Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parents and Students of District 7 in the Bronx Are About to be Screwed, Again

Oh the fun does not stop in District 7 in the Bronx. The New York Post reported today that District 7, as the behest of Community Education Council (one wonders whose behest they are working for), that 17 elementary schools in District 7 sill no longer be zoned schools, but rather open to all students within the district.

Said Nedya Franco, the D7 CEC president;
“We feel that it can’t get any worse, because we’re failing. So we have to do something that’s going to change the whole spectrum of our district, now [principals] have to prove what you have in the building and you have to bring students in. We feel there’s more accountability.”
Yes, that word, accountability, and a good dose of competition. Right? WRONG!!!!

This is what it boils down to. The schools that perform well, or at least appear to perform well, will cream the best students District 7 has to offer. The rest of the schools, will get the students from homes in which education is not taken seriously, students that are behavior problems, students that are struggling, and students that are way behind.

Think of this. Entry into Kindergarten will be akin to what parents on the Upper East Side, The Village, and the Upper West Side go through. There will be interviews of these families and their children, perhaps even tests. The schools will make damn sure that they are only selecting the best and that the best will select them. The resources will follow these students to a few select schools.

What happens to the rest? The rest of the schools will be deemed problem schools, with blame put on  problem teachers. There will be no resources, no curriculum, no nothing. Your child will not get an education at all. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus.

Soon, these "problem schools" will be forced to continuously shut down, with new teachers every few years, and with charter schools forcing themselves into these buildings to yet again take more and more resources away. Less space for the students that are not getting into the charters or the elite of District 7 will mean less building space for an ever growing amount of students that are not welcomed in neither. Who loses at the end? The students and the families.

This is the solution they choose for District 7. Tracy Woodall , the second VP of D7 CEC said that parents;
"were struggling to get their kids out of schools in their area that were failing, and there was nothing they could do.” 
Maybe not, but there is nothing the city is doing. It has been Mayor Bloomberg, and he alone, that has deprived the schools of needed funds and resources. It has been Mayor Bloomberg's lackies at Tweed that have deprived the schools in District 7 of a true curriculum. It has been Mayor Bloomberg and his lackies at Tweed that have deprived the schools of District 7 of any real curriculum.

Parents of District 7, who are being played. Do not believe that City Hall, Tweed, and those at 501 Courtlandt Ave have your best intentions in their hearts. They don't, and never will. Until your voices are heard, things will continue this way.

Think of the book by George Orwell, Animal Farm. "Some schools are more equal than others."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Quality of Review at PS 154

We're having a big day this week at PS 154. Company is coming, the quality review type of company. Like your rarely seen great-aunt coming over to visit, everyone at PS 154 will be on our best behavior this coming Tuesday and Wednesday and impress District 7 Superintendent Yolanda Torres and her QR minions as they poke, prod, probe, and have us turn our heads and cough as they determine not only whether or not we are proficient enough, but also if we stay open as a school.

We here at SBSB applaud that 154 is subject to a QR and wish to extend an invitation to the reviewers to be sure and speak to a wide array of teachers. Hear many opinions, and listen to many viewpoints. We are sure a reviewer will benefit greatly from such a meeting.

I still think the school is going to be shut down even if we are labeled proficient.I think the powers that be not only wish to excoriate most of the staff there, but The Crack Team has a sneaky suspicion that since Bronx Success is no longer co-located in PS 30 just a few blocks away, that Eva is looking for a new home to co-locate in and PS 154 would be perfect for her.

Why? One is the Robin Hood Foundation funded library that we have. Secondly, enrollment has been plummeting for several years and with about half a dozen empty or extremely under utilized classrooms, all one needs to do is some simple math.

But there is something more sinister happening. The neighborhood, the little section of Mott Haven from 138th St south to Bruckner Blvd and from about the 3rd Ave Bridge east to Willis Ave is becoming gentrified.

Very foretelling is the new apartment building that has been constructed on Bruckner Blvd right next to the Willis Ave Bridge. This is a 350 unit building with a gym, swimming pool, concierge, and many more amenities. More so, to live in the new apartments, one must qualify for residence with a minimum salary, as well as a maximum salary depending on the unit and the family size. 

But where does this leave the families and children who live in the Mitchel Houses and who make up just about 95% of the students at 154? Someone will lose out and it just might be the parents, the families, the children who live in Mitchell.

Apparently, no one cares about those who have invested years into PS 154. We have parents who attended 154, and grandparents who attended 154. But it does not matter to those in power.

The children, the families, and the community of PS 154 are just dupes to those at City Hall and Tweed. What they're selling is some sham miracle elixir being sold to them from a trunk of a car.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Mulgrew About To Sell Us Out?

I got an email, as I am sure others have, from El presidente de por vida de UFT Mike Mulgrew thanking all for the Sandy clean up effort and stuff like that. Nice.

However, towards the end of his email he reminded us that we still have to make up days that the students were out of school. OK, we know. The rumor floating around is that the days will be made up during the February vacation.

What really got The Crack Team's knickers in a tizzy was these lines;
We will have to make that time up. We have had to do this before on several occasions. Most recently, in the early 1990s, members had to give up vacation days to make up days when schools were closed because of the asbestos crisis.
Yes Mike, we know we need to make these days up, or at least some resolution needs to come about. But that is not what we, the dues paying members of the UFT wished to hear. Certainly not this as well;
We are talking to the state Education Department and the city Department of Education about what needs to be done to be in compliance with the law.
Wrong answer as well. We need to be talking with the leaders of the State Assembly and State Senate so they, and only they, can pass a waiver freeing not only the city from making up those days, but the rest of the districts that closed for the week due to Sandy.

In fact last year, the legislature passed a bill waiving the 180 day minimum for districts affected by Hurricane Irene;
On Friday, Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan introduced legislation in Albany that would grant the state education commissioner authority to waive the 180-day requirement for up to 10 days for schools dealing with extreme circumstances like the storm.
The bill is nearly identical to one passed after Hurricane Irene, the Daily News reports, and can be voted on when the legislature reconvenes in January. 
But Mike, why not wait and see how this plays out before there is any negotiating. Or making statements like this which are unnecessary at this point (not that we here at SBSB love to bust Uncle Mike's balls);
 Given this mayor’s track record, we expect to have to face off against him again in the months ahead.
Or even more botarded statements such as;
We’ll be ready.
Yeah, right. You and Unity will be ready to sell us out.

This bill will and should be passed. Why? Because the parents who live in Roslyn, Scarsdale, Great Neck, Chappaqua want it passed. They all have monies invested in their vacations and don't wish to lose out. Another reason it will be passed is that if school time is made up during a vacation break the student absenteeism in the districts will be so high that no one will want to lose out on funds.

If Mike really wants to be useful, he should stay quiet, let the suburban districts take the lead, and things should work out fine.

But The Crack Team is offering you a freebie here Mike. Call for the state cancelled this year. That will give us six full days of instruction and that is not to mention the months of test prep that won't be needed freeing up more instructional time.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Failure of Those in Charge Permeates District 7

Juan Gonzalez wrote a great piece in yesterday's Daily News on how the Young Leaders Elementary School, a school opened up by Uncle Mike in 2008, is now on the list of possible closures. 

Funny thing is, Young Leaders Elementary School replaced another closed school, PS 220 back in 2008. PS 220 was run by one of the classiest principals ever to work for the DOE, Michelle Kahn. I know Michelle is up above having the last laugh. She should.

Again, students and their families education is going to again be uprooted and thrown into disarray. Will another school be a community school, or will be a magnet school attracting students from all over the neighborhood. Teachers that have built up some modicum of trust within the community will be thrown away like bathwater. Then again, since this school opened up in 2008, I am sure there are plenty of new, malleable teachers to keep around.

But why is this happening, and what does it portend for PS 154, which is on the closure list as well? In the Young Leaders Elementary School most recent (2011-2012) quality review, this stood out;
Due to the high number of inexperienced teachers, school leaders are cognizant of the importance of ensuring that the decisions around professional development support the individual needs of teachers
Yes, a high number of inexperienced teachers. Inexperienced teachers, which if 154 closes, will be tasked with righting the ship. But yet, when the most recent accountability and review report was released (2010-2011) the turnover rate of teachers with less than 5 years experience was 39%. In fact the school started out with 64% of teachers with less than 3 years experience. Heck, just look at the rate of ELL's in this school.

But this is Uncle Mike's way. Instead of improving, let's destroy. As Mr Spock said in Wrath of Khan when Dr McCoy question what would happen if Genesis was let loose on an inhabited planet;
"It is easier to destroy, than to create."
But why must the students, the families, the community and the staff of the Young Leaders Elementary School, PS 154, and MS 203, another school in District 7 that is on the closure list and led by a class act in Bill Hewitt, suffer?

Who should be held responsible for this mess? We should begin with Yolanda Torres, Superintendent of District 7. If the Yankees don't perform, Joe Girardi is the one responsible, as is Brian Cashman. Right now The Crack Team is researching other schools in District 7 that have closed and/or failing under the watch of Yolanda Torres. We here at SBSB call for the immediate removal of Yolanda Torres as District 7 superintendent.

Also, the network leaders of these schools. Yes, we have pilloried Varleton McDonald, but what about Dan Feigelson, network leader of CFN 203 for the Young Leaders Elementary School and his undying devotion to Teacher's College? And let's not forget Robert Cohen, network leader of MS 203 CFN 104. What would the folks think at NYU for his abject failure?

No one cares. Everyone, except the teachers, are out for themselves. I brought up a very good point to a person of power in my district last week;

"Why wait for them to close us down? We all know that whatever side of the bed Uncle Mike wakes up on that's what the decision is based on. We need to not be reactive, but proactive. We need to fight back. We need to muster the parents, the community, and more importantly, the politicians together and fight, fight, fight for this school, the students, and the community."

My plan was met with derision.
"They don't want us to do that or anything. Just sit back and wait."
Those 14 words sum up so clearly at what is coming down the pike. In my opinion, the decision has been made. Time to pack up and start saying your goodbyes.

But it does not have to be that way. The parents of these schools need to rise up, need to speak as one voice, to go to Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo's office, to go to Councilwoman Arroyo's office and get them involved. Get the other parents involved. NOW!

This is not just about your child's education, but your respect as a community. Do not think for one minute that those white males in the blue suits at City Hall and Tweed give one iota about you or your children. It is all about power, all about taking care of their own, and all about paying monies to their friends for incompetent and failing curriculum.

There needs to be a true grass roots advocacy coming from the the bottom up, the parents and the communities. You are the most important people there are to affect change within the NYC DOE.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Going Down The Quality Review Tubes at PS 154x

In 1974, or maybe 1973, Senator Howard Baker then the ranking minority member of the then Senate Watergate Committee asked this famous question during the Watergate hearings;
"What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Well we here at SBSB are asking the same question of Yolanda Torres, Superintendent of District 7 in regard to PS 154 being put on the closure list,
"What did Yolanda Torres know and when did she know it?"
What has Yolanda Torres known of the downhill spiral of PS 154 and when did she know this? Obviously, she knew about it in late April when the principal was removed, but when did she know of the downward spiral? Or was she complicit in the downward spiral?

Something is amiss here. While up to 50% of the staff, maybe more, are in danger of losing their positions at PS 154 if the school is indeed closed, where are the ramifications for those at the top, such as Yolanda Torres, Maverick, or whichever cluster (God it is so confusing!)? If memory serves, Uncle Mike talked about ACCOUNTABILITY in 2002!

So, not to change subjects, but it will be changed. In May of this year, PS 154 had a state quality review performed for two days. For the first time publicly, the results of the quality review are being published.

Decipher and analyze for yourself. We are sure there are bigger and brighter minds out there. One comment really stood out from the QR that The Crack Team wishes to share;
The school has changed ELA programs several times over the last five years without evaluation of the effectiveness of each program.
Again, who is accountable for this mess? The parents and community of PS 154 have a right to know and a right to have answers.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Is Maverick Education Partnership (CFN 407) Complicit in PS 154's Failing??

Is it funny, the ironic kind of funny, how Uncle Mike and his henchmen want to publicly out teachers TDR's and shame teachers? Yet, where is the voracious callings to show what those who are running the schools actually do, where they are, and what their assessments are?

In the "olden days" schools were part of a district and received support services from these districts. Parents who had issues with their schools, or with the district, knew where to go. These offices were located in the same community as their school and at worse was probably a bus ride away.

Now school pay these networks to supervise and support them. Not only that, the schools are as disparate geographically as they educationally.

But try to find one of the offices of these so called networks, or "children first networks." Like trying to fin the office of Universal Exports, these office locations, and roles, are a closely guarded state secret.

But are all these networks the same? Are they equal? Or some more equal than others, or some are good and some suck? The Crack Team wondered this as sources handed us here at SBSB the the 2010-2011 secret rankings of the networks.

The Crack Team felt this was not only important information to share with the loyal readers of SBSB, but important to the community of PS 154. As readers of this blog are well aware, PS 154 is on the closure list and well, it is nice to know who mucked it up.

PS 154 is part of the CFN 407 or otherwise known by its nom de plume; Maverick Education Partnership (check out this You Tube commercial) which until this year had been led by former Jefferson High School principal Valerton McDonald. The Crack team is hard at work ascertaining why Mr McDonald is no longer the network leader, but we do know he is assigned to Tweed as "special projects manager."

So, what is the ranking, the satisfaction with the job Maverick Education Network has done? According to what was handed to us here at SBSB, Maverick is not good (click download to get full spreadsheet), in fact it is fourth from the bottom.

Now, yes, all that stuff on the spread sheet, what does it mean?  It is not straight forward and more convoluted than any VAM algorithm they use to persecute teachers, but we do know by this link that explains the scoring  that CFN 407 is in the bottom quartile.

So why don't the parents of PS 154 made aware of this at the early engagement process meetings? Why aren't the parents of PS 154 privy to this information at all? It is more and more of the DOE ruling from above and knowing what is bet for what they consider the lowly serfs, the parents, of NYC.

PS 154 is in danger of being shut down, not because of the teachers, but because of the horrendous leaders and decisions made by these leaders. These leaders should be held accountable and responsible and not be bumped upstairs when they fail.

Think about it. If the food in a restaurant is not good who is fired, the chef or the waiters?