2011-11-25 / Columnists

School Scope

Bob Turner Don’t Know Much ‘bout History
Commentary By Norman Scott

I read amusing excerpts in last week’s Wave from our newly minted Congressman’s swearing in speech on November 13 at Queens Metropolitan HS where he declared, “free enterprise, not ‘capitalism [Huh?],’ is what our economic system is built on ... a free enterprise system is built on ‘intellectual capital’ and ‘sweat equity.’ It is intellectual capital, people have to have an idea and belief that something will work and can work and they can prosper.” Well, whatever Turner wants to call it, whether we are talking about a free and unregulated enterprise system of crony capitalism or the privatization of the public school system, we have a mess.

It’s too bad Turner was at Queens Metro on a Sunday. If he had been there on a school day he would have found that the free enterprise school system instigated by WalBlackBloomKlein offers up a fairly brand new school where kids had no regular schedules, were left in a gym “class” – taught by Chancellor Walcott’s daughter, no less – where they didn’t get gym, a physics class “taught” by an unqualified special ed teacher, and no chemistry at all after the teacher quit in October. The principal actually did have an idea for a school that, on paper, seemed to offer a lot of good ideas. The only problem was that she was a grad of the Leadership Academy, the Tweed training ground for future principals without a clue – with many people coming from Turner’s vaunted “free enterprise” system without knowledge on how to organize or run a school. Of course, after Walcott and his minions ignored the problem for months – special knocks to Queens HS Superintendent Juan Mendez (who was so arrogant at the Beach Channel school closing hearing last year) and network leader Gillian Smith – they finally responded – once the story hit the press. (I’m just scratching the surface here – read more on my blog). Free enterprisers sure know what is important.

The oft-mysterious network management system – Turner’s vaunted free enterprise system run amuck – deserves to come under scrutiny. A retired teacher left this comment on my blog: “The role of the network organizations MUST be investigated! New Visions, one of the biggest of the Children First networks, also runs charter schools in NYC and advertises constantly for new teachers with no credentials in a program that looks just like Teach for America. This is a clear conflict of interest. I taught at a small school in a poor minority neighborhood and even though students were without mandated classes or teachers (don’t get me started on how the special ed kids were shafted) nothing was done to correct the situation. The school is still being run by a totally incompetent Leadership Academy principal with little teaching and no administrative experience. He was backed totally by New Visions.”

The school is in the old Jefferson HS – my Alma Mata – that was closed down to make way for four schools, some of which – those that have not been able to cream the best kids – have been doing as badly or worse than the old Jefferson. But in Turner’s world of free enterprise we now pay four principals instead of one.

And how about Far Rockaway, another closed school (where we are paying five or six principals) where students at Frederick Douglass Academy VI have been complaining about not having an English teacher for three months? There are only 1200 unassigned teachers floating around the city called ATRs who were bumped from their own schools that closed but why hire a real teacher that you actually have to pay? Instead students are being taught English through a computer learning program called “iLearn,“ part of a massively expensive plot to eliminate teachers. When students have a question, they are told to “Google it.” Rename the program “iLearnBut- NotOften.”

The Daily News reported that 75 seniors “have been warehoused in a bunk class with a different substitute each week and no coherent lesson plan...For weeks, students begged administrators at the C-rated school for a steady instructor, but their request was denied – until Friday, when they protested and refused to go to class until their demands were met.”

Replacing real teachers with computers is right up Bob Turner’s free enterprise system alley. The computer programs are enormously expensive – and profitable – see one Rupert Murdoch who bought a company called “Wireless Generation“ after Joel Klein as chancellor created enormous opportunities for the company – before being hired by Murdoch at $4 million a year. Free enterprise for the 1% but not free for us.

Were the students inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which we are beginning to see is having a more wide-ranging impact than on one square block in lower Manhattan? I’m betting they were. Make sure to see the full 8-minute video of the pepper spraying incident at U of California at Davis where the students shouted at the police in unison, “Shame on you” and “You can go.” And the police actually looked shamed and left. How nice to see high school students in our neighborhood learning to use their power of numbers to accomplish something on a smaller scale. We hope to see them broaden their local concerns and join with students around the city who are beginning to stir – as are parents and teachers – against Bloomberg’s dictatorship over the schools.

All you have to do is read the short list of headlines Howie Schwach printed in last week’s “The Rockaway Beat” with cheating from the school level to the NY State Ed Department running rampant (there can be bonuses for results in the world of free enterprise) as we see the results of Bob Turner’s favored competitive and punitive free enterprise system imposed on the school system. Hey, Bob, don’t you just love it when people with an idea – and with access to the right people – find out how to prosper?

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