Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why Less Blogging and Meeting Hillary (Sort of) - School Scope, Norm in The WAVE

Norms low line
I seem to be busy though I am not sure why and thus have neglected Ed Notes. I spend a lot of time sitting on my porch or backyard deck. I've been paying more attention to my writing group where they have been trying to get me to write some fiction and I

Just built trellis leaning on deck
picked up a novel I last worked on 5 years ago. Writing fiction is as hard as writing blogs is easy. I've also been busy working at the Rockaway Theatre Company building the set for La Cage Aux Folles and rehearsals even though I have the tiniest part imaginable (we have a few hours of rehearsal today at 11). And there is the MORE book club where we are reading about the 68 strike. And the MORE other summer events. And the work I am doing around the house - yesterday my friend Tony helped build a massive trellis for my deck which I still have to install. I've been building my version of the high line, calling it Norm's low line only to find out someone is actually building a low line in Manhattan - but it won't be finished until 1920 - I hope I can beat them to it.

Getting ready to leave very early Monday for the AFT convention with a crew from MORE. We were going to originally leave Sunday and probably should have since we are missing a bunch of events with the Chicago Teacher reception, BATS and UCORE. So when we get there we have a lot of catching up to do.

And then of course are my columns for The Wave - which kills one morning a week of blogging. Here they are for the July 15, 2016 edition.

Meeting Hillary (Sort of)

School Scope
By Norm Scott

I can tell school is out for summer vacation by all the open parking spots on my block, which is near a school. Since retiring 14 years ago this is the one of the main ways I notice school is over. I usually write only one column on education during the summer but this year I may not be able to shut it down so easily. There is too much happening regarding politics, education and race to keep quiet for the entire summer. My problem is that there is so much to say I’m having trouble deciding on exactly what to say. The more I think, the less I write. Even my blog has gone fairly silent recently. So I am emptying my mind right now – that shouldn’t take long – give me two seconds.
Okay, I’m back. My fingers are taking over so don’t hold me responsible for what comes out. I’m heading to Minneapolis for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention next week with what I hope will be press credentials to cover the event for The Wave. I’ve gotten such credentials for the past three conventions since 2010 in Seattle, Detroit and Los Angeles but I am always concerned that the people running our union will try to stifle dissenting voices. Two years ago I was the only one to videotape UFT President Michael Mulgrew saying he would punch people in the face who tried to take his common core away. The video went a little viral with the story being picked up by local and national press. Of course when common core became a hot potato Mulgrew backed off and claimed he was now against common core – but he never said he would punch you in the face if you tried to force common core upon him.

Hillary Clinton is due to speak Monday and I hope we get there in time. I want to hear how she walks the tightrope of appeasing her charter school and corporate education deformers while trying to make teachers feel she is on their side. Having her main supporter, our AFT President Randi Weingarten, standing next to her and cheerleading should help. Especially since Randi is bringing along 800 of her NYC buds who were elected as delegates in the recent UFT election.

My caucus, MORE, won the majority of high school teacher votes which gave us seven executive board seats and over 25-30 percent of the total vote in various other divisions and about 11,000 votes all told, but get no delegates. Thus, 11,000 UFT members are disenfranchised. Taxation without representation. A bunch of us from MORE are going at our own expense. Why? Because we are nuts. I hope to have something written for next week’s edition on what Hillary said.

I and others are union political junkies. MORE is running a summer series of workshops on dealing with organizing at the school level, especially if there is an abusive principal, of which there are too many to count. The UFT does nothing about these people and MORE is trying to fill the gap. Our next workshop is on Aug. 3 and if you are dealing with a crappy principal email me for details. We are into exposing these people. At a recent Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting I and others spoke on this issue where we challenged Chancellor Carmen Farina over her continued support for bad principals. (See videos on my blog at: video-norm-scott-comments-to-farina-at.html,

From what I am hearing from too many schools, one of the major issues we are facing in education in this city is the poor state of so many people in charge of schools. But everyone wants to ignore that and focus on the bad teacher. Farina empowered her superintendents to put their buddies into these supervisor jobs. Since I began teaching 49 years ago the percentage of competent teachers outstrips that of supervisors - truly competent supervisors were a rarity – and those who were, quickly rose to their level of incompetency within the DOE bureaucracy.

I started to write this column to talk about Hillary, Trump, politics, race and education but quickly got overwhelmed by what is going on in today’s news. Teachers and police occupy some similar roles in society and we all intersect on the issue of race. In my years of teaching in Williamsburg I had about two or three kids who weren’t black or Hispanic. I went into the job as a liberal who supported civil rights but had no idea about race and racism and to what level I myself had racist attitudes. Spending 30 years teaching kids of color taught me a hell of a lot and even recently I have been learning from my former students through Facebook and a recent reunion I had with some of the students from my 1979 sixth grade class (who are approaching 50). I don’t have my thoughts together enough to get deep into this issue. I read some comments in The Wave that are disturbing. I’ll try to address some of these issues in future columns.

My other column for this week is below:

Memo From the RTC:  Breaking in La Cage
By Norm Scott

Well, master Rockaway Theatre Company builder Tony Homsey and crew are getting close to completing the set for the August 5th opening of La Cage Aux Folles with the last major piece being the bird cage that must be large enough to contain eight dancers. Tony procured every pcb plastic pipe from miles around for the  project. Some of the set pieces are truly massive and the painting crew headed by Frank Caiati and Cliff Hesse are busy at work. Frank painted a simulated stone wall running across almost the entire stage that looks so real I want to get a piece for my garden after the show is over. I mean why try to find real (heavy) rocks? I can’t wait to show people how strong I am by lifting an entire stone wall with one hand.

The large cast is busy almost every night and weekends rehearsing complicated dance routines under the direction of choreographer Nicola DePierro-Nellen and vocals under musical director Richard Louis-Pierre. Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper are riding herd on the entire crew for one of the more ambitious shows the RTC has undertaken. Even I have a bit part in the show. Why go see Hamilton for $800 when you can see our show for $15? Evening performances Aug. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20 and Sunday matinees Aug. 7, 14 and 21. Don’t miss this one.

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