1999-07-17 / Columnists

School Scope

by Howard Schwach

In a recent column I wrote that one of the focal points of Al Stabile’s anger at Superintendent Brenda Isaacs was that he wanted her to appoint supervisors of his choosing, and she refused. Isaacs, to her credit, contacted me to tell me that this is not true. "While I will not comment on the contents of the column in its entirety and the opinions you express, " she says, " I will comment on one particular area about which I have direct knowledge. Al Stabile and I have had divergent opinions on some issues in the past, but the councilman has NEVER (emphasis is hers) asked me to place an administrator of his choice in any school in this district. Since I am the only person who can comment on your statement with accuracy, I am requesting that a retraction and correction be printed related to the statement you made."

I guess that I have to apologize once more to Al, but I heard that he had asked for supervisors to be placed in particular schools on more than one occasion. I guess that my informants were wrong. In addition, I have heard Al say in public that one of the things wrong with Isaac is that she "does not appoint the right supervisors." That reinforced my belief that he was asking her for appointments and she was turning him down.

Just goes to show you that 2 plus 2 does not always equal four, especially in local school politics.

As I write this, there is still no definitive word on who will replace Isaac in the superintendent’s seat. Rudy Crew recently appointed Thelma Baxter, the principal of Roosevelt High School, as the new superintendent of District 5 in Harlem, replacing Askia Davis, whom he had removed on the same day that Isaac retired.

The school board still thinks that it has the right to choose an acting super and then to go through the process of finding an appointed superintendent. I think that the chancellor will beat them to the line.

Who he will pick is anybody’s guess. Right now he is preoccupied with the issue of "Social Promotion" and building a program of summer camps for students. He reportedly wants all of the 362,000 kids who will need remediation next year to get it away from the city in one camp or another. At $1,600 a kid, that is certainly one expensive camping experience.

Kevin Boyle does not want to send me to camp, but he does want to debate my column about parochial reading scores.

Kevin is right that I usually disdain reading scores. Everyone else, including the parochial schools, however, point to the low scores of the city schools and laugh. Now that there is evidence that many parochial schools have lower scores than their neighborhood public counterparts, they do not seem to be laughing quite as loudly. That was once called "being hoisted on your own petard." You can check out the historic allusion.

Kevin says that "parents acknowledge that public schools do a comparable job (as far as reading scores) but I think that he is wrong. I never heard a parochial school parent admit that any public school was anything but "the dumps." He wants to factor in things like "safety and community." I agree, but I think that he has it all wrong. The ideals of "Community" and "Little d democracy" are antithetical to the parochial school movement. They require that all members of the "community" mix together, get to know each other, come to respect each other. Kevin’s idea of "community is, well, a parochial one. Real "community" is not one group of people isolating themselves from all other groups, even for the purpose of "family bike rides and school plays, picnics and card parties." It is one group interacting with another so that there is mutual respect and understanding.

I have to admit that the parochial schools are safer than the public schools. There are a lot of reasons for that, including the fact that the parochial school have the option of getting rid of disruptive and dangerous students while the public schools do not have that option. There is no doubt that the parochial school atmosphere is calmer and more conducive to doing school work. The public schools need metal detectors and it may not be long before the parochial schools do as well. All of those shootings in Middle America both inside and outside of schools were not the doing of crazed minorities, but nice, religious kids who could not take society any longer and decided to kill all of those who were somehow "different." Who was different? Those groups with which they had little contact – Blacks, Asians, Jews, etc. Those students who pulled out their rifles and began blasting away were as isolated in their public schools as our parochial school students are in their local schools.

It will not be long, Kevin, because you can run, but you cannot hide!


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