2010-11-12 / Columnists

School Scope

Commentary By Norman Scott

Joel Klein is so accommodating. I was just about to sit down and write another inconsequential and undecipherable column as deadline approached when the phone rang. “Norm, it’s Joel. I’m thinking of resigning. Am I too late to make your column? I’ll hold off for two weeks if I missed your deadline.” (That guy doesn’t make a move without consulting me first.) Despite my overwhelming sadness, I told him it was fine to resign.

“What’s your next move Joel? Why not try brain surgery? You know as much about that as you do about education.” Joel went on and on about his options before dropping the Big One. “Rupert? Rupert who?” I said. “Oh, that Rupert. But you know nothing about business or effective management or inspiring people. I mean, Joel, you know I love ya, but frankly, in eight years you have taken the NYC public school system down a hell hole.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Test scores and grad rates and the achievement gap and all that crap. I hate to tell you this Joel, but it was all false by just about every piece of data we have. Ha, ha, ha, ha – I know you love it when I use the D word.”

Joel hung up happy while I cried my eyes out. I must have been the only one who was sad as cell phones all over the city exploded with shouts of joy emanating from the ranks of NYC parents and teachers. He was so polarizing and despised by all, we had no better organizing force.

My biggest fears were that Bloomberg would appoint someone with heavy credentials, like a Black or a Latino/a with a PhD. An ed deformer in drag who would fool communities into thinking they were going to be represented. But not to worry. Bloomberg came through and picked a white businesswoman who ran magazines and worked for Hearst. Phew! What a relief. Cathie Black – which do you like better – BloomBlack or BlackBloom – will be just a new face with the same old agenda. Sort of an Arne Duncan, less polarizing type, which to my mind as an organizer of opposition to the ed deform agenda, is a negative.

Cathie Black Cathie Black Black has even less educational experience than Joel (he actually taught briefly in the 60s when so many men entered teaching to avoid the draft) and she also needs a waiver from the State Ed Department since she is not qualified to be left alone with a class of children.

Calls have already begun to deny her a waiver. Good luck with that as Regents head Meryl Tisch and State Ed head David Steiner are in Bloomie’s pocket. But go ahead and sign the petition just to make a point. [See side barnote letter below.]

There is lots of speculation out there about whether Joel was pushed or jumped on his own. One person wrote, The only theory I’ve heard so far, from a DOE employee, was he saw the thing was falling apart and got out while the money was good.

But others say that even Bloomberg had enough. The NY Times said, One of the first concrete signs that Mr. Klein was not long for the job was the appointment of Sharon L. Greenberger as the Education Department’s chief operating officer in April — something that, according to the official, “was imposed over Joel’s objection.”

Leave it to Leonie Haimson to sum up Joel’s eight years as quoted in the Times article:

“He is leaving us with a legacy of classroom overcrowding, communities fighting over co-located schools, kindergarten waiting lists, unreliable school grades based on bad data, substandard credit recovery programs and our children starved of art, music and science — all replaced with test prep,” said Leonie Haimson, the head of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group and a critic of Mr. Klein’s.

With the next Panel for Educational Policy meeting coming up at Brooklyn Tech on November 16, Joel’s intemperate leaving leaves us with a feeling of loss since the Real Reformers (as opposed to the phony reformers Joel Klein led) planned to appear with their red capes stamped with the RR Real Reformer logo to perform their rap song, “Will the Real Reformers Please Stand Up?” Well, the show will go on with a performance scheduled in front of the entrance to Tech at 5:30.

Klein leaves school closing mayhem

Joel isn’t leaving without starting the ball rolling on the crop of 47 schools on the closing list that are coming under attack. Of course we know that Beach Channel is cooked, as is Jamaica HS, whose chapter leader, James Eterno, is still fighting mad. He posted an excerpt from his chapter newsletter on the ICE blog. Titled “Department Of Ed Starves Jamaica And Then Sends Reviewers To Criticize Us For Being Malnourished,” Eterno says, “I compare our plight to being in a prison where the warden cuts our food ration by 30% and then complains that we are too skinny.” Of course the same analogy applies to Beach Channel.

I went to an early morning rally/demo at targeted John Dewey High School in Coney Island, a school once a jewel of the system that attracted students from all over the city. Dewey and the recently closed Lafayette HS bear similarities to the Far Rocakway/Beach Channel situation where one school is closed and the next school down the line becomes the target for starvation and closure, part of strategy of intentionally destroying large high schools – a falling domino effect of destruction. Expect John Adams HS in Ozone Park to be the next target. I made a short 4-minute video of the Dewey demo that in just a few days received 3000 hits. You can see a bunch of videos in addition to an advocacy toolkit for fighting back at the GEM blog http://-grassrootseducationmovement. blogspot.com/

How Odd

Well, I have become increasingly immersed in rehearsals at the Rockaway Theatre Company for my first acting performance as “Vinny the card player” in the upcoming production of “The Odd Couple.” I even ride the subways muttering my lines. The other day, a young fellow sat down catty corner to me. On the surface he appeared a bit menacing so I nudged away a bit. I took out my playbook and started studying. I practically leaped out of my seat when he tapped me. “Are you in ‘The Odd Couple?“ he asked. I told him I was an amateur and it was my first role. He broke out into the biggest smile. “It’s ‘The Odd Couple,’ man. That is wonderful.” He seemed so happy for me. Turns out he is an actor who just moved to NY. I told him about the great work at the RTC and he should check it out. My stop came up and I had to get off but I’m sure we would have had a great chat. “Check it out. The play is at the great community theater at the RTC in Rockaway at Fort Tilden,” I called as the door closed.

When Norm is not riding the subway trying out his lines on strangers, he blogs at http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/. His email is normsco@gmail.com.

* * * * * * * *

Norm urges that the following letter be sent to Education Commissioner David Steiner. Send the letter below to the Education Commissioner at his Albany office, (89 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12234).

Dear Commissioner David M. Steiner,

Today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his appointment of Cathie Black to replace Joel Klein as Chancellor of New York City Schools. Ms. Black, currently executive vice president of Hearst Magazines, lacks the required educational and professional qualifications for the position of Schools Chancellor as determined by state law.

As a result, she will require a waiver from your office in order to accept the appointment.

The children, parents, and educational community of New York City deserve a leader with experience in education.

Ms. Black’s corporate experience may well qualify her for executive positions in business, but the education of our children and the training of our teachers is not corporate business. We urge you, as an educator, to: ~Deny the necessary waiver for Ms. Black’s appointment ~Reaffirm the qualification requirements for NYC Schools Chancellor

This is the link: http://www.petitiononline.com/DenyWaiv/

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