Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Video: Supporting Global Tech at Today's PEP, CPE1 Will Be in the House and More Student, Teacher Voices

Part 2 of the awesome student voices - (Part 1 is here). OMG - some of the most amazing students comments - lead off by this girl - a Muslim immigrant from Africa who just blows us away -- but one after another - all 5 of them -- heartrending stories of how Global Tech staff and fellow students became their family. A kid bullied in his old school, a girl from the  projects whose brother was shot, a girl who behaved so badly she was tossed out of class regularly, a kid whose family was dysfunctional but Global Tech got her through it.

And some disdain for the DOE.
MUST SEE 11 minutes.

After viewing read the comments by founding principal Chrystina Russell being read tonight at the PEP which will vote to merge the schools no matter what these students, some of whom will be there tonight, along with their former teachers (their video will be going up later).

The DOE notes that teachers left for "professional" reasons. If escaping unethical behavior, bullying, intimidation, and educational professionalism is what the DOE calls "professional" reasons, the organization is in a very sad state. Estrella as a leader has not only destroyed the education of the students at GTP, she's also damaged the teachers that worked so hard to get the results GTP does. ... founding Principal Chrystina Russell

The UFT response to these attacks has been -- well, problematical - and I will address that in a follow-up post tomorrow based on a resolution we brought to the UFT Ex Bd this past Monday when District 4 rep Servia Silva, a pal of Supt Estrella, pretty much used the same argument the DOE used by saying none of the teachers - almost all replacements for those who left or were pushed out -- didn't oppose the merger.

The MORE CASCADE committee is meeting at 4:30 to strategize for the meeting.
Dear PEP, 

It's a bit ironic to write you for a vote on a merger that has already happened. Writing almost makes me feel ashamed--as if I'm a cog pretending the DOE's process of public transparency, comments, and voting are real. PEP, please be aware that you are voting on a merger that has already occurred under the guise of, "sharing best practices." This is a false process. The merger has happened with zero community input. 

At the beginning of this school year, the school offices and classes were combined into one. The technology that was so well utilized at GTP was spread across the school and now has no management to enable the students to use the technology. Violence has grown in the school, with an increased need for police presence. Folks from the superintendent's office have to cover classes because of this merger that happened before you're voting tonight. Most devastating has been the impact on students with IEPs. GTP had 40% special education students, and they are now sitting in combined PS 7 classes, with several 12:1 students in general education classes. Their needs aren't being met, all because Alex Estrella wants to march forward with the orders given to consolidate without any consideration of what's best for children. As a former bilingual special education teacher, I find this reprehensible. 

Since the merger has already happened at the beginning of this school year, completely violating the due process rights of the community, there's a chance to understand what you're voting on--the school is already merged and has resulted in:
  • Disarray and violence
  • IEP needs not being met
  • Parental dissatisfaction
  • Low staff morale and feelings of disempowerment by both PS 7 and GTP staff
  • A low-quality learning environment that disrespects the students that need it most--those of color and with disabilities. 
  • Classrooms without teachers
The DOE itself comments: 
"The NYCDOE recognizes that students from Global Technology and P.S. 7 are combined in some classes due to teaching vacancies. The administrative teams at Global Technology and P.S. 7 are actively searching for candidates to fill the current special education vacancies to ensure that all students’ mandates are met." 

This is clear evidence that the DOE knows students with special education needs are not receiving the services mandated by their IEPs. WHY are there vacancies? Because when the GTP community would not agree with Estrella's attempts to merge the school in 2015-2016. From there, she terrorized the award-winning teacher and principal of the school. 

This was all to put into motion to merge the schools. And now that she's terrorized staff and combined the schools, special education students are paying the price. This is despicable. 

The DOE notes that teachers left for "professional" reasons. If escaping unethical behavior, bullying, intimidation, and educational professionalism is what the DOE calls "professional" reasons, the organization is in a very sad state. Estrella as a leader has not only destroyed the education of the students at GTP, she's also damaged the teachers that worked so hard to get the results GTP does. 

"The DOE commends the work of Superintendent Estrella". Is this with the exception of when she sold her house to a teacher and got fined 3k by the DOE? The DOE COMMENDS this kind of decision making? It's the same neurons she used to decide to sell a house to a teacher that were used to terrorize all teachers so that she force this merger, thereby special education needs are not being met. This is NOT commendable. What kind of standards is the DOE using these days? This is despicable--the students of East Harlem need and deserve better. While Estrella is a terrible leader, the DOE is the real culprit in this case, given that they support such substandard leadership. 

The comments note: "Issac Newtown" is a technology-based school in response to the community's concerns that GTP is the only tech-based option in the district. If the technological environment of Isaac Newton is the standard of what's acceptable for poor black and brown kids these days, then there's no question why there's such a deep digital divide. Never, ever would Isaac Newton be considered to meet the standards of wealthy children in this city or any city. I am truly offended and insulted that the DOE would have the audacity to claim that Isacc Newton meets the technological learning needs of the students of East Harlem. Once again, the DOE is showing through its actions in this merger a deep disrespect of a low-income community of color. Let it be known, undoubtedly, that closing GTP is taking the only high-quality technological school option. Pretending there's a substitute is a lie and shows blatant disrespect of the kind of education the students of East Harlem deserve. 

Given that GTP is the only tech-based option and served students with special needs well, the DOE needs to explain why it is being combined with PS 7, rather than PS 7's middle school being combined with GTP. There has been no reasoning or evidence provided as to why this hasn't been considered, nor has the isolated data of both middle schools been analyzed. 

The proposal notes that, "GTP can benefit from Hunter". GTP has ALWAYS had many programs: PENCIL, softball, Stuyvesant Prep, previous collaborations with Hunter, Citizen Schools, private business supports, track, etc. Any programs that have been removed from GTP are because of Estrella. To pretend this is about bringing resources to GTP when the school has been stripped under Estrella's leadership shows yet again a deep disrespect of disempowered low income students of color. 

Last, the public comments neglect to include the fact that Ann Weiner and Jacqueline Pryce-Harvey also put in requests to have their comments read at the hearing. Their requests were not honored. The record should reflect that they were not given access to speak at this event, and the options offered by the office of accessibility were not given at the hearing. 

PEP, the process in front of you is a facade. The merger has already happened, and the puppetry is in this voting. Stand up for the students of East Harlem. They deserve better. 

Chrystina Russell

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