Saturday, December 20, 2014

Norm in The Wave - Teaching and Policing

One of the first things I learned as a new teacher was not to let a child run out of the room. “What if they ran out of the building and into the street and got hit by a car,” was the mantra? So when that happened some teachers tried to restrain the children..
Are police facing their own version of VAM? This is the first in a series of columns for The Wave exploring the areas where teaching and policing intersect.

Published Dec. 19, 2014

Teaching and Policing

School Scope
By Norm Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott

With the issues facing the police nationally and here in New York City, I began to think about the amount of policing I had to do as a teacher. From my earliest days, it was clear that a successful teacher was often defined as being able to control the kids and keep order in the classroom, in the halls, in the lunchroom, in the auditorium, and especially on class trips, which I took often, mostly on the subways and through the streets of Manhattan where keeping the kids in order was a primary matter.
Minimal teacher competence was judged on the ability to keep order. In some schools, that was the sole criterion and a few teachers focused on that aspect to the exclusion of so much else that goes into teaching. My school, in one of the toughest, high poverty areas of Brooklyn, also had a very large contingent of special needs children with emotional issues, many of them volatile. Thus, there were times when even teachers with good control might face situations where children were recalcitrant in following directions or showing respect towards the authorities in the school.
Thinking about the Eric Garner story and how he reacted to the attempt to arrest him reminded me of many incidents I faced as a teacher. “I’m taking you to the dean;” with a response “I’m not going.” Sometimes we called a supervisor. But, what if they weren’t available? I reviewed what went through my mind at these times, often anger and frustration, along with fears that my authority would be undermined if I didn’t take immediate action, especially when I was a young and inexperienced teacher. Saving face and maybe a bit too much testosterone at times made me take actions I came to regret, especially when I put my hands on a student, which immediately made things worse. Luckily I learned from my mistakes and evolved more effective tactics.
Special needs teachers I worked with taught me invaluable lessons. If someone is acting out with anger and irrationality, there are a whole range of reasons for those reactions and even without knowing the reason, a teacher must have an understanding and try to deal with the situation in a rational manner, with an eye towards consequences. That is not easy in the heat of the moment but try to imagine the outcomes for a teacher or group of teachers.
One of the first things I learned as a new teacher was not to let a child run out of the room. “What if they ran out of the building and into the street and got hit by a car,” was the mantra? So when that happened some teachers tried to restrain the children. Or if not possible, call the office. Before the witch hunts began against teachers under Bloomberg, a teacher had some room if they tried restraint. A former colleague of mine who covered other teachers during their preps was covering a class with an emotionally disturbed child who was supposed to get counseling during that period but the counselor never showed up. The girl ran out of the room twice and returned. When she tried it the third time the teacher grabbed her and sat her into a seat, in the process pulling a button off and grazing her cheek with the side of her finger nail, leaving a slight red mark. The principal, who hated that teacher, incited the parent to file charges and shortly after, five cops came to the school to arrest the teacher who was taken out in handcuffs and spent half the night in the precinct before being released. The case was dropped by the police, but not by the Department of Education, which put the teacher in the rubber room for years and brought her up for a 3020a dismissal hearing, which I attended. She was suspended for a year without pay. Stories like that sends chills down the spine of teachers, some of whom have faced charges for yelling at kids, now known as “verbal abuse.”
I’m not totally trying to equate the jobs police on the street do with teacher policing functions but there are some similarities in the process of how things can escalate, as they did in the Garner situation. Now with calls for police to face more scrutiny for their actions, they may face some of the same type of issues teachers have been facing – like attempts to use Compstat data to measure the performance of individual police. Recently there have been reports on the number of “resisting arrests” or lawsuits some cops have against them and that might lead to a measurement system one day, along the lines with the Value-Added Model evaluation being used for teachers. Police are also undergoing retraining.
I’ll explore some of these issues next time.

Norm blogs — with little restraint — at 

My Former Student R. Ernie Silva One Act Play on Jimi Hendrix in NYC Jan. 10-11

• “Silva is a charismatic talent” –LA weekly
• “His sheer sense of will…is inspiring” –LA Times
• “Absolutely Sensational” –Art Beat Magazine
• “Silva is dynamic performer” –Backstage West
• “Watching Ernie is like listening to both exquisite poetry and music classical and jazz” –LA Times website reader's review
• “I expect we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Silva and this is a good place to get acquainted” –LA Weekly.
I've written about my former 4th grade student who was in my class over 30 years ago when he did his one man autobiographical play, "Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame." 

Feb 27, 2011

I learned a lot about Ernie that I did not know when he was in my class - stuff I should have known as his teacher -- but he was such a well-behaved and smart kid I made certain assumptions - that there was no turmoil in his life. My bad. I also learned a lot about how it was to be a kid of color being harassed by cops on the streets. A lesson that is coming home with every passing day. Ernie's posts on Facebook about the racial crisis go deep.

Now Ernie returns with a new one-act play based on the life of Jimi Hendrix. 

ROY G BIV: A Story Told Through The Eyes Of A Rock Icon

Brilliant and imaginative look into the life of the most prolific rock guitarist of all time

Tickets are only $15.00 dollars!

December 16, 2014 (New York, New York) — TTO Entertainment, currently in residency as part of LaGuardia Performing Arts Center LAB series, presents ROY G BIV: A Story Told Through The Eyes Of A Rock Icon, written by R. Ernie Silva and Anthony Pearce and directed by José A. Esquea with choreography by Daniel Soto.

Performances: Saturday, January 10, 2015 @ 8pm and Sunday January 11, 2015 @ 6pm
Location: LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY)
Transportation: A few blocks from the 33rd Street station on the 7 train line
Tickets: $15.00

The turbulent decade of the 1960s was a time of rapid and drastic change in America. The country was forced to re-evaluate and change its perspective on race, gender, war, and poverty. The cultural change driven by the baby boomer generation brought along for the first time in our country a cultural identity driven by the power and ideals of youth and every convention and notion of who and what we were as a country was turned on its ear.

In the world of music no figure became a greater symbol of the time than the West Coast boy from Seattle. The immortal lefty, the American Rock Icon, that in the midst of the British invasion somehow managed to climb the top of the rock and roll mountain seemingly coming out of nowhere and then in a flash, just like a comet in the night, was gone….

But what did it all mean, how did his life and time manage to cross so many roads at once, and leave us wanting for more? In this astonishing look at the life of a rock icon, R. Ernie Silva’s brilliant performance as the most prolific rock guitarist of all time, takes us to a space and time,ethereal and eternal, where all of the rock icon's choices will be examined under the colors life, light and the rainbow accompanied by the iconic electric rock, blues and revolutionary music that was the soundtrack of the times.

About: R. Ernie Silva’s power as performer for his previous work the has seen described as follows:

• “Silva is a charismatic talent” –LA weekly
• “His sheer sense of will…is inspiring” –LA Times
• “Absolutely Sensational” –Art Beat Magazine
• “Silva is dynamic performer” –Backstage West
• “Watching Ernie is like listening to both exquisite poetry and music classical and jazz” –LA Times website reader's review
• “I expect we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Silva and this is a good place to get acquainted” –LA Weekly.

About TTO Entertainment– the bourgeoning production company is helmed by co-founded by director José A. Esquea and choreographer Daniel Soto has in its initial year presented William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Like Water (a music, dance, and art event benefitting, The Craft of Creativity (with Emmy Award-winning Muppet writer Joseph A. Bailey), and Stirred Crazy, Part 1 (inspired by the life of Richard Pryor Jr.). Its motto is, "We believe in the power of live performance and the human touch".

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cuba" Unity Caucus War Hawks Miss Good Old Days of Batista, Pinochet, Noriega, Papa Doc, Samosa, etc.

Thank the Good Lord that Max, Yetta, and Al won the day. Cuba & Jimmy Carter, Norm you will never get it....
The comment above was left on my Thursday morning post, My Trip to Cuba With Paul Baizerman - in the Late 1970's where I pointed out a few differences between dictatorships on the left and on the right. I don't much care for dictatorships - which is why I have opposed the Unity Caucus dictatorship in the UFT that has lasted about as long as the Castro dictatorship - and in fact will outlast it.

Of course our favorite Unity Caucus hacks just won't let the cold war go --- They would prefer the good old Batista days in Cuba with the essential freedoms - for the Mafia, corporate plantation owners, an illiterate society and poor medical care.

The old cold warriors from the good old days of Unity Caucus never met a right wing anti-communist dictator they didn't prefer to Castro - better dead than red. And when a socialist actually got elected in Chile, good old Al did what he could to help the CIA destabilize the unions in Chile. Make sure to check out George Schmidt's pamphlet pointing this out.

Maybe the UFT is embarassed that kids in Cuba are more literate than kids in this country.

Tom Hayden - yes, that Tom Hayden -- is still keeping the faith.

Why the US-Cuba Deal Really Is a Victory for the Cuban Revolution

The left should recall and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.
December 17, 2014  
Cuba’s President Raul Castro (Reuters)
No one in the mainstream media will acknowledge it, but the normalization of American relations with Havana, symbolized by release of prisoners today, is a huge success for the Cuban Revolution.

The hostile US policy, euphemistically known as “regime change,” has been thwarted. The Cuban Communist Party is confidently in power. The Castros have navigated through all the challenges of the years. In Latin America and the United Nations, Cuba is accepted, and the United States is isolated.

It is quite legitimate for American progressives to criticize various flaws and failures of the Cuban Revolution. But the media and the right are overflowing with such commentary. Only the left can recall, narrate and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.

For those actually supportive of participatory democracy in Cuba, as opposed to those who support regime change by secret programs, the way to greater openness on the island lies in a relaxation of the external threat.

Despite the US embargo and relentless US subversion, Cuba remains in the upper tier of the United Nations Human Development Index because of its educational and healthcare achievements. Cuba even leads the international community in the dispatch of medical workers to fight Ebola. Cuba is celebrated globally because of its military contribution to the defeat of colonialism and apartheid in Angola and southern Africa. Now a new generation of Cuban leaders who fought in Angola is coming to power in the Havana and its diplomatic corps. For example, Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Cuba’s representative to the United Nations, today walks on an artificial limb as a result of his combat in Angola.

When few thought it possible, Cuba has achieved the return of all five prisoners held for spying on right-wing Cubans who trained at Florida bases and flew harassment missions through Cuban air space. The last three to be released served hard time in American prisons, and are being welcomed as triumphant heroes on the streets of Havana. Three of the Cuban Five served in Angola as well.

Tens of thousands of Americans, from the veterans of the cane-cutting Venceremos Brigades to the steady flow of tourists insisting on their right to travel, deserve credit for steady years of educational and solidarity work and for pushing a hardy congressional bloc towards normalization.

President Obama has kept his word, despite relentless skepticism from both the left and the mainstream media. He is confounding the mainstream assumption that the Cuban right has a permanent lock on American foreign policy, especially after the Republican sweep in the November elections.

In this case, Obama’s extreme emphasis on diplomatic secrecy worked to his advantage. For over a year, leaders in both countries have conducted regular private debates and consultations, which resulted in the detailed normalization plan released in both capitals today. No one was more important on the American congressional team than Senator Patrick Leahy. Their tight discipline held until the final moment.

It is known that the private US-Cuba conversations about Alan Gross and the Cuban Five were the most difficult. The United States has never acknowledged that Gross was a de facto spy of a certain type, having traveled five times to Havana to secretly distribute advanced communications technology to persons in Havana’s small Jewish community before he was arrested in 2009. Also problematic for American officials immersed in decades of Cold War thinking was the task of wrapping their minds around the idea that the Cuban Five were political prisoners and not terrorist threats.

Finally, when both sides had achieved an internal consensus, the project was derailed by the furious Republican-led blowback against Obama’s trade of five Taliban captives for captured American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in May 2014. Then the November elections interfered with, and threatened to indefinitely delay, the beginning of normalization. Chanukah was the last date for an announcement before the installation of the new US Congress.

Because of the anti-Cuban slant of mainstream thinking, the media will make much of the anger of the Cuban right exemplified by Senator Marco Rubio. But while it’s too early to know, it’s hard to imagine his presidential ambitions being enhanced by arguing in 2016 that Obama should have tried to overthrow the Castros. Senator Bob Menendez has been a leading Democrat trying to block the Obama initiative from his chairing position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Most Democrats will be delighted to see Menendez, who represents Cuban exiles in Union City, diminished in the Senate.

Going forward, the United States will remove Cuba from the “state terrorism” listing, which will ease the possibility of funding from the international financial system. For American citizens, permission to travel to Cuba will be significantly widened. Business and trade possibilities will increase. Starting with the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama, the American and Cuban delegations will sit at the same table. The so-called interest sections will be upgraded to formal embassies. The embargo is going to be hollowed out from within, with American tourist and investment dollars permitted to flow. With or without congressional action to lift the 1996 Helms-Burton act, the embargo is being dissolved. More than 400,000 Cuban-Americans traveled to Cuba last year alone.
And here’s a prediction: if the president has his wish, the Obama family will be seen on the streets of Havana before his term is up.

Editor’s Note: “Two Old Guys Talking” is the introduction to Tom Hayden’s forthcoming book, Listen, Yankee!, Why Cuba Matters, to be published next year by Seven Stories Press. The piece was finalized last month. The “two old guys” are the author, now 75, who first visited Cuba in 1968, and Ricardo Alarcon, now 77, former president of the Cuban National Assembly, foreign minister, and UN representative.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Trip to Cuba With Paul Baizerman - in the Late 1970's

When the news about Cuba and the US hit yesterday I was reminded about a trip I took with Paul Baizerman during Easter vacation in 1978 or 1979. A lot of people are surprised we could go legally and openly for a brief window of time but Jimmy Carter's opened the door a crack and travel opened up until Regan became president.

I remember getting to the airport and there was no listing of the flight - we had a special code. In addition, the plane was sort of hidden in an outpost of Kennedy airport - not near a terminal. It was clear why -- elements of the Cuban exile community - known as "gusanos" - or worms in Cuba and in the American left -- often threatened violence and were considered terrorists by the left - though not by the American government.

Since it was school vacation time a number of people on the trip were connected to teaching, but there was also a variety of adventurers. It was a one week trip and we went to 3 locations - a day at the beach, a smallish city - I think Marisol and 3 days in Havana at the end where we stayed at the Hilton and were fed with so much food we wondered if we weren't eating up the entire food supply of the city.

We were told we could roam anywhere in Havana, the only restriction being we couldn't take photos of anyone in uniform or of a military installation. And roam we did, though there were no real stores other than some cigar places - and both of us being cigar smokers we loaded up.

Paul spoke fluent Spanish, so I got to "converse" will all kinds of people through him. Paul could sort of pass for Spanish. Paul didn't act like a regular tourist -- he engaged the bus drivers in conversation, helped them unload the luggage and sat with them when we ate. Some people on the tour whispered he was a Cuban spy put on the trip by the government.

We were very interested in the education system. Cuba guaranteed everyone a 6th grade education and over the almost 2 decades since the revolution, had raised literacy enormously. They built many schools in the countryside and kids were sent to them out of the city and resided there during the week. They had 2 shifts - one worked the fields while the other went to school and then they swapped. Every kid wore a simple uniform  - white shirt and color-coded pants/skirts -- red for elementary, blue for middle school and mustard color for high schools. The amount of money invested in their kids just in the clothing was impressive - as were the number of school buildings.

I went there not being anti-Castro and after this trip I could see that there was little comparison between Cuba and much of the rest of Central America where oppressive dictatorships reigned that had little interest in increasing literacy for the entire population or even health care. We visited a clinic and had a discourse on the Cuban medical system which has always been lauded even by Castro's enemies.

Yesterday I heard the commentators say that Cuba has had 55 years of dictatorship - or as Brian Williams so ignorantly put it - since they had democracy. Batista was democratic? Oh how the Cubans must have missed all those Mafia run gambling casinos and all the other ills -- let's support going back to the days  of poor medical care and low literacy - like so many nations the US supported.

I took 10 rolls of kodachrome slides and when we got back Paul put together a slide show which we showed around. Unfortunately Paul died in 2011 and I have no idea where those slides are so I have no photos.

Paul kept going back to Cuba for decades, often illegally by going through Canada and got to know some very high government officials. He made contact with people in the film industry and we showed some Cuban films here. He also worked with the Cuban trade union organization and helped create an exchange program with US trade unions - I think he took a high official of the steel workers union with him on some trips. Paul would travel around Cuba on his trips making speeches. I was hoping to go with him with a video camera 5 or 6 years ago but it never happened.

A trip with Paul Baizerman was a unique experience. A few years later I spent 2 weeks driving around Mexico with Paul one summer. I'll tell that story one day. Paul was a mentor of mine in so many ways. I should write more about him -- every activist in the UFT over a 30 year period knew him and even today when I see some people in the UFT they bring up his name. One of my goals was to get him and Julie Cavanagh together and we had a date - Memorial Day, 2011. But Julie's husband had a medical issue that day and I had to call Paul to cancel. That was the last time I spoke to him as he died while I was in New Zealand in Dec. 2011. People still tell me that if he were around and active, the opposition in the UFT would have a very different look because Paul was a game-changer.

ProPublica: NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored

Every negative story on charters school scams helps a bit. Just like the Teach for America (Campaign Against Teach for America is Working) exposures have hurt their recruitment efforts, eventually some scandal or outrage will be so great there will be such serious calls for reforms and restrictions even the political scum that support charters will start running away.

UPDATE: See Anthony Cody: Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat
A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been, well, nonexistent.

New York State's First Deputy Comptroller Pete Grannis, shown in April 2010, has contacted regulatory agencies and the mayor's office about charter-school finances and says he has gotten "no response whatsoever." (Mike Groll/AP Images)
Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.
Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.
Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.
"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities."
It's a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state's major charter-school regulators – New York City's Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.
He never heard back from any of them. "No response whatsoever," Grannis said. Not even, he added, a "'Thank you for your letter, we'll look into it.' That would have been the normal bureaucratic response."
We contacted all three of these agencies and the mayor's office for comment. None of them got back to us.
The charter-school debate in New York, as elsewhere, is politically fraught. De Blasio's cautious stance on charters has put him at odds with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose financial backers include some big-dollar charter-school supporters. The state comptroller's office has faced repeated lawsuits from charter groups and operators challenging its authority to audit charter schools.
To Grannis, though, his efforts aren't about politics. His office is "agnostic on charters," as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.
"We're the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds," Grannis said. "This isn't meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti."
Grannis has not yet gotten a response from the mayor's office about the letter he sent last week.
As to the charter-school regulators who got his letter the year before? He's still puzzled why they wouldn't be more interested in a possible fix, or why the charter regulators never bothered to respond.
"I honestly don't know," Grannis said. He said he's going to send another round of letters to them.
Related coverage: Read about how some charter schools "sweep" nearly all their public dollars directly into private firms, or our piece on how a chain of charter schools is channeling millions of public education dollars to for-profit companies controlled by the schools' founder.
If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight — or any other tips — email us at
Marian Wang

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Dewey HS Update: Popular Teacher Dies Suddenly - Some Staffers Blame Administration For Hastening Her Death

Was the death of [Teacher K] a case of slow murder by an arsenic-like administration, some teachers ask?
Now this deadly gang of so-called administrators have surely- through the terrible stress they put all targeted teachers through- contributed to the premature death of Ms. [K], a wonderful Foreign Language Teacher, who passed away over the weekend. Mrs Elvin, who was behind the non-stop attack on this teacher all last year and this year, was suddenly eulogizing her over the loudspeaker, and making sure everyone knew she was so deeply, deeply saddened by the loss of [Teacher K]! What a miserable and transparent hypocrite- she should be known as "The Widow/Widower Maker"! 
Elvin, no one believes a word you said [regarding the death of [Teacher K], a teacher under immense harassment by the Elvin admin] today. You must think we're all fools. We know what action you and your goons took.
The heartless ghouls spit out by Tweed over the years continue to stalk the system. I've learned to spot the type from so many teachers' descriptions. Clearly, one of the first things the principals are taught is how to apply pressure to older, often somewhat ill in some way, teachers by giving them more physically demanding assignments that will wear them down. I hear too many stories of teachers dying on the job.

These articles on ed notes regarding John Dewey HS
No Change of Tone at John Dewey HS: Principal Kat...": 

Kathleen Elvin and AP Emily Creveling Use...":
and the actions of the administration there continue to be amongst the most read and commented on at Ed Notes. Here are some more comments:
Today at 8:30 am the school was notified of the passing of a current Spanish teacher. It was a very unexpected loss. The teacher, an older woman with a severe back issue was very well liked by teachers, not so much by the administration. In fact, it is safe to say that she was one of the teachers with a "bulls-eye" on her back...She was forced to teach in multiple rooms, despite having mobility issues. In other schools with other Principals, her life might have been made easier but not at John Dewey. Here she was forced to use a cart to bring her materials from room to room. Here she was given the toughest of classes and when she asked for help, she was told that no one would respond anymore, that it was her issue. Here she was, taking a car service to work in the name of dedication, and yet she was on the short list for removal....I thought that I had heard everything and seen everything, but today was a real eye opener....We work in the most hostile environment with an administration that has an agenda that is shameful. I hope this teacher rests in peace...and I hope that we get help soon.....
This commenter compares the actions of the police in the Garner case to the actions of the Dewey admin in the Foola Karas death as some in admin try to pin blame on actions of students:
Yes, [Teacher K] a thirty year veteran teacher ( 53 years old) died over the weekend...and while she was alive- instead of the administration celebrating her courage and tenacity to come to work everyday in obvious discomfort, they seemingly systematically denied her support in the form of any kind of disciplinary action against her students; slowly trying to build a case against her for dismissal. [APX] just recently wrote to her "I'm here to support you whenever you need it - after writing her ineffective!!!! One student pulled her phone out of the wall last spring so she couldn't call for deans and was back in class the following day! I heard [APY] even came in to her room recently and in front of the class shouted "I'm finished...I'm not coming back in here anymore!" How is that for giving the kids a green light to do whatever they want? First [APY] you allegedly talk the police out of giving a summons to a kid caught with a five inch knife and now this??? Resign. K' life could have been so instructive to the kids in the way someone deals with adversity instead she was isolated and made into a punching bag. And some of the FECKLESS AP's were ruminating about how the kids might feel guilty about it? And the grief counseling was done by Elvin supporters who side with her interpretation that the administration's actions had no impact on K's sudden demise but that she was suffering and sick? Eric Garner would have probably died of a heart attack sooner or later after all he WAS in bad shape but the rough and dismissive arrest tactics and subsequent disinterested EMS response caused his death. And to compound Elvin's effects....the kids ARE INTERNALIZING the guilt!!!! Anybody knows, Elvin that kids need consequences and your statistic mongering restorative justice has deprived them of an important life lesson and perhaps irreparably harmed them with the death of this person on their consciences'. They should be informed that it was NOT their fault but your statistic padding policies. Kids will be kids and they will push as far as they can and it was up to YOU as the instructional leader to provide those boundaries not use their behavior as a cudgel against a "teacher target" to build a case and rest assured we have the evidence. We can only hope that the K family seeks appropriate legal remedy and believe me many of us our lining up to be deposed. And for the rest of you who still support and finagle for Elvin out of fear or self question. How do you still look at yourself in the mirror?
I'm attending a 3020a hearing (which I will write about after the case is over) who is being threatened with termination by a younger version of the Dewey principal. Worst of all, the current principal looking to take his job is a former teacher-colleague in the school who planned the action against him as one of her first acts as principal. This teacher's health is also not great and there is some worry about the toll this is taking on him. And believe me - he had one of those jobs in an elementary school teaching around 200 kids a week where his impact as a teacher on the kids is minimal - he is basically a prep giver. So to go to the extent his former colleague is going must mean she developed a hate for him even though he says they always had a good relationship before she became principal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Campaign Against Teach for America is Working: Recruiting Running Dry, Closes NYC Office

A sign TFA is losing its attraction - from Gary Rubinstein blog
Teach for America is having trouble recruiting candidates to teach in New York City schools and will close its New York training site in anticipation of declining numbers, the organization’s New York City leader told program alumni on Friday. “Teach For America is in the midst of a challenging recruitment year,” Charissa Fernandez said in an email, attributing the difficulties in part to “a contentious national dialogue around education and teaching in general, and TFA in particular.”

A lot of credit goes to people like former TFAer Gary Rubinstein for his blog and posts like this: Bait-and-Switch For America

After moving their office out of NYC for ostensibly the same reason…letter linked to below only available to Politico pro subscribers.  

TFA ASKS FOR HELP: Teach for America has always prided itself on attracting such a flood of qualified applicants that it can afford to be ultra-selective. This year, however, the nonprofit is struggling to recruit as many applicants as it would like, despite bumping up outreach to veterans, mid-career professionals and others outside its traditional target market of college seniors. So TFA is asking for help. It's asking its alumni, supportive teachers, partner school districts and college administrators to send out emails, tweets and Facebook posts urging talented individuals to apply to TFA. The organization has even provided sample language: "Bring your passion to the classroom ... Teach." Or: "Schools deserve large groups of diverse talent to choose from, and that's where you come in."
- The group would like recruiting help from "everyone who can help the cause" spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said. It's not that TFA has completely run dry: It's received more than 26,000 applications so far this year. But that's less than anticipated - so much less that TFA's leaders estimate they could fall short of their goal for the 2015 corps by as much as 25 percent. In a letter to partner school districts, co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva-Beard and Matt Kramer attribute the downturn to a better economy, which means college students have more career options, and to "an increasingly polarized public conversation around education" that's "challenging the perception of teaching as a stable, fulfilling profession." Another factor: The "polarization" around the merits of TFA itself, they write. Their letter:
Go to this edition >>

Retro Video: Eva Moskowitz Success Academy Bund-Like Rally - March, 2009

This ad for a March 28, 2009 conference to save public schools at John Jay College in NYC, illustrates a prime example of the manipulation of the community by charter school advocates. The Harlem Success Schools led by Eva Moskowitz has pushed its way into public school spaces with the support of the NYC Department of Education. The push by Bloomberg and Klein to support charter schools is an admission of their failure to solve the problems that exist in public schools.... Ed Notes, March 26, 2009

Almost 6 years ago this was a scary event - chanting and hectoring - the future of the death of public schools.

I taped this event and made this ad on for a conference we were planning the eve of the founding of the Grassroots Education Movement - in fact, this conference was the event that made GEM a viable organization. Kudos to the amazing Angel Gonzalez whose organizing abilities came to the fore.

Angel and I went up to Harlem for a rally Eva was holding where they were giving away food and prizes and it drew a thousand people, including the corporate and political scum like Joel Klein and Bloomberg and Walcott.

At this point the group that turned into GEM was still an offshoot of a committee ICE had formed to address the issues of ATRs, high stakes testing, closing schools and the charter invasions - the 4 basic pillars upon which GEM was built. This group was the first time people from various NYC ed orgs like ICE and NYCORE had worked together. And we can't forget ISO (International Socialist Organization) which jumped on board early on and whose members helped organize meetings and events.

I had a lot of footage but in the process of switching computers seemed to have lost it. Luckily I salvaged this bit for the ad. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Success Academy Bensonhurst Golden Plunger Award/Info on Phony Signatures

Another reason to love Eva
I have seen it for myself. They walk around and get signatures. They recently asked me and gave me a flyer in front of my house. I know for a fact, that application workshops were set up in Brighton Beach Private Prek's for success academy in bensonhurst. Many of the children currently attending SA Bensonhurst are from these private mostly Russian daycares..... A Parent

And then this gem came in - the facebook page was taken down
Success Academy Bensonhurst
Today we launched our Golden Plunger Award. Each week, the boys or girls will have a chance to win the Golden Plunger Award for keeping the cleanest bathrooms! The weekly winners will have the award displayed by their bathroom as a reminder of all their hard work!

We want to make sure that our bathrooms are clean and sanitary for your scholars all day long. Please speak with your scholars about putting toilet paper in the toilet, flushing the toilets after use, washing their hands completely after use, and throwing the paper towels in the wastebaskets. Hygiene and cleanliness are extremely important for keeping healthy!
Description: Photo: Today we launched our Golden Plunger Award. Each week, the boys or girls will have a chance to win the Golden Plunger Award for keeping the cleanest bathrooms! The weekly winners will have the award displayed by their bathroom as a reminder of all their hard work!

We want to make sure that our bathrooms are clean and sanitary for your scholars all day long. Please speak with your scholars about putting toilet paper in the toilet, flushing the toilets after use, washing their hands completely after use, and throwing the paper towels in the wastebaskets. Hygiene and cleanliness are extremely important for keeping healthy!

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Reign of Terror at Murry Bergtraum as Chapter Fights Back - Updated

John Elfrank-Dana has led a valiant effort to defend the teaching staff. They have also been hammering the union leadership for more support.
Murry Bergtraum chapter should be quite proud. Myself and about six other chapter representatives came and spoke quite articulately about the hell we've been living through and the unfair ratings of almost 40% of the staff. Mulgrew was there along with the vice president of high schools and special reps. We know the tricky part is trying to get  ratings changed en mass. That's going to be hard but our fight is worth it. The meeting lasted two hours.
John just sent in this update:
The Danielson framework and Advance in general are not abusive principal-proof. The truth is they can rate your Measures of Teaching Practice so low that even if your MOSL (student test performance) is Effective it will drop you down into Developing or Ineffective territory. Principals and APs can cherry pick facts on observations justifying a lower rating. They don't want to video teachers because they don't want facts that contradict their version of events. It was a mistake for the UFT to agree to leave videoing these lessons at the discretion of the administration. A downright blunder.

And make no mistake about it, while a Developing rated teacher is supposed to get the same treatment as an Effective teacher, short of the Teacher Improvement Plan, we have more and more evidence they are being discriminated against in hiring, for per-session opportunities and C6 activities. Yet, these Developing rated teachers have no direct recourse like those rated Ineffective.

It's a work in progress but our meeting with the UFT yesterday was informative for BOTH sides of the table- the rank and file and the UFT leadership.
John posted this to the MORE chapter leader listserve recently.
Chapter Leaders:

We have a new principal at Murry Bergtraum after ousting the last two for being bullies. The year started off with some optimism. I didn't have to file Art. 19 grievances for basic information like program masters, teacher grids or Galaxy Table of Organization budgets. Even got her to reverse herself on a Step 1. That doesn't happen very often.

But, the other day a former and much beloved teacher came by the school to visit an expectant teacher on her prep during 8th period. The principal told security not to let him in and emailed his principal to inform him that, to the effect, "Were you aware Mr. X, was visiting our school during school hours?" She assumed this teacher was on a PI or was cheating on school time somehow. The teacher, it so happened, was done with moot court and was on his duty-free lunch. This is actually the third time this kind of thing happened where someone invited by staff was not allowed in, escorted out and/or had their principal notified. That was the last straw.

Any of you have similar stories?

I sent the following to the Chancellor and Superintendent as well as the staff.

Chancellor, Colleagues, Friends, Expats:

Today one of our most beloved former teachers was turned away at the door. He was visiting one our colleagues on her free period. This is someone who did his student teaching here, was a student of mine at Fordham getting his masters, served several years here as a teacher and was a lead teacher whom the Superintendent was very impressed by.

He was coming from Moot Court 8th period on his duty free lunch at the end of the day. Not only was he told to leave but the administration emailed his principal to report that he was here, trying to get him in trouble. How low can you go?

A short selection of previous posts on Bergtraum below the break.

Hey Ben Chapman, Do Some Real Reporing - Ask Eva to see her list of 16,000 families

-- make some calls to see if they weren't just walking by and signed something on a subway station. Report on how many vacant slots in Success charters.

And since the link to this DN piece by Chapman was posted on Chalkbeat, let's see a bit of that kind of reporting from them too.

I've maintained from the very beginning that these numbers are bogus and that part of charter transparency is making these lists available. Since charters get public funding why are these demands lists not foilable?

Success Academy charter schools see 56% rise in applications

Ben Chapman

More than 6,000 families have already applied to Success Academy, which operates 32 city schools. The demand for a charter school reached an all-time high last year, with more than 16,400 families vying for fewer than 3,000 spots.

Show Us the Money? When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits....“It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs.....When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only
Perdido Street posted about the charter lobby in Albany spending $3 million: Pro Charter Group Families For Excellent Schools On Tap To Have Most Expensive Lobbying Campaign In New York History

Lobbying is an investment. Break the charter cap in NYC and it's "Katy bar the door" time. Using the word "excellent" = charter slugs.

When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

Trying to open the books of pro-profit management companies hired by charter schools is a difficult task.

Exposing Tactics Charters Use to Control Admissions

I sardonically joke during trainings, that I can give school leaders the 2 step secret to the high test score performance; recruit high achievers and kick out the “bad” kids.   Unfortunately, there is truth underlying the joke, which echoes across all sectors of American education.  And while some laugh at the joke, others frown, and a third group is taking notes.I am a lawyer and I wrote or reviewed many of the sections of this charter years back, including admissions, and I know there is no fracking admissions test, and as a fairly empowered Black man, I have learned its best to just listen sometimes, without betraying my credentials, and see how far people will go.... As someone who has worked with charter schools for the better part of two decades, I do see the subtle and not so subtle ways that schools can and sometimes do manipulate the student bodies coming in to increase the test scores coming out, or to more generally serve “their kids”.... charterspook
This link came to me through an email. I'm not sure who wrote it but this guy pretty much lists just about every method charters use to control admissions.
A long time ago in a land far away, I went to enroll a foster child, let’s call her Keasha, in a charter school.  She needed a good school; that was smaller, more personalized.  Brushing aside the fact that I did not have any legal authority, we asked the woman at the desk about enrollment.  She explained that the school may not have any spots for the particular grade, described the school culture in fairly negative terms, under-emphasizing the clubs and after school, and noting that many students resented the closed campus, where they could not leave for lunch.  I still asked for an application.  She then told Keasha that she needed to take an “admissions test”, a series of math problems.  An “admission test” or other preconditions to enrollment in a charter school is illegal, they are public schools and, by law, must admit any student who applies if there is space, holding a lottery if there are more students than spots.  Full disclosure, I am a lawyer and I wrote or reviewed many of the sections of this charter years back, including admissions, and I know there is no fracking admissions test, and as a fairly empowered Black man, I have learned its best to just listen sometimes, without betraying my credentials, and see how far people will go.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NYSAPE Calls Parents & Educators Call for a New Direction from the Regents and Demand NO Interference from Governor Cuomo After King Resignation

With so much anti-John King stuff floating around the blogs:
B-LoEdScene : How Governor Cuomo Unloaded John King for a Palm Pilot and Cash

Perdido St: Board Of Regents Will Choose "Dr" Ted Morris Jr. To Replace Dr John King As NYSED Commissioner

Here is another shot from a leading NY State (real) parent group.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 11, 2014
More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –

John King Resigns: Parents & Educators Call for a New Direction from the Regents and
Demand NO Interference from Governor Cuomo

Late Wednesday, the New York State Education Department announced that Commissioner John King is resigning effective the end of this year to accept a new post in Washington as an advisor to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Last year NYSAPE, parents, and educators from around the state called for Commissioner King to step down.  After many months of frustration and outrage from parents and educators across New York State, the chapter closes on an embattled commissioner who failed to address legitimate serious concerns. 

Eyes from all corners of the Empire State now turn on Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents, and the legislature to ensure the next commissioner represents the substantial change in direction that public school parents demand from a responsive government that serves the people.  NYSAPE calls for the Regents to adopt an open, inclusive selection process and stresses the importance of input from parents, educators, and other stakeholder groups in appointing a commissioner who will be more accountable to the public at large.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will also be watched very closely to ensure he does not overstep the constitutional authority of the Regents and interfere in any manner with the selection of a new commissioner of education.  For innumerable reasons, New Yorkers are very glad to live within a NYS Constitution that does not grant Governor Andrew Cuomo authority when it comes to oversight of education in New York.  They will be watching very closely both Governor Cuomo, who called public schools a "monopoly" to be broken, and his private backers with financial interests in the privatization of our public schools.
Westchester County
“It is time for the Board of Regents to move in a very different direction.  The Regents dismal track record of refusing to heed warnings and address significant parental concerns with excessive testing, student data privacy, and school privatization leaves no room for error with the selection of the next commissioner and must not allow for any interference from Governor Andrew Cuomo or his backers,” said Lisa Rudley, founding member of NYSAPE and Westchester County public school parent.

New York City
“John King was the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State.  He showed no respect for parents, teachers or student privacy.  Ironically, he was intent on protecting his own privacy, and routinely withheld public documents; our Freedom of Information request of his communications with inBloom and the Gates foundation is more than 1 ½ years overdue.  His resignation is good news for New York state; hopefully he will be unable to do as much damage at the US Department of Education,” Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

FULL COURT PRESS: Spend Saturday With Teachers Unite: Educate, Don't Incarcerate

#SchoolPushout #Criminalization #School2Prison  
#PoliceViolence #MassIncarceration #PrisonIndustrialComplex  
#Apathy #Racism #WhiteSupremacy
Saturday, December 13th
Manny Cantor Center
197 East Broadway, NYC

Thanks to your incredible support, we have surpassed our goal of $10,000 to help schools practice transformative justice and decrease the suspensions that lead young people into the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Can you help us to reach $12,000 by Saturday's FULL COURT PRESS Event?  

We know that many of you will be heading out to the Millions March NYC happening on Saturday, and we hope you can also  
come by the FULL COURT PRESS Against #SchoolPushout with friends & family to cheer on all of the teams and win prizes!

Volunteer to work at the event! email for information

Can't attend but want to support? 
You can make a donation at 

Thank you!

Dignity in Schools Statements on Ferguson + Eric Garner Decisions

John King Departure, New Fed Job Linked to Failure of CIA Torture Program

Ed Notes has learned that the CIA was behind the move of John King. Having demonstrated he could run an effective torture program for students and teachers based on high stakes testing and tortuous standards, the CIA jumped at the opportunity to embrace his skills as a way to recover public standing from the recent revelations about their torture program, especially given the fact that so much of it failed to gain useful information.

"This is a win-win," said a CIA source. "Water boarding and rectal infusions never worked but a constant barrage of testing is guaranteed to get results. With so many teachers running screaming out of the profession and so many kids throwing up during testing, it was clear that we've been barking up the wrong torture tree.

"We also looked at John King's success in pushing charters to destroy the public school system. He will be devising charter terrorist groups. Every terrorist deserves a choice.

"And who better than John King to make this work? If I were in ISIS and Al Qaueda I would be packing up and leaving - fast."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ISIS And Eva Moskowitz Join Heads on her 10-year, 100-school plan

Given the difficulties poor besieged Eva Moskowitz expects to face in getting space from Mayor deBlasio, she search for space for her ambitious 100 school plan has led her to an agreement with ISIS for space in Syria, Iraq and who knows where else?

"Eva is a perfect fit for us," said an ISIS (ISIL, IS) spokesman - "you didn't expect a spokeswoman, did you" he said? But while we were on the subject we reminded the ISIS (ISIL, IS) representative that - shhh - Eva is a woman. "She won't even have to wear a burka. For our compadre, Eva, whose tactics we study religiously, everything is possible. But we need to move fast as Kim Jon-un is also hot on the trail with a serious offer. His only condition is that she must stop calling herself 'Jon-un Maximus' when she stops by to visit."


Eva Moskowitz on her 10-year, 100-school plan

Moskowitz at American Enterprise Institute. (AEI)
Capital NY: