Friday, December 5, 2014

The (Mis)-Education of Santiago Taveras - Norm in The Wave - Plus an Extra Dishing of Dirt

Santiago defending whatever at D. 14 Town Hall
I experienced one of my rare  moments of outrage last Sunday as I read the NY Times semi-puff piece on Santiago Taveras, former BloomKleinCott hit man for closing schools and now principal of Clinton HS in the Bronx. The Deputy in Charge of Closing Low-Performing Schools in NYC is Now Running One of Them). I devoted my Wave School Scope column this week to the story: (

Diane Ravitch wrote about it (The Deputy in Charge of Closing Low-Performing Schools in NYC is Now Running One of Them).
"The irony of the article is that it features Santiago Taveras, who was the man charged with closing schools. In public hearings, he appeared stonily impassive as students, parents, and teachers pleaded for the life of their school. Taveras is now in charge of DeWitt Clinton, one of the few remaining comprehensive high schools, and he is leading the effort to turnaround the school.... His is one of 94 schools selected by the de Blasio administration for extra resources and services, because de Blasio wants to help schools instead of closing them. Taveras led the effort to close schools, now he is part of De Blasio's effort to rescue them. Flexibility is a good thing."
I wouldn't term it so kindly as being "flexible." More like "I'm a whore and will say and do anything for a gig."

Some people are even less kind to Taveras:
....this bloated son-of-a-bitch (to be polite) is supposedly "turning around" a large N.W. Bronx H.S. (my father's alma mater) which had previously been on the closing list... But when MY alma mater (Christopher Columbus, another large H.S., located in the N.E. Bronx) was threatened with closing a few years ago, and Taveras was the DOE's designated executioner, he sat and listened for HOURS at a hearing in the school's auditorium while one after another - students, teachers, administrators, parents, alums, current and former elected officials, etc. - spoke, begged, pleaded, cried - all opposing the closing of Columbus. Throughout, he sat, utterly expressionless, like a f--king oil painting, unmoved by any of it.  Apparently he found nothing intriguing that evening, unlike when he wanted back into a DOE job years later.  And Columbus was closed on its 75th anniversary.  I will refrain from writing here what I wish for him for the rest of his slimy life....RB on NYCEDNEWS Listserve
Fred Rubino, then princ IS 318
I've written about Taveras before on Ed Notes and Norms Notes, including video of District 14 principal at the time and later Superintendent (the late and great Fred Rubino) confronting him at a Cathie Black town hall. See below my column for links. Does Taveras and all other Cathie Black defenders and supporters deserve a special place in education hell?

The awesome Tesa Wilson
(The NY Times piece is here.) And you can see Taveras and Cathie Black in action at that Town Hall here. It's 28 minutes but you can scroll though for highlights. I can guarantee a few laughs as my old buddies, including CEC parent leader Tesa Wilson, in District 14 raked them over the coals.

Cathie Black and Santiago Taveras at 2/28 CEC District 14 Meeting Face Intense Questioning from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

And if you didn't click the link here is my full column - in a snappy (for me) 800 words.

Published Friday, December 5, 2014, in The Wave print edition and online (

The (Mis)-Education of Santiago Taveras
By Norm Scott

Santiago Taveras, principal of DeWitt Clinton HS, one of the few large high schools left standing after a dozen years of the Bloomberg/Klein onslaught that pretty much eliminated similar large schools in the Bronx, was featured in a Nov. 30 NY Sunday Times Metro front page piece ( There is no little irony in the story of Taveras trying to turn around a school with so many struggling students who have been shut out of the small schools and charters. This quote pretty much sums up the Bloomberg closing school policy and Taveras' role in it.

"In recent years, Clinton has battled low graduation rates, plummeting enrollment and a climate that made many students feel unsafe. During the tenure of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, large, struggling schools like this one were regularly closed and broken up into new, smaller institutions, which the administration favored as a way to shake up the staff and give students more individual attention. One hundred fifty-seven schools, many of them large, comprehensive high schools like Clinton, were shuttered or scheduled for closing during the Bloomberg years. The public face for many of those closures was Santiago Taveras, who was a deputy chancellor."

Wait. It gets even better. "I spent time phasing out schools at the D.O.E., which is fine; I don’t regret any of that,' Mr. Taveras said of his time at the central office of the Education Department.... as hundreds of small schools opened, principals and teachers at the remaining large schools like Clinton often complained — and statistics often corroborated — that they were getting disproportionately high numbers of the most challenging students. 'It was like a light switch going off — like, oh, my gosh, where did these kids come from?' said Ann Neary, an Advanced Placement literature teacher who has been at Clinton for 10 years."

DUHHH and double DUHHHHH! Rockaway lost both its large comprehensive high schools, Far Rockaway and Beach Channel due to Bloomberg policies and Howie Schwach and I chronicled this very point in The Wave time and again. We also pointed out how the breakup of large schools took away so many options for students, as pointed out by a Clinton teacher: “We have beginning band, intermediate band and marching band; we have beginning chorus, intermediate chorus and advanced chorus; and we have those three levels in guitar....The reason we have all that is the number of students substantiates a large number of staff. When we lose students, we lose staff, and then the fewer programs we can offer.”

The latter point pretty much describes the death spiral we saw take place at Far Rock and Beach Channel. Instead of trying to fix schools, Bloomberg nuked them.

Taveras left the DOE in 2011, joining many people at Tweed, with Bloomberg's time coming to an end, who deserted the ship for an education consulting firm - every school system needs a consulting firm to give them a hundred ways to destroy a school system. Oh if only the money spent had actually gone to classrooms. Diane Ravitch asked a pertinent question when Tavaras went to the consulting firm: “Isn't there a requirement that people who work for the DOE must take a year in which they don't work for any DOE vendors? Isn't it a conflict of interest to go to work for a vendor immediately?” Triple DUHHH!

So what delicious irony that Taveras now ends up running a large high school in some difficulty but protected from being closed by the policies of Mayor de Blasio who claims he wants to fix schools, not close them - the jury is still out on that one. From some reports of former and current teachers, Taveras seems to be pursuing a “blame the teacher” attitude by forcing out senior and some tenured teachers. A former principal at the school expressed what so many educators felt about Bloomberg's policies (supported by Taveras and others of his (ambitious) ilk: "A large school like Clinton can absorb a certain number of knuckleheads, but how many knuckleheads can they absorb?” said Mr. Wechsler, the former principal, who now consults with Clinton administrators. “When you reach a critical mass of very troubled youngsters, it gets harder to recruit good teachers, harder to recruit good parents, and you get into a non-virtuous cycle. It becomes very difficult to turn it around.”

We can fix some schools by pushing kids with high needs into other schools - the solution of choice for both charter schools and many of the small schools opened under Bloomberg. Or we find ways to support those kids in ways beyond what schools have traditionally done. That costs dough. And when the dough is needed for tests, common core, consultants and blame the teacher schemes, the game of "let's move kids around like chess pieces and claim we are succeeding" will continue.
More stuff on Taveras below the break:

Norm's Notes: follow up to question re conflict of interest ...

Apr 5, 2011 - See Diane's question about Santiago Taveras, going to work for Cambridge Education, a DOE vendor: Question: “Isn't there a requirement that ...

Ed Notes Online: Voices of Parents, Teachers and ...

Mar 31, 2011 - Taveras says he stands on his integrity as an educator and his work over ... Cathie Black and Santiago Taveras at 2/28 CEC District 14 Meeting ...

Ed Notes Online: Reactions to Playing Musical Chairs at ...

  • Apr 27, 2010 - And poor Santi Taveras now definitely out of the swing of things: ... Engagement and appoint Santiago Taveras, who has served for the past ...

  • Related Times Coverage

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