2009-06-26 / Columnists

School Scope

Is The School Year Over Already?
Commentary by Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott Even though retired for seven years, my year still runs on school time. But when you sit in a garden all day, you can lose track of the days. Or months. People who go into teaching early in life have lived by that schedule from the age of five till fifty-five or more.

I've lost track of how many years I've been doing School Scope, so this final column of the school year is a time to take stock of the education scene in New York and beyond. When I began this column education was barely a blip on the radar screen. It has now become one of the number one topics. The other day my blog received almost 700 hits, the biggest day ever. One of the visitors was listed as coming from the executive office of the president of the USA. Someone was probably just looking for porno and wandered in by mistake. I do write a lot about the rubber room and get some strays.

In our own city, the craziness at the state legislature has intertwined with the renewal of mayoral control.

I have never had any doubts the mayor would retain control of the schools so he can continue his disastrous stewardship, which will only get worse in his third term. Basically, the entire discussion is about tweaking, basically throwing a few minor obstacles on the mayor's way. On the other side is a small minority of activists, of which I am one, who are fighting to end it and go back to a system of local control that is much better managed than the old community school board system. I'd rather tweak that model than a dictatorship. I'm predicting that in four years the tweakers will be in retreat and we will rise.

One of the major goals of the tweakers is to put some teeth into the Panel for Educational Policy, the rubber stamp board of education. The lone voice of dissent belongs to Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough rep. At a recent illegally called meeting, Patrick said, "The folks and parents of Manhattan do not expect me to be a rubber stamp. The borough president didn't send me here to be a potted plant." As for our Queens rep Dmytro Fedkowskyj, make sure to water him.

Randi Weingarten is announcing she's leaving the UFT to run the AFT (into the ground) full-time. Mike Mulgrew will replace her. My group, ICE, along with TJC, has chosen James Eterno, 23-year teacher and longtime chapter leader at Jamaica HS, to oppose him.

There's so much to write about, it's best I stop right here and refer you to my blog, where I will continue to post on the numerous issues in education and beyond during the summer. I will leave you with this great satire written by Queens parent Gary Babab, which is posted on the NYC Public School Parents blog. Have a great summer.

GBN News Editorial: Point Taken As is now apparent, for the last six years NY City public school students, parents and teachers have been privileged to participate in a massive, city-wide social science experiment, the purpose of which was to demonstrate through real life experience the pitfalls of totalitarian rule. The idea was the brainchild of NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, authorized by the State Legislature, and implemented by a prominent attorney who somehow ended up heading the city Department of Education. The purpose and nature of the experiment was not, of course, revealed to the participants, and was presented to the public simply as "educational reform." But now that the project has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams, those who created it are seeking to extend its duration for another few years.

In conception and execution the experiment was brilliant. Until now, schoolchildren were only able to learn about the horrors of totalitarianism second hand. While books like "1984" and films like "Bananas" can seem almost like real, they are no substitute for one's own experience.

Through the genius of Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg, New Yorkers have now had the opportunity to see first hand what happens when contracts are given out without oversight (the Alvarez and Marsal school bus debacle, for one); when an elected official can fire a voting board member at will to get his way (PEP vote on social promotion); when a duly enacted law is openly flaunted (CFE class size lawsuit; City Council law overturning cell phone ban); when schools are precipitously closed or forced to house charters regardless of the will of the community; and when a wealthy elected official uses his fortune to overturn the clear will of the voters on term limits and run for another term.

And they said it "couldn't happen here." But now that the point has been made, and that it is obvious to everyone that this has all been just an elaborate lesson in civics, we see no useful purpose in its continuation. It is the opinion of this space that despite their desire to carry on the experiment, the only way to truly cement the legacy of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein is to end Mayoral control of the schools, replace it with a more inclusive system, and thus drive home once and for all the contrasts between democracy and a banana republic.

Norm blogs at http://ednotesonline .blogspot.com/Email: Normsco @gmail. com

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