Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cuomo's Roll in the Slime

My fellow bloggers have been on the Cuomo story so there is little I can add. I have no level of outrage at his actions regarding education because I expected nothing less than what he has done. The guy is a slimeball beyond the normal range of slimeballs. Do you think those stories about Sheldon Silver's (another slimeball sa far as I'm concerned) money-making schemes are just surfacing now by coincidence? Silver has been viewed as a last bastion for the UFT to keep Cuomo at bay -- not that he has been all that helpful. So today NYSUT had a "rally" in Albany (NYSUT rallies outside Cuomo’s open house (updated X2). 75 people.

Some bloggers:

Damned if You Do

NYSUT Visits "Clueless" Cuomo and Fabulous Sandra Lee

Merryl Tisch To Andrew Cuomo: Let's Fire More Teachers, Raise Charter Cap In New York City

Here are links from Chalkbeat.

Evaluation battles

Reneging on his own call to protect teachers whose poor evaluations were based in part on Common Core-aligned student test scores, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill he drafted in June.

In response to Cuomo’s veto, the state teachers union is holding a New Year’s Eve protest outside of his mansion where he is hosting an event.

Opinion: Vetoing the teacher evaluation seems more like political payback against the teachers union than a serious effort to improve the teacher evaluation system.

Cuomo’s "zig-zagging history on education reform" could hurt his credibility when it's time to convince lawmakers to go along with the aggressive education agenda he has next year, Daily News columnist Bill Hammond writes.

Remembrance of Things Past: Xmas at Radio City With the Rockettes

Yesterday the family met up for lunch, the tree and the Xmas show at Radio City - both my wife and I remembered childhood notes of going to Radio City to see the Rockettes and a movie. We think we both saw Cary Grant in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" as kids.
No more movies and a show. The crowds were immense. My wife's brother and his wife came from New Jersey and our niece and family from Pennsylvania. Later we tried to get tickets for some added shows for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in June but no dice.

Radio City Music Hall is quite a place -- and they used a lot of technology, including drones, in the show. (I still dozed at times.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Will Police Get Scrutinized Like Teachers?

GETTING RID OF BAD COPS A small percentage of cops commit most of the abuses. A study by WNYC News in New York found that, since 2009, 40 percent of the “resisting arrest” charges were filed by just 5 percent of New York Police Department officers. In other words, most officers rarely get in a confrontation that leads to that charge, but a few officers often get in violent confrontations. But it’s very hard to remove the bad apples from the force. Trying to protect their members, unions have weakened accountability. The investigation process is softer on police than it would be on anyone else. .. David Brooks.
I've been meaning to post this 10-day old column from ed deform supporter David Brooks who raises some interesting points regarding police who will get increasing scrutiny. Is a version of VAM coming to policing?

The Union Future
David Brooks
NY Times Dec. 18, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mulgrew, Patrick Lynch, De Blasio - Commentaries and Opinions

Comments have been popping up on recent posts along these lines:
I think the only thing the protestors are accomplishing at this moment is the political destruction  of  de Blasio and creating the climate for a return to a Giuliani-type mayor. 
It's certainly beginning to look that way. Some teachers seem to be also taking an anti-De B stance, with one commenter wishing for the good old days of Bloomberg and even Giuliani. No matter what people think they think I still think that behind a lot of these feelings is the race issue. I'm just not articulate enough to flesh out my thoughts - it's the same feeling I have about the hatred for Obama that somehow seems to go a bit beyond what I saw even against Clinton. deB is coddling "them." And we know who "them" are.

And then there's the well-stream of support by some teachers for Patrick Lynch. Here is one with some ambivalence:
Lynch is a big problem and I have no respect for any union leader who does not want to be part of the solution. And his comments were truly disgusting, and I really don't like the guy. But the public and his dues-paying members love him. 
I personally despise Lynch. Sure he is standing up for his members as he should and don't we wish we would see Mulgrew doing the same. I reported on a teacher under assault by her administration  died recently at the age of 52 (Popular Teacher Dies Suddenly) a death some of her colleagues attributed to being brought on by the enormous stress the admins put her under I thought "is there blood on the hands?" But I didn't quite write it because I felt that would be going too far. Maybe not.

Then there was Lynch a few days later making what I thought was an outrageous comment about deBlasio blaming him for the murders of the cops using these exact words. I know some people - maybe like the commenter below - think Mulgrew should be like Lynch and call out administrators when a teacher under assault dies. I have mixed feelings. I'm guessing Mr. U below might not be ambivalent.
Union leadership
By Mr U.

Like him or not NYPD union leader Pat Lynch is doing what my Union leader has never done, speaking up and defending his rank and file. They organized job actions, went to the press, used social media, mobilized their delegates, and everyone spoke up for the PBA. They coordinated a media blast, turning their backs on a mayor who they feel betrayed them, even rumors of a work slow down. PBA members pooled money together and flew a sign over New York City attacking mayors. Say what you will, but every NYPD officer knows that their leader got their back. Police offers are closing ranks in New York City, they are defending each other. Officers are flying in from all over to show solidarity with their brothers.

Now compare this our teachers union. They mayor and governor stick an evaluation down our throats, we say thank you, in fact we ask for more. We demand 22 components and test based evaluations, even when our parents don't want it. Common core standards, which were created without one actual teacher, UFT president says he'll punch anyone who tries to take it away from us, even though teacher after teacher hates it. The mayor closes down schools and the profiteers come in to take up space, our Union leader says no problem. He even decides that we're going to get in the business of running charters. Contracts canceled in Philadelphia, unions destroyed in Wisconsin, schools closed en masse in Chicago, no one in the UFT cares. We can't can't even get the members from one school to show up to a protest against co-location at a public school 5 blocks away, never mind fly across the country.

Here's the deal, don't like him, don't agree with, doesn't matter: every PBA member knows Lynch and the officer standing next to him has his or her back. Go ask the average UFT member if they feel the same about Mulgrew, we all know not one of the 80,000 will say yes. PBA is winning the public relations battle, they have the mayor scared, and no way are they settling for the garbage contract now that the UFT got. Like it or not, Pat Lynch is showing you what a Union leader looks like.
Some more comments:

deBlasio could have chosen his rhetoric a bit more carefully when he made his public comments because it did cause a shit storm. Lynch is a big problem and I have no respect for any union leader who does not want to be part of the solution. And his comments were truly disgusting, and I really don't like the guy. But the public and his dues-paying members love him. Can't say that about Mulgrew who never should have sided with the likes of Sharpton. And wasn't it you who reported our Cope dollars are going to Sharpton??? It's like paying the Mafia for protection!! But it will be interesting to see how Lynch handles the up-coming contract. and if he does a better job than Mulgrew, then I have to respect that. Otherwise, Lynch would be a much better union leader if he works to repair the damage that is dividing this city. And I don't see that happening. on Teachers and Cops, Does de Blasio Have Blood on His Hands? -- Teacher Bloggers Peter and Patrick Chime in

Calling for a moratorium was not wrong. It was just a call and not banned. We still have free speech. But it would have been nice if it was honored to show the world that the protests are not about all police, but those that defy civil rights. But that's just me and it has nothing to do with being Liberal or not. The gesture would have done more good in the end because it's all about "public relations" no matter what the cause. And sometimes Liberals, Conservatives etc. forget that hence the closing of the government. There is a giant rift in this city and all sides need to be addressed. deBlasio made some huge errors in judgment IMHO, but I feel that way about his broken promises to educators during his campaign. It's his job to bring all sides together rather than enlarge the rift. I doubt he will be re-elected, and not just because of this. He has had an arrogance about him with the press, keeping appointments, and the new teachers' contract. But most of all on Marches Continue and Retro: Love me, I'm a liberal --- Phil Ochs 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Marches Continue and Retro: Love me, I'm a liberal --- Phil Ochs

I'm inspired by the movie "Selma". I was thinking of my own ambivalence about the people who continue to march and protest despite the call for a moratorium.

In Selma, MLK was told by LBJ to take a moratorium of sorts and not hold that march. It struck a note in me that there is a broader movement out there to end the protests -- like let's get it settled behind closed doors with a few people and not masses of people in the streets pushing.
UPDATE: NY Times - After Killing of Police Officers, Protest Movement Is at a Crossroads
The movie deals with the conflicts between King and SNCC and Malcolm X. Having a radical wing never hurts - as Malcolm says in the movie shortly before he was killed.

I'm putting the Phil Ochs cutting song up for my own self-criticism and flip-flop on these issues - you know the drill - as I get older I move right- not that some of the actions of people I know on the left doesn't help push me in that direction.
But people I know and respect, like Josmar Trujillo, of New Yorkers Against Bratton, help me see the other side. Josmar is part of a coalition opposing the broken windows theory of policing. I  filmed Josmar, a former Rockaway resident, in an anti stop and frisk march out here in July 2013. And I run into him in the local gym a few times a week. Josmar was on Brian Lehrer the other day. You can listen here.

We should never forget the work of Phil Ochs. We lost our albums in the hurricane. Thanks to Glenn Tepper for reminding us -

İ cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
    • "Love Me I'm A Liberal (Live Version)" by Phil Ochs

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Merry Jewish Xmas - Chinese Food and a Movie - and "Selma", the Very Best, and Essential Movie

We did our usual jaunt into the city today - free and ample parking everywhere - for a movie, followed by Chinese food - General Chang's Chicken. We hit the Union Square area before noon and the lines at the theater were long - funny, they all didn't look Jewish.

There were a few options for movies to see - Unbroken was already sold out until the 7PM show. But after reading the exuberant A.O. Scott review of "Selma" in today's Times that was our target. And lucky we were there early as the theater was sold out for the 12:50 show."Selma" is a must-see for everyone. Living history and some context for the anger emanating from the black community today. Plus some of the most amazing performances you can see on the screen and a top-notch directing job by Ava DuVernay. My wife's comment: it may be the best movie I ever saw.

Here is the New Yorker review.

Fred Smith: The Day Before Xmas (With Arne Duncan and John King)

Don't mean to spoil this season, but it's truly a bummer;
The DD logo really stands for dumber and dumber. ... Fred Smith
Heeeeere's Fred:
Tis the day before Christmas and I figured out something
About the devious marriage of John King - Arne Duncan.

Like all else they have done, it's not about education.
No, their goal is to take over our fat, fast-food nation.

It's really quite easy to discover the end game;
Their two year plan is as obvious as what's in a name.

We hear that America Runs (To The Top) on Duncan.
The slogan and donuts and coffee have long since sunk in.

And who's behind the Big Whopper more than John 'Burger' King!
So, the Duncan-King merger is a natural thing.

But because of their backgrounds, they have come up with a twist
Of catchy choice items that will go on their menu list.

There's the Double Cross San'wich Meal loved by Andrew Cuomo;
Have It His Way, or else you'll need more than a Bromo.

And Campbell's Hash Browns will honor the justice she seeks;
While she knows less about teaching each time that she speaks.

There's the Bloomberger slider -- only two ounces of meat;
You should be done in two bites, but beware it will repeat.

And Rhee Burger! Rhee Burger! is about to be added;
We're sure its nutritional value was greatly padded.

King couldn't resist the all-new Common Core on a bun.
Looking for a burger in between? You'll find there is none.

Now in races Arne with an assortment of sweets
For all kids and their parents he brings many treats.

There's a special on lemon-filled for each Long Island mom.
While Stars and Stripes donuts salute his NCLB bomb.

He makes sure all munchkins are sugared, jellied and glazed
As they prep for rigorous tests that will leave them half-crazed.

And his preservatives and false flavors ain't going away;
He's building capacity to reach every Pre-K.

Soon high school grads will get jobs in a Duncan-King store
Taking orders for burgers and donuts -- Kids of the Core.

Making minimum wages, and will it really be strange
When they take in cash for their bosses but they can't make change?

Don't mean to spoil this season, but it's truly a bummer;
The DD logo really stands for dumber and dumber.

~fred smith

The 12 Days of Christmas With Principal Kathleen Elvin at John Dewey HS

In case you haven't been following the saga at John Dewey HS in Brooklyn, these posts continue to get a lot of traffic and a lot of comments:

 -----over a 1000 page views a week.

(We also continue to get comments on the PS 399 principal situation. "PS 399K Principal Marion Brown Accused).

I hope to be able to report one day on some of the stuff going on behind the scenes at Dewey. Based on the comments, a major issue is a phony credit recovery scheme and some ridiculous work rules imposed by the Elvin administrators, some of whom seem to be so awful. Hearing about how these slugs continue to operate a year after Bloom/Klein/Cott are gone is more than discouraging. Until the UFT goes head to head with Farina to rid the system of these people, nothing will change.

Here is the latest comment to celebrate Xmas - I some of it but some effort was put into it so it is worth sharing up top.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "No Change of Tone at John Dewey HS: Principal Kat...":

Elvin's New Year Resolution: 
1. Work harder to create a "Workers' State Island" at The John Dewey High School Campus; 

2. create a link with the soon-to-be-commercially-viable-for-American capital Cuba's Tourist Dept. and propose an "Ineffective- Teacher- Non-Stop- Balsero -Caravan to Mariela Harbor (with the hope of renaming it "Catalina Harbor" in the future!); 

3. contact Denis Rodman to come and give a "pep talk" at the next Faculty Enhanced -Information-Gathering Session (i.e. "Faculty Meeting") on the topic of "Using Sports Teams and Personalities to Promote Healthy Groveling Before Maximum Leaders"; 

4. create a bulletin board for "Dewey Honors Ferguson's Finest", with an auditorium event featuring the Principal's hero, Officer Darren Wilson, interviewed by Our First Lady herself, via Skype; 

5. Inaugurate the Joel Klein-Kathy Black Memorial Garden, with a flower bed reserved for future to-be-deceased-staff members (purchaseable by staff with their Teacher Choice funds); 

6. break ground for the first-ever "I Can't Breathe Fun Run" ,and schedule the Gym for an upcoming weekend (now that those bothersome Flames are out of the picture!); 

7. Hold a combination "Hedgefund Wedding" (to replace that odious "Hippie Wedding"!) and Cross Burning on the Athletic Field honoring personal "galpals" Eva Moskowitz and a sensational robotized effigy of a "pregnant" Eva Braun, (created under School Safety's armed "persuasion" by Dewey's very own Robotics Team!) and culminating in the "immaculate/digitalized conception" of "The Sapphic Kathleen", a rabid unbreakable cholera-spewing "doll" that will birthe at the entrance to The Loading Dock on the anniversary of "Dewey's Dowager Queen"'s first working day at Dewey ; 

8. funnel all remaining ATR's and "3020A"ers into the former Teachers' Lounge on the 2nd floor, and rechristen it "The UFT Waiting-To-Be-Terminated Room"; have supervisors escort all OSI "visitors" into the former Teachers' Lounge on the 3rd floor, and run continuous relays of hash brownies and mescaline-dowsed smoothies from the former Teachers' Cafeteria into the locked-from-the-outside room; 

9. sharpen the Cook's knives in the Student Cafeteria; 

10. have the Parent Coordinator start a rumor that the Dishwasher is having an affair with the Cook's wife; 

11. schedule a "behind-the-scenes tour" of the cafeteria upon the Parent Coordinator's return from her assignment; 

12. contact NBC to see if they could use a highly- effective high school principal for the next season of "Undercover Boss", and buy an Imelda Marcos mask in anticipation of the episode, so as to work unsuspected side-by-side with the rodents- I mean the teachers...

let's stop at 12 in honor of "The 12 Days of Christmas"!!! 

"Ah, Humbug!" 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Teachers and Cops, Does de Blasio Have Blood on His Hands? -- Teacher Bloggers Peter and Patrick Chime in

South Bronx School blogger writes in this post -Wingnut Right and New York Post Hypocrisy: God forbid if a teacher so much as did something wrong and the Post and the wingnut Right (And crazy Governor Andy in Albany) would be calling for that teacher's keyster. Or worse, what would they say if that teacher had been charged in the past with misconduct in several past instances, like... Officer Pantaleo? 
...was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused Pantaleo of falsely arresting them and abusing them. In one of the cases, Pantaleo and other officers ordered two black men to strip naked on the street for a search and the charges against the men were dismissed.
Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Speaking of fire how long will it take to terminate Officer Pantaelo? Faster than a teacher? Will the Post and the wingnuts of the Right be calling for a speedier process to fire cops? To keep bad cops off the job? To do away with due process? A way to better evaluate cops? To be sure that cops that are hired are from the highest 1/3 of their college class?
...we aren't hearing about charter precincts or busting up the NYCPBA or the monopoly that the NYPD has over policing or more stringent and punitive measures to evaluate cops and other inane stuff that we as teachers have been subject to for the last 12 years. ....

Peter wrote a great piece today. I wrote the other day (John Dewey HS Update: Popular Teacher Dies Suddenly  about the death of a 53-year old teacher at John Dewey who was partially disabled and was harassed by the school administration to the point that people are saying the administrators have blood on their hands -- not a story you will read about in the Post. Or even the NY Teacher. Can you imagine Mulgrew going before the microphones and talking about the principal having blood on her hands? Actually, I'm not advocating he do that - even though teachers are leaving comments about how much they admire PBA head Patrick Lynch for backing his members and compare how little support the UFT gives its members on the ICE blog (POSSIBLE PBA V DE BLASIO ENDGAME). I get it, but though the union needs to defend everyone, Lynch goes way too far in defending and justifying every single act while also fighting any oversight of the police.

I was going to write something about the response to the murder of the 2 cops but am still having problems sorting it all out. There has been heated discussion on the MORE listserve over whether to say something at all and if so exactly what to say. MORE did put out a statement - Peace and Condolences -
MORE wishes to express our deepest condolences and sends our warmest thoughts to the families of murdered NYPD officers Wenjian Lui and Rafael Ramos. All murder is wrong. All murderers should be brought to justice. This is true when police officers are victims and when civilians are victims. While we reject the language of those who would exploit this horrific event for political gain, let us work as a city and a nation, together, to create a better, peaceful, compassionate, and equitable world. Losing a loved one, because of the violent act of civilian or officer, should be something we can all agree must end.
As so often happens, Julie Cavanagh wrote the basics of this statement, bringing her unique world view to the table - which is why I would follow her anywhere.

Bloggers associated with MORE have posted some excellent pieces. More from Peter:
I support the police. I have come across a lot of cops that are jerks and a lot that are good people. That is the same in all walks of life. Some people suck, some don't. What happened in Bed-Stuy was completely FUBAR. BUT! De Blasio did not egg the protestors on nor is he anti-cop. But he has every right to inform his son of the perils he faces. He is a father first and a mayor second. .... Eric Garner should be alive right now. Watching the video one wonders why 4 cops could not take Garner down in a way other than he was. Garner was not a danger to anyone. A NYPD inspector once told me that best cop is one who does not let a situation get out of hand. Garner's situation got out of hand...
Read it all:

Patrick at Raging Horse blog ( has written 2 must-read pieces:
In America nothing is sacred. Even before the bodies of the dead policemen Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos were cold, politicians seeking a soundbite, former politicians seeking the spot light and would be politicians seeking to jump start their careers ,were suddenly all over the place spewing venom and idiocy to all who would listen or could read as to the real reason why two policemen, ambushed in their patrol car in Brooklyn in a period of extreme racial tension, lay dead. They did not lie dead because a psychotic from Baltimore shot them at point blank range who earlier in the day had threatened suicide and then shot his girlfriend.
They lay dead because of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
They lay dead because of protestors.
This, at any rate, has been the line echoed back and forth across the country since hour one.
Nothing Is Sacred: Capitalizing on Horror is the American Way

Beyond the Pale: Blaming de Blasio for Murdered Cops

At the ICE blog, there is a piece by James Eterno, who has a new-born bi-racial son and will one day have to hold a conversation with him similar to the one de Blasio held with Dante. James' brother John was a police captain so James represents the unity of the various points of view on these issues. James does not trash Mulgrew and in fact praises his response. He then goes on to analyze some of the politics behind the response of police union leaders. Also interesting are the comments from teachers who seem to love Lynch while trashing Mulgrew. While I have been a big critic of the UFT leadership over their lack of support, I would also be extremely critical of a union leader like Lynch.

Bringing the story back to teachers and cops and the hypocrisy of ed deformers and how they only "care" about the children when teachers are involved, Peter says:
Oh, but the argument always will be that it is all about the children. But what about Eric Garner's children? What about the children of all the unarmed African-American's shot by the police? Are they not affected? Aren't all the African-American children not affected by NYPD in some sort of negative way?
Yesterday when I responded to another bullshit Students First tweet referencing Campell Brown:
Did Campbell talk about police and black youth relationships? Did she discuss stop and frisk
I guess not.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Teachers Need Guns - Accountable Talk Blog

Today, ed deformer David Brooks examined police unions in a similar manner as teacher unions have come under scrutiny in his NY Times column. It won't be long before there are demands for a VAM approach to cops' performance. See my Wave column  on Teaching and Policing

Is Patrick Lynch leading police into the same kind of hell Randi led teachers?
....despite both being part of powerful unions, teachers and police are treated very differently by politicians and the media. Why is that?....
This fits right into a theme I've been working on - comparing policing to teaching and how the attacks have come on teachers - Blogger Accountable Talk takes aim:

Why Teachers Need Guns

It's time to arm teachers.

But not for the reasons you might think. Allow me to explain.
Here's what has NOT happened in the wake of the Eric Garner case in NYC:
  • Governor Cuomo has NOT made it a major policy issue to break the PBA, which he clearly does not consider a monopoly like the UFT.
  • He has NOT demanded a new evaluation system of any sort that would help weed out the "bad" cops.
  • Eva Moskowitz has NOT called for the opening of a series of "Police Success Academies" to study best practices for police officers.
  • Wendy Kopp has NOT opened a "Kopps for America" boot camp to train tightly selected individuals to patrol the city's most dangerous streets after six weeks of training.
  • Campbell Brown has NOT called the unrest in minority neighborhoods (ignited by incidents like the Garner case and the cop who twice punched a subdued teenaged boy) the "civil rights issue of our time". 
  • Campbell has likewise NOT called for an end to seniority rights nor job protections of police officers, nor has she filed a lawsuit to end those rights.
  • The New York Post has NOT written stories on a daily basis vilifying police officers.
No, all those things were directed at teachers.
More at

A Funeral for a Cousin - #5 at MSG

The very idea of going to a funeral is depressing. Especially a funeral of someone younger - 57 years old to be exact. But once you get there and talk to people and celebrate a life instead of mourning you end up feeling better.

We spent most of Sunday in New Jersey at my cousin's funeral and post funeral lunch. He was my first cousin's son - my mom was his dad's aunt. His dad died about 10 years ago and left a 2nd wife with 3 grown children, who became the deceased step-family. One of his wife's daughters called me on Thursday to tell me the news - the cause was complications from pancreatic cancer - a disease that is the scourge of the earth - Loretta Prisco died of it last June. Recovery rates from Ebola are significantly higher than pancreatic cancer - my mother-in-law also died of it at 71. And she is buried in the same cemetery we went to today. Funerals - so many memories of so many people.

The post funeral lunch at a nearby Olive Garden was hosted by the step-family -- the deceased father's wife and her children, one of whom is married to the CBS/FOX helicopter traffic reporter Joe Behrman, who today played the role of host to a mob of people and was so funny and so gracious. It was not the first time we met Joe but got to sit with him at the luncheon and he helped turn what could have been a sad occasion into somewhat of a celebration.

I didn't know my cousin very well - whatever contact we had over the years related to a few areas of common interest. Sports, the stock market and his brief time teaching math in the DOE about a decade ago -- he was a brilliant math guy but had some typical problems with horrendously run schools and soon left to do private tutoring.

He was a heavy day-trader in the 90s - until the tech crash of 2000 -where we both got smashed -- but his smashing was pretty bad and he seemed to lose some interest in the market. A few years earlier I met him downtown where some broker had some real-time computer stock tickers - he had a system and when some stocks would drop or go up an eighth he would race to the phone. We played with the computers for a few hours - the screens were loaded with info -- that was the early days of the internet and getting such info in real time was rare.

Then he took me to a fancy Brooks Brothers clothing store on 5th Ave where they had a Bloomberg Machine that was available to the public. What's a Bloomberg Machine I asked -- I had never heard of a guy named Bloomberg who made his fortune renting out these machines. It was an amazing real-time news, financial, etc machine -- sort of like our cell phones today. Neither of us looked like we belonged in Brooks Brothers. I was pretty uncomfortable. He wasn't -- being self-conscious wasn't his thing.

He left a career as an actuary where he was making good money to work as an usher at just about every sporting and entertainment venue in the metropolitan area.

Many of the people who came to the funeral were fellow ushers. 
Every time I would go to a Yankee or Met or Knick or Ranger game I would ask the ushers if Lance was working that night - and a few times he led us to seats right behind the hockey net or the backboard. (Steinbrenner got rid of all the guys at the Yankee games so I couldn't get to see him there.)

There were flowers sent from the Mets. And his health insurance came from Madison Square Garden.

Even after working at some of these venues for decades Lance had trouble rising in seniority because guys rarely left. That was why he mostly worked on top levels -- they system work based on who showed up each night and then they got assignments based on seniority -- I guess Campbell Brown may show up to complain about it. Sometimes he got to work the lower levels when senior guys didn't show for lousy games. I hadn't realized he was still working at MSG - I thought they replaced many of the ushers with security people. I should have asked for him when we went to the Fleetwood Mac concert last year - the last time I was at MSG. We found out today that his seniority had risen in a serious way over the years.

Apparently one of the things Lance was proudest of was rising to #5 on the seniority list at MSG.

Most of the sports and entertainment venues in the metro area will never be the same without Lance.

Here's one for #5.

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