Monday, November 30, 2009
Have I got a bridge to sell them.
I left a comment at Gotham after they posted a link to the New Action positioning statement. Yes, NA is all about political positioning for the upcoming UFT elections so they can hold onto the 8 exec bd seats handed to them by Unity Caucus. The "house" opposition.
Calling New Action an internal opposition group is like saying Christine Quinn stood up to Bloomberg. New Action has been the UFT's house opposition for over 5 years. Weingarten ran at the top of their ticket in the 2007 election and all 8 of their exec board members were endorsed by the UFT leadership Unity Caucus. In the 2007 election they got the lowest vote total of all groups running but only won their seats due to Unity Caucus votes.
So how are they an internal opposition when the party in power controls their fate?
Their original sellout in 2003 was based on the same premise they are advocating in this post: it is time to fight Bloomberg. That was their excuse for not running a candidate against Weingarten in the last 2 UFT elections and they will not run a candidate against Mulgrew in the upcoming elections. Since they owe their continued existence to the beneficence of the UFT leadership, they cannot be critical or they will lose their support. Thus they have to come up with the "mistakes were made by the leadership but let's not dwell on them" argument to justify their sellout.
New Action mentions charters but in fact backed the UFT all the way when it set up its own charter schools in public school buildings while ICE and TJC took positions opposed, knowing full well the charter dagger was squarely aimed at the heart of the union.
The New Action statement says:
Today we need a united stand. We will need to talk about the mistakes that we as a union have made: Mayoral endorsement, governance, term limits, but another day. This is not the time for recriminations. This is the time for a united fight against this corporate mayor.
When is the time to talk about the mistakes of a misguided UFT leadership that New Action has been uncritical of since the sellout? Note there is no mention of the other mistakes: the 2005 contract – which both members of New Action who served on the negotiating committee at the time voted for despite their attempts to rewrite history. Or the mistake of the end of seniority. Or the ATR problem that was created by the UFT and BloomKlein. New Action supported the leadership throughout these "mistakes."
New Action has supported the UFT leadership without dwelling on the mistakes for all these years. They act like there will be a change despite the fact that New Action has been around for decades and seen little change in the way Unity Caucus operates.
There was a time when New Action put up a fight to create a more democratic union. Now they are part of the problem. Progressive teachers looking to reform the UFT in no way consider them an internal opposition, but a former opposition that has sold out to the leadership for a few Executive Board seats and some minor positions on the payroll of the UFT.
I'm looking forward to reactions to today's Jennifer Medina's piece in the NY Times on charters sharing space with public schools as she has been working on this story for quite a while and was having problems getting teachers to talk because of the assumption the NY Times would not do a fair and balanced piece and also because of fear of retaliation from the DOE.
My immediate reaction is that this should be a series with this piece an intro. It could even be a book.
Some first impressions:
Medina touched on all the hot spots: Dist. 1, Red Hook, Harlem, the MS 126 library story. I bet if we delve into PS 16K (I spent my first 3 years as a teacher there) as being so cooperative between charter and an elem school - they made no fuss when the charter expanded to 9th grade and took 4 more rooms - could use some elaboration. Of course the charter will have to go to 12 grade - 4 rooms more a year plus admin space. My guess is PS 16 is doomed as a public school. There is a lot of history of contentious shared space there. The story decades ago about the attempt of Dist 14 to build a wall to separate the Hassidic kids from the public school kids and the community protests is legendary.
The heads of 2 charters are quoted but the Principal of PS 20 James Lee who made an excellent presentation at the meeting as to how his school is affected is not. Other principals spoke too about the impact of Girls Prep on their schools. Some talked about the bait and switch Girls Prep has been pulling. Medina was present for the entire CEC1 meeting a few weeks ago.
I posted an excellent video of a PS 15 teacher in Red Hook who presented the case for her school. It is worth checking out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlJNjRMFLls. If you haven't seen it take a look. The Jan. 26 PEP will address the PS 15/PAVE issue.
The stuff about Spencer Robertson's building falling through is priceless. When he announced at the CEC15 meeting that he had space and refused to divulge any info the PS 15 crowd hooted that this was just a lie and a smokescreen. And so it was.
Yes charter schools do lie.
Check ICE/GEM Lisa North in the pic on front page of Times - she is on the lower right hand corner.
I'll get back with more reactions later.
The article is also posted at the GEM blog.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Maybe it was the aftermath of the 23 people we had for Thanksgiving, the group ranging in age from age 1 to 91 with just about every decade represented: teens, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty and sixty somethings. My dad, who will be 92 in January, held the upper limit. He had the company of my wife's aunt who is also 91. Our niece's 2 year old and our cousin's 3 year old were chasing each other around the house, with the 1 year old crawling along trying to keep up. The two 18 year old cats were OK with it for a while before deciding to take a powder – just a bit of hissing and hiding under the bed. (Some pics of the gang in action.)
Friday was cleanup and going to the gym day.
Saturday was an early morning Bikram yoga class. There's nothing like spending an hour and a half in a hundred and five degrees to get your brain to turn to mush. But I had wake up as I had a noon meeting at my house with a playwright (who is in my acting class) and his director friend to discuss making a film of one of his plays, with my video pal Mark and I doing the cinematography. We watched a tape of the play which was performed in Manhattan and it looks like an exciting project.
Saturday night Mark and I taped a performance of "The Odd Couple" at the Bayswater Jewish Center in Rockaway, with Mark's business partner Stuie playing Felix. I had been offered the opportunity to play one of the card players a few months ago but time constraints made it impossible to consider. Before the play we went to eat at "Lucky Boy" on Rockaway Turnpike. The place looks like a shabby diner from the outside, but what great food.
Sunday morning was my acting class and I spent some serious time trying to memorize my monologue from "Talk Radio" but my brain is not well equipped to hold onto so much information. This is one big rant and I really get worked up. So be careful if you run into me, as I may start practicing. Or I could just attend a charter school hearing and let it all fly.
After class, it was over to a friend's house for the weekly NY Jets game self-flagellation (soothed by piles of chips and dips). But lo and behold, the JETS WON! Then there were two more football games to watch, with the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game going to overtime, followed by Mike Francese's "Miked Up" which didn't end until past midnight.
Then I woke up to see the front page of the NY Times and Jenifer Median's story on charter schools sharing space with public schools and it was back to reality. Or maybe the weekend was reality. She has been working on the story for weeks and contacted me about getting people to talk to her. I know there was some reluctance. I already wrote up some comments for my 2001st post, which I will put up next.
I really do want to do a taking stock article, since the Ed Notes blog is an extension of the Ed Notes newsletter, which has been around since 1996. I believe that this body of work constitutes some kind of history of the UFT and education in NYC, plus the national trends over that time. It could be a book, but then one must pretty much drop everything to get such a project done and I have too much schpilkus, the original Jewish version of Attention Deficit Disorder, to sit down long enough to do it.
Friday, November 27, 2009
So, they issue a supposedly unbiased report on charter schools and managed to leave out the critical findings. "What crooks!" was one comment we received by email.
(Here are a few previous Ed Notes posts on this gang:
teacher quality at the education sector... a stacked deck
the education sector's biased survey
We do have a wonderful nationwide network sniffing out these news nuggets.
Caroline Grannan sent this clue and I forwarded it to Leonie Haimson, who put this report together on the NYC Education News Listserve. Monte Neil from Fair Test sent out an original post and Alexander Russo blogged about it from his sources.
Here is Leonie's post. (By the way, it was great to see Leonie's husband Michael Oppenheimer's excellent stint on the News Hour the other day discussing: Bound for Copenhagen, Obama Faces Climate Change Obstacles.)
Tom Toch’s report on Charter Management Organizations was scrubbed by Education Sector – with many of the negatives taken out. Education Sector is a think tank heavily supported by pro-charter foundations like Gates and Broad. (see below discussion from Alex Russo’s This week in education.)
The report cites the following funders: Smith Richardson Foundation….. Education Sector has received grants from foundations that have funded charter schools, charter school networks, and other organizations mentioned in this report, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Specific disclosures of funder and board relationships associated with this report can be found in the endnotes.
Toch’s original findings as published in Education Week and elsewhere were remarkably balanced; see this excerpt:
In the decade since they emerged on the education landscape, nonprofit networks of charter schools called charter-management organizations, or CMOs, have built some of the biggest brands in education—the Knowledge Is Power Program, Aspire, Green Dot Public Schools, Uncommon Schools—and won plaudits from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, The New York Times Magazine, and “60 Minutes.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now poised to give them a central role in the federal government’s multibillion-dollar school reform campaign. He has named leaders of the CMO movement to key posts in his department and has pledged to make “big bets” on the highest-performing charter networks with the expectation that they’ll produce large numbers of outstanding new schools for disadvantaged students.
But the research for a report on CMOs that I’ve produced for the think tank Education Sector reveals that many of these organizations are going to be hard-pressed to deliver the many schools that Duncan wants from them. Discussions with dozens of CMO executives and other experts, an examination of CMO business plans, consultant reports, and other documents, and visits to over a dozen schools run by prominent CMOs in different parts of the country make clear that a host of challenges—the need to find and finance school buildings, the expense of educating impoverished students successfully, the difficulty of recruiting high-performing teachers and principals, and, in many instances, strong opposition from traditional public educators—has left many CMOs working hard to sustain themselves academically and financially.
The report even now is interesting about finances of NYC charter schools, and makes clear that the funding it receives from Bloomberg is quite generous. See this:
Since pledging in 2003 to make New York “the most charter-friendly city,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have provided leading CMOs like Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, and KIPP (as well as many individual charter schools) heavily subsidized space in under-enrolled city schools; subsidized custodial, maintenance, and security services; and independence over staffing, budgets, and instruction.37 Civic Builders, a nonprofit real estate developer established in 2002, bundles money from the city’s school system, philanthropies, commercial lenders, and various state and federal construction programs to buy real estate and rent it to charter schools at below-market rates. The organization has spent $227 million developing nine schools, including the retrofitting of a Brooklyn ice cream factory to house an Achievement First elementary and middle school.38
With the annual funding that they get in New York City (some $12,440 per student, plus additional local and federal monies, a sum that Achievement First estimates to be between 80 percent and 95 percent of the funding that the city’s traditional schools receive), Achievement First’s New York schools are able to operate without philanthropic subsidies once they are fully enrolled, says chief financial officer Max Polaner—in sharp contrast to Amistad in New Haven. Says CEO Toll: “We expanded into New York because of Klein and because the dollars are doable.” But such partnerships have been rare, because [most other] school districts are wary of losing students and revenue to CMOs, and charter networks have wanted to preserve their independence. And while New York City is relatively charter-friendly, the state as a whole has been less so, imposing strict caps on the number of charter schools that have only recently been increased after years of bitter political struggle.
See also this, about the high attrition levels at some charter schools, pointed out by Caroline Grannan:
Another challenge is high student attrition. Rigorous standards, struggling students, grueling schedules along with transient families and the other attendant problems of poverty often lead to significant numbers of students leaving leading CMO schools. The cumulative effect can be substantial. For instance, a 2008 study by SRI International, an independent research organization, found that an average of 60 percent of the entering fifth-graders at four Bay Area KIPP middle schools left before graduating at the end of the eighth grade, and that the students who left tended to be lower achievers (by law, charter schools must be open to all students and use a lottery if over-subscribed).44
One wonders how much more negative the report was originally before being scrubbed.
From: Monty Neill, Fair Test
Yesterday I scanned just the exec sum of this report from Ed Sector. It was clear that the recommendations were merely Ed Sector's pro-privatization agenda, said nothing about what presumably were findings of various kinds of problems with charters. Now it seems Ed Sector changed the original report by its co-founder Tom Toch, removing lots of content and tacking on its ideology as 'recommendations'.
Here are excerpts from Alexander Russo:
November 24, 2009 | Posted At: 05:59 PM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Think Tank Mafia
EdSector CMO Report: Who Lost Tom Toch?
Thanks to a couple of eagle-eyed readers (including MDM) for pointing out that the much-delayed Education Sector report on charter management organizations lacks the name -- and apparently much of the content provided by -- its original author, writer and EdSector co-founder Tom Toch.
Toch can't publish the original version of the report because of copyright issues but he points to several other pieces (in Education Week and the Kappan)
Read Russo's full post at:
Sharon Higgins published a report on public per pupil spending that compares Oakland, CA's charters with regular public schools (some of which are part of Oakland's small schools initiative and have been treated favorably compared to larger neighborhood schools)
Here's the link to her blog. The punch line is that the politically connected charters are spending lots more than local schools, even though the locals have most of the ELLs and special ed kids. What's more, I've personally noticed that in most neighborhoods the lowest proficiency ELLs (kids who barely understand or speak English, and thus score lowest on the English high stakes exam) are pretty much not in the charters.
page 7 Recruitment/marketing costs:
Note C: School Facility
As part of the New York City Chancellor's Charter School Initiative, the NYC DoE has committed space to the Organization at no charge. the facilities and services provided by the NYC DoE to the Organization are outlined in a Shared Facility Use Agreement.
The agreement is for 5 years or until termination of the School's charter.
Is this agreement still in effect for the renewed/expanded charter whose application is in process at SUNY CSI? Where is a copy of this agreement?
My bi-weekly column in The Wave (www.rockawave.com).
By the way, the Village Voice chose The Wave as the best community newspaper in NYC and NY Magazine is including The Wave as one of the one hundred best reasons to live in NYC. Not bad for a small outpost on the edge of NYC.
A lot of this recognition is due to Howard Schwach, the current managing editor, who preceded me in writing the School Scope column. A long-time teacher and critic of both the old (and current) school administration and the UFT, Howie retired from teaching to take over running The Wave in June, 2001. He was told there wasn't much news out here. Then came 9/11, where many Rockawayites were killed and the plane crash of Flight 587 two months later where The Wave became the center of international coverage.
Nov. 27, 2009
by Norman Scott
If you haven't been following the saga of former Joel Klein Clone and now Washington DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee and her fiancé, former pro basketball player Kevin Johnson, now the mayor of Sacramento, get thee over to my blog (http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/). This is one juicy story that involves charges that Johnson made inappropriate advances on some young ladies and misused almost half a million dollars in Americorps funds for his St. Hope (less) charter school. But the real gravy may turn out to be the firing by the Obama administration of the Inspector General, the only person to be openly fired by Obama. Republicans in Congress and swift boaters and tea baggers are seizing on the story and will try to turn it into an Obama WhiteWater/Watergate story. As we went to press, details were emerging on an Obama administration cover-up of the firing. Some bloggers are calling it "Rheegate" and my blog has the famous Nixon "I'm not a crook" poster with Rhee's face superimposed on Nixon's.
Obama a do-nothing?
I was watching the Jets game the other day with some friends. During Sanchez' 2nd (or was it 12th?) interception, one of them said that a close relative hated Obama. Why? "He hasn't done anything." Done anything? I pointed out that this relative hated Obama before he was elected because he feared Obama would actually do something that would take us down the road to socialism. "He should be happy Obama hasn't done any of the things that he thought he would do," I said. "Look at Bush. He did things. Two wars and an economic collapse."
From now on I don't want our politicians to do anything. Other than keep their hands out of the till. They should be more like South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, on the verge of impeachment, and spend more time sneaking off to meet their mistresses in places like Argentina. Sanford should get an award instead of being vilified. For at least one weekend he didn't didn't do anything to screw (the public, at least). Remember, he was the guy who wanted to turn down the stimulus package for political reasons, but his package got stimulated anyway.
Obama: Hoover or FDR? Hoover or Jimmy Carter?
A year ago I surmised whether Obama would be looked at as an FDR or a Herbert Hoover, depending on how the economic crisis turned out. Remember that FDR's policies created massive changes. The charge that Obama has not accomplished much should be put in context. If we think back to the disaster he inherited, things don't seem to have gotten worse. That is worth something. People point out his push on health care reform might actually lead to something, though once the bones of the bill are picked over there won't be much meat left, except for the lobbying interests. Now it is clear there is little chance Obama will be an FDR, as the Hoover-like depression seems to be fading, though I still think there is a shot at if enough people start living under bridges and set up Obama-ville tent cities. Barring that, what are we left with? Obama channeling Jimmy Carter? Well, I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of 10 people in this nation that actually liked Carter as president, but admitting it means I have to wear a bag over my head.
On education policy, one of the few things I know something about, Obama is totally off base by focusing on teachers (almost all his policies relate to blaming teachers for failures of school systems). Do the education deformers, who always seem to send their kids to private schools with low class sizes, ever talk about reforms that actually include lowering class size?
In essence, Obama supports the demise of the public option in education. One of the fascinating aspects of the health care debate has been over the offering of a public option to reduce costs. At the same time the Obama administration has been promoting policies (charters, etc) that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the public option in education. The Right-wing education "deformers," who always had an agenda of destroying and privatizing public education, have had no words of criticism of the Obama education agenda, which takes Bushism to new heights.
We get letters
A letter writer, clearly a hater, in the Nov. 13 edition of The Wave accused me of being an anti-white racist, pretty much painting me as a founding member of the Black Panthers, mostly based on some things I've written about the 1968 teachers strike. In fact, I supported the strike in '68, as I supported all three UFT strikes. He focused on my contention that19 teachers in Ocean-Hill were illegally transferred and not fired. District 23 Superintendent Rhody McCoy used the word "fired" but the UFT contract guaranteed them jobs and they were offered positions in other districts. The UFT told them to make a stand and stick it out to make a political point. To call me a racist against whites is akin to my calling the letter writer a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Hmmmm. On second thought....
I've completed six weeks of Frank Caiati's acting class at the Rockaway Theatre Company and there is no more stimulating way to spend two hours on a Sunday morning. Most people would say I've exhibited few signs of being shy. I've spoken in front of large audiences, but this acting business is very intimidating. If you've seen Frank on stage, you know how he makes it all seem so natural and people rave about his talent as an actor.
We're doing monologues and I'm doing one from "Talk Radio" where I play an abrasive radio talk show host who goes on a rant against the audience. Typecasting to the extreme. What could be more perfect for me, a well-known ranter, than a screaming diatribe? It barely takes acting. Frank emphasizes the subtleties of the diatribe. "It doesn't have to be one big outburst," he says. "You can show anger with pauses and in a low voice too." Call it a slow seethe. These insights are what make Frank as good a director as he is an actor. After I do my monologue, I'm in great shape to join my friends later that afternoon in watching the Jets blow another one, though I skip the subtleties of the rant as the game progresses.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"Compton’s bright new ideas are the usual mix of “assessment and accountability” measures, pay-for-performance, and limitless expansion of charter schools and of teaching by TFA recruits and private-sector professionals; details are, of course, available by clicking the “Shop my store” tab."
"According to his biography on robertacompton.com, he is or has been an “IBM Systems Engineer, Professional Venture Capitalist, Angel Investor, President/COO of NYSE company, Entrepreneur and Filmmaker”; and “active in over 30 businesses including software, telecommunication services, healthcare services and medical devices.”
Bob apparently has problems with sticking with one thing. You see, Bob, some of us spent an entire career actually teaching kids. I even spent 27 years in one school. I know, I know. In your world that makes me a slacker. I guy without ambition (except to teach) to rise up in the competitive world you want education to be.
Ed Notes was visited by Bob Compton, or "Dumb Bob" as he signed his first comment after we posted this:
deformer crowd. Stop by and respond.
Nostalgia Note: Love That Bob with Bob Cummings was all the rave in the mid-50's when we were kids, particularly pre-adolescent boys. Cummings played a bachelor photographer and dated the hottest girls, who often wore skimpy outfits. More on the show here.
The dogs are howling as Rhee-Gate gets closer to the White House.
Plus the DC teachers union WTU- loses in court.
All at Norms Notes. Rhee/Johnson/Huffner (Rhee ex)/White House
Photoshopped by David Bellel.
From the Eggplant:
U.S. Department of Education Orders Confiscation of All Teacher Plan Books
WASHINGTON, D. C.-In an effort to address both the waste and the lack of uniformity exhibited by public school teachers' use of individualized plan books, the U. S. Department of Education announced today a new policy prohibiting all teachers from access to individual plan books, a plan taking effect on January 15, 2010.
"After watching the messy, haphazard use of these planbooks when teachers are entrusted with autonomy, we can see that it is time to exercise a little Federal oversight," said Undersecretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Sallie Songster.
"Unlimited access to planbooks is not scientific," Songster continued. "It's unpredictible and unverifiable. To compete in the global economy, we have to be assured that every teacher is following the Common Core Standards in a timely and uniform manner." MORE
Over the Top: Winning Strategies for the Race to the Top Fund
by Yong Zhao
'November 16, 2009, from Yong Zhao blog Michigan State. Suggestion #1 is a brilliant take on what's happening, almost too close to Arne's dream to be a parody. Go to the site and read the comments, too.
I have been reading through the 775-page final notice document to be published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2009. It includes the final versions of application guidelines, selection criteria and priorities for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund (RTT), the largest education grant in U.S. history.
I can guess from news reports, op-ed pieces, and blog posts that many states are working hard to prepare their applications. From my reading of the criteria, I think the following are the winning strategies and actions to include in the application, although they may be inconsistent with research findings or common sense.
Stop paying teachers and principals a salary. Instead pay teachers and principals on a per standardized test point basis each day. At the end of each school day, students should be tested using a standardized test, what a teacher and principal is paid is calculated at the end of the day based on the growth of the student, i.e., how much has the student improved over the previous day. This is true accountability and will for sure keep teachers and principals on their toes!
Monday, November 23, 2009
We have 2 more reports on the growing Michelle Rhee/Kevin Johnson/Obama admin scandal surrounding Johnson's St. Hope charter school franchise, which Rhee was St. Hoping to bring Johnson's St. Hope franchise into the DC schools.
There's nothing like a sex and money scandal to get one's blood boiling, and while the accusations of inappropriate behavior towards students by Johnson may seem to be the more serious charges, the guessing is that the misuse of federal Americorps funds by Johnson and Rhee's attempts to aid the cover-up, are the real buttons to push (though here are details of Johnson's actions with the girls/women). Also bet that we are just scratching the surface. Johnson better hurry up that wedding to Rhee so she can't testify against him.
Watch the tea baggers seize on this issue to further undermine the Obama administration for firing the investigator.
Gary Imhoff, at email@example.com titles today's post Damage Control
Michelle Rhee did damage control for her fiancee, Kevin Johnson, when she was a board member of the charter school he founded in Sacramento and he was accused of improper sexual behavior with a student, according to a congressional staff report issued Friday (http://republicans.oversight.house.gov/images/stories/Reports/20091120JointStaffReport.pdf). The story was broken in the Washington market by Byron York in the Washington Examiner (http://tinyurl.com/yzobtur), with detailed follow-up stories by David Lipscomb in the Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/21/hill-report-names-dc-schools-chief/), Mike DeBonis in CityDesk (http://tinyurl.com/yj2eshr), and Bill Turque in DC Wire (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2009/11/report_says_rhee_interceded_wi.html).
Rhee's only response so far has been through a DCPS spokeswoman, who essentially dismissed the story as old news. It's not old news to me, and I assume it's not an old story to most people in Washington. It's a serious allegation, against both Rhee and Johnson, that deserves a real response. Parenthetically, it's also a big enough story that it should have appeared by now in the print edition of the Washington Post, and not just on its web site — unless the Post is deliberately intending to position its web site as the primary news source, and downgrade the importance of the newspaper itself.
Candi Peterson, whose blog has been a major source in following the Rhee shenanigans, has another follow-up post today, which I'm including in full.
She reposts some great stuff from conducting the inner light blog, which has some interesting tidbits, which are worth highlighting:
Excerpt from CTIL blog:
I think that there is much more damning evidence in the IG report than sex.
I cannot recommend enough reading the entire report right down to the interview of Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez, the former employee of St. Hope Academy Charter Schools. Your jaw will drop, your eyes will pop out of your head. No matter how you try to play this report it looks stinky. Just a for instance: Michelle Rhee was listed as a board member of St. Hope. Simultaneously she was listed as: the consultant for the New Teacher Project, the consultant for the reconstruction bridge span, the consultant for the reconstruction of the HR department, while on another memo she was listed as the COO. In yet another letter she was listed as the President and Johnson as the CEO. So many hats for one person and absolutely no conflict of interest, is there, in being both a board member and a consultant for the very board of which you are a member. Sarcasm in that last sentence. The discrepancies are legion in this report. Just read the summary of charges. According to these charges Johnson used Americorps money and Americorps volunteers in complete violation of the government contract and volunteer contract.
The CTIL author, in another post worth checking out from Oct. 31, charges the Washington Post with Rheeism, cancelling his/her subscription in response.
I'll let Candi do the rest of the talking.
Nov 23, 2009
"It is interesting to me how the Michelle Rhee/Kevin Johnson situation is playing out in the newspapers and blogs. For those of you not keeping up suffice it to say that in a congressional investigation it has been revealed that Michelle Rhee acted as a fixer/damage controller for her fiance when he was accused by three girls of inappropriate touching. I won’t go into the allegations but refer you to the articles via The Washington Teacher’s Blog. Candi Peterson has aggregated all the newsources beautifully and this allows you to read each and come to your own conclusion.
Personally, I think the sex part of this scandal is somewhat of a misdirection. Not that I think the charges are groundless – read not only the Inspector General’s report but also the transcripts, as reported by The Sacramento News and Review , of Johnson’s phone conversation with another girl (not one of the accusers but a girl from 10 years before when Johnson was still a player on the Suns) and it will be hard to avert your eyes or find any excuse for him – but I think that there is much more damning evidence in the IG report than sex.
I cannot recommend enough reading the entire report right down to the interview of Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez, the former employee of St. Hope Academy Charter Schools. Your jaw will drop, your eyes will pop out of your head. No matter how you try to play this report it looks stinky. Just a for instance: Michelle Rhee was listed as a board member of St. Hope. Simultaneously she was listed as: the consultant for the New Teacher Project, the consultant for the reconstruction bridge span, the consultant for the reconstruction of the HR department, while on another memo she was listed as the COO. In yet another letter she was listed as the President and Johnson as the CEO. So many hats for one person and absolutely no conflict of interest, is there, in being both a board member and a consultant for the very board of which you are a member. Sarcasm in that last sentence.
The discrepencies are legion in this report. Just read the summary of charges. According to these charges Johnson used Americorps money and Americorps volunteers in complete violation of the government contract and volunteer contract. These volunteers are supposed to be used for the community and as tutors for students in schools. According to the report none of the volunteers did a single hour of tuturing for their time at St. Hope. What they did do was wash KJ’s car, clean his place (Johnson told one employee that the Americorps volunteers were there for “grunt work”), worked as clerks in the St. Hope store, canvassed the neighborhoods for candidates for local political offices, used them to solicit funds for St. Hope – even traveling to NYC on the Americorps money to do so. Johnson also misappropriated Americorps funds to pay SHA staff.
Here was one of the most incredible things I found in this report: the volunteers, who were on a stipend of around $4000 plus dollars, were charged rent for their housing. The housing was owned by (wait for the drumroll please) The St. Hope Development Corporation – they were charged $300-$350 a month. SHA never revealed to federal authorities their relationship to SHD (you would think, though, that they would change the name of their corporation just a tad so that no one would notice – you know, like Enron).
The sex allegations are here, as well. I don’t see how anyone can dismiss them as groundless nor as the accusations of people who hold a political motive. It is obvious throughout this report that there was a culture of abuse. The culture of power that Johnson practiced (one person describes him as micromanaging every thing right down to the position of all the office furniture) is one in which abuse is the predominate factor.
Here is what disturbs me after reading this report: Michelle Rhee tried to bring St. Hope Charter schools into our school system to take over some schools. She tried to do this AFTER this report had been filed. It was only due to the due diligence on the part of the parents of those schools that would have been overtaken (deliberate use of word here) and their objection to SHA coming in because of what they found out in their own investigations.
Due diligence in regards to Ms. Rhee has been missing in DC from the very beginning. From the vetting process on down she has been given a free ride by Adrian Fenty, the Washington Post, many on the city council, and a host of other people who believe she is “doing what has to be done.” Discrepencies in what she says and does have been ignored or explained away at almost every turn. She contradicts herself, denies, changes facts to suit her need and all of this is dismissed as quibbles on the part of those of us who have had worries about her methods and the true nature of her plans. OK, fine, than read this report and explain to me how anyone could think to bring in this corrupt, unethicial organization to run any of our schools? She knew about the charges in that report. Given her status as one of the three main operators of St. Hope – again read the report and Ms. Wong-Hernandez’ interview to see the number of titles Rhee held – there is no way she can claim ignorance to these charges.
That is the real scandal that should be on the front page of every paper. Diligence is now due."
Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, story courtesy of conducing the inner light, definition/commentary courtesy of dictionary.com
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I don't think the UFT has much of a strategy. Once the UFT got on the ed deformer train - merit pay, charter schools, high stakes testing, closing schools, acceptance of the argument that teacher quality is more important than class size or socio-economic issues, leading to end of seniority, weakened tenure, use of data to measure teachers, etc. the ed deformers are dictating and the UFT responds - defensively.
Right now the biggest issue is the ATR situation. BloomKlein can't close all the schools they want without solving that because the cost will be astounding with the constant creation of new ATRs. They could really not hire new people and force principals to keep absorbing ATRs as they are created but that is sort of going back to a semi-seniority system.
So for BloomKlein the primary issue has to be the removal of the ATR problem. For the UFT, no matter what they say, the major issue is to get money even if they have to sell off something in the contract. Giving up the ATRs would be a biggie and really weaken them with the membership.
By going to arbitration, the expected recommendation would be a compromise which the UFT could claim as an out on the ATR issue. Rush a contract with money and some future deal that is left vague and sell it to the membership with a "trust us" attitude. The press condemns BloomKlein for giving in but a year later some kind of hammer comes down.
What could the compromise be? Maybe 3 years and out. Or a buyout.
One teacher I spoke to today in a D school that could be closed is thinking that they will leave a bunch of so-called "failing" under resourced schools as holding pens for students who can't get into small schools or charters that will also serve as holding pens for ATR teachers.
In other words, gather ATRs in a few places that are very tough to teach in and make life so miserable they will take any buyout offered. Or pick them off through harassment. Think of the old 600 school concept - except for teachers and students, trapped in a death spiral of failure.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Frizzle Sizzle had this comment on ICE-Mail:
"...in my last chapter elections I was the first at my school to expose the fact that Bill Gates' goal is to privatize our school system AND now tinker and alter tenure in our contract."
Well of course the chapter wouldn't know about Gates and the privatization movement if they read anything the UFT puts out. Gates is their partner. Their collaborator. Some Vichyssoise, anyone?
The UFT could be the great educator of the membership and the public. But the leadership purposely doesn't connect the dots. Some people think they are stupid. Or bamboozled. Not so. They know exactly what they are doing. Collaborating in letting the air out of the teacher labor movement. Not that they like doing it. But they have no choice. No strategy for fighting off the data testing. Or the charters. Or the merit pay. No strategy at all. And no prospect for developing a strategy. So they are left with nothing more than a holding action and the bet they can hold onto power and get what they can out of using their control over the membership to get what they need for the top oligarchy.
Susan O has an article from WAPO and a comment:
schools. This agenda includes For teacher "effectiveness," read "test scores." This is one more step in the Gates use of venture philanthropy, marching lockstep in the neoliberal agenda to corporatizedeprofessionalizing teachers. Under the neoliberals, control of schools shifts from teachers, parents, and communities to private foundations, corporations, and investors. Under neoliberals, public schools are a business, students are consumers. Teachers? They are lackeys operating at the will of the system stocked by principals who must become entrepreneurs. This money is dirty, buying the soul of a school and eating it alive.
Here are some excerpts from the WAPO article:
For the [Gates] foundation, a central player in school reform, the initiative reflects an evolution in strategy. Several years ago, it concentrated on breaking large high schools into smaller, more personal academic communities. That effort had mixed results. In a conference call, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said she and Microsoft founder Bill Gates had discovered that innovation takes long-term commitment because school systems are often "entrenched" in their ways and teachers "siloed in their classrooms." "We have been in this work for almost a decade" she said. "We've learned a lot about what works. . . . Let's focus on the thing that actually matters the most, which is the teacher." (Gates serves on the board of the Washington Post Co.)
If you watched the Sat nite live opening where the Chinese Pres asks Obama to kiss him. "I like being kissed when someone is screwing me," he says as he bends over and assumes the position.
Can Mulgrew and the Unity leadership crew kiss a 100,000 or so working UFT members without getting chapped lips?
There's lots to report on this breaking story, but I'll let others do it.
The NY Times reports is here, with this perfect photo of the Rhee personna.
Candy Peterson from DC has this up on her blog.
Nov 21, 2009
If you haven't read this already it is a 'must read' Examiner Exclusive by Byron York with Bill Myers contributing to the report. It reads like an episode from Dominick Dunne's TV show Power, Privilege and Justice. It confirms my belief that no 'reign of terror' lasts forever. I'd be interested to hear how you think this drama will play out. I have posted this Examiner story in its entirety.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Darren from GEM sent this video link along:
Check out this youtube video. I like imagining being on either side of the camera - a screaming middle schooler who can't believe her math and science and english teachers are dancing to a choreographed number, or a teacher who knows that the kids are absolutely loving it. My friend Mike, who's now 30, went to this middle school.
CAPE, which was formed to battle the PAVE invasion at PS 15 (and is now working with GEM to reach out to other schools in the same situation) posted an announcement this morning that it ain't over 'till it's over.
The CEC15 has bravely forced the DOE to at least pretend to function within the realm of our republic and has agreed to have a public hearing and have the PEP vote on whether PAVE Academy should be able to extend their two year agreement, an agreement by which this charter was sold to the Red Hook Community who fought it.
Please join in our fight to protect and preserve public education, our children and our school! Sign the online petition and circulate it. Contact the NYC PEP and tell them to vote no in allowing PAVE to break their agreement and stay housed in PS 15's building past June 2010... further, we need to fight to expose the faulty DOE formula that is hurting schools and our children.
While some people thought the battle was over when the DOE ruled, as expected, to give PAVE its 2-year extension, Jim Devor of CEC15, which held a contentious meeting at PS 15 back in September, filed a complaint that under the mayoral control renewal law, the PEP must discuss the issue first and then rule in favor of PAVE. This will happen at the January 26 PEP meeting, which will held in the crater of the moon where water was discovered. I'm guessing the vote will be 9 to 2 for PAVE (money and influence talks) but it all should be a worthwhile event.
Ed Notes covered the story from the beginning and we have lots of video from the Sept. 17 meeting. The single best piece is PS 15 Makes Their Case. (Use the search blog for PAVE to find more coverage.)
Excerpts from the Gotham Schools report:
Responding to protests that it was breaking the new mayoral control law, the Department of Education will hold a public hearing before extending PAVE Academy Charter School’s stay inside a district-owned building. The law passed this summer requires the DOE to issue an “educational impact statement” and hold a public hearing on any proposed changes to the way school building space is used, and then to put changes to a vote before the city-wide Panel for Educational Policy.
Last month, DOE officials notified the principals of Red Hook’s PAVE Academy and P.S. 15 that the charter school would remain in the P.S. 15 building, even though PAVE originally agreed to leave the building at the end of this school year. At the time, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte said that there was no need to follow the new rules since a hearing had been held before the charter school moved into the building two years ago. But after protests from the district’s Community Education Council members, DOE officials said this week they will follow the new procedure after all.
CEC President James Devor drafted a resolution this week calling on the DOE to follow the new law in the case of P.S. 15. The resolution also states that if the DOE does not follow the new procedure in making space decisions regarding P.S. 15 and PAVE, it would join any lawsuit designed to force the DOE to adhere to the law.
A CAPEr commented at Gotham:
This is a victory for due process, for what we have been fighting for. Now we need to make sure the process is transparent… a hearing is one thing, being heard is another. What is at issue here is not charter schools (although many of us have opinions about them), what is at issue is a faulty DOE space sharing formula that is bad for kids and bad for schools— and not for nothing– both groups of kids and schools!
The DOE formula does not take into account the space demands of our special education population and does not take into account a full prep schedule, as well as the space needed for the enrichment and intervention services that make PS 15 an AAA school. I should also mention we have a medical, dental, and social services program at our school as well that requires space.
We all feel for PAVE parents who fear losing a place for their child’s school, but firstly, this is the fault of Robertson and his poor leadership, planning, and judgement and second of all, PS 15 students should not suffer for his incompetence. He has more than enough money to go and find himself a space somewhere else where he would not be negatively impacting the education of over 350 other students, whose parents choose PS 15. We should not be functioning in a system where we rob Paul to pay Peter. Support our fight in keeping PAVE to their two year agreement!
Mike Antonucci reported over at Intercepts on Tuesday:
SEIU Threatens to Organize Charter School Teachers?
Can’t find confirmation anywhere other than in this story about the infighting between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Reporter Randy Shaw says SEIU is upset with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) for supporting NUHW. UTLA reportedly sponsored a fundraiser for NUHW in San Francisco, which was protested by SEIU activists.
According to Shaw, SEIU made a statement to UTLA that “it would seek to organize charter school teachers in retaliation for UTLA’s pro-NUHW stance.” If true, it’s an empty threat. What makes SEIU think it would be any more successful organizing charter school teachers than UTLA has been? And how much damage would it really do if it were successful?
Charter school teachers might ask what all this has to do with their needs, and the answer is nothing. Something to remember when the union guy shows up at school.
If you followed our reports of the AFT/Randi takeover of Local 5017, a health services union in Portland Or. not long ago, goonism is not partial to SEIU. Ironically, the AFT takeover, which necessitated a trip to Portland by Randi, was related to Local 5017's flirtation with the very same NUHW- see end of this piece for links.
I agree with Mike that the AFT/UFT/Whatever will have a hell of a touch time organizing charters - they will probably have to "buy" charter operators off with some cozy contracts. See one Steve Barr and Green Dot.
Yesterday at the DA Angel Gonzalez and I had a short discussion with what seemed to be union official over charter schools and their support. They seem clearly in a box because they will not take a position opposing charters and will watch the union be winnowed away bit by bit. While they hemorage members to charters, they will be trying to organize what they lost. Sort of like trying to hold sand.
Anyway, I digress.
Here is Mike's follow-up report today:
SEIU Protest Lays an Egg
It isn’t all cakes and ale within the Los Angeles labor movement. SEIU added eggs and whipped gently.
On Tuesday, I relayed the tale of a dispute between SEIU and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) over the latter’s support of a rival union – the National Union of Healtcare Workers (NUHW), which was once part of SEIU. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a scorecard. You’ll get the idea.)
Well, UTLA hosted a labor forum about NUHW, and SEIU bused in a few hundred protesters. Labor Notes reports:
The SEIUers chanted, beat on drums, and threw eggs and water bottles in an unsuccessful effort to intimidate people from attending…. The forum was held at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Teachers union (UTLA). Josh Pechthalt, UTLA vice president, said he was glad the teachers union had hosted NUHW, despite threats by SEIU that there would be “war” if UTLA hosted the event. SEIU threatened to come after charter school teachers UTLA is trying to organize, according to Pechthalt. UTLA refused to buckle, and the room burst into applause.
Michael Fiorillo commented on ICE-mail:
SEIU reps are on the board of Green Dot in LA. NUHW was formed in response to a too-cozy-with-management SEIU leadership in Northern California putting more militant locals under receivership. Kudos to UTLA for standing up to SEIU thugs and sellouts. Best, Michael Fiorillo
This is not the first time SEIU has used goon tactics. Megan Behrent from ISO and TJC told us some interesting stories. I hope they have fun trying to organize charter school teachers. Try throwing fried eggs next time.
Ed Notes on AFT version of goonism without the eggs.
Randi In Portland (OR) and a Weird Subway ...
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Gotham School report on the meeting captures little of what really went on. I left this comment:
Were we at the same meeting? I think this report doesn't represent what really went on last night. It was one of the few times where a massive opposition to the way charters are placed has occurred, akin to the Marine Park protest against the Hebrew Charter last May and the PS 15 protest in Red Hook against the PAVE expansion in Sept. But that meeting was somewhat balanced between the groups. The CEC 1 meeting was overwhelmingly opposed by an extremely large number of people, while Girls Prep had little comparative representation. (They probably don't have the same resources Eva Moskowitz has to hire buses.)
The fervor of the crowd reached epic proportions of anger and condemnation of the DEO and its policies toward shared space. There were few attacks on Girls Prep reps though they were outnumbered at least 10 to 1. Almost every public school in the area was represented, with a few principals getting up and making a statement. Many teachers and parents spoke about the DEO methods of judging whether a school has space. A method that doesn't account for the realities of how schools really function. The theme of the evening was the divisive tactics used by the DOE to pit schools against each other. But that is the mantra of the ed deformers. Throw them all into the pit and see who emerges, but all along the way make sure to tip in favor of the charters. Strong statements were made by local politicians too.
Is there any question that Girls Prep, which as was pointed out yesterday moved out of PS 15 claiming they only would go to 5th grade, but is now reversing and asking to go to 8th grade. And one day will ask for more space to go to 12th grade I would bet.
The only question is which school gets caught with the hot potato. Bet on the one that had the least presence yesterday. PS 20 and PS 184 may have won a reprieve with their massive presences yesterday.
Note: I find it interesting that there is one quote from each side with the Girls Prep founder disparaging quote equating an art room with a civil rights issue being given such prominence when there were a hundred things said by opponents of all the plans that were more relevant.
Fair and balanced?
Note: Moaning Mona Davids, self appointed head of the charter school parents, came down from her perch in the Bronx to leaver her droppings. She told me she put on makeup for me for her video appearance. She has toned down her act. Video later.
I'm adding Lisa Donlan's comments at Gotham which demonstrate that half the girls at Girl's Prep are not from district 1.
The “demand” for Girls Prep has very little to do with the D One community.
In fact of the 263 girls enrolled at GPC on the LES only 43% are from D One.
Even in their K class, the first to actually follow the law that imposes giving absolute preference to District One residents is only 53% District One. Inother words, fewer than 27 Kindergarten students from District One chose Girls prep out of an incoming class of 698 Kindergarteners in the district.
Girls Prep, then has captured less than 4% of the current district K students, which can hardly be classified as overwhelming demand, especially given the glossy post cards mailed to every student in ATS by the Charter last spring.
The two local peer horizon schools that the DoE progress report compares GPC to had equally impressive demand and “waiting lists” in the last K admissions cycle:
Earth School had 294 applications for 60 K seats. 5:1 ratio, wait list of 234 for K alone;
Children’s Workshop School saw 212 applications for 45 seats. Nearly a 5:1 ratio and wait list of 167 in K.
if If currently enrolled students in Girls Prep are made up of only 43% in-district students, who will the expansion to middle school grades benefit?
And as the D One community made clear last night- no functioning community school should have to give up needed resources to accommodate this “request ” to grow!
Plenty of schools in our district want to grow- but we do NOT rob Peter to make a bigger school for Paul!
Yeah Norm- I was at the meeting you attended last night.
It sure seems the GS bias is showing in this report.
I hope more of the 500 or more parents, teachers, administrators and community folks in attendance last night write in to say what they saw and said, to help create a fuller, more balanced picture of the event.