Sunday, December 28, 2008
NOVEMBER 26 2007 CANDLE LIGHT VIGIL AT NYC BOE HEADQUARTERS
DR. LENNY BROWN SPEAKS AT THE NOVEMBER 26 CANDLE LIGHT VIGIL IN FRONT OF TWEED, NYC BOE HEADQUARTERS:
Madam President, My Fellow Educators, and Citizens of New York City:
I was born, raised, and educated in New York City, as I suspect many of you were. I am proud to say that I am the recipient and product of a New York City Public School education.
This city has been one of great prosperity and legacy to the nation.
Yet in spite of this city's magnificent buildings, wealth and opulence,…
I remember a time, not too long ago when this city, and our country for that matter, were far greater than they are today.
I remember a time when a teacher could be thought provoking or unconventional in their classroom expressing unpopular ideas or novel concepts without fear of reprisals or intimidation.
I remember a time when a teacher could hug a student, or place a reassuring hands on the shoulder of a student to offer support without being accused of being a child molester or sexual predator.
I remember a time when a teacher's opinion mattered and when the substance of an argument mattered far more than political correctness.
I remember a time when the tenure laws of this state were universally accepted and defended by the population at large, for it was only by defending the intellectual freedom of teachers that the liberty and democracy of this nation could be insured.
That was then. This is now.
You and I know both know that there is a very dark cloud hanging over this country, not only because of the tragedy of 911 or the war in Iraq but also because many of our fellow educators are experiencing the greatest abridgment of their constitutional and civil rights since the era of Joseph McCarthy.
Sadly, it seems that New York City is leading the way.
57 years ago, the Junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, went about destroying the lives of thousands of honest and hard working American by labeling them communist and traitors based upon unsubstantiated and false rumors, innuendo and fabricated stories. This was done in order to further McCarthy's own political agenda.
Today, teachers find themselves under fire yet again in a new age McCarthyism that has set the city school system in turmoil and has created a reign of terror among our city's teachers.
Over 757 New York City teachers are currently being denied their civil and constitutional rights and are being sent to detention centers euphemistically called "rubber rooms" for bogus, trumped up, or exaggerated charges in an attempt to get veteran teachers to leave the system and replace them with far more inexperienced but cheaper teachers.
Many of these older teachers are excellent teachers who have won distinguished awards such as "Teacher of the Year" and "Who's Who among Americas Educators". Many have over 20 years of dedicated service as a teacher.
Many teachers are taken out of the classroom without being told why they were taken out in the first place. Yet according to David Cantor, a Department of Education bureaucrat who has never taught a day in his life, we are all guilty of serious misconduct and crimes.
What are some examples of these "serious misconduct and crimes"?
Putting on "makeup incorrectly."
Touching a student on the shoulder in an attempt to calm her while she was taking an exam.
David Pakter, former Teacher of the Year under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has been in a rubber room for well over a year for buying a plant for his school and rewarding high achieving students with watches he'd made.
One of my colleagues was taken out of the classroom being charged both criminally and by the Department of Education with writing graffiti in bathroom stalls. She was totally vindicated in a court of law. Yet the Department of Education believes that they are above the law and is seeking to terminate her teaching license.
I have been removed for quote "improper touching of a student" during a physics demonstration involving the law of action an reaction even though it was done in the presence of 34 students.
In schools all across this city, veteran teachers are being given retaliatory "U" ratings for questioning ridiculous policies, pointing out corruption where they see it or refusing to play political games.
The Department of Education is now creating a "gotcha" squad of lawyers and retired principals led by a prosecutor to go after tenured and veteran teachers.
Where does this all end? How many good people and good teachers must be persecuted in a brutal witch hunt until we say enough is enough?
The late great news reporter Edward R. Murrow was a true American hero. When others were afraid to speak up out of fear of retaliation, Murrow was one of the first to take on the tyranny and despotism of Joseph McCarthy.
"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."
I'd like to paraphrase Mr. Murrow's remarks and say:
That this is no time for men and woman who oppose the systematic abuse of educators to keep silent. We proclaim ourselves, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The great poet and philosopher George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And so I say to you, my friends, let us not forget the past. Let us not forget the good people, the patriots who have given their blood, sweat and tears to fight oppression and tyranny and to insure that our democracy and freedoms survives.
What type of country will we have left if our country's education and the educators that serve it are left impotent to teach effectively and freely because of a climate of terror and fear? How can there be any democracy in our nation if there is none permitted in our classrooms?
Now is the time for good people of conscience to rise up and proclaim "Enough is enough! We cannot and will not tolerate this in a country that claims to embrace democracy." Let us do it for ourselves, but most of all let us do it for our children, the inheritors of this great nation. Thank you.
Dr. Lenny Brown
FLICKERING FLAMES, BURNING WORDS
REMARKS PREPARED TO BE DELIVERED AT THE NOV 26 CANDLE LIGHT VIGIL
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2007
by David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.
Decorated by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in City Hall for "OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF EDUCATION"
ESTEEMED MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK CITY EDUCATION COMMUNITY:
WE HAVE COME TOGETHER TO UNITE, SUPPORT AND HONOR THE DEDICATED TEACHERS OF NEW YORK CITY
I wish to speak today about an issue that affects the most valuable resource this great City of ours possesses- that is to say, the education of our children.
Almost two score years ago I entered the honorable field of Education because it was my conviction that all children, whether children of the rich or of the poor, and regardless of the color of their skin, are created equal and are entitled, not as a privilege, but as a fundamental human right, to be educated as equals.
And clearly for that high aim to be accomplished, teachers, who are entrusted with that noble mission, must be allowed and empowered to carry it out, free of any pressure from outside forces or groups. Free from political or any other special interest organizations which might harbor an agenda that is antithetical to the success of the above named mission.
Now we are engaged today, at a pivotal moment in the history of New York City, which will test whether those who love this great City will show the leadership, wisdom and yes- courage, to rise up as one and call a halt to the attacks upon, and scapegoating of, the tens of thousands of dedicated teachers of this City who have given their all to the children of New York and especially those countless numbers of teachers who have suffered grievous reprisals because they had the courage to speak out and report practices that were not in the best interest of New York City's children.
I am one of many such teachers, sometimes referred to as Whistle-blowers, if such a term is what people should apply to a person who simply takes upon himself or herself, the responsibility of recognizing his or her fiduciary responsibility of protecting our children. For that is the responsibility of every teacher in this great city.
Because I reported unethical, discriminatory, and yes- even illegal practices in the school where I had created a Medical program for highly gifted Minority students, I was viciously attacked, removed from my position of over twenty five years, and was banished to what have come to be known as the NYC Dept of Education's infamous "Rubber Rooms". I was exiled to a Rubber Room for documenting, on film, Federal Civil Rights violations and for refusing to surrender that filmed evidence.
And let us call these Rubber Rooms what they are- political gulags. Not that different from the political gulags that existed under Stalin, where people are sent who are perceived to be a threat to those who govern and control the system.
Thus, most of the innocent teachers Railroaded into the Rubber Rooms on trumped up charges, outright lies and perjurious statements that in a fair world would merit jail time, are not a threat to the children they teach. But on the contrary, rather a threat to the brute, naked, bullying power of those who consign those countless innocent teachers to the infamous, often dark, windowless Rubber Rooms that have been set up all over New York City to warehouse teachers that stand up and speak out in defense of the children they are duly sworn to protect.
The Rubber Room gulags of the NYC DOE, are set up as a cautionary warning to other teachers everywhere to keep in line, eyes front, lips kept tightly closed, never volunteering an independent thought or creative idea, never saying anything that might be construed as a criticism or even a suggestion that something might be done differently- or done better.
Welcome to the dark world of George Orwell. Welcome to the modern version of Dante's Inferno. Welcome to the Rubber Room gulags of the NYC Dept of Education, where teachers, removed from their schools, report and sit each day, sometimes for years, awaiting their teacher trials that can end their career.
The message of the Rubber Rooms is that no teacher should have the audacity to
question the authority of their so-called "supervisors", principals and assistant principals, who over time, have aggrandized such unlimited power in their hands, that they can destroy even a highly decorated teacher's whole career, virtually with complete impunity. Even a "Teacher of the Year", even an educator honored in New York's City Hall by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a candidate now running for President of the United States, is no longer safe from attack.
All the safeguards, both engendered in common labor law practice and even the rights and safeguards contained in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights no longer seem to apply to New York City's teachers once they pass through the school house door. This is the state of affairs that exists under the current NYC Dept of Education as controlled by Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.
Who is this Chancellor? A former Washington, DC, Federal Prosecutor who never spent a full year in a classroom in his entire life. How is it possible, that in a City and in nation that contains so many celebrated career Education Experts, that a mayor would appoint such a person to head the nation's largest school system. A person so ill prepared to be a school's Chancellor, that the mayor had to seek and obtain a Special Waiver from the Commissioner of Education in Albany, so that he could be appointed to an office for which he possessed zero credentials.
And this schools Chancellor, named Joel Klein, Esq. has decided that what is needed to improve the school system of New York City is his own personal brand of what in essence is a "Reign of Terror" approach lifted directly from the guide book of the former President of a giant US corporation.
That is to say: 1) Eliminate all dissenters or anyone who questions anything. 2) Create a general ongoing climate of fear in the workplace and 3) Continuously keep removing/eliminating/firing large numbers of employees to keep the rest terrorized.
Now, we meet here today to condemn the final and most incredible outrage of all.
The final insult that has been perpetrated on the long suffering teachers of New York City, forced to work under an incompetent and dysfunctional Dept of Education that has gone to immense lengths to create, to manufacture, a climate of fear, a climate of intimidation, to silence dissent in the schools and ensure that teachers believe they are only safe if they pretend to be walking zombies that see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
In a cynical attempt to further shift the blame for any failings in the NYC school system, away from Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s incompetent administration, bursting at the seams with clubhouse hacks, political cronies, assorted stooges, expensive "consultants", and countless lackeys and hatchet men and women at the school level, the NYC Dept of Education has now hired a team of lawyers and former principals to help "build" cases against tenured teachers who they will attempt to portray as incompetent for the purpose of firing them from the school system.
It is the oldest political con game in political con game history. When things are not going well or going right, find the nearest available scapegoats at hand and shift all the blame and responsibilty upon that group. Who better to blame for all the failings of his current policies and administration, than the almost 100,000 dedicated educators of New York City?
In fact, Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. initiated his war against the hard-working teachers and loyal members of the United Federation of Teachers from his first day in office.
For Mr. Klein, Esq., the very idea of organized labor is repugnant. Perhaps, he imagines that in the back of every teacher's weekly plan book, is a communist manifesto, that speaks of worker rights. And/or, God forbid, a copy of the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights that speak of inalienable rights and due process.
No one could ever doubt for a moment that Mr. Klein's concept of "due process" is a blindfolded teacher standing at the end of a ship's plank and being asked by one of his countless lackeys: "Do you prefer to jump or be pushed- the choice is yours ?"
Mr. Klein, Esq. identified who would serve as his convenient scapegoats early on. New York City's dedicated teachers.
The story of the world, the long history of people on this earth, has been the history of what may be called "Tipping Points". Points where the delicate balance of human events makes it clear that things will go one way or the other.
After years of teacher bashing and teacher blaming, after years of Whistle-blower retaliation and the consigning to Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Rubber Room gulags of any and every teacher on some incompetent administrator's shortlist of convenient teacher scapegoats, we say now finally today- in a loud and clear voice- "enough".
We say "enough" to the bullying, "enough" to the retaliation, "enough" to the shredding by Mr. Klein's countless lackeys, of the simple human dignity of tens of thousands of hard-working UFT members. We say "enough" to Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Reign of Terror perpetrated over the tens of thousands of selfless educators who have devoted their lives to the children of this great city of New York.
We say "enough" to the madness of having to be bossed and berated by a Chancellor who has not a single credential, legal, moral, experiential, or otherwise, to be the head of the nation's largest school system of over a million children,- a million children Chancellor Klein did not want his own children to share a lunch table with or drink at the same school water fountain.
We hard-working teachers of New York City, we loyal UFT members, will no longer suffer the indignity of being used as the scapegoats for the abysmal failure of Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. and the NYC Dept of Education to address and confront the real issues and the real problems that exist in the Public Schools of New York City.
Shall we start with the inhumanly over-crowded classrooms that are both underfunded and under supplied as just one of the thousands of real impediments to New York City's children getting anywhere near the type of quality education Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s own children enjoyed via their elite private school education.
We say to you Mr. non-credentialed Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. the following:
Stop making thousands of dedicated NYC teachers the Scapegoats for your own failures.
Cease the obscene and illegal war against New York City's most senior, experienced teachers.
Halt your obscene Gestapo scare tactics intended to intimidate, harass and retaliate against Whistle-blower NYC teachers who report wrongdoing and corruption in your NYC Dept of Education.
Stop passing the buck and lower class sizes so NYC children have the same fighting chance to learn, -as your own children had, attending elite NYC private schools.
Stop squandering millions of tax payer dollars on yet more schemes to deflect the public's attention away from your own incompetent failures.
Be a Legend in your own mind, somewhere else, so that a real education expert Chancellor can come in and begin to clean up the mess you have made of the NYC Public Schools system.
Nearly one hundred thousand hard-working, dedicated NYC educators are mad as Hell and we are not going to take it anymore. Our patience with your unbounded Ego and Hubris grew thin quite some time ago
The people of New York City can spot a phony a mile away. And you do not need to create another $ 1,000,000.00 Search Committee, made up of lawyers and former Federal Prosecutors to find out who is incompetent on the job. A seventy nine cent mirror from Duane Reade, will more than do the job, Mr. Klein.
Will people be able to say you left an indelible "mark" on The New York City Dept of Education, when you are gone, Chancellor Klein ?
I believe we all know the answer to that question already, right now.
But it is not a grade anyone would wish to take home and show to his Mother.
We are professional teachers who have given our all to the children of this great city.
You will not make us the scapegoats for your own failures Mr. Klein. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.
Unlike your administration lackeys and thugs, we build people up. We do not tear them down.
We are New York City's dedicated teachers.
Our mission in life is to create hope where there was hopelessness. Not kick people when they are down.
We are New York City's dedicated teachers.
Our mission in life is to build healthy, successful and productive futures for New York's children. Not terminate people from their jobs, make them lose their homes and livelihoods and throw them in the street.
If the Police Officers of this great city represent " NEW YORK'S FINEST "
And if the Firemen represent " NEW YORK'S BRAVEST "
Then the Teachers of this city represent " NEW YORK'S MOST DEDICATED "
We UFT Members are New York City's proud and dedicated teachers.
Our mission in life is the most important and far reaching mission anyone could ever have on God's earth and under God's Heaven. We are dedicated to improving and positively affecting the future. Not destroying the futures of New York City's most dedicated servants.
We are New York City's teachers.
We know who we are Mr. Joel Klein, Esq. We are the proud teachers of New York City. We are the UFT. We were here long before you. And we will still be educating, nurturing and protecting the more than one million children of New York City, long after you are gone.
David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.