Cathie Black: How can this be what we need? Part 3 – excluding parents and teachers
[Lynne Winderbaum, retired ESL teacher from JFK, longtime Chapter Leader, and through most of the Bloomberg years, our Bronx UFT HS District Representative, responds to the announcement that Joel Klein is leaving and that Mayor Bloomberg is trying to appoint Cathie Black to replace him. This is the conclusion, part 32 of 3. Click for Part 1. Click for Part 2.]
Klein and Black also share a belief that students will be helped by an increase in charter schools. In a system that is struggling with budget cuts, these alternatives to traditional public schools have not earned that level of trust. Fewer than 20% of them do as well as the traditional public schools and some of those spend twice the amount per student that traditional schools do. Therefore, without that level of funding, even the few successful ones cannot have their programs replicated for the vast majority of public school students.
To improve the schools Black would be advised to turn the page on Klein’s penchant for denigrating the 80,000 teachers who work hard for New York’s children. We are the people who are actually in the classrooms face to face with the students.. Klein’s passive-aggressive comments communicated constant disrespect. He left the podium yesterday saying how important teachers are. This cannot erase the memory of his telling principals that they are not firing enough teachers, that one-third of the teaching force was not up to par, and that our union is an obstruction to good education.
Before Klein and Bloomberg, back in the 1990’s when reform was taking hold, teachers were the ones asked to design the small schools that would replace the large ones. For several years I was part of a joint committee with Board of Education members that heard and evaluated the proposals for small school funding. The presentations were done by teams of teachers, administrators, parents, and students, working collaboratively. Some of the most successful small schools came out of that process. Since Klein took over, new small schools are not designed or evaluated prior to their implementation. When space opens up, they just start a new school from whole cloth. I have also served on many hiring committees for newly formed schools and they are starting from scratch with a principal who has a vision but needs to hire an entirely new staff to get the school off the ground. Teachers have lost their original role in providing expertise in organizing an innovative way to deliver instruction.
It would be helpful if Black hears the voice of parents who were ignored by Klein as well. Nobody is more concerned about the welfare of their children and neighborhoods than they. She must look at them, listen to them, and not dismiss them by staring into her Blackberry as they pour their hearts out to her at public meetings.
So as we start a new era, Cathie Black would be wise to include the experience and skills of her workforce and parents in her plans for public education in New York City. We know and live what she has never experienced. The UFT has years of expertise and partnership in reform, teacher training, curriculum development, and working with parents and community groups. Michael Mulgrew has indicated a willingness to collaborate and work together. But if she continues to worship on the altar of data, eliminate the education community from a role in our schools, and tear down what was working as Klein and Bloomberg have over the past eight years, her choice as chancellor will be so wrong.
November 10, 2010