first MORE July 12, 2014 summer event. It was a rush job on that day as I had returned from the AFT convention the day before at 1PM on a very delayed red eye. Shortly after I got home on the 11th, Ira Goldfine and Vera Pavone came over to review the history. On the morning of the 12th I spoke to Glenn Tepper, one of the founders of New Directions. So this all came together in the few hours before the MORE event and naturally is open to revisions.

There is a strand for Unity, TAC, New Directions, New Action, TJC, ICE and Ed Notes (not a caucus but key to ICE). No strand yet for PAC, Chalk Dust and assorted other groups that sprang up.

I didn't get into the work of GEM as a precursor to MORE -- This graphic is still a work in progress - as is MORE.
Of course - this is my own point of view and I imagine there are other views. If you have problems viewing it email me and I'll send you the pdfs.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inspecting Eva Moskowitz

With admirable restraint, the head of the New York City Charter Center, James Merriman, pronounced the results “remarkable” and attributed the results to Success’ intensive instruction....A lot of schools, including many charter high-fliers, offer high-octane teaching. None come close to matching Success Academy’s results the last two years....
Robert Pondisio
Poor James Merriman, I almost feel sorry for him having to defend Eva. In a Daily News piece, Pondisio asks the $485,000 question:

How does she do it?

Boosters and critics, put down your talking points. Success Academies' stunning test results demand a deep, independent look.

Poor Robert too, who is a senior adviser at Democracy Prep, which is left looking like belly lint by Eva, has his tongue so deeply in his cheek it is coming out the other side. A "deep, independent look" my ass. He is calling for an investigation - boy Democracy Prep parents must be hammering them.
What is imperative now is for serious, unbiased experts and observers to descend on Harlem and figure out how these extraordinary results are being achieved and, if all that glitters is gold, how to replicate them. Is Eva Moskowitz the Michael Jordan of education reform, or is she Mark McGwire? I have no idea, and you don’t either. But something extraordinary is happening in Harlem. And it’s time to sit up, take notice, and figure out exactly what the hell it is and how it’s being done.
Wait. It gets better. One in three New York City students scored proficient in math, but at Success it was better than nine out of ten. Remarkable? No, these are results that make your jaw hit the floor hard enough to loosen your fillings. Success Academy kids didn’t merely pass the state math test, they destroyed it. For example, 680 fourth graders sat for the state test at seven of Moskowitz’s schools. Care to guess how many earned a “4,” the highest level? Nearly five freakin’ hundred of them! This is Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths. It’s Michael Jordan dropping 63 points on the Celtics in the playoffs. It’s Tiger Woods demolishing the field and winning the Masters by 18 strokes.
Here comes the kicker.
Everything I know about the slow-growing, cumulative nature of language proficiency suggests it is all but impossible to test prep your way to a high score on a third to eighth grade reading test, especially the more challenging Common Core tests. Yet two out of three Success Academy scholars hit proficiency benchmarks anyway. By contrast, results for charter schools as a whole in New York City were unremarkable. ELA numbers edged up by 1.7 points. Math scores were up smartly, a rise of 8.3 points over 2013 results. But compared to Success Academy, the results are downright pedestrian.
What — what exactly — is going on at Success Academy?
Cheerleaders and skeptics will trumpet or attack the scores. Expect to hear that Moskowitz has solved the achievement gap and that the humiliation of Mayor de Blasio, who targeted Moskowitz during his campaign and tried unsuccessfully to squeeze three of her schools out of Education Department space, is now complete.
From the other side of the room, we will hear charges that Success creams top students, gets rid of low-achievers through attrition and test preps kids within an inch of their lives, or even cheats.
Pay no mind to either Moskowitz’s fans or foes.
 Oh yes, I guess it is just speculation that Eva gets rid of low-achievers.

Diane Ravitch, in citing the Pondisco piece, Is Eva Moskowitz the Lance Armstrong of Education?,  puts forth some facts:
OK, so Success Academy may not be doing quite as well as they claim, but there is no doubt that their results are pretty good. To return to the question asked by the Daily News and echoed by many others, “how does Success Academy get their results?”
Well, the same data set that provided the test results suggests an answer. The only Success Academy school that has fully grown to grades 3-8 tested 116 3rd graders and only 32 8th graders. Three other Success Academy schools have grown to 6th grade. One tested 121 3rd graders and only 55 6th graders, another 106 3rd graders and only 68 6th graders, and the last 83 3rd graders and only 54 6th graders. Of course, this data set represents a snapshot from a single year.
Longitudinal analyses have found extremely high rates of attrition within student cohorts and students with disabilities and English Language Learners are over-represented among the students who disappear from Success Academy rosters.
Eva is no Michael Jordan. Her numbers are gimmicks, obtained by removing low scoring students from her schools. The high-scoring students remain and the low-scoring students are gone, along with their potentially disruptive effects on classrooms and the school as a whole. Eva is more like Lance Armstrong. They both win through artificial means. Lance through blood transfusions and EPO. Eva through attrition of students and obsessive test prep. According to the Daily News, while “suppressing the truth” Lance engaged in “an endless behind-the-scenes campaign to bully and intimidate people into silence. Some of it bordered on gangsterism.” Eva employs similar tactics to bully employees at the New York City Department of Education and to take space from special needs students to expand her schools.

Memo From The RTC: The Road to “Godspell”

Nora Meyers, Kim Simek, Frank Caiati, Gabrielle Mangano,  Jeff and Heather Arzsberger

Published in The Wave, August 22, 2014.

Memo From The RTC: The Road to “Godspell”
By Norm Scott, with Frank Caiati

Under the direction of master builder Tony Homsey, the set for the RTC production of Godspell, opening Sept. 12, is almost complete (with a lot of painting still to be done). Choreographer Gabrielle Mangano, who teaches dance and choreography for the RTC's Young Adult's Workshop, emailed, “It is going to be a very powerful show. I think it will shock a lot of people. The talent within both the production crew and cast is unparalleled to any show I've worked on and I've been apart of the RTC for 12 years.” One actor told me that Gabrielle’s choreography requires the cast to do all sorts of stunts and acrobatics. “She’s kicking our ass, but it is one of the most exciting shows I’ve been in.”

When I stopped by the theater on Saturday, Director Frank Caiati was working with Tony to install the brick walls on the set. I couldn’t resist hanging around to work with them. Frank, 28, was my acting teacher and I would never have had the nerve to be in a show without his encouragement. When I first met Frank, it was his acting that blew me away. Then came his directing of a number of shows and then we find out he is a master set designer too.

Frank is putting together an original concept for the play. It will take place outside a factory. The set is built to simulate that environment. There is a massive, what I’ll appropriately term, given the subject of the show, “stairway to heaven.” And all kinds of interesting structures on stage – ladders, a loading dock, and more.

Frank has put together a top-level creative team. In addition to Gabrielle, Jeff and Heather Arzberger as musical directors, Kim Simek, just off her triumph as Louise in Gypsy, is the Assistant Director, and the always essential Nora Meyers as the Stage Manager. They all are teachers in the NYC public schools (other than Gabrielle). [See photo - from left to right - Nora, Kim, Frank, Gabrielle, Jeff, Heather].

I asked Frank for his thoughts on the show and he responded in this email.

The show is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel According to Matthew. Jesus recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified.

Godspell appeals to me as a director because of the unique way it mixes high-energy contemporary musical theatre with moments of quiet poignancy. The show is basic storytelling at its best, at times even involving a few audience members in the process!

The Godspell cast and creative team all sincerely LOVE this show. That kind of energy and dedication is infectious at rehearsals.

What makes Godspell so unique is that the script is open to the director's interpretation and concept of the material. The playwright demands that the show feel industrial, citing the original 1970's staging which utilized a minimal set and a chain-link fence. Our production embraces this industrial feel with a highly detailed and realistic warehouse set that boasts Broadway-caliber lighting and special effects. Regarding costume design, the original production utilized a clownish/hippie type wardrobe, while our Godspell costume design focuses on quirky colorful costumes with a steampunk/ industrial edge.

Right now we are busy in the throes of production. The set is being painted, lighting designs are being created, custom sound designs are being recorded, costumes are being pulled from our vast stock and getting fitted to the actors, staging and choreography is being taught in full swing, and music is being perfected.

Why should people come to Godspell? It is a fun, emotional, and deeply impactful piece of the theatre. No matter your personal beliefs, Godspell transcends religion and addresses timeless themes of love, loyalty, trust, and peace. The "renewal" theme of Godspell is especially apropos to our Rockaway community post-Sandy.

Godspell boasts an eclectic rock score by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Broadway's Wicked and Pippin. Audiences will be delighted to hear familiar songs, "Day by Day", "Bless the Lord My Soul", and "Beautiful City."

Godspell runs at the Rockaway Theatre Company Sept. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 at 8:00pm and Sept. 14, 21, 28 at 2:00pm. Tickets can be ordered by calling 718-374-6400 or by visiting

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Charter Scandals

FBI Tracks Charter Schools

There's been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.
"The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group's operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI's visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder." --The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014
- See more at:

Why Charter Schools Have High Teacher Turnover

Near the top of the turnover chart is the Success Academies system led by former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. With 22 schools and 10 new schools opening in August 2014, it is the city's largest charter chain. In Harlem Success Academies 1-4, the only schools for which the state posted turnover data, more than half of all teachers left the schools ahead of the 2013-14 school year. In one school, three out of four teachers departed......
Cultivating excellent teachers and retaining them in the profession are paramount goals, shared by a bevy of bedfellows usually at odds in the education-reform debate, from teachers unions to charter-school champions like the Gates, Walton and Broad foundations. But according to data from the New York State Department of Education, charter schools in New York City lose far more teachers every year than their traditional school counterparts. In some schools, more than half of faculty "turn over" from one school year to the next, according to NYSED school report cards.....City Limits
Let me get this straight. Teacher retention correlates to good schools. The propaganda mill claims Moskowitz Success Academy are the best in the city. Yet they have the highest attrition rates. Something is fishy in the state of Denmark - or something like that.

The article below makes the point:
Teacher attrition rates=bad for students and schools when you constantly have new, inexperienced teachers and principals. Information on current attrition numbers is unavailable. Tweed doesn't keep records on Charters and Charters are not available to comment.

Sure they don't keep records or don't want to keep records to give charters cover. Charters are only available to comment when they have phony research reports to promote. Reality doesn't bite charters.

Why Charter Schools Have High Teacher Turnover
Helen Zelon
Posted:  08/20/2014 11:19 AM

The Indypendent: What's A Cop To Do? - Update from Upstate, urban and unhappy

I had to move this piece (the Indy story plus my comments) to Norms Notes because the html was causing the side bar to disappear. In doing so the following comment was lost.

In my ZIP code (urban, upstate, poor, renters, Section 8, black goes without saying) the police respond in one of two ways. Not at all, or in force. "In force" means a minimum of 2 squad cars and an SUV full of who knows what. The police always wear kevlar and never walk the street; they are always in the car. Exactly zero police officers live in my ZIP code. They don't walk here, don't live here, don't interact here unless there's a big enough report to warrant sending multiple squad cars. They are outsiders, every one, and they cringe when they come inside. We don't know them and they don't know us - it's no wonder we have dehumanized each other.

Ultimately, the excessive use of force is almost certainly linked to fear. They fear us. They fear our streets, they fear the people who sit on the stoops, watching. They fear we will shoot them dead where they stand, and why? Is it because police are routinely shot at here? No police officer has ever been shot at in my ZIP code, excepting the no-knock battering ram drug bust where the resident shot at an officer who just broke into his bedroom. My kids play on these streets, but a trained police officer is afraid to walk them?

Of course, since the police have a reputation for being... ungentle, we pretty much fear the police as well. We fear getting slammed to the ground, getting our head busted on the roof of the squad car on our way to the back seat, getting a baton to the back of the knee when we don't kneel fast enough. We fear being pre-judged as criminals simply because we live in a crappy demographic, because we're black, because we're Section 8, because crack bags are on our sidewalks and trash is everywhere among the boarded up houses.

We fear them and they fear us. The difference is they have the full power of the state to order us off the street and they aren't afraid to use it. Which of us is justified in our fear?

Upstate, urban and unhappy