Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When the fix is in . . .


. . . it comes from every direction.

GEM, CAPE and ICE members felt it this week when the courts, after the City appealed, revoked the right it had previously given to demonstrators to march on the north side of street in front of Bloomberg's residence and restricted them to the south side instead.

There's much video footage of that rally, including this by ArtsAndCulture, and some more of parts of a press conference that civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel (right) called after the Village Voice put up a video of police surveillance cameras on the rooftops overlooking the demonstration. Pretend you're taking a course on Civil Liberties 101 and make time to view the three parts of that conference here, here and here. Siegel and some of the other speakers explain the tactics this mayor is using to make exercising your First Amendment rights uncomfortable.

There have been many stories this past year on how the city is not acting in accordance with law and violating the parents and communities the right to participate in public education.

Teachers have been feeling what it's like to face administrators who have been lawyered up by BloomKlein. "Do what you want," we've heard Klein's told them, and we assume the ramifications of their misdemeanors and violations will be left to the attorneys to sort out. Not least of our worries is the gutted grievance system built into the last contract, which means that lies, omissions and misrepresentations rot in teacher files with no legal vehicle to get them out. (The UFT, by the way, is in permanent denial of their complicity in this. It amounts to the gross "mismanagement" of our ability to protect our careers.)

This morning we heard from David Pakter that Pablo Guzman's story on the Teacher Reassignment Centers, which aired last night, was severely chopped by CBS News.

(Guzman stands in the center of a group of teachers on the left.)

I have posted articles with descriptions of the rubber rooms before (on Dec. 13th and Nov. 2nd, for example). Here's the way the broadcast went out, and below is more of the back story, in excerpts from what Pakter has just circulated.

ENTIRE PAKTER INTERVIEW CUT FROM THE 11 PM NEWS BROADCAST

I was alerted by a source a few hours before the story aired at 11 PM that the in depth story that Legendary and well known and widely respected CBS Reporter, Pablo Guzman had spent weeks researching and filming had gotten the thumbs down by the Editors at WCBS Television News.

Another source disclosed to me earlier in the day, before the CBS Rubber Room story aired, that apparently news of the story had been leaked to those who run the City, especially individuals whose names end with the letters "Esq" and work in the Chambers Street area of Manhattan.

It seems that massive pressure was apparently exerted on person or persons unknown at WCBS News to have the story killed or so edited (read Butchered), that it was the predominantly innocent, Railroaded Teachers, incarcerated in the so-called "Rubber Rooms", themselves, who were made to look like "the problem" and not the victims of multiple miscarriages of Justice that have continued for years.

I can not describe what a personal Tragedy this is for me personally but also for the whole cause of Teachers nationwide.

It really meant the whole world to me that after 7 years of non stop blistering Whistle-blower Retaliation that the general public would finally hear from my own lips why the NYC Dept of Education had targetted me with such a pathological venom that continues to the present.

The broadcast was edited in such a fashion as to ensure the viewing audience never got to hear a single word I spoke during a more than two hour interview at the office of my Attorney, Dr. Joy Hochstadt Esq.

By muzzling and eliminating literally every word I had said during the lengthy interview, the Editors at WCBS News have guaranteed that the one Teacher, who had become the Poster Child "Teacher of the Year" victim of the NYC Dept of Education's crusade to crush any dissent among New York City's one hundred thousand Educators, was not heard during the Newscast.

Due to the fact that I have been one of the most outspoken Rubber Room Teachers, a constant advocate of Teacher's Constitutional Rights, who has always spoken out and written articles under my real name, it was deemed critical by the Editors at WCBS Television News, that the public not be given the opportunity to learn the facts of my story from the First Person source.

Clearly my more than four decade history of achievements in Education have made and continue to make the faux Chancellor and his willing stooges and lapdogs look like the pitiful excuses for human beings they are.

Most observers would tend to agree that once the Bloom/Klein people were pre-warned about the WCBS "Rubber Room" expose, immense pressure was brought to bare on the Television Network and a Quid Pro Quo was worked out that the show could air as long as there was no inclusion or reference to the topics I had discussed in detail during the taping at the office of Dr. Joy Hochstadt, Esq. [Pakter's lawyer].

With all mention of the topics I discussed during the interview effectively eliminated from what went out over the airwaves, it means this entire broadcast will now ultimately be perceived by those who saw this "News" Broadcast in exactly the light the CBS Editors intended.

That is to say that the Teachers who have been removed from the schools system and banished, exiled, disappeared into the "Rubber Rooms" are a threat and "clear and present danger" to the City's children, as well as being lazy, incompetent, burnt out parasites who just sit back collecting Taxpayer dollars as they allegedly relax all day in the City's numerous gulags.

That stale old, tired strategy that goes back five thousand years.

When all else fails find a convenient scapegoat and then blame the victims.

I am far too old to cry but it hurts too bloody much to laugh.

Pablo Guzman at WCBS cannot and must not be blamed that the whole story has now been edited to death, truncated and cut to ribbons — and will likely not go up on the WCBS website as a permanent reference source on New York's rubber rooms.

The NYC power mongers totally sabotaged all of us, and the chief reporter on the story likely ended up in the position of having to try to save what little could be salvaged of a story that could have done so much for so many. . .

This story could have had real legs — but then I do not have to educate anyone on that score.
Pakter was talking to the people he sent his memo to, and he's right: he doesn't have to educate us on that score.

But, the unfortunate fact is that with reporters under the thumb of a dictatorial government and compliant corporate bosses, we DO have to educate people, even if we have to do it in blogs and out in the streets.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Which side are they on?

People keep talking about the big protest the UFT is mounting this Tuesday at Klein's PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech, and no doubt lots of people are making it their business to be there.

But I've been trying to figure out what's up with the demonstration the UFT has been planning for the day before — up in the Bronx at the Courthouse. You know which one I mean?

I'm not surprised if you don't.

The Bronx reps have been trying to get all the members to come out for it, and I did what I could to drum up support. I put their flyer up in the right sidebar last week and told everyone to show up: Your school could be next, senior teachers will kiss their careers goodbye, local communities are getting hammered, parent and teacher voices silenced — all that stuff.

I'm thinking it's time to remind everyone to be there at the Courthouse in droves on Monday afternoon, but what more can I tell people about it?

The short answer is not much, and that's because UFT management doesn't seem to be all that committed to this thing. I checked.
I looked on the UFT website. Nothing on the front page, nothing when I searched a whole slew of key words.

I looked on the District 11 website under "District News." The most recent event there was something back in May 08.

I wrote one of the DRs asking for more details. Their very brief response was a rationale for the choice of location (it's central and Diaz's office is there), it's on school closings, it's a community effort, but no details. No mention of which politicians will be solicited or involved, no mention of the speakers.
Even the alert we got this morning from Mulgrew is silent on the Monday rally, you can see for yourself:


Are these people kidding?

Proof of Life's comment on a GEM post is actually perfect:
There will be buses at the Bronx Boro office to take people to the PEP Rally. However, if you're not Unity you may have to hide your signs!
Because I'm just about ready to recycle some of my biggest and best anti-Unity signs. There's no excuse for their inability to send me info on what I need to be telling people.

The times they are a-changing, and UFT managers will eventually have to decide "Which Side Are They On."
(Click on the picture at the top and hear a great version of that song.)

Mr. Seeger, this time it's a whole different set of bosses we have to worry about.



If you haven't already, check out these links to see how grassroots ed activists in five boroughs are putting on protests without a dime in the piggybank. Then tell me if we're getting our money's worth paying the UFT to fight for our profession and for public education.

Ednotes: video clip on the protest at Bloomberg's residence

In the video at 2:42: Civil rights lawyer Norm Siegel went to court to get this rally a permit to march in front of the mayor's house. Beaten down on appeal, the rally took place on the south side, but Siegel's not going to drop the pressure. Bloomberg's residence is a private house, and citizens have First Amendment rights that this billionaire mayor seems to think don't apply.

At 6:30: Seung Ok (delegate at Maxwell, one of the schools they're closing, and running with ICE in the March election):
"We are here to prove to the mayor that he is not the civil rights leader in education that he claims to be. We are proving to him that we are the people. Parents, teachers, students and neighborhoods, and we have to decide how our children get their education. We need a mayor, not a billionaire!"

At 8:00: James Eterno (chapter leader of Jamaica HS, also being closed, and ICE candidate for president):
"It is an outrage that our schools are being threatened. We're here to say Public Education: YES, Privatization: NO, and Charterization: NO. We're taking it to Brooklyn, and then beyond that!"

At 9:20: Angel Gonzalez (one of the founders of GEM):
"Klein's PEP is a puppet organization for Bloomberg."

More pictures on the GEM blog of all the protests that group has mounted or participated in since last spring. The video of the 79th St. protest here.


Gonzalez's analysis on the UFT's "empty rhetoric" — a must-read at this link. He says:
But there is no evidence of one single UFT educational and analytical flier at any of the recent local school "closings" protests or hearings!
and concludes that:
[The] UFT continues to utilize strategies that historically have failed education and instead have benefited the corporate powers' neoliberal agendas and the officialdom's pockets. Strategies that have focused primarily on either:
— legal-judicial wrangling
— endorsing & financing politicians
— legislative reforms
— being at the table or in bed with management or corporate heads
have brought us to the sorry state we are in. Millions of member dollars wasted to bring us to this sorry state we are in. It took about a decade to get a CFE ruling that produced more dollars for the DOE privatization drive. The recently announced "Small Class Size Lawsuit" will again fail and drag on for years without a member-based strategy.

It's not a small thing that this same rally was covered by two national sites, the Huffington Post (with a nice picture of the GEM banner) and ArtAnd Struggle.com (with a great video).

Make no bones about it: The grassroots activists are leading this fight.
The UFT managers might be just going along with us for a very short ride.



Unity/UFT has style


While I'm finishing up a longer commentary on the union's grandstanding on school closings, I'll take a second here to put up my comment to the Ednotes post two days ago, in which he expanded on my Finally post from the day before.

Needless to say I agree with Norm when he says:
"I still maintain it is just style over substance and with an election coming up Mulgrew must sound militant."
Here's some of what I wrote in the comments:
I did not want to give the impression that I think Mulgrew will act in accordance with his words. I've watched Unity too long for that, where they say one thing and do another, as in Weingarten's sabotaging of the 2008 ATR rally at Tweed.

And you don't even have to go back that far. Today's chapter leader weekly doesn't even mention yesterday's protest at Bloomberg's residence, even though it's plastered over the media from the Times to the Huffington Post.

So here's Mulgrew on Dec. 20th complimenting PS 15 activists at the DA, yet choosing not to even acknowledge their nationally reported rally two days later in an in-house newsletter. Such is Unity.

They're publicly taking on some ICE positions (what did take them so long) — but . . . what's going on underneath, out of the light of day is anyone's guess . . .
So I'll bet to Scott — and certainly the way I see it — it's more sinister than style over substance. It's style designed to camouflage selling the membership out behind closed doors.

That's because the UFT has a horrible record of debasing our profession through systematic, ideological collaboration.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finally.

Delegate Assemblies ain't what they used to be, that's for sure.

Today Mulgrew gave a President's Report that sounded like a playbook from ICE and GEM.

My only question is: What took him and his Unity caucus so long.

For Mulgrew to talk about how bad it is in some communities reeling from the "separate and unequal" charter schools shoving their way into our public schools, he had to have boned up pretty well on the Sept. 13 '09 post in the GEM blog:
The protest denounced the chaos precipitated by the HSA charter takeover of PS 123 classrooms, the disarray to their supplies and furnishings, the DOE’s dictatorial imposition of charter schools, privatization and the resulting “separate and unequal” conditions.
Or this one from even earlier, on June 15th:
“We need to support quality and democratic processes for all public schools. Charter schools, such as Equality Charter, split communities and sow inequality instead. They ‘cream the best students’ and evidence shows that charters service fewer percentages of the neediest of students such English Language Learners, Special Education and the poorest of the poor. We need to organize a citywide fight-back against the mayor’s undemocratic imposition of these charters that take away resources from public schools. Charters union-bust and undermine the necessary unity parents and teachers against government’s failure to properly provide for all public schools.”
That comment was made by GEM co-founder and long-time activist Angel Gonzalez. GEM put up its first post last April, and it's been pretty much one report after another over on that blog about all the demonstrations, rallies, protests and activism against the charter school movement.

Mulgrew's just discovering this now? What took him and his Unity caucus so long.


Back at today's meeting, he congratulated the teacher activists at PS 15 defending their school against a charter (PAVE) trying to extend its stay in the building. There's no question that these members and the parents should be commended for their fight, but it wasn't Mulgrew or his caucus spearheading that effort either. Ednotes put up a post and video on the PAVE encroachment last September. GEM (in this post) and a newly formed group in the area, Concerned Activists for Public Education (CAPE), took up the fight in the fall and haven't let up since.

In fact, Ednotes has been publishing a virtual almanac of the whole charter school invasion citywide, and it looks as if Mulgrew's been prepping for this moment on all that reportage. As he said at today's meeting: "That's the type of fight we want to be on top of all the time." And so they are — jumping right on board after all the groundwork has been laid by everybody else.


I worked a lot this past summer on the charter school takeovers in Harlem with members of ICE, GEM, CPE (Coalition for Public Education), CIF (the Center for Immigrant Families) and the office of Senator Bill Perkins. We've been to community board meetings, confronted DoE and charter school administrators, talked with politicians and the press, blogged a lot, and made some spectacular videos of most of the events.

Not many Unity/UFT members ever showed up at these events. If they did, they mostly hung around at the edges — interested enough to see what was going on, but not enough to actually roll up their sleeves.

And
I've written before about how UFT managers have co-opted some of the fundamental principles on which groups like ICE and GEM are founded. What was Weingarten's ACES program last May but a reworking of ICE's 2004 platform.

It seems they're doing it again, jumping onto a movement that activist groups have been building for a year. They published a picture of GEM's 10-ft banner in the NY Teacher, and they spout our words. "Fix our schools, don't shut them down" appeared in the Jan. 11, 2010 of their rag, but see the April 6th '09 post GEM put up on its blog nine months earlier focusing on the message to "keep schools open, fix our schools, don't close them."


Facing the assembly this afternoon, Mulgrew spread his arms wide and thanked the delegates for all their work "reframing the argument." The DoE, he said, can no longer close schools without rhyme, reason or accountability. We [presumably the union and the communities] demand clear criteria, and these arguments are now resonating with elected officials all over town.

The majority of delegates at that assembly did nothing to earn his praise. It was the work of our grassroots oppositional union groups that plowed this field so that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks could muck their way through it to our side.

I keep coming back to the same question. What took them so long.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

GW Bush — you besmirch everything you touch

Just heard your speech at the launch of the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.

You hideous liar! How dare you say with a straight face that great tragedies bring out the best in us. Remember this picture? We do, if you don't.

When Obama introduced you he purposely sidestepped your abominal response to

K A T R I N A

where you abandoned American citizens to the elements. I hated you then, I hate you now.

And . . . we will NEVER forget how you destroyed this country.


There. I feel better now.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blogger educators, unite!

But not just bloggers. Everyone. It's time to get out from behind the computers and hit the pavement in three boroughs.

Three BIG protests scheduled in the next couple of weeks (posters below: click on them for links to downloadable copies).

And here's a little bit of interesting news. It seems as if someone might have already hacked into one blog publicizing the 79th St. protest at the mayor's house. (Thanks for the alert, Ednotes).

Which makes me keen to try a little experiment myself:

HEY, EVERYONE!

COME TO THE PROTEST AT BLOOMBERG's HOUSE
on January 21st.

Let's see what happens . . .


Kidding aside, here's where bodies are needed:

First: Parents, teachers and community activists are bringing it to the mayor's doorstep on Thursday, Jan. 21st:





Then the Bronx UFT is mounting a protest at the Court House on the 25th:




See JD2718 for a link to a video on that event.


And finally there's the protest Mulgrew and the UFT are pushing at Klein's PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech on Jan. 26th.

Frankly, it's nice to see some fists in the air. I thought they forgot how to do that over at central.





Be there.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Revisiting an earlier post

This is only the second time I've re-posted an earlier essay, but the list of school closings and school "utilization" changes makes we want to repeat what I said before:
The campaign against Reason is spearheaded here in New York City by the mayor and his five-star general Joel Klein.
No need to duplicate the names of those schools they're trying to destroy because it's all being covered by other NYC blogs — Norm's Notes, the parent's blog and GEM, to name just a few.


So, once again: "The Age of Enlightenment is on its way out."



There’s not a lot of agreement on what it means to be “enlightened,” but for starters we could look at back to the middle of the 18th century.

That would be a couple of decades before a handful of truly enlightened souls cobbled together a declaration of independence, and about 150 years before these united states committed to an education system funded by the public purse (1870).

Voltaire, according to some, thought the appeal of the new way of thinking boiled down to seven social and intellectual phenomena:
— the autonomy of reason
— perfectibility and progress
— confidence in the ability to discover causality
— principles governing nature, man and society
— assault on authority
— cosmopolitan solidarity of enlightened intellectuals, and
— a disgust with nationalism.
(Gerhard Rempel, Western New England College)
I could argue that the corporatist siege squeezing the moral life out of this country, perpetrated by heavily lobbied facilitators at every level of government, has maneuvered us in totally the opposite direction. We’ve abandoned all of Voltaire’s phenomena.

The Age of Enlightenment is well on its way out, and the ignorance, social chaos and repression of the Middle Ages are making a big comeback.

The campaign against Reason is spearheaded here in New York City by the mayor and his five-star general Joel Klein. They command a whole army of hastily trained-up staff sergeants from the Leadership Academy and a slew of corporate players bidding for pieces of the education pie.

BloomKlein campaigns best when the rest of us are overworked, apathetic or comatose. Shuffling things around under the guise of reform, they’ve come up with ill-conceived reorganizations, a perverted school grading system, falsified testing analyses, and some very strange notions of quality education.

These are the fabrications of an unenlightened oligarchy.

They don’t seek to understand or fix the underlying problems of the system — like overstuffed classrooms, too few experienced certified teachers, not enough school buildings, arts and phys ed programs, or services for special needs. They don’t listen to educators or parents, they intentionally place blame where it doesn’t belong, and they show little respect laws that get in their way.

Thumped for half a generation at least, we’ve learned how to keep taking it on the chin. We're becoming un-enlightened.

Across the country, being educated, articulate, and rational in thought has somehow become a bad thing. We’re still reeling from a federal administration that put nationalism at an all-time high and the ability to reason at an all-time low.


Nevertheless, the reasoning people among us are forever confident in the ability to discover causality, so we should be able to think this one through:

Oligarchs grab power when society allows them to. Enlightened people need to get out in the streets and stop them.

That’s what they did two hundred years ago, and that’s what they need to do now.



Just like what they've already been doing:
at P.S. 57 in Manhattan . . .
at P.S. 160 in the Bronx . . .
at IS 218 in East New York . . .
at IS 278 in Brooklyn . . .
At Bethel Church in Harlem . . .

Friday, January 8, 2010

Emergency citywide PARENT CONFERENCE on School Closings set for Jan. 16th


That's a notice that's just been posted on the NYC Parents blog and the importance of this conference is without question.

There isn't any parent or educator in the city who can remain inactive when our communities, education goals, and social ethics are being so undermined by this oligarchic mayor and his non-educator chancellor.


Here's what the rest of the post says:



In communities throughout the city, students, parents and teachers are outraged at the unilateral decision of the DOE to close their neighborhood schools and/or put charter schools in their buildings.

Parents want to know what can be done.

Class Size Matters is hosting an emergency citywide conference about the proposed school closings by the Department of Education. We will be hearing from parents, students and teachers at the affected schools, and will share strategies and legal options.

When: Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 from 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Where: School of the Future, 127 East 22nd Street, NYC. (take the #6 to 23 St.)

Norman Siegel, famed civil rights attorney, will be one of the speakers.
Here is a flyer you can post in your schools.

The conference planning committee includes Leonie Haimson, Lisa Donlan, Shino Tanikawa, Khem Irby, William McDonald and Monica Major; active parent leaders from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

For more information or to volunteer to help out, please contact Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, at classsizematters@gmail.com; 212-674-7320 or Monica Major, Event co-chair at
majorm766@gmail.com; 347-664-6712. Hope to see you there!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The DoE's "subfield" offices

I am not so happy reading the Jacqueline Stevens article in the Jan. 4th issue of The Nation.

Apparently our government is disappearing US residents right here on American turf in places I've never even heard of before. They're called "subfields," and they're located just about anywhere.
"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear."

— James Pendergraph, former director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of State and Local Coordination
According to Stevens, even Amnesty International's Sarnata Reynolds was shocked at hearing Pendergraph's words, quoting her as saying in a 2009 report called "Jailed Without Justice":
"It was almost surreal . . . I couldn't believe he would say it so boldly as though it weren't anything wrong."
Apparently the deputy director of Human Rights Watch, Alison Parker, hadn't heard of these places either.

There are 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices around the country (that's 162 more than the detention centers that they don't try and hide). They're located in commercial spaces "designed for confining individuals in transit," and worse still: they're not subject to the I&CE Office's Detention Standards. That means a whole range of human rights are being violated — physical, legal, and ethical.

Every time I read about this country's descent into fascism, I can't help thinking how the BloomKlein DoE is just part of this big, big ugly picture.

I don't want to minimize the horror of these subfields by comparing them to our rubber rooms. But if, as Stevens points out, subfields "thwart transparency and hence accountability," I can't help but make comparisons. No one knows anything about what's really going on in the RRs — not the deals being made behind people's backs, and sometimes not even the charges (as in this case reported in Combier's blog).

Some other similarities are also downright creepy.
Euphemismistic names for these places. Instead of outright "Detention Centers," we get "Service Processing Centers" for subfields and "Teacher Reassignment Centers" for RRs.

Secretive maneuvering. While detainees are moved in and out of subfields by agents in plain clothes, we get suits coming to our schools snooping around for information on our colleagues.

Presumption of guilt on the part of investigators, who are not independent.

Inappropriate placements. According to Stevens, detained for a civil infraction are subjected to the same conditions in subfields as suspected terrorists. We know the RRs are filled to the brim with educators who belong in classrooms. Most are being detained in these totally inappropriate settings for minor incidents (which could be dealt with in a supervisor's office) or for whistleblowing. SoBronxSchool and the NY Post mention trailers, fences, security gate, and child-height toilets at the refurbished Manhattan/Bronx TRC.

Overcrowding. Chaz thinks our RRs are being filled up because of faulty disciplinary codes. He calculates a sevenfold increase over the pre-BloomKlein rates.

Enhanced interrogation techniques. Subfield offices are warehouses, where people are shuttled around at odd hours, shackled to each other, and kept in the cold without bedding — all of which conditions break people down. Our RRs are not meant to be happy places, designed as they are to make people uncomfortable enough to quit. But, also see Chaz again on the way OSI and SCI agents get information on people they're investigating.

I don't see all this ending anytime soon. Bloomberg hasn't listened, is not listening, and is never going to listen, despite what he says on the front page of the Times.

Our governments — plural — are on a mission. It's hard to tell precisely what that mission is at this point, but we do know that nothing good is going to come of it.

Happy New Year, though. A brief moment of holiday rest before all the work we have to do.