Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It is true that NYC has hundreds of new high schools, with a catalog so thick it resembles the phone book.
Yet this report ignores that there is nothing more despised by NYC parents than the demanding and complicated HS "choice" process, as reported on in many places, including here.
See also the chart at right from the excellent New Schools study, The New Marketplace, which shows how ridiculously complex the process is.
It also doesn't mention how many of the new schools have no record of success and indeed several have already landed on the failing list.
The Brookings report also fails to mention the fact that over 8,000 NYC students were rejected from all of their top 12 high school choices last year.
Finally, it ignores the reality that once a student is accepted to a high school, DOE has made it almost impossible to transfer out, no matter how unhappy the student and inappropriate the placement turns out to be, as reported on here.
Some system of choice! DOE would do better to focus on improving and supporting the high schools we have, so that every 8th grader can be guaranteed a seat in a good high school, rather than continuing to spin off new high schools each year with little or no attempt at quality control, no place to put them, and no guarantee that NYC students will end up in a school that offers them a decent education.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The entire show is well worth watching. Here is an excerpt focused on who is ultimately responsible for the failure of NYC public schools:
Monday, November 28, 2011
What: Screening of the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
When: Thursday Dec. 1 at 6 PM
Where: PS 250, 108 Montrose Ave.
Panel discussion following the film with Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters;
Lydia Bellahcene and Karen Sprowal, former charter school parents; and Julie Cavanagh & Brian Jones, teacher/activists and stars of the film.
Co-sponsored by Class Size Matters and CEC 14;
For more information call the District office at 718-302-7624
Sunday, November 27, 2011
A message from Parents to Improve School Transportation: Relax about bus strike but not about safety
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Rules of OrderPanel members were provided with headphones to allow us to hear each other in case the noise got too loud. The audience was relatively small so we did not have to resort to the headphones.
Vice Chair Lisette Nieves explained what good behavior would be expected of the audience. She then explained the Chancellor would decide what to do if things got out of order. I reminded her that it was a Panel for Educational Policy meeting and while the Chancellor was a non-voting Panel member, it was her responsibility as Chair to decide what to do. Given the preference of Mayor Bloomberg for increasing use of force to control the Occupy protesters, it is essential that we have clear lines of authority at Panel meetings. We won't have mace, sound cannons, rubber bullets or anything else from Commissioner Kelly's arsenal discharged in a school auditorium, at least if I have any say in the matter.
The Chancellor's report included a discussion of the scheduling problems at Queens Metro High School and Long Island City High School.
The commentary on the debacle transpiring at Queens Metro from Council Member Crowley and PEP member Dmytro Fedkowskyj was distressing. In my response, I suggested the root causes of the problems were the evisceration of the superintendent's role and the rapid fire opening of small schools which have combined effect of introducing many new and poorly supervised principals into the system. A parent from the school confirmed my concerns. She spoke poignantly of liking the Queens Metro principal but feeling that "the safety net had been torn from her". While coping with the principal's responsibilities for the first time, this administrator had been burdened with double the anticipated number of students yet had no guidance or supervision from above. Another parent made clear that there was not even a response to the situation from the DOE until Gotham Schools (report by Rachel Cromidas here) exposed the situation publicly. Council member Crowley spoke in detail about the effects the failures had on the students in the school including her own two sons. The problems at Queens Metro and Long Island City HS are management failures for which Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky should be held accountable. See more from Ed Notes here.
Suspiciously, we heard absolutely nothing about an "imminent" bus strike despite the fact that the mayor and chancellor had already wound up their public relations blitzkrieg for the next morning.
KIPP Charter Co-location
A new KIPP middle school will be co-located with two highly rated public middle schools in Washington Heights. A teacher who only recently obtained her own room so she didn't have to teach from cart, and a number of parents, spoke against the proposal. I pointed out to the DOE that the KIPP network has vast resources to build or lease its own facilities. It was recently awarded a $25 million privatization grant from the conservative Walton foundation and is the largest recipient of funding from the Robin Hood foundation. I asked if KIPP could create its own space rather than take space from successful public schools. Deputy Chancellor Sternberg explained that while KIPP had done some of its own construction, it generally preferred to take Board of Ed space instead and had the full support of the DOE in doing so.
General Counsel Mike Best responded to my question about litigation brought to force the DOE to require charter schools to reimburse the district for use of space as is required by the state education law. He explained that the DOE disagreed and would continue to defend their refusal to accept reimbursement. He also denied that any charter school had ever had a lease agreement with the Board of Ed despite the fact that one with Girls Prep Charter School had been entered into evidence in the case he is currently arguing.
New School for Upper East Side of Manhattan
A new school was approved for the Our Lady of Good Counsel site on east 91st Street. I asked for the Panel to defer the decision for a month in accordance with the District 2 CEC's request for time to consider input from the community and weigh a counter proposal to move PS 77, Lower Lab, to this space. This proposal would allow PS 198 to continue its expansion in the building it shares with PS 77. I cited complaints from many on the Upper East Side that they were told by Marc Sternberg and Elizabeth Rose that the proposal was "a done deal". The Panel was not willing to provide more time.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Broadway Station for their hospitality. I hope we return to Astoria in the near future as the neighborhood offers many excellent dining opportunities.
Video: the drummers from Occupy Wall St. and Norman Siegel gather around the corner from Bloomberg's residence
As you will see in the video below, I bumped into my hero, Norman Siegel, who told us that barring the drummers from E. 79 St. was a violation of their first amendment rights. In fact, in January 2010, Norman sued the city on behalf of teachers and parents, and we gained the right to march on the south side of 79 St.., to protest school closings and charter co-locations.
Off camera, Norman also said that the arrests of reporters that I videotaped a week ago were illegal , and that he had sent a letter written with Sen. Eric Adams to Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to that effect. Because of Norman's work, NYC press credentials now require that reporters have to right to cross any barriers, along with police lines etc. During the course of his conversation with a reporter who had been assaulted by the police, we also found out that tomorrow Norman Siegel will turn 68 years young. Happy Birthday Norman!
Part I and Part II below. Beautiful and sad.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
What's the real story behind the threatened bus strike: are the bus drivers the enemy or part of the 99%?
The specter of a strike is an interesting turn of events for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. For years, his administration had fought alongside the union to keep the seniority-based protections in the contracts, in part because removing them could have prompted the union to strike. In July, however, the city made an about-face, asking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to veto a bill it had helped develop that would have extended the protections to bus contracts for preschool students who receive special education services.
Mr. Cuomo did just that in September, citing a decision by the State Court of Appeals that including such protections drives up cost and drives away competition. (The protections are part of the contracts, which expire in December 2012, that govern the transportation of about 138,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.)
In a news conference at City Hall on Friday, Mr. Bloomberg characterized a possible strike as “illegal” and the union’s behavior as “outrageous” based on the court ruling.
The Chancellor's letter home is painting a picture of rogue workers trying to deny our kids a ride to school for no good reason, but our experience has been that it is the DOE's own Office of Pupil Transportation which puts both the children/families and the drivers/escorts in a bad situation every year with route cuts, unnecessarily long rides, and other abuses.
Thanks, Sara Catalinotto, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Pirozzolo is a long time parent leader and member of Staten Island's CEC 31. He posted the statement below on his Facebook account this morning:
Reprehensible Mayoral Behavior
I would like to congratulate Mayor Michael Bloomberg for hitting a new low in the city’s school bus policies. After holding a press conference Friday afternoon, approximately 150,000 notices, phone calls and a press release filled with allegations of illegalities and strike threats were sent to parents trying to instill fear throughout the city that a school bus strike was imminent. The mayor has deceived NYC public school parents yet again.
This is what the mayor didn’t tell parents. Next year the contract with the companies that deal with Pre-K, K and special education expires. The union has asked the administration to put some assurances on the table that they will work with them to ensure the bus companies maintain the same type of protections for drivers they have always supported. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg has shown no desire to work with Local 1181 and he has gone into full attack mode as a pre-emptive attempt to thwart legitimate and lawful negotiations. I have talked with union officials who have told me that they never threatened to strike. Mayor Bloomberg is jumping the gun and intentionally causing parents to believe a school bus strike is imminent. The mayor didn’t tell parents that he held Friday’s press conference before he even put out the bid to other bus companies.
It seems that Mayor Bloomberg would rather allow non-union, untrained bus drivers to drive our most vulnerable children to and from school. The Mayor did not tell parents that both the Senate and Assembly passed legislation that he helped write to protect the seniority of qualified bus drivers. The mayor did not tell parents that he wrote a letter to the governor asking him NOT to sign his own bill into law. (http://directory.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/A3127-2011)
Why would the mayor do this? In my opinion, it’s all about stealing money from the hard working citizens of NYC. I would suggest that if Mayor Bloomberg wanted to save money, I mean a lot of money; he should keep his hands off the backs and out of the pockets of the hard working, struggling middle class. Instead, he should put his hands into the pockets of his own poorly run city agencies like the Department of Education. Mayor Bloomberg would be able to save hundreds of millions if not more than a billion dollars with a few sound cuts. He could easily reduce the numbers of lawyers on the DoE payroll. Lawyers do not educate children. He could save tons of money if he would fire some of the countless consultants. Maybe he could eliminate some of the no bid and exploding contracts that plague our system and steal money from our classrooms. Yes the mayor has plenty of places he could save money yet he chooses to attack and intimidate the citizens of NYC with bogus tales of an imminent school bus strike.
What we are witnessing is the failure of a bought and paid for third term in office. Another concern I have is that the mayor is acting like a skilled magician. Is he distracting our attention away from what must really be going on? NYC is in for continued difficult times; deception like this is not what we need. It is behavior like this that leads to protests like OWS. I think the mayor’s riot helmet may be on too tight.