July 18, 2008

The winds of change . . .

Sometimes you see a comment that needs its own stage.

These paragraphs were put up yesterday in response to the Ednotes post on the whiff of mayoral de-control in the air.

I'm sure the author didn't write it as a manifesto, but it's certainly on the way to being one.

I wanted to give that pendulum he speaks about in the first sentence just another little push, but before I do: the comments that have come in this morning are equally important. It's like viewing the burned remains of a ravaged profession.

Any student of history is familiar with the "pendulum" effect. That is to say when situations appear to have arrived at a point where the original projected expectations create a sufficient degree of social upset, unrest, and havoc, a counter balancing reaction is initiated, that generally speaking moves things in the opposite direction.

What else is the torturously long reign of "Chancellor" (by Special Waiver) Joel Klein, Esq. over the New York City Schools system, but a microcosm of the Bush years in Washington, DC.

From the very beginning of the Bush years Americans saw rights that were once taken for granted, slowly but surely weakened until those very rights did not even appear to exist any longer.

We witnessed the mindset of the Judges who were appointed and how gradually, over time, those in power became more and more confident that there was almost no affront to the American people that they could not inflict with complete impunity.

Even to the point of insulting the most basic precepts of American Justice, as we know them to be, so that it seemed these people in power might not even hesitate to defecate on the very sheets of parchment on which our American Constitution was inscribed by the Founding Fathers more than two centuries ago.

Is the above, not precisely what we have seen come to pass in New York City, at least as pertains to the mindset of those who have occupied the marbled Halls and walked with a swaggering gait, the echoing corridors of power in the Tweed Court House.

Let us never forget, and remain forever mindful, that this magnificent marbled edifice to rampant and unbridled corruption in all its most ugly forms and manifestations, located at 52 Chambers Street, was named after "Boss Tweed", one of the most nefarious political criminals in the history of this great City.

Just as the misguided policies emanating out of the White House for far too many years have finally visited sufficient pain and misery on the American people to bring this great Nation to its senses — so too can one detect the awakening stirrings of New Yorkers in reaction to having witnessed seeing their beloved Public Schools system taken over and run by a former Federal Prosecutor, from where else — that same Washington, DC alluded to earlier.

And to be more precise, that former Federal Prosecutor, who possesses not slightest or the most minimal Education Credentials to allow him to pretend he qualifies to be a Schools Chancellor, has indeed "run" our schools system - that is to say, he has run it into the ground.

But the great pendulum of History has already been set in motion.

And even as Americans will assure a new rebirth of our Democracy come November at ballot boxes all over this great Republic, from coast to coast and from sea to shining sea, so too will the good citizens of New York City make their voices heard also for the purpose of protecting that which is most dear to them. That is to say, their children.

A cabal of Wall Street types in silk suits, who would sooner give up their American Passports before they would enroll their own children in our City's public schools, are hardly the people who should be in charge of the Fate of more than one million school children who represent our most precious resource. For they are indeed the lifeblood of this thriving City and its greatest hope for the future.

In the US Military do we take a former Partner from "Bear Sterns" and make him a Four Star General, responsible for the lives of one hundred thousand brave men and women in Uniform.

Do we place former stock brokers in Air Control Towers and pray that they bring our planes down safely? Or perhaps you would like the next "triple by-pass" operation on your heart to be performed by a Wall Street Funds Manager or some former Federal Prosecutor.

How did we ever get to this point where someone decided that the best people to run the largest schools system in the nation were people who had little to zero experience in the field of Education.

The damage done to this great Nation by people in Washington ill equipped to lead a Nation much less a corner candy store, is also the same type of horrendous harm that has been visited on the New York City schools system by appointed hacks, stooges and lackeys that do not have a clue, much less any real experience or bona fide credentials to be trusted with the lives and futures of one million children.

We note the countless numbers of "disappeared" teachers who have been exiled to Mr. Joel Klein, Esq.'s vile "Rubber Room gulags", simply for having refused to march in "goose step" order to all his ill conceived policies originating from a lethal combination of abysmal ignorance about the field of Education and learning in general, and of course Mr. Klein's limitless degree of "Hubris".

But let us take heart and recognize that "Change" is indeed in the air. It will rise like a great wind and blow the old order out of the seats of power in our Nation's Capitol. Just as the winds of change will sweep people from the field of Education in New York's public schools system who have no business being there now or should ever have been placed in control of our schools in the first place.

If one is a Federal Prosecutor, then let him stay in the Court System and prosecute. And let those who have devoted their entire lifetimes to the noble field of Education, be allowed to run our public schools system in New York City.

One million school children deserve no less.

— David Pakter


David Pakter said...


Re: "The Winds of Change"

I am deeply touched and even quite moved, that a person for whom I have the utmost respect, heard my message loud and clear.

The unforgivable havoc which former Washington, Federal Prosecutor Joel Klein, Esq. has visited upon the one million children and their tens of thousands of dedicated, hard working teachers, is for me a crime of epic proportions.

Dictators, whether of small island banana Republics or Continental sized nations, generally possess certain predictable mental characteristics in common.

That is to say, an exaggerated opinion of their own native intelligence, completely out of all proportion to objective reality and at the same time an almost delusional sense of certainty that they, and they alone know what is best for everyone else.

One can compose a list of any dozen "dictators" at random, from the entire history of civilization, and discover this to be true. Joel Klein, Esq. is no exception to this rule. In fact he is the "poster child" of this idea.

The most despicable crime he and his regime perpetrated in my case, is that in his fanatical attempt to silence me and the issues I raised in the famous letter I sent him on Oct. 2, 2003, his apparatus of thugs and stooges had me removed and simultaneously made sure that the Medical program I built for intellectually gifted Minority students was destroyed.

It was critical that there would remain no trace of the fact that I, as the Senior member of the faculty, had taught at the High School of Art and Design for over a quarter of a century.

A despicable attempt to have me criminally Railroaded by the NYC DOE Medical Office "doctors", ended in disaster for the DOE, when a year later, at the Final Binding Medical Arbitration, the DOE's own hand picked Medical Arbitrator, had to concede, in the presence of the Chairman of the Ethics Committee for Psychiatry, that I was perfectly "fit for Duty". The City was forced to repay to me a full year of lost salary plus interest.

Similarly, the NYC DOE's desperate attempt to have me terminated during my first 3020-a Trial also ended in disaster for the NYC DOE.

Although as usual, as always happens at the end of these kangaroo trials which are little more than a mockery of Justice, the "Hearing" officer, in an act of typical moral cowardice that will live in infamy, made me pay the exhorbitant fine of fifteen thousand dollars for alleged "insubordination" and alleged "lateness"- not to any class but to the office punch clock.

Now as I ready myself, and may I emphasize with eager anticipation after a two year's wait in Klein's "Rubber Room" gulags, to "have my day in court", I must once again reflect on the immortal 23rd "Pensee" of that sublime French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal.

In the "Man As A Thinking Reed" Pensee, Pascal correctly makes the point that man is as weak and delicate as a "reed of grass".

Yet even if the entire Universe were to rise up together to crush a man- yet that man would still be greater than that which attempts to destroy him, because he is a "thinking reed". That is to say he, unlike the blind forces intent on his destruction, understands that which is befalling him.

So too, as I have expressed many time before, and in so many places, even if a rather pathetic excuse for a human being such as Joel Klein,Esq., succeeds in a second "attempt", (one can hardly refer to a 3020a "trial" as a process involving Justice), to have me "terminated", after my 37 years of service, such a "victory" for Mr. Klein will be a rather hollow victory at best.

For my removal from the scene will in no way remove what I stood for during my 37 years of highly decorated service to the children of New York City, nor what I believed and fought for, with my blood and my treasure, nor the legacy to stand fast and stand tall reflecting always courage under fire that I strove to inculcate into my thousands of beloved students during my almost four decades as a Teacher.

Long after people like Joel Klein, a "legend in his own mind", has been relegated to the scrap heap of history, the garbage heap of failed counterfeit schools Chancellors and other assorted failed human beings, the countless thousands of students who passed through the rooms in which I taught, will recall, I trust with a certain fondness, that someone they met along their long and winding journey towards adulthood, valued their worth and dignity as human beings no less than his own.

And they will also, I hope, remember that it is always the moral standards and ethical demands we place on ourselves, in all our actions and decisions, that matters, in the end, far more than the loftiness of our final goals.

In short, I am confident that my beloved students, who were to me as my own flesh and blood, even as my own now grown two Sons, will never forget that Life is, (and always was), about the Journey- not the Destination- it never was.

David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.

Decorated by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
in New York City Hall as
"Teacher of the Year"


Fidgety said...

Mr. Pakter has once again written an enlightening masterpiece that so eloquently expresses my exact feelings. I'm sure all of the RR Inmates would agree. Under Assault, I thank you for sharing it.
Sincerely, Fidgety (RR Inmate)

Straight Talk said...

You are an amazing writer, as you are a brilliant painter, and teacher.

I just finished reading Karen Horwitz's story at the end of "White chalk Crime." She is from Illinois, where the same tactics exist. You and I both know the story of how firefighter Walter P, who taught for 13 years after he retired as a hero from the NYFD, only to find- in his 13th year- that the principal and superintendent could lie, with the complicit approval of the site union rep, and end his teaching career. He lost in Federal Court, and is in the 3rd year of waiting for a decision on his appeal.

It is this endless process of fighting these miserable tyrants that most of us cannot afford. It is not merely the money, but it saps the life force from our bodies. they count on this, and the fact that despite all our blogs and letters to media and legislators, not a single story appears, not a single 'journalist' follows our sad journeys as we seek justice.

Even if Klein leaes (which I doubt will happen) it is the SYSTEM which needs to be gone-- the process of vilification, where NO ADMINISTRATOR IS ACCOUNTABLE under the law OF THE LAND , or to the procedures which our contract CLEARLY outlines.


The trashing of the employment folder is a practice that should have been stopped BY THE UNION YEARS AGO. There are education, civil and CRIMINAL laws about such predation on employment histories. Once they erase our proud history, our past success, they can lie, even though in NYC the City Charter (§ 1116) states: "b. Any officer or employee of the city or of any city agency who shall knowingly make a false or deceptive report or statement in the course of duty shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, forfeit such office or employment.

It is not us who should be removed, but the liars!
The union is our ATTORNEY. THEY are the LAW for teachers, and the public believe they work on our behalf. They do, in many ways, but what good is financial benefits or smaller classes if we get kicked out the door because some petty tyrant doesn't like the fact that we complain about unsound policies.

That's why Ms. Horwitz called it white chalk CRIME, and she has the numbers and the research that proves how they are profiting from our illegal removal.

David, I am no union basher, and I know how important they have been in getting us the benefits we need, but there are no benefits if you lose your job. I like Randi personally, and know that she fights hard for teachers on many fronts, and I even comprehend the inevitable give-and-take that allows for compromise, but we would not be in this terrible mess now, if the contract an the laws were enforced from the get-go.

Even now, I have not heard a word, after pleading with Randi and her attorney, whom I met with you in December, to determine if the egregious, FALSE documents EARMARKED FOR REMOVAL BY THE UFT ARBITRATION, was indeed removed. It would be too much to demand that the dozens of documents that testified to my success and outstanding service be returned. After all, I was included in "Who's Who Among America's teachers FOUR TIMES, and was awarded the very prestigious 'Educator of Excellence award' by the N.Y.S.English Council for my INNOVATIVE teacher-practice (STUDIED BY THE LRDC at he Univ. Of Pittsburgh, for Harvard's research on THE NEW STANDARDS).

All teachers copy their files every year (and should). I have ALL the parent letters that rave about my effect on their kids, ALL the supervisors glowing observations on my teaching and my service, and even the commentary colleagues, like this one saying: "Mrs Schwartz enculturates children and I would want my own children to be taught by her."

Does not the union see anything criminal in removing such things LET ALONE ALLOWING them TO BE REPLACED WITH SLANDER?

Yes, David,the unions enabled this process by letting principals and superintendents destroy teachers for DECADES until these failed human beings believe it is business-as-usual to trash anyone they please, and that THEY ARE the law.

Do you have any idea how many teachers ran from harassment from 1990 to 2000? Thousands left each year--dedicated teachers like myself, like Karen, Dania, Lorna and so many others, who wanted to teach for a few more years-- teachers who loved kids, and loved enabling learners, but couldn't face the endless and heinous behavior of principals..

I hope you win. However, lasting change will not happen until the union cleans its own house and guarantees that the site rep DOES THE JOB, and that petty grievances do not escalate. I hope now that Randi is on a national platform, she can end this immoral and illegal method of breaking tenure.

It will not end until the media gets involved, and people like Oprah or MIchael Moore tell the story; moreover, nothing will change if the press gets all its 'info' from the very criminals who do the deed, who point the finger of blame away from their own malfeasance, labling fine educators as incompetent 'dead-wood'.

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Dear David:

Thanks for putting into words
what I am not capable of doing
so beautifully myself.

You are a breath of fresh air.

John Powers
UFT Chapter Leader: Liberation HS

Woodlass said...

Thank you, David and Straight Talk, for elaborating further. There are things you are say here that I have never heard before. Fuel, for the times I feel I'm running low.

The image of the "thinking reed" speaks to me, because once you go through the initial period of shock at your displacement and figure out the maniacal game you've unwittingly become a part of, it's your core values as an educator, not to mention your own education, that allow you to operate somehow above the fray.

David Pakter said...


Credit To People of Courage -

To John Powers Who Embodies Courage

I must respond to the following, very kind words written recently by John Powers, UFT Chapter Leader at Liberation High School.

Mr. Powers had said of something I wrote: "Thanks for putting into words what I am not capable of doing so beautifully myself.
"You are a breath of fresh air".

Well allow me to say that it is I who must both thank and salute you, Mr. Powers, for your enormous personal courage in Standing Up for what you believe is right.

There was a time in union history, when to be a UFT Chapter Leader at a school in NYC was like working and walking a school's hallways in possession of a veritable "Teflon" suit of armor.

In my early days as a teacher I vividly recall how there was virtually nothing a UFT Chapter Leader was afraid to do or say.

School Principals and their Administrators as well as all their
assorted lackeys, stooges and hack helpers, knew better than to cross swords with a UFT Chapter Leader.

We classroom teachers always knew just how vulnerable we were, (and now more than ever), but we looked up in awe at how everyone in a school building knew, as though it were the Eleventh Commandmant passed down from Mount Sinai:

"Thou shalt not mess with the UFT".

But as the years passed that power that UFT Chapter Leaders wielded gradually began to be dissipated and weakened to the point of now having almost totally vanished.

Witness how many "once powerful" UFT Chapter Leaders have now themselves been targeted by Principals, (with a not small degree of encouragement from Joel Klein. Esq. and his NYC DOE), and have seen themselves openly attacked with ludicrous charges and made to join the other Legions of "Disappeared Teachers" in the growing number of "Rubber Room" gulags.

Yet, despite all the facts enumerated here, you, Mr. Powers have stood your ground, as did Norman Scott, back in the day, so many years before you as a Chapter Leader.

And yes, I have read of your courageous battles to protect the Health Care rights of those who give their all on behalf of this great City. Which of course puts you squarely at odds with quite powerful forces. That takes real guts. That is what I call Courage.

So again, it is I who must salute you, Mr. Powers.

Yes, I was ever a fighter - and still remain one to this very day and this very hour.

But at this point in time I am no longer on the front lines, in the trenches, so to speak, as you yourself are. A former Federal Prosecutor, now masquerading as an Education expert, has seen to that.

That "man" and his lackeys have thrown everything they could at me during five long, unrelenting years of retaliation and venal harassment.

The final showdown for all those events will come in September during the lengthy Hearings comprising my second and final New York State 3020-a Teacher Hearings.

At that time, during each and every one of those "Hearings", Mr. Klein, Esq. will learn, much to his regret, that I am more than adequately prepared to "give" as well as I "get".

But, you still have your whole career before you, Mr.Powers. Yet you are not afraid to be a "Stand Up" Leader. A man who understands that the a Union, any Union anywhere, is simply a chain of loyal Members which can only be as strong as its "weakest link".

So what I write, Mr. Powers, at this point, in my long career, is not nearly so important nor as impressive, as what you do- and do on a daily basis.

It is people like you who are and remain the "lifeblood" of this our Union- The United Federation of Teachers. A Union that was called out on a City wide Strike the very first week I began teaching in the South East Bronx, forty years ago, in that most tumultuous year for our Nation- 1968.

And then, just as now, we were engaged in a War abroad and just as tragically- a "war" at Home.

A most tragic war for the "hearts and minds" of our Nation. May I say our Beloved Nation.

And I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that in November of 2008, these United States will witness a Rebirth of our Nation, under a new type of President, who as a man of the People, will rule by our Sacred Laws and beloved Constitution, For the People.

But he will succeed because of people like you- John Powers, who work every day of your life to improve the lot of those around you.

You, John Powers, are a "Doer" in the fullest and most meaningful sense of that word. And what you do is of far more consequence than anything I can write.

I fought "The Good Fight" for 40 years and now I thank the gods up above that there still remain in our midst, courageous people, hard working and dedicated people, a Union Man, such as you are, both brave and bold, to whom I may pass "The Torch" to carry on when I am gone.

It is you,John Powers, who is "the breath of fresh air" of which you spoke when you addressed your very kind words to me.

And your breath of fresh air will soon grow into a mighty wind that in the last months of this year 2008, will blow away forever the forces which almost destroyed this great Republic which so many have defended with their blood and their very lives, down all the corridors of our American history, for two hundred years.

Perhaps it is not some mere coincidence that a man named "John Powers" rose to be the elected Union Leader of a school in New York City named "Liberation".

For surely one can never achieve the one without the other.

It is therefore a source of joy for me to know that such people as you still exist.

I remain with my highest respect for you Mr. John Powers,


David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.

once "Teacher of the Year" and

Still Standing

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pakter, whose struggles with language and the DOE are big, nonetheless gets his gist across and it is worth the wait.

Chaz said...

Somehow I don't think that a change in the presidency is going to change the Kleinberg disrespect of teachers.

On the other hand a more pro-active union could stop the teacher abuse but I'm not holding my breath on that happening.