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Thursday, June 21, 2007


June 21, 2007 (Gadfly News) In a surprising twist in the city’s increasingly tense struggle over the direction of its schools, a coalition of 313 New York City public school principals have banded together to offer Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein a schedule of cash payments if the two agree to rescind recent changes instituted by the Department of Education.

“We had no choice,” said a principal of a Brooklyn elementary school who asked to remain anonymous, as did all the principals interviewed. “The changes they were making were radical and extreme, but more than that, they were wrong-headed. It seemed as if they were deliberately designed to destabilize our schools.”

Another principal, who heads up an elementary school in the Bronx, seconded the sentiment. “I hate to do this, offer an award schedule,” she said. “As all of us who got our degrees in education know, doling out rewards to people can seriously undermine their intrinsic motivation to do something. It sends the message that the thing itself is not worth doing, not rewarding in and of itself. But we can only assume from the actions of the mayor and the chancellor that they have no intrinsic motivation to do the right thing by the schools. We’ve come to the conclusion that money is the only thing they understand.”

Students at this principal’s school did not seem as concerned about the direction of the schools as she was. When asked their opinions about some of the changes recently instituted by the DOE – the increase in testing dates, the proposal to pay students for passing scores – all of the students approached refused to answer unless they were compensated. “What’s it worth to you?” asked one student. “Show me the money,” demanded another.

A third principal in the coalition, this one heading up a Manhattan middle school, seemed near exhaustion when interviewed for this article. “I feel as if I’ve been on a reality survival show all year,” he said. “Every week the DOE has thrown a new ‘challenge’ at us, and now that it’s the end of the year we’ll have to look around and see which schools are still standing.”

When apprised of this principal’s comment, Chancellor Klein brightened. “A survival show?” he said. “Great idea! Who says we don’t listen to our professional educators? I’m going to have my people investigate the possibility ASAP!” He peeled a bill out of the wad in his wallet. “The last principal standing will win a grand!” he said. Then, “Can somebody run this ten spot over to the principal who came up with the idea, as a little incentive along the way?”

The principals representing the coalition, masked in order to conceal their identities and protect their jobs, gathered yesterday afternoon outside of Tweed, where the DOE is housed. In the opening remarks, the spokesprincipal apologized for the low dollar amounts of their rewards. “We realize that these amounts might not be ‘motivating’ to a billionaire,” she said, “but they were all we could raise in our bake sale.” The group then announced the schedule of rewards as they had structured them. The schedule included:

• Repealing the assessment tests: $100
• Reinstatement of the district structure: $500
• Revoking mayoral control of schools: Priceless


Gary Babad said...

Who do these principals think they are, trying to buy off the Mayor and Chancellor with money? Now if they threw in some leftover brownies from the bake sale ... or maybe a spot on the national ticket ...

NYC Educator said...

Well, it's a good idea, but I'm not sure you're gonna buy off a billionaire for a few hundred bucks. Maybe they could offer votes for the presidential campaign.

OK, I know you're tongue in cheek, but the few principals I hear from spout little but Tweed-inspired edubabble. Right or wrong, as far as I can see, does not even enter into it.

Their collective "vision" does not, by any means, include questioning the wisdom of this chancellor. But yes, repealing mayoral control would indeed be priceless.

Given the comments of our new governor, though, I'd deem it highly unlikely.