2001-06-23 / Columnists

School Scope by Howard Schwach

One of the mainland middle schools had its end term party last week, honoring those people who have announced their retirement. There were 12 such people honored at the party. In addition, two are leaving for other school districts and two are leaving and will get out of the education business altogether. There are at least three others who are eligible for retirement, but are waiting for the market to improve their pensions and for a new contract that would provide them with a big raise and a larger pension next year.

None of those things are going to happen, and they will probably throw in their retirement papers at the end of the summer in any case.

That school will open its doors in September with a minimum of 14 vacancies.

At another middle school in the district, this one in Rockaway, six people are retiring and several others are leaving for various reasons. I have heard that every licensed teacher in the school, with the exception of two, has filed for a UFT transfer to a school outside the district.

At yet another Rockaway middle school, nearly fifteen percent of the staff, representing about 80 percent of the experienced teachers in the school, is filing for retirement before September.

This exodus is not limited to District 27. It is common to most of the districts in the city, perhaps with the exception of District 26 in Northern Queens and District 3 in Manhattan, where teachers are really allowed to teach.

The mayor and his minions, however, continue to say that there is no teacher shortage and that reports of the shortage are only "negotiating ploys" to get the union a better contract from the city.

The mayor has his head so far in the sand that he is probably eating Chinese food at the other end. The facts are very different from the mayor’s perception.

The fact is that 477 teachers filed for retirement in the last week. Nearly 2,700 teachers have filed in this calendar year – more than all of the teachers who retired in 1999 and 2000 put together. The best estimates of the union are that between 6,000 and 7,000 teachers will retire this calendar year. That number would, by far, eclipse the number of teachers who retired in any other year in history.

That number does not include the normal attrition of teachers leaving for other school districts and for jobs outside of teaching. Add another couple of thousand for attrition.

"Despite what the mayor claims, the teacher shortage is increasing before our eyes," UFT president Randi Weingarten recently said. Last week, as we approached our contract deadline, nearly 100 teachers a day filed to leave the system. We expect the numbers to grow dramatically as the end of the school year approaches."

Not only are teachers leaving at record rates, but administrators as well.

The best that I can figure our, at least a dozen principals (out of 37) are leaving this district at the end of the school year. We have already lost a number of senior principals to attrition and to retirement.

Assistant principals are harder to figure, because there are lots more of them. I have been asking around, and it seems to me that about one-third of the experienced assistant principals are bailing out of the system for greener pastures or for retirement.

The fact of the matter is that Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties love our experienced administrators because they are good at what they do and because they are probably making less in the city with a few years experience than they will in their new jobs at the starting salary.

In the mainland school I mentioned above, one AP left for Nassau County, another for a teaching job in California (the teaching job in California pays more than the AP job in New York), one is retiring and another is going back to the classroom for reasons that I might discuss with you one day.

That leaves the school with two assistant principals rather than five, and one has to wonder where those qualified AP’s will come from. If things go as they have in this district, those administrators will come from districts such as District 15, where they are no longer welcome.

Meanwhile, Levy and his minions cannot seem to do anything right.

Nobody is sure that the "standards" for graduation or promotion really might be. They change with the weather.

Two weeks ago, the board of education called the homes of 224,000 students who were supposed to be "promotion in doubt." What they did was download the A-501 lists prepared in each school and stored on the school’s ATS computer system. The did it just a few days prior to the last quarter grades being "in the can," so the calls were based on the third quarter marks and the old test scores.

The problem being, that many of those students had passed the last quarter and were no longer "promotion in doubt." Schools were bombarded the next day with calls from angry parents, demanding to know why their kids were on a list for being held over when their kids were not failing any subjects and had passed their standardized tests.

The board finally announced that many of the calls were a mistake. They will probably do it all over again, however, in the next week or so.

Levy really has no idea of what a school all about. His mandate that no kids should be suspended out of school has largely destroyed whatever control schools had over the small percentage of kids who destroy a school’s sanity.

Levy likes the in-house program and so does District Superintendent Matt Bromme, but the program does not work for the hardcore recalcitrants.

That leaves sexual predators, firebugs, serial assaulters and other wandering the building at will.

I wrote a few months ago about "Student M," and more recently about a young man who sexually harassed and assaulted a young lady and continued to roam the building, harassing her and her friends at will. Both are gone from the school now, but only under the threat of "going to the press" and other actions.

That should not have to be. Levy has to understand that there have to be sanctions in school just as there are in real life. He obviously thinks that kids are different than adults in that matter. They are not.

This will probably be the last School Scope of the school year. I hope to see you all in this spot in September. Have a good summer and be productive. It has been a wild year.


Return to top


Email Us
Contact Us

Copyright 1999 - 2014 Wave Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved

Neighborhoods | History