Wednesday, February 28, 2018

School Scope: On Closing Schools, Janus, and West Virginia

For the March 2 edition which I submitted yesterday morning. I am working on a PEP posting - the meeting went till 2:30 AM - I ran out of batteries at 1:30 and left before 2. Rockaway schools saved for now. That will take some analysis.

School Scope: On Closing Schools, Janus, and West Virginia

Feb. 28, 9 AM

Tonight hundreds of people will be at the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting at Murry Bergtraum HS in Manhattan protesting the closing of thirteen schools, including Rockaway’s MS 53 and PS/MS 42. There will be a rally and press conference by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and MORE-CASCADE (the group I work with politically) at 5:30.

Most Rockaway politicians have sided with the schools. I even got a call from Lew Simon who was not at the recent hearings but said he will send a rep to the PEP to make a statement of support. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz also joined in, assuring the Queens PEP rep, Deborah Dillingham, will be voting against the closings. I hope she will support the non-Queens schools, since they have just as much a right to stay open at the Rockaway schools. There are 13 members, 8 appointed by the Mayor and 5 by the borough presidents. Unfortunately many PEP reps are rubber stamps for the mayor and the DOE and accept any of the crap tossed at them. If they don’t go along they can be “fired.” That is why we need elected and independent school boards, both at the local and central level.

I haven’t seen such heat around the actions of the DOE since the heavy Bloomberg school closing days c. 2009-12 when both comprehensive Rockaway high schools closed down. Now there are a bunch of small, limited resource high schools campus competing with each other for the best students and resources, each with its own principal. Under de Blasio, central DOE staff had grown by 24% while there was no growth in the number of teachers put in classrooms. I spoke at the Feb. 13 PS/MS 42 hearing about the often useless resources given to renewal schools and asked the teachers if their class sizes had gone down and some called out that they had gone up. If the DOE had wanted to really improve outcomes the simplest thing to do would be to add 10 teachers to the school and put them in small size classrooms or as a 2nd teacher in big classes.

I taped the entire hearing in two parts of an hour each (, and extracted short segments. There were so many great statements by parents (see two of them on, children, teachers (chapter leader John Krattinger:, two reps from the NAACP ( ), and UFT leaders ( Many parents talked about how important it was to keep the teachers who have been so supportive. Yet the entire staff faces deportation to other schools or becoming a member of the itinerant ATR corps where they become high priced substitutes and often find their careers in ruins. When Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose mumbled that the children would have the right to return to the new schools, she ignored calls of “what about the teachers” other than to say they could apply for jobs in the new schools. Long time observers of DOE closing school policy believe a major goal is dumping higher priced teachers for newbies at half the price.

When Carmen Farina showed up at PS/MS 42 to sell the new schools to parents two days later at 4PM just as the school was closing down for the holiday week, only two or three parents showed up, reinforcing the point that they didn’t want new schools with new teachers. What are the big “innovations” in the replacement schools? Two principals instead of one, teaming each one with a partner school in Queens that is considered “successful,” and focusing on STEM. Jeez, all of that could have been accomplished without the drama by just keeping the school open. The real reasons are to replace many of the students and teachers no matter what they say. Check real estate values around the school.

Why listen to parents or teachers or students? Farina and the DOE have their own agenda. As a matter of fact, the entire education “school choice” privatization agenda is about getting the union out of schools so teacher salaries can be lowered. Right now I’m watching a segment on CBS about how teacher salaries have been dropping around the country, especially in right to work states where unions are weakest. The recent 5-day state-wide teacher strike in West Virginia closed down every school in the state and teachers won a 5% increase in pay. Strikes are illegal in West Virginia, as they are in NY State.

You may have heard of the Janus case before the Supreme Court this week, where the expected ruling will be to turn every state, including ours, into a right to work state. Watch the teacher shortages all over the nation grow, especially in a time of full employment. The day will come where principals will drive around in pickup trucks to places like Home Depot to pick up teachers to staff their schools for the day.

Norm keeps slogging and blogging at

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