Friday, April 7, 2017

Parents Occupy Auditorium - Central Park East 1 Update: Rally, SLT Meeting and Overnight Stay Surrounded by Police

Hey Serial at This American Life - have we got a story for you.
rally outside went on all evening - we left at 9PM
We don't expect to be arrested and strategizing- going to do 8am press conference and rally to support the demands of the occupiers
The cops straight up said no arrests.
And doe guy said they just want you all to stay in the auditorium
Yeah - they keep coming and counting us:)
We're thinking of playing hide and seek with them
There are literally more cops here than there are of us
The janitor said we were paying his car note because of overtime------ Messages from inside
Breaking: Parents, saying they won't leave until principal Monika Garg is gone, spent the night in the auditorium without being arrested, despite the school being surrounded by enough cops and vans to invade Syria. I posted a video on my FB page showing all the cop cars around.

It was the DOE's call and they decided to not have people arrested. They are a diverse group of parents, though one immigrant had to leave and we know why. I do wonder how this would have been playing out if a group of all black parents did this in Brownsville where no one was watching.

This morning we hear that parents not arrested, spent night in auditorium, rally in front of school at Madison av and 106th st at 8am followed by press Conf at 8:30. I'm going to head over to check it out and offer support. I'll post pics of that later.

Here is the press release:
Parents of NYC Public School Central Park East I, calling for removal of  principal, are occupying their school 

Yesterday afternoon there was an SLT meeting of NYC public school Central Park East I, followed by a rally outside the school. While many demonstrated outside, seven stayed in the school, and are now inside, occupying the school. There is a large group of police at the school but so far the occupiers have not been arrested. 

WHAT: Rally and press conference 

WHERE: Outside Central Park East Elementary School
1573 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10029, at E. 106th Street, NYC

WHEN: Families are planning a rally for 8 am this morning, followed by a press conference at 8:30 am.
I posted a video of immense police response I shot last night around 9pm. A good night to commit a crime in the 23rd precinct. De Blasio is a progressive when under his watch an authoritarian principal undermines 40 years of a democratically run school by teachers, parents and even students. Clearly that concept is a threat as we are seeing at Townsend Harris hs where students and teachers also has wide latitude before an authoritarian principal mini-trumpet is being fought. The students there sent a message of support yesterday.

When I tried to take photos of the cops themselves they turned away or look at me in a way to make me concerned about my phone. One school safety officer told me I had no right - it was illegal -- to use the phone in the lobby of the school as he took out his phone to use himself. I pushed back and pointed that out (I have some video which I may post later). He later came over and apologized. A cop told me to get his good side. But they are clearly very sensitive on the issue and we have to be careful.

Chapter leader Marilyn Martinez, had to stay camped out all afternoon in the rain and damp across the street since she is still in the rubber room and can't be at the school. There were shouts all day for her to be brought back. Marilyn is a Latina and has her child in the school and is one of the amazing teachers and when she was removed in Feb that seemed to be a final straw -- the Supt did the dirty work for Garg and Farina. From all reports the charges are politically related but Marilyn has been told by the lawyers not to talk specifics.

Back to the beginning
SLT - Garg, center
Where do I start? I guess at one the most remarkable School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings one could imagine. It could be a movie. It was packed with over a 100 people and more kept coming. Included were state Senator Bill Perkins who was recently elected to the city council and Robert Jackson, as well as Leonie Haimson and a whole batch of we MOREs and Leroy Barr from the UFT, our new best friend who loves to hang out with us.

Garg began by reading a statement defending herself - I came in as she was finishing. Most of the SLT seemed to be lined up against her, though there was a very vocal parent on her side and critical of the SaveCPE1 coalition. There were also parents in the audience who supported Garg and also some of the newer teachers, whom Garg characterized as being more afraid of the senior teachers than of her. Now these are people she has brought in herself, one of which at the very least was a friend. Standard operating procedure for these take-over principals -- first rule - divide the staff.

There was a lot of hack and forth as Garg kept trying to place blame on the senior teachers while some of them pointed to the attacks Garg was making on them.

Garg has also divided the parents by pulling the race card -- getting support from some black parents - I will go into the complexities of the race issue in another post. But clearly if you look at the optics, the parents are diverse in an east Harlem community that is going through gentrification. However, CPE1 has been in that community for 40 years and has always tried to maintain a one third, one third, one third mix. But that mix has slipped in recent years as more white parents came into the community. And that is where there some people are exploiting the race issue in their attack on the savecpe1 people. The DOE hierarchy seem to line up on this side and probably the mayor integration initiative may be at play here too. But it is interesting that Bill Perkins and Robert Jackson came to the SLT meeting.

Progressive education is a system used in many elite private schools and as we see with the no-nonsense test-driven charters, some parents don't want that for their kids and there has been some charges that that is a "white" thing. But the key Debbie Meier concept in starting the school was to prove it was appropriate for all children. Remember - East Harlem was far from gentrifying in the 70s.

The SLT meeting got so crowded in the music room, it had to be moved to the auditorium and went on for hours with lots of rancor on both sides, though clearly the sentiment was more anti-Garg than pro. This is more complex than I thought and someone I'm close to told me that someone she respects a lot is opposed to the savecpe1 campaign.

One of the arguments being used is that there were a lot of problems at the school before Garg came. There had been 4 principals. Now the school had always been run basically by teachers and parents, with all key decisions being a partnership, so a hands-off principal has been the rule. Even an incompetent principal or leadership vacuum has not been a bad thing.

Now the savecpe1 people admit there were issues but that an authoritarian principal who makes all decisions is not the answer, though apparently it is for the current and past DOE, which has had a history of sending in authoritarian principals to undermine progressive schools used to power sharing principals. IE -- Brooklyn New School would be in some danger when the current founding principal retires.

The CPE high school principal in the building, Bennett Lieberman, trashed the school and the savecpe1 people and said he supported Garg because she brought leadership, which makes it easier for him to deal with one person instead of conglomeration of people -- yeah, Bennett, democracy is messy.

The principal of Central Park East 2 is also opposing the savecpe1 parents and also spoke last night. So, yes, this is complicated.

I heard last night that Garg ran the open house for new parents on her own without the teachers and other parents, which had been a tradition at the school -- her way of hand-choosing the parents she wanted, I guess.

I mean so much came out at the meeting. There was a professional guy who is connected to one of the parents who sat in filming. Someone could make a film of that meeting alone. Hey Serial at This American Life - have we got a story for you.

Garg basically sat there cool as a cucumber during immense attacks on her, with parents showing how she lied numerous times, contradicting her remarks. One parent told how Garg told her to come to the school because of an incident of her daughter with a teacher, indicating something inappropriate sexually, one of the most beloved teachers in the school. It turned out that Garg had made that up but the teacher, who told his story at the UFT ex bd meeting a few weeks ago, was pulled out into the rubber room a year ago and recently completed his 3020a hearing and is awaiting a decision as he still sits in the rubber room, one of the most talented teachers in the system according to parents -- sure, children first.

The incident occurred not soon after he pushed back against some of Garg's directives. This was a turning point in the school as teachers and parents, who had tried to give Garg a chance, were so shocked they contacted some of us in MORE - since despite what the UFT says -- Manhattan UFT leader Dwayne Clark made the false claim the UFT has been there for them -- then why did they contact us in MORE?

The fact the UFT is doing anything at all at this point is due to the push from our people at the Ex Bd. If you read Arthur's reports (
Executive Board Takeaway. you will see how the resolution in support of CPE1, basically written by the parents and teachers at the school, with the assistance of New Action's Jonathan Halabi, was tabled by Leroy Barr, who did show up and speak at the SLT last night. (I have video but won't have it up until Sunday.)

Arthur motivated the reso with a fabulous speech. Barr tabled it so they could work behind the scenes with the DOE -- I guess their claims to be doing something were not quite true.

In my 5 minute speech opening Monday's Ex bd meeting I asked why the UFT has been silent for the past year until we brought it up? Don't you have a district rep to tell you what is going on? When the teacher was removed a year ago that should have triggered an sign to the union (I compared it to Munich - shame on me). When the chapter leader was removed a year later that was like the invasion of Poland -- war needs to be declared. A group of CPE1 parents stood up while I spoke and later were joined by about 15 more who stood in the back when Arthur spoke.

Later Dwayne Clark defended the district rep as having been there. I asked the teachers if she did anything, they scoffed - in fact at our earliest meetings a year ago, they indicated that the UFT people seemed more sympathetic to the supt and admin -- not the first time I've heard that.

Well, it is getting late and I have to head over to the school for the rally and press conf. Unfortunately my camera battery is dead and I can't film. I will report later on what happened.

By the way, the NYSUT convention begins today through Sunday and I may stop by later and tomorrow morning where I will repay Arthur for buying me that $14 beer 3 years ago.

Back to you later.

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