2011-04-15 / Columnists

School Scope

Phee-Asko
Commentary By Norman Scott

If you don’t know what the title of this column refers to you have not been a regular reader. Just consider it your phonics lesson of the day. But all is not lost for Cathie Black. I have decided to hire Black as the publisher of my blog Education Notes, thus giving her an opportunity to combine her vast experience in publishing with all she learned in her three months in the world of education. Cathie and I have a lot in common – we’re both 66. She asked, “If I were a guy, would I have had the pounding that I did?” I assured her she would be treated just like a guy. And when she complained about all those unflattering shots of her that appeared in the press, I was careful to tell her she could pick any photos she wanted to use. When she compared the experience as Chancellor to trying to learn Russian in a weekend, I jumped at the opportunity and put Black in charge of translating Ed Notes for the Russian market.

The same people who praised Bloomberg for appointing Black are giving him credit for acting quickly once he realized he made a teeny-weeny mistake by dropping an atom bomb on more than one million school children – Bloomie, our own Dr. Strangelove. Want to see a list of people who jumped on board? Check out this link on my blog: http://ednotes online.blogspot.com/2011/04/whyoppose walcott-waiverlist-in.html. We haven’t heard from Oprah or Whoopie since Black left.

Rather than get into the details of the Black/Walcott switch, here is a selection of headlines from Gotham Schools with the publishing source in parentheses.

Once tightly organized, the city Department of Education after Cathie Black’s tenure is in disarray. (Times)

Black’s downfall highlights the reality that the education reform debate is deadlocked. (Times) City government employees had bets placed on when Bloomberg would fire Black. (Post)

Dennis Walcott was part of all of Bloomberg’s education decisions except the one to hire Black. (Post)

Walcott fielded the City Council’s questions but didn’t impress the UFT’s Michael Mulgrew. (Times)

The city is positioning Walcott as Black’s opposite, but their policies are no different. (Daily News)

Walcott spent part of his first day fielding questions on teacher layoffs. (Wall Street Journal)

Congregants at a Brooklyn church backed Walcott, but worried about their local schools. (Times, Post)

Having to reprint diplomas twice this year because of the chancellor switches is costly for the city. (Post)

Michael Goodwin: Bloomberg is dismissive of public opinion, so Black’s firing was a good step. (Post)

Andrew Wolf: Walcott represents just a continuation of Klein’s and Black’s policies. (Daily News)

A city education reporter says schools chancellors aren’t relevant under mayoral control. (City Room)

Mike Lupica: Black’s hire was like when George Steinbrenner hired a football coach. (Daily News)

I particularly recommend the Lupica piece where he reminds us, “It’s easy to forget that before [Bloomberg] spent a fortune buying his job in City Hall, people thought of him as a kind of a jerk. Rich and successful, but a wise guy with a big ego who thought he was the smartest guy he ever met.”

That about sums up the entire Black & Bloom Phee-Asko. Co-locos go on and on

I go to many co-location hearings where the DOE attempts to shoehorn a favored charter school into a public school building. Then a month later, the Panel for Educational Policy meeting ignores public school voices and rubber stamps whatever Tweed wants them to do. These hearings and meetings all run together — sort of like being stuck in the Tweed version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” (At least Bill Murray gets the girl in the end.) The advocates for the charter school are often bused in, given scripts and sometimes food and signs that claim they are public schools even though profitmaking corporations often manage them. And they all wear the same tee shirts. And of course, the entire neighborhood has been inundated with posters, doorknob hangers, fliers and direct mailings promoting the charter school so they can claim there is so much demand. You just have to watch the charter school overseers (I’ve heard the term “plantation” used in conjunction) scurry around with their Blackberries in hand – funny how they and the Tweedies all look alike – but then again ...

The defenders of the public school try to rally their troops. In some neighborhoods they are severely outgunned. But once in a while I go to a hearing where there is serious pushback. On April4IattendedahearingatLincoln HS where the parents and teachers of the three current schools occupying the IS 303 building (IS 303, Rachel Carson HS and a District 75 Special Ed school) came out in force to fight the DOE attempt to add Coney Island Prep Charter as a fourth school in the building. They marched with a big crowd to Lincoln, where of course they found that the charter school people were already on line to get first dibs as speakers. I taped much of the meeting and have put videos up on my blog. It really is like being in a science fiction movie. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

Speaking of movies, we are reaching the final stage of our response to the anti-teacher, anti-union film, “Waiting for Superman,“ directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim of “The Inconvenient Truth.“

The premiere of our film will be screened at the Riverside Church in Manhattan on May 25 and we are proud to have Diane Ravitch on our panel. (Diane was gracious enough to grant me an exclusive interview for the film and she is one of the more important and knowledgeable people innvolved in the debate over highstakes testing and what that meand for education.)

We are still editing the most recent interviews I did with former charter school parents who have left their schools with harrowing accounts of how they and their children were treated.

Our no-budget movie has been created solely by teachers and parents and we are offering copies for people to use in house and school parties as a way to counter the propaganda juggernaut of WFS, which was funded by Gates, Broad and other corporate ed deformers. Both movies were shown in Harlem at the Maysles Cinema a few weekends ago and I finally got to see WFS and thought it was a poorly made film beyond just the content and misleading information – millions of dollars that could have gone into school classrooms instead of being used for propaganda purposes.

So far our one-hour film has had a very positive response. It cost us time and energy but no one wants to make a dime off it. Basically, we are saying, “Steal our film and go forth and propagate it.”

Norm blogs at http://ednotesonline- .blogspot.com/

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