2011-01-21 / Columnists

School Scope

Condomnation
Commentary By Norman Scott

There’s an old story floating around that years before he became Mayor when a female employee of Bloomberg informed him of her need to go on maternity leave, he urged her to have an abortion and reputedly said, “Kill it.” Apparently she wasn’t the only one he told that to and there was some kind of lawsuit by a group of female employees. People were connecting some dots when his handpicked Chancellor Cathie Black just a few days after taking over for Joel Klein made her now famous “can’t we have some birth control” comment to a mostly white parent group in Tribeca when they raised the issue of severe school overcrowding. I can imagine in the social circles Black and Bloom run in there must often be conversations going on about how the lower classes breed like bunnies and deserve class sizes over 30 while Black and Bloom sent their own kids to schools with no more than 15 (or less) in a class. Oh, the riff raff.

Would Black have dared made a “control your breeding” comment in certain communities outside Tribeca where she might have been outside her comfort zone? She is so arrogant and clueless in taking a job she is so eminently unsuited for I wouldn’t be surprised.

Bloomberg, who is never sorry for anything, must be regretting his decision to choose Black. Is there no educator more competent than Black in an entire school system of people who manage all kinds of things way more complicated than anything Cathie Black has managed? Just think of what it takes for a principal to manage a high school with 300 teachers and 4000 students, while the most people Black has managed is about 2000. Even a teacher managing a classroom is a skilled manager.

Bloomberg actually had to apologize, pointing out that Black’s booboo was due to the fact that she is used to the private sector (duh) where you can easily make racist tinged jokes and get away with it. Bloomberg didn’t address Black’s holocaust gaffe which she made at the very same meeting just a few seconds after the birth control comment when a parent asked about the policy of favoring charter schools over public schools. As reported by the Tribeca Tribune (which also has video up of Black’s remarks):

Following the 35-minute listening session, Black’s one-minute response was tempered with warnings of “tough sledding ahead” in anticipation of an austere state budget due Feb. 1 and a reminder that she has had similar “conversations” with parents all around the city. But it also contained another line seized upon by the press and the chancellor’s critics. “I don’t mean this in any flip way. It is many Sophie’s choices,” she said, in a reference to the book and film in which a mother in Auschwitz must decide which of her two children will die.

There was even greater outrage in some circles over even referencing the decisions she faces as in any way comparing to Sophie’s choice. Wow! All this in only one minute. Boy do Bloomberg’s PR people have their work cut out for them. The easiest thing would be to throw a blanket over Black.

With Black facing her first Panel for Educational Policy meeting on January 19 some activists planned to toss condoms at her – condemnation by condom

(condomnation) – but cancelled when a parent tested the physics and found “regrettably – the little buggers don’t have enough weight to propel far enough in order to span the distance between our audience seats and the stage.” Oh, well. I’m glad things won’t be thrown as I will be covering the meeting for The Wave. Besides, two PEP members, Manhattan’s Patrick Sullivan and the Bronx’ Monica Major, are on our side. (Unfortunately, our own Queens rep is mostly missing in action.)

There have been lots of comments over what is now being termed “Cathie’s choice,” where she will favor charters over public schools, cut budgets to the bone and accelerate the attacks on teachers and the union with a particular focus on ending “last in first out” - LIFO - when layoffs come. If Black and Bloom get their way, with the help by the way of Governor Cuomo, that will effectively end tenure protections.

Layoffs will hit the highest paid teachers even though the end of LIFO is being advertised as keeping better younger teachers, who may cheer this policy but if they stay in the system will one day find themselves in the same position, as one public school after another is closed down and replaced by non-union charters.

I missed last week’s closing school hearing at Beach Channel HS because I was in Florida but reports came in that it was pretty depressing as people have pretty much given up. The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the group I helped found, sent a rep to the meeting. That she is a 3rd year teacher under 25 and was willing to schlep out to Rockaway is quite impressive and a sign that something is brewing amongst some younger teachers who I’ve been meeting. GEM is part of the “Ad Hoc Committee to Stop Closing Schools” and she was there to promote two activities: The January 21 Fight Back Friday where schools around the city were urged to “Wear Black and Take OUR Schools Back!” to be followed by a press conference at Tweed where an invitation will be delivered to Cathie Black to attend a rally outside City Hall on January 27 to hear the concerns of parents, teachers and students (there will be no condoms attached).

The sham of the school closing mania has been revealed time and again – that this is about real estate, market based ideology, and the hounding out of the system of the highest paid teachers who are left scrambling for jobs after their schools close. Unfortunately, most of these teachers, instead of joining with others to fight back for their dignity and for public education, all too often develop a hangdog victim mentality. With the UFT unable (and at times unwilling) to stop the assault, people are left defenseless. Thus the rationale for the Grassroots Education Movement (gemnyc@gmail.com.)

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