2013-05-24 / Columnists

School Scope

Whining Walcott
by Norm Scott


Norman Scott Norman Scott Whining Dennis Walcott, a schools Chancellor on a countdown to oblivion as Bloomberg’s term in office expires, used what was billed as an educational event to hector 2000 administrators of NYC schools, in a limp defense of his policies, a blatant and possible illegal misuse of educational funds. Many were forced to attend while others were offered a summer compensation day in exchange for attendance. A report from the NY Times on the May 18th principals’ conference contained these nuggets:

Mr. Walcott’s speech seemed intended to be a rallying cry before a friendly crowd, but the response was muted. While his calls for preserving the authority of principals and eradicating nepotism were met with applause, some principals seemed uninterested in his message... Principal Brian DeVale, an opponent of mayoral control, said he thought Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Walcott were too authoritarian in their approach. “I sat and listened to a political lecture from an administration I have no interest in,” DeVale, who is a union representative, said after the speech. ... Renel Piton, the principal of Brooklyn Lab School… was surprised the chancellor chose to use a speech at an academic conference to weigh in on a political battle. “We need to focus on what’s going on in schools,” Mr. Piton said. “I don’t come on a Saturday to listen to their views on the candidates.”

I got a report from an attendee. “What a load of BS ... the entire day had become a political indoctrination exercise not an educational nor learning event and I was there to learn.”

The political agenda was primary as Walcott hosted what some say was an anti-UFT union bashing-Fest disguised as principal conference. There's some irony in that while most principals, especially Leadership Academy types, agree with the anti-union agenda, many principals also despise the Tweedies with a passion and are not unhappy to see them go. Do you think principals of NYC public schools are actually happy to see their space given away to charters which get favored treatment?

One attendee told me: The chancellor made a big political speech about why the next mayor cannot be allowed to do anything against the reform agenda and how the UFT cannot rule education and teachers should not be protected. Some of the newbie knuckleheads laughed, not realizing the very same system will be used to fire them.

The Times article reported: Even the Department of Education’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, waded into the political fray, urging principals to support efforts to overhaul the school system. Mr. Polakow-Suransky said he was so distraught by the attacks on the campaign trail that he called the chancellor of the Washington school system, Kaya Henderson, for advice.

The despicable Shael was so upset at attacks on Tweed policies by mayoral candidates that he asked for advice from DC Chancellor Kaya Henderson who was Michelle Rhee's assistant eraserhead and is now covering up the cheating scandal? Kaya Henderson will send Shael an emergency supply of erasers. Or maybe a shredder to erase all the malfeasance and misfeasance that the new occupants at Tweed might discover.

Walcott brought in Mike Johnston, Colorado State Senator, who one principal described as "another dirtbag to bring up Memphis spirituality and quotes the bible in rationalizing education reform. He wrapped these policies around Martin Luther King and the bible story of the good Samaritan." This outraged one principal who challenged Johnston by saying King was in Memphis to support union workers for a contract, not education reform, adding Jesus was a carpenter so he would be a union man. Johnston also talked about firing the weakest teachers using basketball as an analogy. One questioner reminded him that “we can accurately assess how many baskets players score while tests are always full of errors, so we don't this need junk science.” A veteran principal spoke up saying he has "fired teachers and doesn't need 10000 rubrics and data to get rid of bad teachers."

While Walcott tries to stave off total irrelevancy, the fast and furious world of ed deform is spiraling out of control. In Chicago, the epicenter of the counter reform movement, teachers just reelected Karen Lewis with an 80 percent majority after she led them on a strike in the fall. Unfortunately, here in NYC, the heart of union collaboration with ed deformers, teachers just re-elected the party in power by 84 percent, a true tale of two cities.

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