Thursday, January 25, 2018

School Scope: DOE Decisions on Shutting Down Schools Political, Not Educational

Publishing date: Friday, Jan. 26, 2018

School Scope:  DOE Decisions on Shutting Down Schools Political, Not Educational
By Norm Scott

I reported on the magnificent PS 42 closing school info session in a recent column (the hearing is Feb. 13 at the school and I urge anyone who actually reads this column to come see how a school fights back) and followed up by attending the IS 53 session (not as exuberant but still significant – their hearing in Feb. 7 which I cannot attend) the next night where I had a chance to join the students, teachers and parents who defended the school in speaking. Many valid points were made at both schools about the seeming arbitrary nature of  the decisions to close down schools that are branded as “failing” whereas the criteria being used seem to be moving targets with the outcomes influenced more by political than educational issues.

Charters coveting space is often a factor, as is gentrification, both seeming to be operating factors in the decision to close the two Rockaway schools. In 12 years Bloomberg and his Chancellor agents Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott (yes the same guy running Queens libraries -   one of the political outrages since his boss Bloomberg did more harm to the library systems of this city than any mayor in decades) closed 150 schools and opened scads of new ones, with some of them ending up on failing lists. De Blasio and Chancellor Farina promised something better. While the numbers of closings are far less, they still have the same negative impact on micro communities.

The so-called “Renewal” schools – those branded as failing but given three years to improve – have come under severe attack by the forces of privatization funded by numerous hedge fund billionaires who would like to see entire public school systems turn into non-union privatized charters drinking at the trough of public money. They did that in New Orleans to disastrous effect. Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has used her billions to create another disaster in the state of Michigan while nearby Ohio suffers one charter scandal after another. Well, actually so does Arizona, California, Florida  – well I could go on but I will spare you the dirt. If interested, Google “charter school scandals” and watch the stuff spill out of your screen, like this lovely headline from the May 8, 2017 edition of Business Insider, “Are charter schools the new Enron scandal?” Oh, what fun!

You might see commercials from an astroturf group like Families for Excellent Schools – FES – I refer to them as FEH!!!! They are oh so concerned with the poor children in these renewal schools and also love to attack the teachers who are forced to reapply for their jobs or else get tossed into the permanent substitute ATR pool. Of course let’s blame the teachers, as if the people running the DOE from the top to middle management have played no role. No one’s head rolls for putting in lousy administrators to run schools or the many awful Superintendents appointed under Farina who are supposed to supervise them. I watched District 27 Supt. Mary Barton sit there stone-faced at both Rockaway hearings while children and parents pleaded for their schools.

Last week I taped an amazing event in East Harlem (District 4) – not the outright closing but the combination of two schools in one building – an elementary school, PS 7 and Global Tech Prep, a middle school. GTP was set up as a special school focused on tech in the very poor East Harlem community. The founding principal left and a teacher trusted by everyone in the school was supposed to take over to continue the vision of the school. But last April he was denied tenure and left – he is now at Harvard – and chaos reigned. Thus Farina and her Dist. 4 Supt agent of destruction, Alexandra Estrella, doomed both schools to a death spiral so they could execute a naked power play. I have loads of videos on my blog of the remarkable students challenging the DOE reps at a hearing and calling them “monsters.” Monsters indeed!

If you still think these decisions are educational and not political, check this out. Some renewal schools have been rescued and are now in a program called “RISE.” JHS 80 in the Bronx is one such school spared the ax despite repeated reports that its principal, Emmanuel Polanco, is a horror story but is being protected. Sue Edelman, one of the top education reporters in the city despite working for the often despicable NY Post, reported that JHS 80  “is an educational hellhole. Despite receiving millions in extra dollars and services, the 655-student Norwood school suffers from out-of-control students, filthy, unsafe conditions and thuggish administrators who try to keep the horrors under wraps, insiders have told authorities.” ... NY Post, Jan. 6, 2018.

Sue is by the way the niece of my former next door neighbor, Jean Mirkin, of Mirkin Vision Care fame on Beach 116th St. So Sue comes from good genes. Or Jeans.

Norm’s genes are always on display at his blog,

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