2010-01-08 / Columnists

School Scope

Resistance Is NOT Futile: Paying Bloomberg A Home Visit
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott People involved in education as parents, teachers and even students have been so outraged at the actions of BloomKlein and the Tweed Toadies, and their anger has barely been contained. In recent weeks an outlet for these passions has opened up with the idea that a rally at Bloomberg’s residence on Thursday afternoon from 4 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. would be an excellent way to: a) demonstrate to the city and the nation that there is a growing resistance to the education deform movement, with a focus on the school closings and the charter school invasion of public school spaces; and b) give participants a sense of unity and purpose for future struggles by having one big party in the streets near Bloom - berg’s residence (17 East 79 Street).

And future struggles there will be, with the next one coming just days later on January 26 at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting where all 22 announced school closings will be voted on. The meeting will be held at Brooklyn Tech HS.

One major difference in the two rallies is that the UFT is organizing the PEP rally and ignoring and actively discouraging the January 21 event, which has groups like the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the Con - cerned Advocates for Public Edu cation (CAPE), the Independent Com munity of Educators (ICE) and Teach ers for a Just Contract (TJC) among a growing list backing the rally at Bloomies. In addition, schools are signing on. Parents and teachers at PS 15 in Red Hook and Ja - maica HS have endorsed the rally and some of the closing schools may form committees to support it – if they don’t get scared off by the UFT, which has the ability to use less than subtle blackmail – “we won’t help you fight if you support this.” But people have seen the UFT do nothing, absolutely nothing to save schools from closing in the past, though this outrage of throwing 22 schools in their face by the DOE seems to have forced them to act.

My guess is, the UFT’s strategy is to try to save two or three schools and pull a Bush by having Mulgrew land a jet, exit and declare, “Mission accomplished.” The January 21 rally is significant in that people often waited for the UFT, the elephant in the room, to act first.

This time parents and teachers have been saying, “Screw the UFT. They hold their big, boring rallies with boring speakers and then go home without accomplishing anything other than use the event for narrow PR purposes,” instead of building a strategy to fight over the long run.

CAPE, GEM, ICE, and TJC are also organizing around the January 26 PEP rally, but felt that something had to be done in advance of the PEP meeting when the rubber stamp panel will undoubtedly vote in favor of closing the schools. Bloomberg’s residence as opposed to the same old City Hall/Tweed rallies seems to be capturing people’s imagination. As Jamaica’s chapter leader, James Eterno, told me, “The students want to go to Bloom berg’s house.”

That students are getting involved can turn out to be Bloom - Klein’s big gest nightmare.

You have to watch them react when students get up at meetings (see the video I put up of BCHS student leader Chris Petrillo) and criticize them (as opposed to the disdain they show to teachers). They sit up and pay rapt attention in an attempt to demonstrate that they are interested in “children first.“

A famous power house attorney is providing legal assistance since the police are violating First Amendment rights by trying to shift demos at Bloomies‘ to Fifth Avenue by Central Park where there might be fewer people impacted.

Some people worry about numbers. The organizers are not. They see this as a start, the first in a series of actions that may begin to make the case against the education deformers.

Whither Beach Channel: some politics is local, but not all.

With the Panel for Educational Policy, the Bloomberg rubber stamp poor excuse for a NYC board of education due to vote on each of the 22 closing schools at the January 26 meeting (6 p.m., sign up to speak at 5:30), which was moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn Tech, expect lots of action. The UFT is organizing an action and has gotten a permit for the park across the street from Tech for a rally at 4:30.

The new mayoral control law passed this summer forces Tweed to go through a process before closing schools, so there are meetings taking place at all 22 schools during the first two weeks of January.

The one at Beach Channel was held on the eve ning of January 6, after this column was submitted. I‘m taping it for YouTube but don’t expect much more than some venting.

Hopefully the Beach Channel staff/ - student/ parent nexus will turn out for the January 21 and January 26 demos where there is some chance to make a dent en masse.

It is important to be aware of the big picture and the Education deform plan: use any means to move as much of the public education system into private hands. Beach Channel is a victim of that plan.

The elimination of neighborhood, zoned schools under the so-called – “doesn’t everyone have the right to have choice” propaganda – is a way to destroy attachment to local schools and community and open them up to charter franchises to run the schools. It is as close to their cherished voucher system as they can get. And bet that someone is making money on these schemes.

These fights have to go beyond Beach Channel and tie in with struggles of other schools. Without a citywide fight back for all schools, something the UFT refuses to take on – preferring to let each school fight it out on its own – one school at a time will be picked off until there are few schools left under public management.

This is truly a citywide, indeed, a nationwide, fight to maintain what will become an endangered species – schools under the oversight of taxpaying citizens.

Politicians: Watch what they do, not what they say.

Given the above, there are still battles to fight on the local level. Audrey Pheffer, Eric Ulrich and Lew Simon all spoke up at the first Beach Channel meeting in December, but will they put themselves on the line to keep the school open?

Lew in his Wave column spoke about “our wonderful superintendent Mich - elle Lloyd-Bey,” who clearly drinks out of the Tweed Kool-aid trough and put on a shameless performance — and it was a performance – at the December meeting. I know you’re a politician Lew, but give me a break!

The UFT did send out a local email urging teachers to go to the January 6 meeting and asked them to call politicians to support the school. Pheffer is at 718-945-9550 and Ulrich at 718- 318-6411. There are a few politicians who have been missing in action. First President Helen Marshall 718-286- 3000 who appointed Dmytro Fedkows - kyj (pepofqueens@yahoo.com) as the Queens rep to the PEP.

He has been as big a rubber stamp as any Bloomberg flunky. It is time he stands up at the January 26 meeting and vote NO on closing Beach Channel and Jamaica HS and he should support the schools struggling to stay open in other boroughs.

There is talk about holding demos at the businesses and homes of the PEP members along with the borough presidents who control them who won’t stand up for their communities. Marshall and Brooklyn’s Marty Markowitz are particular targets (the Bronx and Manhattan borough presidents have appointed people who resist BloomKlein).

In case you forget, we have our own Geraldine D. Chapey, the elder, who has been silent as a member of the State Board of Regents. Her reappointment in 2008 after 20 mute years on the Regents left a lot of people scratching their heads.

Let’s hear her speak up to save the last neighborhood high school left in Rockaway. Send her a love note at RegentChapey@mail.nysed.gov

Finally, there’s State Senator Mal - colm A. Smith at 718-528-4290 who has his own charter school just salivating for the Beach Channel building. There has been speculation that is one of the reasons for BCHS being closed.

I know, I know, you’ve been hearing for years that Peninsula Prep is getting its own building.

All charter schools have that line. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on PPA occupying space in BCHS within two years. By the way, PPA is connected to the Victory Charter school national chain, which takes chunks of money out for “services.”

Victory’s CEO is Peg Harrington, who was in charge of all the high schools in pre-BloomKlein days. You know, those schools she ran that are being dubbed as dismal failures. Go figure. Everyone manages to get on the gravy train.

Our schools are being McDon al - dized, which is appropriate since McDonald’s is one of the largest employers in the nation and all that test prep going on is not about getting kids to go to college, but to train them to work the cash registers and not overfill the milk shake containers.

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