December 30, 2010

Addendum to "Last Thoughts"

If something is going to appear in perpetuity as the final post on this blog, it may as well be something of substance.

Here are three things of substance, and they all have to do with what happens to the citizenry when a country is overtaken in war or by coup.

Chris Hedges has an essay in on the Huxley/Orwell dystopia that America has become.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

Later he says that the corporation state he suggests we're now living in hides
behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, [and] devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass ... It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation.
His whole essay is as frightening as it is true, and it's hard to keep from getting caught up in the sham.

The other two items of substance are two short books on what happens when "the enemy" actually arrives.

Saki's When William Came is an example of "invasion literature," which Wiki describes as "tales that aroused imaginations and anxieties about hypothetical invasions by foreign powers." Saki's little novel is hypothetical. Written a year before the start of WWI, he imagines what it would be like once the victorious Germans arrive and work their way into British society. Some, he shows us, would accommodate them, others would find refuge in untainted towns and villages.

Parenthetically, I have to get a hold of P.G. Wodehouse's short novel The Swoop!, which some feel is a parody of the whole genre. Wodehouse invents a Britain defending itself against 9 simultaneous invaders. As I see it, such an invasion has already taken place in America. I can think of 9 very real enemies right off the top of my head that have soiled our national values: the regulatory agencies, the Patriot Acts, endless (unauthorized) war, Guantanamo, Citizens United and the Roberts court, hedge fund managers and the complicit banks, the party of No, the Christian Right, and tax cuts for the super rich. Why not throw in Ed Deformers for good measure.

Bottom line: We don't need any foreign-power hypotheticals to imagine what a takeover culture would look like in this country. Plutarchy — rule by the wealthy mixed with rule by the few — is already well underway on American soil.

A third bit of substance, A Woman in Berlin, is by an anonymous female reporter who took meticulous notes on what happened to her and the people in her building during the 9 weeks at the end of WWII when the Red Army took over. It is not fiction. In horrifying detail she describes the invasion of body (rape) and personal space against a background of widespread deprivation.

I mention this book because when a country undergoes dramatic changes, each individual is forced to journey through a spectrum, from scenarios he may imagine, through incremental changes he may find acceptable to progressively unsettling discomforts, and eventually to horror, terror, and breakdown.

Understanding what's happening to us does not make living through a cultural/political coup any easier. Until the going gets really tough here in this country — and I am certain it will — we're dealing with mass avoidance and widespread ignorance.

Getting a handle on the nature of this spectrum as it plays out is a serious task. As Hedges says:

The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths ...

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.
The enemy is everywhere. What a thought.

November 20, 2010

Last thoughts

[Augmented at the end since I put this up a few hours ago]

While this blog is on permanent suspension, I recommend all to Ednotes Online.

It's the most comprehensive and entertaining record of UFT and DoE malfeasance since Scott put up his first post over there in August 2006. He had witnesses: his three cats.

Ednotes is also packed with context — current and historical. The guy taught 35 years and has been retired for as long as I've known him.

You'll also find every conceivable form of satire: banter, burlesque, caricature, cauticity, chaffing, irony, lampoonery, mockery, parody, pasquinade, persiflage, play-on, put-on, raillery, sarcasm, send-up, skit, poof, squib, takeoff, travesty, wit and witticism.

In truth, he gives real good persiflage, but I wouldn't have known that without checking the dictionary.

Another thought.

Though I haven't really forgiven Bill Maher for what he said about teachers in March 2009, I'm thinking of giving him another chance.

Here's an excerpt of his thoughts on Jon Stewart's Sanity Rally last month down in Washington, DC. The whole monologue hits the main points about the country's incomprehensible twist to the Right.

An excerpt from the Huffington Post:
Keith Olbermann is right when he says he's not the equivalent of Glenn Beck. One reports facts the other one is very close to playing with his poop. And the big mistake of modern media has been this notion of balance for balance's sake. That the Left is just as violent and cruel as the Right . . . there's a difference between a mad man and a madman," he said, referencing Olbermann's tweets.

Maher went on to poke holes in Jon's arguments, saying "Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn't say, 'Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.'

No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare
. . . Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we're as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are. And if that's too polarizing for you, [and you still wanna reach across the aisle and hold hands with someone on the Right] . . . try church.

Lastly, some of the fighters whose voices keep us on track. Here's a GEM video showing them opposing the plutocratic Cathie Black waiver.

Truly, it's been a pleasure.

November 11, 2010

Hit the streets — this is war.

REVISION: A new idiocy to the Black nomination for chancellor.
One of her magazines was giving out Sex Tips of the Day, at $2.99 a pop.

Maybe she'll give them away free to kids if they do their homework.

If you can't stand the hubris, arrogance, corruption and fraud going on in New York City schools under the direction of Michael Bloomberg, the Royal Mayor of our city, come out protest with lots of other parents, teachers and students this Tuesday at the PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech.


One look at this new GEM video will give you all the why's you'll ever need.

The kids are brilliant.

The voices are loud.

The disgust is thorough and complete.

A message from GEM:
We’ll meet up at 4:15 at the corner of DeKalb Ave. and South Elliot Pl. by Fort Greene Park for a mini rehearsal and then go over to Brooklyn Tech HS at 5:15 for the performance.

Join with us and let your voice be heard.

Let’s tell the Puppet PEP that we are not going to let them deform, dismantle and destroy our schools and our students’ education!

Need some more reasons why this newspaper lady shouldn't be given the keys to our city?

You'll find reasons in Charles Barron's letter to the State asking Steiner not to give her a waiver.


Re: Letter urging the New York State Education Department to refuse waiver for new Chancellor & announcement of Thursday Press Conference

Dear Commissioner Steiner /NYSED :

It has come to my attention that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in the process of appointing Magazine Executive Cathie Black to replace Joel Klein, who stepped down as Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education. I have also learned that Cathie Black (like Joel Klein when he was appointed) does not meet the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED’s) required minimum of education and experience to become Chancellor. Thus, she will need a waiver from NYSED before the appointment is official.This is is outrageous and unacceptable. I am writing to urge you to refuse a waiver.

While Ms. Black may be an accomplished businesswoman, New York City Public Schools are not businesses, nor are our children products or commodities. Our children deserve to have a qualified and experienced professional with a successful track record of commitment and competency in developing educated, well rounded, and high achieving students. The importance of these kinds of credentials is evident in the failure of the unqualified Joel Klein with our schools. Eight years of his tenure has left classrooms still overcrowded, a curriulum that has little or no cultural relevance to the student demographic (primarily Black and Latino students), communities fighting over co-located charter schools, unreliable school grades based on unreliable data, no-bid school contracts, our children starved of science, art and music & replaced with excessive test preparation, questions surrounding the manipulation of testing & test scores, and many other serious issues. We cannot repeat this gross injustice to our children, parents, unions, and teachers.

The process by which Bloomberg selected Ms. Black was disrespectful; it was not open to public input - yet Bloomberg seeks NYSED, a public state agency, to grant a waiver. Once again, I urge that you do not grant this waiver and thus accept nothing less than the excellence that our children and our city deserve.

Charles Barron

As I said, this is war.

October 31, 2010

From TAG: Settling 101

The following document being circulated by TAG (Teacher Advocacy Group) speaks for itself. It is a response to the the procedures concocted by the DoE and UFT in an effort to close the rubber rooms and streamline the Teachers Reassigned process.

Commentary about that April 15th agreement can be found on the ICE blog, in separate posts by Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno.

Philip Nobile says in a subsequent post on the same subject:

"[The rubber rooms] were never the real issue.
Rather they are the rear end product of the DOE’s discipline system that can reassign a ham sandwich."

To Teachers, Counselors, Other Affected UFT Personnel:

Many thanks to the TAGNYC member who composed the following directives for any UFT member forced to go through the shameful, bogus process called "Settlement." This member underwent the process and can state from experience that negotiation savvy, and not fear, is your only, repeat ONLY, ally. Again, thank you. Feedback welcomed.


Settling 101

So your number’s up and it’s Mediation Day! It’s been a long road, waiting for a 3020-a hearing, and now you’ve got to jump through this new hoop of trying to reach an agreement with the Department of Education before finalizing the decision to be heard in administrative court. For some of you, the mediation appointment is just something to do until you have your hearing. Perhaps you think you have to go straight to the 3020-a hearing because of all of the injustice you’ve endured. That is understandable, too.

Having experienced part of the mandated mediation process and thinking about how it could have gone even better is the reason for this short guidebook. Hopefully, it will be useful to you in some way and the experience will have not been for naught.

PRE-MEDIATION: To Mediate or Not to Mediate

After taking an informal survey of folks who went through the 3020-a hearing process, the finding is that those who did not have the support of their principals were found guilty of something -- no matter how minor. Those findings resulted in fines, mandatory classes, and or other conditions. Findings against teachers occurred even when DOE witnesses were found to have lied.

In some cases where the principal fully supported the teacher and/or did not give testimony related to the charges, the teachers were exonerated. So, administrative acquittal can happen. Just ask yourself if there is anyone willing to testify truthfully on your behalf -- and in your favor -- to disprove all of the allegations against you. If not, then settling may be a better option for you. If you are unsure, ask around and take your own informal survey. Just ask yourself which path would lead to a better night’s sleep at the end of the day.



Attitude is everything. When your NYSUT lawyer informs you of your mediation date, smile and say that you have an open mind and would love to hear what the DOE has to say. You can seethe inside, knowing you will go on to have your 3020-a hearing. However, going in with an open mind is crucial to getting closer to bearable terms of an agreement.

If you really are crazy, now is not the time to show your true colors. And, if you know deep down you are guilty of the allegations, exhibiting a positive and professional demeanor will persuade the DOE arbitrator and your NYSUT attorney to really work with you and try to get you closer to your own stipulations. If you are difficult or belligerent in any way, you will be less likely to receive any assistance or anything close to an agreeable offer.

Remember to dress professionally. This means to wear a suit and good accessories. You have one opportunity to make a positive impression on the people working on your case: the NYSUT attorney, the arbitrator, and the DOE lawyer.


If you can, make sure to bring your spouse to all meetings, including your mediation conference. And of course bring your spouse to your 3020-a hearing if you choose to go that route. Such support is not only comforting, subconsciously it helps temper any potential underhandedness the DOE, the arbitrator, or your NYSUT lawyer might otherwise pursue. Your NYSUT lawyer may balk at the idea, so just show up with your spouse and insist that your conferences will always include your spouse. There is some legal clause that allows spouses to hear all the lawyer-client privileged conversations. Be sure to take advantage of this little-known fact. It helps to have someone on your side in the room with you!



You and your attorney meet to discuss the allegations against you during a separate meeting or phone conversation. During this time, you reiterate how and why the allegations are false. If they are not, explain as objectively as possible what happened. Remember to dress professionally and credibly if you meet your lawyer. A personal visit may be best as this is the time to make a positive impression.

A few days or a couple of weeks later you will find yourself on the sixth floor of the DOE Administrative Trials Unit at 49-51 Chambers St, where there are many, many conference rooms. You will be asked to sign in. If you need to use the bathroom, you will have to ask for the code. Bring snacks and water as you will have to wait throughout the day.

Once the official mediation meeting begins, you and your attorney will go into a conference room with the DOE lawyer and the arbitrator. Before this year, the arbitrator in the mediation process was the same arbitrator who heard a teacher’s case during the 3020-a hearing. Now, the arbitrator who mediates at this meeting is not the one who will hear your case should it become a 3020-a trial.

The DOE lawyer will make some brief opening statement about your specifications and which allegations are serious and how the DOE might be willing to settle. Then, the arbitrator will ask you and your lawyer to go into another room. The arbitrator will speak separately with the DOE lawyer about what the DOE wants in the settlement.

Then, the arbitrator will go to your room and speak with you and your attorney. This is the time to answer the arbitrator’s questions and bring up your concerns and desired terms. At this time, you may hear a lot of, “This is the best thing for you to do,” or “If you settle, you’ll be able to move on with your life.” Maintain your focus if you know that the DOE’s terms are unacceptable and you want to continue with the 3020-a hearing. Remember, their goal is to push through as many settlements as possible to meet the December deadline of closing all cases. Congeniality will go a long way during this one-on-one with the arbitrator because he is the one who usually acts as the go-between your lawyer and the DOE lawyer. If you are difficult or belligerent, the arbitrator may not be so willing to offer suggestions for more favorable terms on your behalf.

Depending on the time of your appointment, it is possible that your mediation meeting may be extended on another day. This is advantageous for you to be able to think about the terms offered and what you are willing to accept. In addition, it may give you time to think outside the box and come up with viable counter-offers. If the end of the day is not near, just ask for a day or two to think about it. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Take care of yourself and refuse to let yourself to be rattled because of some artificial deadline to get everything signed.



When discussing your case with your NYSUT lawyer, be sure to mention your ideal outcome. For example, most settlements include a fine, some type of remediation course at your expense, and some sort of stipulations. Some are negotiable in terms of the severity, but not in complete removal. Find out which apply to your case.

Some DOE stipulations could be as follows:

Respondent (that’s you) agrees he is guilty of (insert any one of your specifications here).

Respondent agrees that if she is late any more this year, he will be terminated effective immediately.

Respondent agrees that he will not disclose any of the terms of this agreement to settle this case.

There are many other terms that could apply. It just depends on the allegations and the people working on your case.


Your deal-breakers may not coincide with the DOE’s desired provisions, so it’s good to be creative and to think outside the box for the following possible terms.

The DOE loves to start high and then lower the amount of the fine. If you have incurred certain expenses, you should make your lawyer aware of this amount. For example, if you had to rent a storage unit to contain your teaching materials, this should be mentioned. Ask your NYSUT lawyer to get the DOE to state how it arrived at the offered fine amount. Question it, but do so politely.

Issue of Guilt
This is a really important clause to have your NYSUT lawyer insist upon including in the agreement. Ideally, it should be listed underneath the stipulation about the fine you agree to pay.

It should be stated as follows:
“Both parties entering this contract agree that the payment of the fine of $__ does not constitute guilt on the part of the Respondent.”

Your lawyer may tell you that this is not done or that if the DOE doesn’t bring up the issue of guilt you should not, either. It is your decision. Just remember that the inclusion of this statement may have more of an impact later on in your life and career, and that such forethought now could be beneficial in the future.

Remediation Courses
By now you have probably heard of colleagues whose settlements included taking courses on the topic of their allegations. In one case, someone had to find a course on using cell phones in the classroom. It’s absurd, but that’s what that teacher agreed to do. These classes are taught by the same teachers who conduct professional development workshops. They charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per hour, depending on the seniority of the teacher. It’s a racket, and expensive since most agreed-upon courses are at least three hours long. This course fee comes out of your wallet. So, have your lawyer really question the necessity of this stipulation in the agreement.

Removal of Specifications
At the beginning of the mediation process, your lawyer – if she’s good – will avoid disclosing your defense strategy in front of the DOE lawyer. Your attorney should ask the DOE lawyer how much evidence he has for each specification. If the DOE lawyer has little to no evidence, have your lawyer push for the removal of those specifications and include that in the settlement agreement. Just make sure the specifications are stated only as “Specification One” versus “Specification One: Teacher is accused of hitting a student in the hallway before class.” The settlement agreement goes permanently into your file.

Letter of Reprimand
If your allegations are minor, your NYSUT lawyer should ask for a letter of reprimand. This should be the first thing you ask for in lieu of a fine. It is the lowest form of punishment the DOE can administer. Some teachers get this as a result of a 3020-a hearing.

Order of Stipulations
Take time to read the draft of the settlement. If the first stipulation is about the imposed fine, request that it be listed somewhere on the second page. The reason for this is simple: whoever reads it will see the fine that you agreed to pay and it will be the first impression of you – on paper. If other, less serious terms are stated first, then the paragraph about the fine seems less important. And, most people gloss over such documents. So by the second page, perhaps most people will have stopped reading the agreement.

Status of District
If you prefer to stay in the district of your current school, make sure to bring up this point. There has been lots of talk on blogs about how teachers’ status regarding districts can change or be challenged. If it is included in your settlement agreement that you can only interview and be offered positions in your current district, then you will have fewer headaches later.

Ineligible list removal
Make sure that included in the agreement is a statement that says your name will be removed from the ineligible list immediately after the agreement goes into effect. The DOE must be held accountable if this does not occur immediately. Continue to follow up with your NYSUT lawyer until this is resolved. Furthermore, many teachers whose cases have been settled for a while find that their status is still “Suspended with pay” instead of “ATR.” If this should happen to you, call the man in charge of the Children First Network human resources department which handles such teachers: Anthony Vellon, 718-828-5771 or 646-465-2795.



After all of that, the arbitrator will take some time to review all the information from both sides. There may be some back-and-forth between your lawyer and the DOE lawyer. Each time, a draft of the settlement may be submitted for your review. Once you and the DOE agree on the terms, the DOE lawyer will type up a final draft of the contract. It is binding, so read it thoroughly BEFORE you sign it.

Reading the contract right moments before signing it is really important because what generally happens is that you and your lawyer approve the final draft, and then the DOE lawyer goes off to type it up and print it out. The DOE lawyer may then revise the document -- without telling you—and then fold over all of the pages of the contract so that the only page showing of each of the four or five copies you are to sign at once is the signature page. Take your time to read each agreement carefully. Remember, this is your life, not theirs. The DOE lawyer, the arbitrator, and your NYSUT attorney do this for a living, so it’s just another day and just another teacher to them. So, if they need to wait while you calmly make sure everything is as agreed, then so be it.

There are at least four copies to be signed all at once. You get one, the NYSUT office gets one, your principal gets one, and the DOE office gets one. After the DOE's legal unit supervisor and your principal sign it, you will receive a copy of your settlement in the mail.

Once the DOE lawyer and you are ready to finalize the contract, the entire process will be recorded. In the room with you all is an additional person: the official recorder. You will be asked to state your name and verbally agree that you are entering this binding agreement of your own free will. Everyone watches you sign the contracts, and then it's all over.


Now, all you have to do is wait for the mail to arrive. Once you receive your copy of the agreement, take note of how you feel and use that for future reference. Then, it's time to move forward and to put the Rubber Room behind you

Having said all of that, the steps after mediation are fuzzy at best. As stated above, many teachers whose cases have been settled for a while find that their status is still "Suspended with Pay" instead of "ATR" or "Restored to Service." If this should happen to you, call your NYSUT lawyer as well as the man in charge of the Children First Network human resources department which handles such teachers. At the time of the publication of this guidebook, that man is Mr. Anthony Vellon. His phone number is 718-828-5771. Some teachers who were not given clear instructions on where to report this fall were able to find out their new assignment just by talking to Mr. Vellon.

In addition, pay attention to your paychecks because some teachers have noticed funny numbers in their take-home pay. One such example is of a teacher whose W-2 form shows more money than was actually paid. Another teacher saw an increase in salary but no explanation of why. What the DOE giveth, the DOE can taketh away -- if you have direct deposit.

Furthermore, after you are removed from the ineligible list, and even after you find yourself at a new school as an ATR, you many one day receive an e-mail in your Inbox or a letter via postal service from a school or some other DOE office telling you about immediate openings at schools or mandatory job fairs. The interview dates for immediate openings offered directly by a school could possibly be mandatory. This is where the whole issue of your status of district comes into play. Make sure to contact the DOE entity and let your status be known. Take notes and write down names. Consider showing up in person.The important thing is to be able to counter whatever argument the DOE makes for terminating you for not showing enough effort to get hired or for not appearing at mandated interviews. It could happen!

Life after mediation should not be scary, but it is because of the internal administrative changes, our nebulous status, and the DOE’s goal of terminating ATRs. Just make sure you always write down the names and contact information from everyone you encounter so you can stay on top of your status and next teaching assignment until you are hired and appointed once again.

©2010. Please let TAGNYC know how Settling 101 has helped you.

October 23, 2010

Building things in stone

It's not that I'm slacking off, but once again in this sinister, pro-business, aggressively anti-teacher and decidedly anti-arts climate, I find myself teaching out of license.

Two years ago, they gave me a band program, though I do not teach under a band license. That's because to everyone in the DoE music is music, whether it's orchestra, band, or chorus. Any musician knows how really different the singing thing is from the instrument thing — like about a lifetime to learn how to do either one.

This year they've gone further astray, cut music altogether in my school, and asked me to teach health. I guess they figured that since I've had children of my own, that I seem to be keeping myself well enough, and that I've personally experienced every stage of life but old age, I must know something about health and healthiness. But, that doesn't make it legal under state law.

Mind you, for people who like total immersion, it's not at all bad to teach a whole program like health out of license. Delving into how the body really works and a whole range of other physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, and environmental topics is all good stuff and worth spending many hours on. I'm not begrudging any of that, but it sure does cut into my political work.

Which means that if I come across something that needs to be circulated widely, I'm happy to do it.

A few days ago Betsy Combier (NYC Rubber Room Reporter) drew attention to an article posted last week by Howard Wexler called: New York Labor and Employment Law Report.

It's important to read all of it, but here's an excerpt:
"Earlier this year, Governor David Paterson signed into law Chapter 103 of the Laws of 2010 which, among other things, drastically alters the way classroom teachers and building principals are evaluated and the procedures for disciplining tenured teachers. These changes will take effect over the course of the next several years. Many key provisions were effective on July 1, 2010. . . .

The most widely publicized aspect of the new legislation is Section 3012 c of the Education Law (“3012-c”), which contains the new comprehensive Annual Professional Performance Review (“APPR”) system for teachers and principals. For the 2011-2012 school year, the new APPR system applies only to evaluations of teachers in the common branch subjects or English Language Arts, and Math in grades four through eight, as well as building principals. The new APPR system will apply to all teachers and principals effective in the 2012-2013 school year. . . ."
This ed-deform movement is like building a bloody pyramid.

Stone by well-crafted stone, they put every piece of their agenda in place, not stopping for a moment to think of all the lives devastated in the making of such a gargantuan monument to self-aggrandizement, putrid values, and obscene wealth.

October 9, 2010

And the Nobel Prize for
Opposition to EdDeform goes to ...

South Bronx School

who just wrote the brilliant piece below. I'm thinking it should be plastered everywhere IN FULL.

Honestly, you need a sledgehammer to get the comfortable middle-class to wake up and smell the roses.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Joel Klein Writes A Manifesto
For Our Time

So Joel Klein knows how to write. Or at the very least knows how to have someone ghost write for him. At least that what it appears in the article in the Washington Post which is due out this Sunday. In fact to help the readers read this mess we here at SBSB have supplied some background music to play whilst reading it. Click here.
Not to leave any credit behind, the article was "co-written" with Michelle Rhee, Ron Huberman, and a bunch of other hacks.

So, the crack team read and reread the Manifesto to come up with a response. The first problem the crack team has is using "manifesto" in the title. Though there is a chance that the Post decided to give it the title it did. The crack team does have an issue with "manifesto." Conjures up crackpots who think 9/11 was an inside job, or Fasci di Combattimento. Something like that. So now down to the lowlights of the Manifesto.

Off to a brilliant, self centered, self absorbed, look at me start already.....

As educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country's public schools begins with us.

No, it does not begin with you. Sorry to say that. It begins with the families. The parents. The children. The community. The teachers. The people on the front lines. It is not all about you. Get over it.

But those reforms are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.

There is no crisis. You created the crisis (I urge all readers to read The Shock Doctrine). As with anything in life education is fluid. It ebbs and flows and changes naturally. What you are doing is unnatural and unethical.

The "Waiting for 'Superman' " documentary, the defeat of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to Newark's public schools, and a tidal wave of media attention have helped spark a national debate and presented us with an extraordinary opportunity.

Who except politicians, and the deformers, loves "Waiting for Superman?" The movie that is supposed to have been made for the people of the inner city, to show the plight of the people of the inner city, is not even playing in the inner city! It's not playing on 161st St in the Bronx. It is not playing at Baychester. It is not playing at Whitestone. Not playing in Harlem or Washington Heights. Why isn't it? Is this not the audience you want to reach?

Fenty was defeated because him and Rhee were seen as elitists. According to Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University in the New York Times Magazine on October 3 said, "the black, often struggling residents of Washington — the vast majority of parents in the public-school system — have a hair-trigger intolerance for anything that smacks of paternalism or disdain by policy makers, particularly when they appear to be telling people how to run their lives and, most potentially offensive of all, how to educate their children." What is it you are not getting?

As far as Zuckerberg. He is an opportunist. Why waste time with him?

21st-century global economy simply will not happen unless we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children.

You mean, "Children First?" Funny. Joel will you set the example by doing away with all the over paid consultants? What about all these network leaders, children first leaders, etc... that just take up space? Favored adults? Why then is the principal that is responsible for the death of Nicole Suriel still employed?

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents' income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Joel, boobala, just because Obama said it does not make it so. The single most important person in a child's education is the parent. In fact, superstar and world famous social worker Susanne Berman said so on my radio show. I posit it to think that Susanne knows more than you when it comes to the psychology of children.

Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials. The widespread policy of "last in, first out" (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators and ignores the one thing that should matter most: performance.

So new, young teachers are enthusiastic? Performance? But it has shown that a teacher takes until about their fifth year to get their groove on. I would never, ever allow my child to have a new teacher. The rules are not archaic. They are there to protect indiscriminate retaliation which as you and your cronies have shown is quite prevalent in the NYC DOE. Does your pal Mike propose the same for cops, firefighters, sanitation workers, parks employees? What about corrections officers at Rikers? Your performance has been abhorrent yet you still have a job. Why is that? Want to do away with academic credentials for teachers? Sure, why not. Let's do the same for lawyers. How difficult can it be to bill $450/hr for a phone call?

There isn't a business in America that would survive if it couldn't make personnel decisions based on performance.

And there is not a business in America that would survive the way the NYC DOE treats its "customers." McDonald's treats its public better than the DOE treats its public.

The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher....

This is due to due process. You are a lawyer, what is it you fail to comprehend about due process? Besides, define incompetence.

has left our school districts impotent.

Joel, and I might be wrong will will check with world famous social worker Susanne Berman on this, but you just might be projecting here. Yes, it happens. It is understandable. You are of course over 60 years of age. But you can do something. Perhaps join Bob Dole in a commercial?

District leaders also need the authority to use financial incentives to attract and retain the best teachers.

Financial incentives, merit pay has been shot down. Don't you read the papers? Or the internet?

Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy?

NO!!!! So why are you keeping class sizes so high? Why are you not using the funds given to reduce class size??

eliminate arcane rules such as "seat time," which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.

Yep. Another way to reduce the teachers. The unions. And the pay. Technology is great. I am all for it. But it is just another tool in the classroom. Akin to a book, or a piece of chalk.

That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students.

C'mon man. The grading system changes every single year. How can it have any credibility when it comes to closing schools?

Joel, you have done more to wreck education in NYC than anyone has in history. You are a rotten human being, and in a way I feel quite sorry for you. You have no shame, no compassion, and no remorse. Your policies are there to hurt people. I hope one day you can repent. Nixon did.

September 27, 2010

"That's not the whole story!"

There's lots of talk about the film Waiting for Superman these days, though it amounts to little more than a tear-jerking effort to undermine public education and bust teachers unions from sea to shining sea.
Juan Gonzalez interviews Rick Ayers on Democracy Now!

And just out in the Huffington Post:
"Saving Schools from the 'Supermen'"
It's a biased, intellectually shallow film, whose main premises — that tenure is bad and that charter schools will save public education — are both unfounded. There is no research to show charters do "better" than district schools (and what does "better" mean anyway?), and much evidence to the contrary, that in fact no school system has to go corporate and de-unionize itself to create good learning environments.

This film is a wake-up call, but not for us to go and rip out the underpinnings of the public system. Those schools served us well for many years and would continue to do so if the people running things at all levels of government would spend a lot more time listening to classroom educators and to parents.

There were Superman protests at Loew's Broadway and Rockefeller Center here in New York a few days ago, and educators belonging to San Francisco's EDU and UESF challenged filmmaker David Guggenheim at an advanced screening earlier this month. SF's United Public Workers for Action are calling for a boycott of the film on the grounds that it's part of a "consensus building" campaign against public education.

Ednotes reminds us not to miss an essay of Brian Jones at the International Socialist website, and NYC Educator lets us know what Chancellor Klein's been saying about the film. Both excellent reads.

Says the AFT in a new short video: Don't try to put anything over on a bunch of 5-year-olds, because they'll know the difference between a good story and hunk of Swiss cheese. Too bad the American public isn't that savvy. They're not offended by the smell, and can't even tell where all the holes are.

I didn't mind reading a sampling of the film's negative reviews again in a thoughtful piece by William Levay on the UFT website, but I'd much rather see the union spend its energy rejecting bad ideas like merit pay (because this doesn't get "results" and can't further our cause) and charter schools (too bad they have one or two of their own) and negotiating a contract that would bring the DoE to heel.

There's plenty of ways to make some noise about what's coming down. Just make it a point to put it on your agenda.

September 22, 2010

A month oldie, but a goodie:
Now you try it.

In the prelude to this Friday's NYC premiere of the diabolical film Waiting for Superman, I turned to the GEM blog to see what's on the agenda. More of that in a minute.

First I'm hitting replay on a video they put up showing a parent's reaction to when Klein slapped parents in the face by shutting down the August 16th PEP meeting and pulling his team out.

That's because he didn't want to hear what members of the audience had to say about New York City's (inflated and manipulated) test scores. There wasn't going to be any public comment on that subject, no sir!

So it's good there were videographers in the crowd who could show us what it sounds like when people get really mad at governmental puppets who shut them down. Watch this parent, she's great:

"Accountability has to start with somebody. This issue about test scores is absurd . . . That power point showed nothing about learning, it showed that our kids are being prepared to take tests."

"Any many of us have checked our children's scores on ARIS . . . Our children have dropped from a 3 to a 1, and you can't sit down and give us the respect to sit down and listen to what we have to say?! THESE ARE OUR CHILDREN: Don't get it twisted! THESE ARE OUR KIDS: Don't get it twisted!
And we will stand up, and we will be there every time you come back."

[Demanding on Emergency Plan for learning that is inclusive of parents and community members]:
"We know that the only way to have sustainability . . . is if WE are engaged in what is happening in schools!"

"I don't want to HEAR you don't have the funding. Our kids are dying literally in the street for lack of education . . . How DARE you disrespect us, the parents, by walking out! HOW DARE YOU. HOW DARE YOU! . . . I am very offended that they had the nerve and audacity to walk out ON US!"

Okay. I'm fired up, and everyone should be when you hear REALITY talk like this.

Which brings me to the FANTASY world of Superman. . As TAGNYC says in a recent email about this twisted, diabolical movie:
"The media, in various guises, is increasing its alliance with politicians and others who are profiting from the destruction of public school systems and the jobs of the teachers they employ."
And from Marjorie Stamberg:
"As you know, this is the kickoff of a campaign to blame teachers, and teacher unions in particular, for everything that is wrong with public education in the U.S. Oprah [I couldn't stomach finding a link to this, it's so shameless. You're on your own.] is having a special on it tomorrow with Bill Gates and the unspeakable Michelle Rhee to boost union-busting charter schools."

If you haven't caught the Rick Ayers piece in the Huffington Post this past week, here are the important bits:
"After dismissing funding as a factor, Superman rolls out the drum-beat of attacks on teachers as the first and really the only problem. Except for a few patronizing pats on the head for educators, the film describes school failure as boiling down to bad teachers. Relying on old clichés that single out the handful of loser teachers anyone could dig up, Waiting for Superman asserts that the unions are the boogey man. In his perfect world, there would be no unions – we could drive teacher wages even lower, run schools like little corporations, and race to the bottom just as we have in the manufacturing sector. Imagining that the profit motive works best, the privatizers propose merit pay for teachers whose students test well. Such a scheme would only lead to adult cheating (which has already started), to well-connected teachers packing their classes with privileged kids, and to an undermining of the very essence of effective schools – collaboration between teachers, generous community building with students. . . .

"Waiting for Superman accepts a theory of learning that is embarrassing in its stupidity. In one of its many little cartoon segments, it purports to show how kids learn. The top of a child's head is cut open and a jumble of factoids is poured in. Ouch! Oh, and then the evil teacher union and regulations stop this productive pouring project. The film-makers betray no understanding of how people actually learn, the active and agentive participation of students in the learning process. They ignore the social construction of knowledge, the difference between deep learning and rote memorization. The film unquestioningly bows down to standardized tests as the measure of student knowledge, school success. Such a testing regime bullies aside deeper learning, authentic assessment, portfolio and project based learning. Yes, deeper learning like this is difficult to measure with simple numbers – but we can't let the desire for simple numbers simplify the educational project. Extensive research has demonstrated definitively that standardized testing reproduces inequities, marginalizes English Language Learners and those who do not grow up speaking a middle class vernacular, dumbs down the curriculum, and misinform policy. It is the wisdom of the misinformed, accepted against educational evidence and research. Never mind, they declare: we will define the future of education anyway.

"Sadly, the narrow and blinkered reasoning in Waiting for Superman is behind the No Child Left Behind disaster rebranded as Race to the Top. Don't believe the hype."
Indeed, do not.

In fact, rail against it this Friday afternoon and evening at the Lincoln Center AMC Loews — any time, any show. Expect to see more than one group, expect to see progressive educators who know what's going down in our school system.

Here are the messages it's our job to make moviegoers see as they fork over hard-earned cash to see this interminably long commercial for corpocrap:
"Stop Scapegoating Teachers"

"No to Privatization of Public Schools"

"Corporate Ed Deformers Are Killing Public Education"

"Teacher-Bashing Hurts Kids"

The address is 1998 Broadway — take the 1 train to 66th Street.
Prime showtime is at 7:05 p.m., and the picket could run from 6 pm to 7:30.

September 11, 2010

Primaries this Tuesday:
Support Bill Perkins (Harlem)
and Velmanette Montgomery (B'klyn)

State Sen. Bill Perkins sees the big picture, including the charter school invasion of Harlem.

Scott's latest post on Perkins opponent Basil Smickle in Tuesday's primary connects some dots to the charter school lobby:

"The charter school lobby has become one of the major threats to public education in this nation and the Perkins/Smickle primary is the epicenter."

He cites other links to charter school support — financial and otherwise — in the forthcoming election, notably this article in the NY Times.

These two need to win, so if they're your people. you got a civic duty on Tuesday.

September 10, 2010

Hochstadt's letter to the WSJ on ATRs

If you haven't read this letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal — and it's so well written and to the point — here's an excerpt (italics mine):

The Chancellor’s policy to decrease the proportion of tenured teachers by making tenure hard to achieve is one he is entirely reasonable in promulgating. The invidious ways in which he seeks to purge already tenured teachers is depriving the city’s students of experienced, tried and true educators, and is contractually, statutorily, and constitutionally unlawful . . .

. . . Gimmicks will not work, no idea that only involves the 8% of time the students are in school will work, the educational schism of the haves and the have-nots has grown too vast. . .

Hochstadt makes all the right points, so if you want to put SOMETHING in everyone's mailbox that's worth the paper it's written on, try this letter.

These new TJC leaflets need to get circulated as well:
The UFT Must Mobilize to Protect New Teachers!

The UFT Must Stop Supporting Politicians Who Don’t Support Us!

Contract Catastrophe
More info on the TJC website.

September 2, 2010

The REAL achievement gap

BloomKlein's spin on its achievements


the reality of its failures.

Bloomberg and Klein have created a culture of deceit and disdain for everyone involved in public education: children, parents, teachers, and administrators.

Thanks to GEM, we have a video indictment of the Chancellor and his Panel for Educational Policy.

Thanks to other activist websites, word is getting out there.

Shame on the New York Times and all the other online media who continue to think the kind of protest shown in GEM's video is not newsworthy enough for their attention. I guess the people who make those editorial decisions send their kids to private schools.

Put these dates on your calendar to attend PEP meetings for the rest of the school year and swamp these sociopaths with their own record.

August 29, 2010

Now more than ever . . .

I posted the essay below back in January of '08, and I'm sticking by it.

With a decade of EdDeform behind us and teacher-bashing becoming an unwritten law of the land, I think it's time the public gets to see what their ed dollars are buying. They won't find schools packed with fully-qualified teachers, because those numbers are going down.

hat public education operatives are really looking for is teacher transience and teacher malleability, and they're very pleased that no one on the outside can tell the difference between those who have finished their certification and those who have not.

Go into any doctor's office, and you'll see credentials and licensing all over the walls.
Visit a CPA, stock broker, or real estate agent and you'll see the same.
olicemen wear uniforms, badges and stripes, bus drivers and taxi drivers display licenses.

All of these are signs of sufficient competence to do a job.
The individuals sporting them took the prescribed coursework, passed their tests, and got certified. We're supposed to trust their license or badge, and guess what: we do.

Why isn't this happening with educators?

Because we don't show everyone we're fully certified on our sleeve like everyone else does, but maybe it's time that we should.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bring back school uniforms — for teachers

Five or six years ago, young new teachers, most of them grad students, started coming to school wearing items of clothing that set them apart from older teachers. For the women, these items included flip-flops and bodice-type shirts held up by spaghetti straps, and there was often little attempt to conceal the fasteners, color, or fabric of the underwear worn underneath (if any).

For the men,
it was a shirt, frequently
unbuttoned, and maybe a tie, however loosely it was knotted below the collar; more
likely than not, these were complemented by blue jeans, not always in good repair.

There are cultural norms for attire in the workplace, and we don’t help students much when clothing that is overly “cool,” “phat” or trendy is worn by teachers. This stuff is often provocative and distracting, and in some cases it gives way more information about the wearer than any student should be in a position to know. Besides, if we ask the kids not to wear tank-tops, halters, low-slung jeans, and other revealing apparel, it speaks to a general consensus that appropriate school clothing should be somewhat conservative

I’m not suggesting that teachers should submit to a dress code. Far from it.

What I am proposing is that it might be time to consider what a specific uniform — a black robe — could do for our profession. It's been around for eight centuries and is arguably the most enduring symbol of scholarship and academic achievement ever designed. I’m not advocating wearing robes like they do in the English grammar schools, where all the instructors sport them as a collective sign of mastery and dominance. I think they should be worn here selectively, by any teacher who is tenured and fully certified.

Note: And not worn zipped up like in the picture below, but casually, open at the front, like a cardigan — as if we were actually born wearing these things

Before you blast me for things I am not, consider this:
BloomKlein’s Board of Education has been destabilizing the teaching profession for many years now. They’ve encroached on our contractual right to autonomy, dangled free tuition for grad school in front of college graduates (many of whom have no intention of being classroom teachers in the long run but who accept the gift anyway), bashed the union, and pressured expensive veteran teachers to leave altogether. Since it becomes more difficult to stay in the job and more difficult to recruit the “keepers,” the percentage of untenured and not fully certified teachers is substantial. (I’m going on what I’m seeing and hearing when I say this: I’d like to see some real figures on these percentages if anyone knows where to get them.)
As this diminishment of teaching continues, we have to look for ways to give this issue some visibility.

When you want to tell the difference between things that look alike, you use colors or labels. If we do this with robes, several things happen, not least of which is that we would actually get to see what percentage of the workforce — in each school, in each district, in each borough, and in fact citywide — has gone all the way to teacherhood. I think it's politically in our interest to do this.

Remember, I’m not talking quality teaching here, nor giving any extra status to the “lead” teacher, which as a position is meaningless (except for the perks) and subject to favoritism. There are, after all, great teachers in every school who are not lead teachers, and there are lead teachers in our schools who are not actually the best teachers in the system.
Let's try putting black robes on all of the teachers who are fully tenured and fully certified, regardless of how well they teach or play the system, and see what happens.

Some might consider this proposition to be reactionary, iconoclastic, or even unconstitutional, but I think it’s worth looking into.

There would definitely be a psychological change in the classroom. Students would learn that the teachers with robes achieved something more than a college degree, even though they may not fully understand at first what that something is. They’d come to understand that the robe means these particular instructors have worked long and hard to achieve their professional goals. They’ve set standards for themselves, and they’ve met them. As one graduate put the kind of thing I'm talking about on a recent blog:
Looking at the computer science doctorates around me during the commencement ceremony, I felt very envious. I want an advanced degree. And despite how silly the robes are in comparison to modern attire, they come with the territory of earning a doctoral degree, so my desire transfers over into wanting to wear those robes as well.

I made a comment to one of my professors that he should show up to the first day of class next semester wearing full academic regalia, just to throw off the students. I would love to see those reactions. After all, professors used to wear these robes all the time, so why not try to bring that tradition back? (June 07)

I suspect that putting robes on fully certified teachers would not only have an effect on the kids but on the provisional instructors as well, people who now make up a good chunk of the workforce. Teaching fellows, for example, would in a bipartite environment such as this be identified for a while as transitional instructors; they'd be making the choice during this period whether they plan to stay in the profession once they graduate and get tenure or opt out, and any outsider would know they're still in training and thinking about it. No robes either for anyone who gets tenure but drags out their graduate studies over many years. One could make an argument that students, parents, and staff even have a right to see how many teachers and specifically which ones are not yet full members of the profession.

It is in BloomKlein’s interest to paint teachers in this system as an amorphous group of less than adequate know-nothings. They want to be able to hire and fire us at will, move us around, script us, and silence us. They want us to come cheap and leave soon.

If we as a society want fully certified teachers in the classrooms, let’s actually see how many of us are already in place, and let’s see how the percentages fall and rise when the political winds blow.

If we want to see the disproportionate numbers of fully certified teachers in our disadvantaged neighborhoods, let’s actually see how many of them work in these sites, school by school and district by district.

If we want principals to stop hiring two-for-the-price of one, put robes on the fully certified and tenured teachers and let those principals show off a schoolful of non-robed staff. They may want to think twice about hiring on the cheap if the percentages of provisional teachers are out there for the world to see.

If we want to try and restore some of that respect that used to come with the job, have the fully qualified ones wear that well-established symbol of scholarship instead of those inane armbands the UFT proposed a few years ago in one fleeting moment of protest.

And if we want to stop BloomKlein from portraying us as somehow unworthy and perpetually unfinished, let us stand up to their brutalization and marginalization wearing the mantle of scholars and degree-holders.

Black robes have always been a political statement.

It might be worth wearing them again to change the dynamic in the current state of siege.

August 5, 2010

Click and learn.

Thank you, Paul Jay of The Real News, for asking the normal tough questions — and then LISTENING to the answers. Not many people are these days: not the media, and not the political leaders who listen only to big money.

[Background info to this at Ednotes, of course.]

July 10, 2010

On break

While I sort out what I'd like to be doing for the rest of my life, which will be something like this:

or this:

everything that bothers me about EdDeform, Unity Caucus, and Tweed is being covered and linked to by the indefatigable Norm Scott over at Ednotes. He's like Google Earth on speed.

And there is oh so much.

As GEM's Angel Gonzalez wrote this morning on a listserv:

Keep your on-the-money reports coming. Your posts & videos shd be mandated college education curriculum stuff and for PD.
Teachers shd be required to pass a norm-based test on your Ednotes postings and be part of these new teacher report cards.
Teachers who get a U on this Ednotes test would be required to join GEM for a probationary year.

So that is what that Disgusting Dues Sucking Unity-Weingarten Caucus does with our monies while our schools & staff must endure the dire predicaments in our schools.

Pomp, ceremony, extravanganza, virtual fireworks, wining and dining and political spin on relentless betrayal of teachers, students, public schools and communities. And shameless.

Let's get those AFT million$$$$$$$$$$ spent in Seattle to organize our grassroots school constituencies across the country against the likes of Bill Gates in our City, DOE & Sell-out Union halls.

Thanks to all of you who represent our struggle against this AFT betrayal of working class education interests.

To Norm and all the other watchdogs who stay alert even through the hottest days of the summer, we need you guys.

Because they're running this ship into the ground.

June 30, 2010

Here they go again

Another article about those pesky ATRs sucking the system dry, this time in the Wall Street Journal.

Barbara Martinez likes to quote Joel Klein:
"Some people prefer not to work, let's not kid ourselves," Mr. Klein said.
but she doesn't like quoting the contract.

So, I decided to give her the experience of reading a primary source.

Dear Ms Martinez:

Why don't you mention that the contract says the DoE should be trying to place teachers. They don't much, but here's where it says they should:

Article 17.B.
Rule 11. Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency.

When I was an ATR, the district only sent me to one school in all that time — one and a half years. When the DoE chooses NOT TO FOLLOW this clause, it is actually violating the contract.

Yet none of the media chooses to report this.

ATRs, they say, have more U ratings than others.
ATRs, they say, have high salaries.
ATRs, they say, don't cut a good image on the job interviews.
ATRs, they say, don't show up at job fairs.

During that same year and a half, I applied to 20 schools, yet with all my experience and good service, only one of them asked me to come in for an interview. That's a disgrace right there. It's obvious to everyone but the press that Klein wants a system built on intern teachers who are malleable and cheap.

Instead of printing what the DoE wants you to print, why don't you start telling the whole story.

Unda Assalto

(Just so you know, the principal of the school the DoE sent me to was hesitant to hire me when he heard I was in arbitration over a faulty excessing. He told me to call him when the case was over. As for the single school that responded to my application, I chose not to attend that interview in the end. I had learned from one of the blogs that it was run by a principal from hell.)