Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UPDATED: Rally Feb. 21 at Tweed at 11 AM, School Scope: Similarities in Proposed Closing of Local PS 42, PS 50M (East Harlem) Expose DOE Misinformation

Here are some photos of the rally from Gloria:

I wrote this column for the Feb. 16 edition of The WAVE but it didn't make it in. I expect it to be in the Feb. 23 edition.
Also note that there will be a rally against closing schools today at 11 AM at Tweed. Unfortunately I'm stuck at home waiting for a delivery so I can't make it.

School Scope: Similarities in Proposed Closing of Local PS 42, PS 50M (East Harlem) Expose DOE Misinformation

Tuesday, Feb. 13, 12PM

I’m heading over to the PS 42 hearing and NAACP press conference later today – look for coverage in this week’s paper, which last week featured a front page piece by Ralph Mancini on the MS 53 hearing: “Teachers say they aren’t buying rationale to close MS 53.” Hell, yes, no one should buy what they are selling when they close schools, for, behind it all is the goal of dumping often higher cost teachers and low-performing students and forcing parents to send their kids further away to school in the future. Behind many school closings is gentrification – the attempt to remake a local school to be more attractive to wealthier people moving into poor neighborhoods.

Last night I went up to East 101St just off the FDR Drive and overlooking the East River to tape the PS 50 hearing and also to speak up for them as a member of MORE-CASCADE --- Coalition Against School Closings, Colocations, and Displacement Everywhere –it’s a mouthful. We intend to attend the February 28 Panel for Educational Policy vote on 14 school closings at Murry Bergtraum HS in as much force as we can muster to try to get all the schools to stand up together and say NO.

If I swapped videos from PS 42 and PS 50 (District 4, East Harlem) you might not be able to tell the difference between the schools which are so far from each other geographically, but so close in terms of experience of the staff, poverty of the children, but also facing encroaching gentrification. Current and former students spoke passionately about losing their school. Teachers exposed the faux help they received, often consisting of outside consultants pushing useless professional development (PD) (how many years of experience do you need before they stop hocking you with PD up the kazoo?) instead of infusing real resources like more teachers to reduce class size and guidance counselors and social workers to address the learning issues connected to the socio-economic gap poor kids face that hinders their progress. And the point has been made in both PS 42 and PS 50 – why are test scores the end-all and be-all while not counting progress made in closing that social gap which is a pre-cursor to breaking the learning log-jam?

I will put links to a variety of videos from both the PS 50, PS 42 and the Feb. 28 PEP hearings online for those interested in seeing some of these dramas played out.

Those of us who have been involved in closing school stories for the past decade have seen a repeated pattern. School buildings are often coveted by charters. MS 53 is occupied by Eva Moskowitz’ Success Charter. A charter is going into PS 50, along with Central Park East 2, an elite k-8 school that is being moved from two current buildings it occupies. PS 50 was targeted for disruption by the DOE – the attack included not allowing new parents to register their kids so as to dump population and then claim no one wanted to go to the school, as insidious and dirty tactic one can imagine.

A side story is that the principal of CPE2, an elite much coveted school with a large waiting list – so they won’t accept the current kids at the school, sided with the District 4 Superintendent Alexandra Estrella in a major political dispute and is being rewarded for her loyalty by getting the building. Also, across the street from PS 50 is a massive building housing another Moskowitz school. And I also noticed scaffolding going up around PS 50 to make massive improvements for the wealthier future occupants. Teachers complained that money that should have gone to help the kids instead went to cosmetics like expensive paint jobs. Note that PS 42 not too long ago had a beautiful extension attached to the old school. Why waste improvements on poor kids?

While the attendance numbers at PS 50 are significantly better t(88%) han at PS 42, their numbers are worse. Yet in the first year they tripled their reading outcome from 5% to 16% but the next year fell back to 12%. The major difference I heard at PS 50 was that the principal installed when the school became a renewal school, Esther Quinones, was a vicious terminator of teachers, attacked parents, openly lied to people, etc. – the often usual tactic used to rid the school of high priced teachers (younger, non-tenured are easy to remove – discontinue them). Imagine, in the midst of renewal and good outcomes the first year, the principal turned her guns on the staff, most likely on the orders of Superintendent Estrella, a known practitioner of that practice. At the hearing I read letters from teachers and parents talking about these policies.

One other interesting aspect about PS 50 is that its closing will eradicate one of the last memories of the man the school is named after: Vito Anthony Marcantonio (1902-1954) the most radical congressman in the 20th century ( , an open communist who makes Bernie Sanders look like a right winger. Despite that, Marcantonio, who was always on the side of the poor and fought for social justice, was consistently elected to Congress by a mixed bag of Italian immigrants (and others) and the Puerto Ricans in the community of East Harlem. An interesting mix. Marcantonio became a member of the American Labor Party in the late 30s. He was so popular, he often won the Democratic and Republican primaries, as well as the American Labor Party endorsement. He was finally defeated in 1950 due to the growing McCarthyism. (Also see: Rebel in the House: The Life and Times of Vito Marcantonio | John J ...

So the closing of PS 50 aside from all the other aspects, has this added wrinkle.

Read more Norm, if you can stand it, at

1 comment:

  1. A minor factual point: Marcantonio was not a "open Communist."

    Though he worked openly with Communists, represented them as a lawyer, was endorsed by CP front groups, and supported their causes, he was never shown to have joined the Party.

    Gerald Meyer, who wrote the definitive book on Marcantonio, claims that, while Marc was a Socialist and was sympathetic to CP positions and the importance of the Soviet Union as a counter-balance to US imperialism, he had underlying differences that resulted in him not wanting to be subject to Party discipline.

    Some people may see this as a distinction without a difference, but I thought I'd point it out.

    While closing PS 50 and the other schools is primarily a crime against the community and the people of NYC, by effacing Marcantonio's name, it's a minor crime against history, as well. What remains of the Left in this country cannot hold to rebound unless and until it looks at the lessons of Marcantonio's career and achievements.


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