Saturday, September 9, 2017

School Scope: Schools and Hurricanes - Norm in The WAVE

Published Sept. 8, 2017 in The WAVE,

School Scope: Schools and Hurricanes
By Norm Scott

Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017
I noticed that another school year has begun. I got a hint when staff members’ cars from the school up the street began appearing on the block. I still get a hint of those Labor Day butterflies leftover from having attended or worked in schools from the age of five through sixty. Fifty five years of habit is touch to break even a dozen years later. Having so many school worker friends posting their laments and excitements on social media has kept me in touch. Some teachers are hesitant to share the fact that despite the end of another glorious summer, there are excited to get back to work. The main problem I had was the end of two months of freedom, but every year I also had feelings that I couldn’t wait to get back. Too much freedom can be a dangerous thing. Almost every retiree I speak to say how much more productive they were when they were working. Now if they get one thing done a day they celebrate – some say they get much less done than when they were under a time gun.

My continued involvement with alternate voices in the UFT challenging the leadership has also kept me in touch with the political issues facing teachers. Testing continues to drive the agenda in judging student, school, and teacher performance. The scores from last spring were published a few weeks ago in the dead of August. Minor gains in the city were championed by de Blasio as victories. Some de Blasio supporters had hoped he would take on the test mania but instead, he and his partners in the UFT leadership have continued running the same train down a broken track.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, posted on the NYC Parent blog: “State test scores increase again; but is it real? Opt out rates remain high.” She wrote, “… the NY State Education Department has appeared unable since 2002 to produce a reliable test and score it consistently enough to allow one to assess if there’s been any sort of improvement in our schools. Instead, Commissioners and their staff have repeatedly changed cut scores and set proficiency rates to make political points.” Call this cheating at the highest levels.

Leonie also points to the still very high opt-out rates in the state, the highest in the nation, though NYC lags far behind the rest of the state due to massive repression and threats to punish schools with high opt out rates from the top officials of the NYCDOE. Read Leonie’s very insightful post at

For decades before Sandy, since we moved to Rockaway in 1979, I had been tracking potential and actual hurricanes from their earliest stages. I remembered the stories of the bay meeting the ocean from the early 60s and with every hurricane that threatened our area that nightmare was always on my mind. We evacuated twice over the decades, the last time with Irene in 2011, which so lulled us we didn’t leave during and after Sandy in 2012 when the bay met the ocean in spades. Everyone in Rockaway understands what Houston is going through and sadly, this will not be the last time somewhere in the coastal USA there will be some similar disaster on an increasing basis.

Just as Harvey was slamming Texas we began hear of Irma, which at the time was forming off the coast of Africa (and Jose following behind). As I write Irma is a Cat 4/5 storm pushing through the Caribbean and heading for a possible landing in Southern Florida or if it shifts north, the Carolinas or even with a bigger curve north, maybe us, which if it hits will be a week away and scary. Just in case, we are making plans to get stuff out of the basement and onto higher floors. This time evacuation will be more likely for us. The cats however, are not sure they want to go.

I don’t want to get into the weeds of the politics of global warming or the role humans have in increasing the rate. I believe we have been a warming trend for 15 thousand years – remember, massive glaciers covered most of NYC. These changes came in slow enough increments to allow humanity time to adapt. Remember those pre-Indians who walked across the land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska? They had some time to adjust to not being able to go back as the seas rose. The issue is the rate of warming which has been increasing at a higher rate over the past 150 years as the industrial revolution proceeded. Rising seas and warmer ocean waters make for bad hurricanes (is there a good one?) and more violent weather. To me that is a given. The question to me is not whether human actions at this time can reverse the rate but rather slow things down just enough to give humanity time to adjust. The Greenland ice sheet is melting as is the Antarctic ice shelves, which will raise sea levels hundreds of feet – imagine even the highest sky scrapers sticking up in a world of water.

But don’t fret – it won’t be all bad living in Venice on the Hudson.

Norm frets daily at

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