2002-03-30 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

From the Editor's Desk by Howard Schwach

Something is rotten at PS 114, but that has been true for many years. The favoritism and cronyism that went on for years in terms of teacher assignment and student placement is an old story. It was a dark "secret" that was known by all, but never addressed. Then, the long-time principal retired and the secret began to unravel. The incoming principal had the temerity to give the top class to a teacher other than the one who had it for years. Word started to spread that the teacher who had the class was incompetent. The teacher who lost the class reportedly went so far as to contact the parents of the students who were scheduled for that class the following year to tell them that they shouldn't allow their children to be in that teacher's class. The new principal tried to buck the flow and was run out of the school. A small group of teachers, parents and grandparents including a school board member, have run that school for years, riding roughshod over teachers, administrators, district officials and everybody else. Teachers who don't fit the group's sensibilities are sued, vilified, their rooms are ransacked. Teacher assignments to specific classes and student placements are reportedly vetted by this group prior to approval by the school administration. Perhaps this has ended with the appointment of a new principal this year, but it certainly does not sound that way.

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Adelaide Sanford wanted to be the Chancellor of the State Board of Regents. The Regents voted 12-4 however, for somebody else. Sanford says that it is because she is Black and the other candidate is White. Playing the race card is nothing new for the former Brooklyn school principal. The reason she lost, however, had more to do with her "educational agenda" than it did with her race.

Sanford favors giving some Regents test using Ebonics – Black English—rather than in Standard English.

She favors discontinuing standards for admission and for keeping the remedial program at our city universities, lowering the standards and keeping people who deserve a seat in a four-year school from getting it. There should be no remedial programs necessary at our four-year schools.

She has argued that Black people are more susceptible to drug addiction because of their skin pigment.

In 1988, when she was asked if something she wanted to do would help White children as well as Black children," she answered, "White children are not on my agenda."

I think that we are lucky that she did not get appointed as Chancellor.

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Which school on the peninsula has the lowest reading scores? If you guessed that one of the local public schools fill that bill, you are wrong. The peninsula school with the lowest reading scores is St. Mary's Star of The Sea School in Far Rockaway. In fact, only ten percent of the eighth grade students in the school are reading on grade level and only five percent are on grade level in Mathematics. While those are the lowest scores, many parochial schools (including Jewish schools) failed to do as well as their public school neighbors. St. Francis de Sales School in Belle Harbor did well, but still not as well as PS 114, only blocks away. Perhaps parents should start to take a look at scores and the price they are paying for parochial school education, not only in monetary terms, but in educational terms as well.

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Speaking of parochial schools, there is a Muslim school that has a map of the Middle East with Israel crossed off and Palestine written in its place. One of the most-used Muslim School textbooks in that school and in others right here in Queens says that one sign that "Judgment Day" is coming is that "Muslims will fight and kill Jews."

Now, I don't know about you, but I would rather that my tax money not be used for that kind of "education." That is what will happen, however, if a voucher program is put in place. Public tax money will go for students in schools that spew that garbage and I don't think that any of us wants any part of that kind of education.

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Why is everybody so surprised that school districts in Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk Counties are "poaching" in New York City schools. The city has the best-trained teachers in the nation, teachers who can beat adversity to teach their subject. Scarsdale High School has been actively wooing teachers at Bronx Science, one of the best schools in the nation. Why not? A teacher in the suburban school begins at $41 thousand a year and moves quickly to more than $103 thousand. A similar teacher in this city begins at $32 thousand and moves to $70 thousand. If you were a top teacher at Bronx Science and somebody offered you a $33 thousand raise to move to a suburban school, what would you do?

* * * * *

Brooklyn Borough President has made Coney Island his priority. He has pledged to turn our neighboring beach into the borough's "newest hot spot." I have not heard a word from Helen Marshall since she took office and vowed that she "loves Rockaway." Will that love translate into anything akin to Marty Markowitz's promise for Coney Island. I'll bet that it does not. In January, for example, Marshall promised a "Rockaway Task Force." It is now almost April. Have you heard of anybody being appointed to that task force? I haven't!

* * * * *

Anybody who lived through the 1970's will remember what massive budget cuts did to city schools. We are about to experience the 1970's all over again, but it is expected to be worse this time around. There is a possibility that upwards of 300 teaching positions will have to go to make up the $10 million shortfall in this district. That amounts to 8 or 9 teachers per school. That will not happen, of course, because Project Arts teachers, district coordinators and the like will probably go first, but the numbers are staggering. It is time for all parents to get in touch with their state and city representatives to tell them how devastating these cuts will be to children.

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