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We are not afraid

March 15, 2009 am31 1:08 am

The protest at Fordham High School for the Arts Friday, by itself, doesn’t solve the problem. But it was clearly a very Good Thing.

It garnered attention. It drew teachers together (how many were surprised to see teachers from across the borough show up in solidarity?). It empowered – right? If you were there you know how good it felt to stand up together, to chant together.

There are monster administrators in a bunch of our schools. Teachers and staff have had it. But they’ve been scared. Now, however, I think now we will see more teachers ready to speak up. We will see more teachers ready to stand up.

Look, it is ok to be afraid. We’ve all been afraid. And as teachers, there is some reason.

In some schools we are afraid of the hallways, or the stairwells. Afraid of needing help and having no deans nearby, of having no working phones. Afraid of being in old buildings in disrepair, with vermin, with contaminants, with bad air, with fire alarms that get ignored. Afraid of discipline that’s broken down, of unreported, unpunished incidents encouraging disrespect and violence.

We are afraid of administrators manufacturing charges against us, afraid that a kid will respond to a bad grade or a scolding by claiming we hit them… or touched them.

We are afraid of getting yelled at, demeaned, insulted. Afraid of getting invited out for drinks with a creepy principal or AP. We are afraid of getting written up, getting U’ed.

The economy is bad, and most of us don’t know what we would do if we lost our jobs. We are afraid of what can happen on our jobs, and we are afraid of losing those same jobs.

But yesterday? No! We were not quivering with fear. Let the principal shake. Let her be too nervous to look out the window.

We are not afraid.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 am31 1:13 am 1:13 am

    this is some really uplifting stuff you’re up to.
    i’m not going to start doing politics again
    about it but for a second right in here
    i felt like it might be at least *possible*…

  2. another disgruntled employee permalink
    March 15, 2009 am31 4:36 am 4:36 am

    Kudos to you JD, and to the rest of the protesters for striking back at these chronic abusers. Maybe these bozos will think twice about their actions. But something tells me…they probably won’t.

    • Former Teacher permalink
      March 15, 2009 am31 9:18 am 9:18 am

      You’re right: most teachers play what I’ve heard called “the game.” They only care about their particular situation and don’t want to shake things up. This is what keeps us from wielding power and respect. People have to be willing to stand on principle, if we really have any.

      Like you, I’m not optimistic. After all, if we did act on principle, why would so many of us, upon becoming administrators, sell our souls for a little bit of power and a raise?

      I was at the protest, and there were some really good people out there, but these are only a few teachers, compared to thousands of apathetic, ignorant or simply self-interested folks; and those same folks who are unwilling to anonymously attend a protest, or do other things to support our cause, will also be the same ones who, when they move up, will ignore everything they know to be true, for the sake of position and power.

      And the union, well, to sum it up, the chapter leader of the school told me she had to beg, on numerous occasions, for the union to support the protest that occurred in front of the school.

  3. Chaz permalink
    March 15, 2009 pm31 6:58 pm 6:58 pm

    Let’s see Leroy Barr and Randi Weingarten really do something about these “Principals from hell”. So far it has been just talk and no action. My experience with the UFT higher-ups has been frustrating as they never take any real action just lip service.

  4. Jack permalink
    March 15, 2009 pm31 7:39 pm 7:39 pm

    I was fortunate enough to be at the protest of embattled principal of Fordham Arts H.S. Iris Blige, which took place at the former Roosevelt H.S. building Friday. It was a truly inspiring event. It was a rousing occasion that could serve as a genesis for change. So important that it even drew UFT president in waiting Mike Mulgrew., and heavyweight contender, UFT VP Leroy Barr to the Bronx, NY. I thank them along with the best DR in the city (Lynne Winderbaum) for their efforts!

    As a thunderous crowd of teachers, parents, administrators and students braved the unseasonable cold afternoon, several questions cried out to me. First of all, why aren’t these principals held more accountable? Teachers certainly are, in fact one verbal slip up in the class room can lead to an un-ceremonious trip to the infamous “rubber room.” As I felt the surging energy of current Fordham Arts teachers, former Fordham Arts administrators and teachers (who were also in the crowd protesting Ms. Blige) along with chanting current FA students deem it important enough to brave the icy winds of a late winter Friday afternoon. Why, I asked, that when coupled with the fact that the turnover rate at Fordham Arts is so absurdly high for both teachers and administrators, and if there seems to be so many documented transgressions by Ms. Blige. Then why I asked can’t the DOE re-assign her at the very least?

    It is not like these protests happen every day. No, this was an organic and passionate response to a well-documented tyrant. It was a emotional reaction to pain that has just become to much to endure for the students, facility and parents and for the community of this school! If no action is taken against Ms. Blige, I believe that is truly indicative of the DOE’s refusal to consider one of their own in any thing approaching an objective manner. Is it any surprise that Ms. Blige didn’t come up in ranks, that she was a “Principal Academy” product?

    Emperor Bloomberg and his side-kick, Comedian Joel Klein rule the DOE like tyrants. Bloomberg feels it is his right to change term-limit laws (with the help of a compliant City Council) for the good of “his” people in time honored style of another small in stature, but mammoth in ego leader named, lets see, or yeah Napoleon. We all know had that ended. (Waterloo anyone?) I understand that Emperor Mike knows all and Klein, although never having been a real teacher, is a visionary who hangs with Alan Alda and should not be questioned by the little people like teachers. Teachers, who work day and night to try and reach their students with little or no support from the DOE. But I just can’t help myself. The UFT needs to continue this fight against clearly un-qualified, counter-productive principals, because the DOE does not hold them accountable. (I must add that there are many excellent, qualified principals out there, like the one I work for at DeWitt Clinton.) Yet, Klein and his minions are way too busy worshiping at a temple of test driven statistics to even hear our collective outcry. But, teaching is an art, not a science; will the Emperor ever even try to grasp this simple fact?

    The fight has just begun…

    Jack Israel
    De Witt UFT Clinton Chapter Committee
    AFT Delegate

  5. March 15, 2009 pm31 11:47 pm 11:47 pm

    2006-03-20 “My English teacher gives us individual attention,” said Charles, a junior. “Teachers are marvelous, if only we could get them to stay. They come and go.” (March 2006)

    A telling comment from a student posted at two years ago.

  6. Jesse kasowitz permalink
    March 17, 2009 am31 7:54 am 7:54 am

    I personally know two talented and creative teachers who were disciplined on the basis of very thin evidence of mistreating a student. The Chief Leader newspaper documented one case among many of a popular model teacher who was dismissed after he spoke out about differences that he had with his principal.

    I am encouraged by this demonstration against administrative abuses of power and by jd2718’s excellent “We are Not Afraid” essay. Keep up the good work.

  7. Melissa McDaniel permalink
    May 21, 2009 pm31 6:24 pm 6:24 pm

    My Daughter was the young lady who spoke up against Iris Blige principal of Forham High scholl for the arts, I was called at work and threatened that Danielle would be expelled if she participated. So now she has upped her harrassment of my Daughter. Going as far as to making statements to her peers that “they should not socialize with her as she wont be graduating” She needs to stop harrassing the children and teachers of this school..instead of feeling happy to learn, Danielle has to continuously be looking over her shoulder. Why is a woman who is not ever been a teacher , be made a principal.

  8. June 13, 2009 am30 4:06 am 4:06 am

    Blige, since it is really hard to call her a “principal”, has done so many things that writing a comment cannot encompass. I am a fed up Junior at Fordham High School for the Arts, and I know personally how the tactics of Blige affects people.

    Being denied the RIGHT of student voice
    Being KICKED off the SLT Board with unannounced reasons
    Being denied the ability to go on certain trips
    Lies to my parents, trying to convince them (Very conniving

    I am very far from a selfish person. With this being said, I will definitely continue to put my education first…however, it is my hope that the DOE, UFT, and the head of the school admin does their job, and get rid of Blige and other abusive principals. I have 1 year left, and it will be sad to see the blind incoming freshmen to deal with what I dealt with for my high school years.


  1. Sunday links. « Fred Klonsky’s blog
  2. Video of Rally at Fordham HS for the Arts « JD2718
  3. Rally at Fordham Arts - the Bronx UFT Video « JD2718
  4. Speech from Fordham Rally « JD2718
  5. Raqnel James – Not Guilty! « JD2718

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