2006-07-14 / Editorial/Opinion

From The Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But (Rockaway Edition)
By Howard Schwach


Nobody asked me, but... I was intrigued by the notion that police can't come into your home without a warrant but Department of Education attendance teachers can coerce their way in to check whether a kid actually lives there or not. While a DOE source tells me that nobody goes into a home without permission, parents who went through the process tell me that there is a "if you don't let us in, we know you've been lying" feeling to the discussion at the door. The "Attendance Teacher's Reference Information" book put out by the DOE's Office of Youth Development and School-Community Services gives the rules for doing an address investigation. "Conduct the home visit early in the morning" "Check to see where the child sleeps, clothing, mail, books, toothbrush, keys." "Check with other sources, ie., management, neighbors, Human Resources Administration, post office." Sounds to me that this goes deeper than an FBI background check for a prospective agent. I know that some parents have bent the rules to get their kids into what is unarguably the best elementary school in Rockaway, but the kind of investigation that the DOE orders its teachers to make seems to me to be blatantly unconstitutional, especially if coercion is used to get a foot in the door.

...The Mayor and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein want some principals to have greater control of their schools, to become relatively free of both the regional and citywide bureaucracy. That's a good idea, but the schools they choose to become Empowerment Schools are arguable two of the worst in Rockaway. And, one of the principals who will now have control over critical decisions like hiring, teacher training, curriculum and budget is, in my opinion a racial arsonist who is unfit for the job he now holds. When Claude Monereau, the principal of MS 53 in Far Rockaway was an assistant principal at Beach Channel High School he did everything in his power to become principal, including coming to The Wave office to ask for our backing. When a black woman was chosen for the job, he did everything he could to undermine her authority. When that principal left six months later, to be replaced by Barbara Pleener, a white woman, the local NAACP, of which Monereau is a member, called for a demonstration outside the building demanding that Monereau be made principal of the school. Many students walked out of classes to join the demonstration. Some started fires in the building to force the students who remained to leave the building. The situation turned racial very quickly and it also turned ugly. It was very divisive and did much to deter education in the building. When Monereau was removed from Beach Channel High School and made principal of MS 53, I called the Region Five office to register my displeasure (I worked in that building for 18 years and both my son and daughter graduated from that school). I was told that the posting was temporary, that he would be removed as soon as a principal was chosen. As you can see, that was another lie on the part of Region Five officials. Now, Monereau, who has forced many good, experienced teachers from the building with his harassing tactics, will have a virtual carte blanche in the building. What is this world coming to?

...One more ridiculous story from the Department of Education. Angela Logan, the principal of Middle School 198, a school that has been on the SURR list so long that it was closed for good in June, has received a $15,000 bonus from the DOE for her performance last year. The school will be reopened in September as PS 333, the Goldie Maple Academy. All of the teachers in the building have been excessed, but Logan remains. You can't make this up.

...All of you who believe that kids have the right to keep a cell phone in school should take a look at what happened at two of the top schools in the city during the Regents Exams just completed. Five students at Leon M. Goldstein High School and Midwood High School have been charged with using the phones to share answers with each other during the test. The majority of the students "talked" to each other during the Physics Regents, the others during the Math A Regents. There is some indication that students at a number of other schools, including some yeshivas, are also involved. This is the prime example of why cell phones have no place in school buildings. The idea that schools can confiscate the phones at the beginning of the day and return them at the end of the day creates a logistical nightmare that schools should not be forced to go through in the name of political correctness.

...We often listen to our office scanner to find out what's going on. The police, fire department bands and EMS radio bands are invaluable in keeping up with what is happening on the peninsula. Recently, however, we have had some problem figuring out what the dispatchers at the NYPD central radio office at Metrotech in Brooklyn are saying. There are some who simply cannot speak English well enough to tell cops what is happening and where. In some cases, when a real emergency arises, supervisors take over the microphones so that cops can understand where to go and what they will face when they get there. There are a number of jobs that require a candidate to speak proper English. Police and Fire Dispatcher is one of them. Teacher is another. Let's not lose sight of the fact that some cop might die on the streets because they did not understand that the dispatcher was telling them.

...Shelby Steele is a black historian and author, albeit a conservative historian and author. He has written a new book that I believe is must-reading The book is called "White Guilt." George W. Will, himself a serious conservative commentator said, "The unbearable boredom occasioned by most of today's talk about race is alleviated by a slender, stunning new book. In 'White Guilt,' Shelby Steele, America's most discerning black writer casts a cool eye on yet another soft bigotry of low expectations - the ruinous 'compassion' of a theory of social determinism that reduces blacks to, in Steele's word, 'non-individuated' creatures." Race is not destiny, Steele argues. He is right. Too often, we excuse behavior in school and in the criminal courts because of race or previous experience. There are no criminals any longer, only victims. Will says that the dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives became national policy in 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson said, "You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race and then say, 'you're free to compete with the others.' This, Steele wrote, enunciated a new social morality, that no black problem could be labeled as a black responsibility." Steele's point is that Johnson's thinking set up a paradigm where black were forever victims. Everybody should read Steele's book. Especially those who make policy for our schools .

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