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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boys and Girls HS Principal Bernard Gassaway Defends The School's second "F" Rating

Bernie Gassaway and I had several very interesting conversations before he was appointed Principal of Boys and Girls High School. He was disgusted with the NYC Department of Education... so disgusted that he had quit his position as Superintendent. He told me that anyone who took a job as Principal of a public school in NYC took the position under the directive that he or she must downgrade the school so that the school can be closed.

He has certainly proved his point.

For the past year i have been contacted by staff at Gassaway's school, and I have been given information about classrooms where students are kept for now more than 2 years without a teacher, not even a substitute. Superintendent Suspensions are used to take care of any student who doesn't like being without a curriculum, books, or a teacher; the rubber room is getting stuffed with faculty members Bernie thinks do not go along with his plan.

Boys and Girls is a mess.

Betsy Combier

Gassaway Defends Latest 'F' on BGHS Progress Report; Says Needs More Time for Change


This year’s “F” continues downward trend for the school that has struggled over the past three years to stave off possible closure.

Although New York City public schools progress reports for academic year 2011/2012 will not be made public until the week of November 26, Bernard Gassaway, principal of Boys and Girls High School, met with his staff on Tuesday to inform them early that BGHS would receive yet another “F.”
Bernard Gassaway and Dennis Walcott

This year’s “F” grade is the second in a row for BGHS, but Gassaway insisted that despite the grade, the school-- Brooklyn's first and oldest high school-- was making progress and simply needed more time for improvement.
News of the "F" will continue what has become a downward trend for BGHS, known to most in the community as The Pride of Bed-Stuy.

However, "Bed-Stuy's Pride" has struggled over the past three years to keep its doors open, as the school's progress reports have shown no improvement. Aside from its failing grade on the 2010/2011 progress report, BGHS received a "C" in 2009/2010 and a "D" in 2008/2009.

New York City principal wants 'turnaround' or nothing at all... Demands Chicago-style power for Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn

A New York City public school principal with a long history of self-promotion had declared that he would rather not take extra funding for his school than miss the chance to do a "turnaround" and fire lots of teachers. Thanks to members of ICE, the following article has come to Substance from Brooklyn.

The confrontation between a principal who once served as chief of the New York City school system's "Office of New Schools" and the city's school board (and the United Federation of Teachers) has been developing around the implementation of the Race To The Top models for school change. Bernard Gassaway, principal of Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, is demanding the right to do "turnaround" and get rid of his teachers (while ignoring that the models for turnaround from Chicago also involved getting rid of principals). The union and New York City school district are proposing a different approach. So Gassaway has taken his claims to the media.

Below are two articles (both combined into one from a local newspaper in Brooklyn). The first is the report on Gassaway's standoff. It contains material from his website.


Gassaway Rejects Restart Model And Possibly Millions in Funding for BGHS
BGHS Principal Bernard Gassaway says current funding model will do little to improve his school
By C. Zawadi Morris May 31, 2011, BED STY PATCH NEWSPAPER (Brooklyn New York)

It appears that the millions of dollars earmarked to save Boys and Girls High School may be in jeopardy.
One reason is due to stalled negotiations between the teacher’s union and the City around how to best implement teacher evaluations, which will greatly impact the way teachers are hired and fired. But until an agreement is reached between the two parties, the State will hold the money. 

The second reason has to do with the school’s principal Bernard Gassaway. In a letter he released to Bed-Stuy Patch this morning, Gassaway presented a resounding objection to Restart — the school reform model under which the money would be awarded – insisting that most of the $3.5 — $6 million grant that may come with Restart would be restricted primarily to professional development. 

Gassaway has long stated a preference for the Turnaround (Transformation) Model as the most viable approach for student improvement at Boys and Girls, as it would grant him authority to replace teachers he deems ineffective. 

"Money alone is not the answer," said Gassaway. "I have espoused that of all the models being offered, Turnaround would give us the best chance to speed-up the reform of Boys and Girls High School. While I defend all efforts to keep Boys and Girls High School open forever, I do not defend the right of incompetent staff to remain with children indefinitely.” 

Boys & Girls High School has ranked as one of New York State’s lowest performing schools for the last two years, and less than half of its students graduated in 2010. In December, the city narrowly spared Boys & Girls from complete closure.

The Restart Model is one of four improvement plans outlined by the Obama administration in its education initiative designed to improve struggling schools, better known as Race To The Top.
The Department of Education’s reaction to Gassaway’s stance squarely addressed the stalled negotiations surrounding teacher negotiations, which have imperiled the funds’ allocation, but also made clear of DOE’s intention to implement the Restart model.

“We have been in near constant consultation with the State Education Department about our intentions to use Restart, and our plan is consistent with the law, so it’s unfortunate that the State would change the ground rules at this late juncture,” Deputy Chancellor at the New York City Department of Education Marc Sternberg said. 

“We agree with the State about the need for a rigorous and meaningful teacher evaluation system, but thus far we have not been able to reach an agreement with the teacher’s union, and that means we are likely to miss out on more than $125 million in federal funds to improve these schools.”
Still, while negotiations remain on the table regarding teacher evaluations, Gassaway has taken a hard stance on the conditions of the funding:
“I know in my heart and soul that the recent decision of the DOE to move forward with the Restart model is not the best option for Boys and Girls High School,” Gassaway said. “In the end, any model that we adopt must allow school leadership to aggressively address staff incompetence.” Tom Dunn, director of communications at New York State Education Department, said the department had no comment in regards to Principal Gassaway’s position. 


From his Website, it’s clear that Gassaway is a relentless self-promoter, who has also promoted home schooling and “New Schools” for New York City. 

Bernard Gassaway Cares About Helping Today's Youth
Bernard Gassaway is the son of Annie Gassaway. He was born in Macon, Georgia in 1960.
Bernard attended New York City public schools. From high school, he attended LeMoyne College, a
 Catholic school in Syracuse, New York. He was elected President of the Minority Cultural Society in
his junior year. He went on to graduate from LeMoyne with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, in
 1982. Two years later, he earned his first Master’s degree from the State University of New York at 
Albany, in public administration.

Bernard worked for two years at the New York City Department of Transportation. In 1986, shortly 
after his mother passed away, he resigned from the department of transportation to pursue what he
called, “meaningful work,” and began his teaching career at Public School 40Q, in Jamaica, New
Two years later, he transferred to Boys and Girls High School where he taught English and
computer literacy. After several years as a high school teacher, and a brief attempt to start a small
 computer consulting business, he returned to teach at Intermediate School 59Q, in Springfield
Gardens, New York. While teaching at 59Q, he completed his second Master’s degree in Education
Administration and Supervision at Baruch College. Shortly after, he became an assistant principal at 
Junior High School 192Q, in St. Albans, New York. Six months later, he transferred to become the
assistant principal of pupil personnel services at Far Rockaway High School, in 1994.
In April 1997, Bernard was assigned and later appointed the first African-American principal at
Beach Channel High School. After his first year at Beach Channel, he was the recipient of the New
York State Title I Distinguished Educator Award. In 2001, the Queens Borough President’s African-
American Advisory Council selected him as Queens Educator of the Year. He also received an
award for Educator of the Year from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., in that same year.
After five years as principal, Bernard resigned to become the Director of New School Initiative for the
New York City Board of Education Alternative Schools Superintendency. In July, 2003, he became
Senior Superintendent for Alternative Schools and Programs. He was also selected as a Revson
Fellow at Columbia University.
In June 2005, after 18 years with the New City school system, Bernard resigned to “continue to fight 
the good fight for children.” He is currently an author, child advocate, doctoral student and educator.
Bernard’s most important roles are father and husband.


June 8, 2011 at 2:38 AM
By: Sean Ahern

New York City principal wants 'turnaround' or nothing at all... Demands Chicago-style power for Boys

A few points of information on the situation in NYC regarding "turnaround" which Chicago readers may not be aware of:
The current UFT contract retains bumping rights for senior members in title in the event of layoffs. In other words, tenured teachers in NYC who have no permanent assignments may not be laid off simply because they lack a permanent assignment. UFT members can look for a permanent assignment or remain in the "Absent Teacher Reserve". Layoffs under the current UFT contract are based on seniority in title city wide. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that the CTU contract offers no such safety net. "Turnaround" in Chicago has led to layoffs of teachers who remain without a permanent assignment for more than a year regardless of the fact that they may have more seniority than another teacher with a permanent assignment. Suffice it to say that the CTU experience with "turnaround" is not the UFT's at least for the time being.
In NYC the "turnaround " model has not to my knowledge been used by the DOE. "Turnaround" does not give the DOE space to 1)"co-locate" a charter school, 2)break up comprehensive High Schools in the Black and Latino communities (which Boys and Girls HS is one of the few remaining examples of) or 3)layoff higher paid senior teachers.
Consider the "turnaround" scenario in NYC under the present terms of the UFT contract. Up to half of the staff may be transferred or reassigned including the Principal, provided that the Principal has served in that capacity at that school for more than 5 years.
In the case of Boys and Girls HS, Gassaway has served three years so he would not be removed under the "turnaround" formula and he would amass considerable powers to shape the direction and staff under "turnaround." In most cases this is a formula to remove experienced Principals in favor of the corporate Principal Academy clones, but Gassaway is not a product of the Jack Welch/Broad foundation clique.
Why is the Principal at Boys and Girl's HS rejecting the "restart" model which was presented to him by the DOE?
I was told by a reliable source that Bernard Gassaway was given less than a day's notice to accept the "Restart" model after it was first presented to him by the DOE. Apparently he balked and took door number three. "Restart" had little to offer in his opinion apart from some professional development money yet simply saying none of the above risked closing. He preferred "Turnaround" and he had the temerity to say so in public. Did he upset some deal underway between Walcott and the UFT?
I met Gassaway and heard him speak after he had resigned from the DOE a few years back in what seemed to be frustration with the Bloomberg/Klein regime.
Gassaway came back to work for the DOE after the long time Principal of Boys and Girls HS, Mickens, died unexpectedly. The school seemed headed for the skids under Micken's sucessor. Gassaway's return to the DOE as Principal of B&G was welcomed and supported by leaders in the Bedford Stuyvesant community. Boys and Girls HS appears to have made progress under his tenure and he continues to enjoy a considerable measure of community support.
Gassaway's outspokeness on "turnaround", as troubling as it may be to teachers at Boys and Girl HS (admitably a speculation on my part since I am not in contact with teachers there), may have more to do with saving Boys and Girls HS from DOE closing and slice and dice than it does with establishing his own dictatorship over the staff.
Looking back on the planned destruction of NYC's large comprehensive High Schools over the past 10 years I think in hindsight mayoral dictatorship did more damage to public education, students and teacher unionism with the Gates small school slice and dice, privatization model than would have ensued with a "turnaround' model provided staff retained the current safety net.
I think the involuntary reassignment of staff members in this context is less damaging to both the staff member, the students, the community and teacher unionism in a school than school closings, slice and dice and charter co -location.
I say this relatively speaking, not as an endorsement of 'turnaround' in NYC and certainly not in Chicago given the absence of a safety net, but in the context of the UFT contract, in hindsight we would still have functional comprehensive public high schools, still struggling no doubt under increasing inequality and poverty, but intact nonetheless after the privatizers bubble burst and the small school benefactors cut the cash flow.
In the current context Walcott cannot dismiss Gassaway or force him to merely accede to the latest directive from Tweed.
Any effort by the DOE to close Boys and Girls HS or remove its Principal at this time would lead to a widespread unified response from the Black community in Brooklyn that would spread. Any effort by the UFT to pressure Gassaway to conform to Walcott's directive on "restart" objectively sets the UFT on an old self defeating path, that of siding with the school bureaucracy against the Black community.
The UFT rank and file need the parents and community to defend learning and working conditions. The parents and working class communities need public school staff to serve the people.
I believe that it is in the immediate self interest of UFT members to support the continued success of Boys and Girls HS under its current leadership. Not all differences merit being fanned into a conflagration. Some need to be put out before they spread. I don't know the views of the staff. I don't know why Gassaway feels he needs the power to reassign up to half of his staff. But this much is known: 1) Gassaway has a base of support in the Bed Stuy community and a plan for the school. 2)the Bloomberg/Walcott dictatorship is faltering and will soon pass from the scene. What will take its place is being shaped in part by our actions.
How staff, administrators, students, parents, and communities and unions of the poor and working class can resolve differences in practical terms, promote fairness, tolerance and equality, raise awareness to our mutual obligations,rights, and responsibilites. No magic bullet. Just folks with common interests working things out refusing to fall prey to the usual divide and control.
Sean Ahern
NYC parent and educator.

ATR teacher researches animal intelligence 


Look! Nimbler than a chimp! Stronger than an elephant! Stealthier than a rat!  It's NYCATR's Philip Nobile, reporting from Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.

The magical ATR algorithm carried me to Boys and Girls High School in Bedford Stuyvesant last week. With 2000-plus students, a 44% graduation rate, 73% attendance, 83% of 9th graders reading below level in 2010, and an F on its 2010-11 report card (down from a C) B & G is on the verge of a breakdown, perhaps too big not to fail in the narrow eyes of the DOE. 

It is unfair to rate the school from just five days in an abandoned Special Ed Bio Skills class, but here I go: F for fiasco. 
The students told me that their original teacher moved to a different section of the school at the beginning of the marking period. Since then it’s been sub after sub (maybe ATR after ATR) with no quizzes, tests, homework, or grades. 
Ms. Bozeman, an “academic community” supervisor, met me on my arrival Monday morning and escorted me to a large, unadorned, windowless room on the fourth floor with a blackboard instead of a whiteboard or smartboard, the sort of place that says when money is short black special ed kids take the worst hit. I asked her for lesson materials. She said that she would bring me some, but she never came back. 
On Tuesday, I tried to get my hands on lessons before school started. No luck again. The office that Ms. Bozeman shared with an A.P. named Ms. Williams was locked. 
On Wednesday, both women were in early. Ms. Bozeman introduced me to Ms. Williams who seemed unaware that I was covering the class. I requested a lesson for the second time. Nothing was ready, but Ms. Bozeman soon dropped off a clutch of stapled worksheets. When I passed them out, the kids complained they had done them before. Sure enough, on top of a file cabinet I found a bunch of the same set filled in by the same students from the previous week. Apparently, Ms. Bozeman neither bothered to collect this classwork, nor did she make a single inquiry about what I was teaching or how the students were doing. 
In this festering anti-learning environment, the discipline code was strangled by an endless loop of obscenities, harassment, fighting, bullying, insubordination and music from smuggled-in, aluminum wrapped iPods. The F-word, N-word, and the S-my-D imperative, even from girls, dominated the nonstop chatter. Several girls in one class wore revealing tops and some occasionally fondled themselves. A fiercely oppositional boy who called me “whitey” and “asshole” resisted removal by two aides, Ms. Bozeman, and Ms. Williams, relenting only when a security agent appeared. 
As a sub, I had almost no control over the mayhem and hesitated to intervene physically. The last time I broke up a fight at Cobble Hill High School I was framed by an emotionally disturbed special ed boy, his lying para, a hostile principal and a sleazy OSI investigator. Consequently, I spent three years in the rubber room before gaining a pro se acquittal on corporal punishment. (NYSUT refused to defend me because I insisted on accusing the investigator of corruption.) 
On Thursday, despairing of help from my ostensible supervisors, I improvised a lesson plan drawn from PBS Nature and NOVA programs: 
AIM: Are animals intelligent?
Do Now: List the three smartest animals you can think of.
Activity: Explain why these animals are smart. 
Next, I presented and the class discussed the 10 most intelligent animals followed by a mnemonic device to test their memory of the list.
The results were very mixed, but my engagement reduced the tension and related nonsense. Two boys who paid attention succeeded in repeating the 10 animals in precise order: chimp, dolphin, orangutan, elephant, crow, pig, squirrel, pigeon, octopus, rat. 
Since Friday was the final day of the marking period, the kids requested a movie. Why not, I thought. On Thursday night I found a suitable sequel to the day’s lesson--a documentary about exotic pets in the U.S. titled "The Elephant in the Living Room." On Friday morning I sought Ms. Bozeman’s approval, but once more, neither she nor Ms. Williams was around. To my delight, the first period class became engrossed and watched the film without a peep. 
But before showing the film on my laptop, I decided to send a message to B & G’s administration via student evaluations of the course, which received four Fs and two generous C-pluses in the 1st period. Herewith the verbatim replies: 
►What I learned in this marking period in this class was nothing. The reason I say nothing is because we always have a different teacher every week as we never have time to learn anything. This class to me is an F. If we have a teacher that would stay for the whole six week of the marking period maybe I could learn something. 
►F: What I learned this marking period was nothing because every week my class and I have a different teacher. So its actually possible we have no time in learning. 
►F: The last six weeks in this class I learning same thing from diffent teachers but I have to say I still learnd nothing because they teach us nothing that have nothing to do with scince. 
► I only learned about the 10 smartest animals and my grade is an F bcuz I only came here this week. 
► C+: What I’ve learned semester in this particular science course is the different kind of cells and functions. I’m able to identify the differ type of organs and put them from least to greatest. 
► C+: What I learned in this science class is the organs and functions. I also learned the different between them to organ. Now when somebody ask me what the different I will have the answer for them. 
A family emergency forced me to leave the school after 1st period. In my rush I did not have time to hand in the short-circuited evaluations. But I will email this post to Principal Bernard Gassaway, whose title includes “Chief Child Advocate.” 
Since ATRs have almost nothing to lose, we should consider rating our weekly assignments as a service to the DOE.
Photo credit:


  1. What a shame! I think I will save my sick days for when I am sent to this school! Disgusting!~ Do you if any other ATRS were there?
  2. sounds like the school that I was at last week. 4 ATRs have been paraded before a 3 sections of sophomore English! The kids have learned nothing and by now they are completely out of control. I sure wouldn't want to be their permanent teacher at this point. The kids have no reason to trust that they will ever have a permanent teacher. Hey its only English. What a great example of the DOE policy of Children First. On a side note many many schools are covering up their vacancies by making teachers teach 6 classes. 3 classes in a subject = a program. Once again the ATRs are being screwed and ignored.
  3. Good idea. I strongly support grading the schools.
  4. Great post. This crap is happening all over the city.

    Education Mayor = BS. Ten years of closing schools and destructive, child-abusing policies. And, the moronic editorial board at the Daily News states, "there is more work to do".

  5. Great piece. Clearly this ATR plan is benefiting kids no more than it benefits teachers. The sheer idiocy of this plan boggles the mind, and this piece shows that better than most.
  6. Im in the In house suspension room at my school all day long
  7. ditto for me...we are just fill in staff...use where needed. when money is tight pay the most to do less? Bloomie thought this was a good idea? hard times...they want us to go rather than teach...makes no sense.
  8. Great idea Philip. Keep doing this rating stuff and they will send you to the top schools to keep you quiet.

    This is a golden opportunity for ATRs to fight back by exposing the shams that go on. With so many ATRs reporting from so many schools we have a chance to expose the DOE for what they have done.

    We will be moving on to the next steps in organizing ATRs by announcing the next meeting and potential actions within the next few days.
  9. I was stuck in the inhouse detention room last week. Monday was light wait til the end of the week. Is it the School of International Studies in BKLYN??? That school is a joke.
  10. awesome account of the real behind-the-scenes disfunction of the "new and improved" DOE. bernard gassaway was the superintendent of district 79 a few years ago. he is an incompetant *&*(&*&%&. he supposedly retired, but i guess he couldn't stay away from the nice F status paycheck that he so rightfully deserves!
  11. Good work. I also endorse this weekly review of the DOE nonsense. Lesson plans are a joke everywhere and it is difficult to manage a group of kids you just met with nothing relevant to do. Have been lucky so far and had pretty good experiences in the 4 schools I have visited. Next week to Leadership and Public Service on Trinity so I can hang out all week with the OWS crowd.

    Second straight F puts Boys & Girls High’s future on the line

    Boys and Girls High School is one of 24 schools that now face closure.
    Boys and Girls High School’s latest progress report grade — an F, its second in a row — came as no surprise to its principal, Bernard Gassaway.
    “We definitely fell short,” Gassaway said in a phone interview today. “When you get the progress report and you are surprised by it, that means you haven’t been looking at the numbers all along.”
    But even though it is one of just four schools to score a second straight failing grade, Gassaway said he is not concerned about the future of the school, a Bedford-Stuyvesant institution revered by some neighborhood leaders even as it has posted graduation rates well below the city average in recent years.
    “Closure is not an option,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an option that’s on the table. … I’m not entertaining any conversations about closure.”
    In fact, Boys and Girls is set to be the subject of a formal conversation about closure for the first time. The Department of Education has informed Gassaway that the high school is among 24 that will undergo “early engagement,” a process through which officials meet with community members to assess whether struggling schools are likely to improve or should be closed.
    Last year, Boys and Girls was one of just three F-rated schools that did not undergo the early engagement process, even though its performance on some measures ranked near the lowest citywide. Department officials also considered closing the school through an atypical federal reform process called turnaround earlier this year, but quickly abandoned the plan.
    Gassaway said he has already prepared his strategy to defend the school. He will argue that the city and union have not worked together to give him enough authority over his staff, and that new programs to help the school’s many high-need students cannot be expected to pay off right away.
    “[The] case that I made last year is the same case I’ll make this year,” he said. “If you ask yourself honestly, what has changed as it relates to, let’s say, the makeup of the staff from last year to this year, the plan that everyone agrees is a good idea has not been implemented.”
    Since Gassaway came on as principal in 2009, he has pressed department and union officials for the power to overhaul his staff, charging that as many as half the teachers aren’t equipped to address the school’s many challenges. The city’s contract with the teachers union precludes principals from sending teachers away in most cases.
    He has also maintained that the school needs new services to address students’ health and emotional needs, and special programs for the many under-credited and overage students who make their way to Boys and Girls after spending parts of high school outside the city or in jail. With new programs only starting to get underway, Gassaway said today, it will be years before the school begins to reap their benefits on paper.
    Gassaway said he asked teachers, administrators, and support staff to take a hard look at the school’s performance data last week when he shared the preliminary progress report data.
    “We basically looked at the different data sets: credit accumulation, Regents pass rates, the graduation rate, [students in] the bottom third,” he said. He added, “The primary focus is on instruction. There’s no magic bullet other than hard work.”
    Despite concerns over the numbers, Gassaway may continue to find the support from top department officials he needs to keep the school afloat.
    “We have a very high opinion of Bernard Gassaway,” Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg told reporters earlier today. “We’re going to take the time to go out to the school and talk with Bernard, talk with parents and students and teachers, and a group of community organizations that have deep roots in support that school, and ask that same question about Boys and Girls as we will about the others: Is there a capacity to improve?”
    Sternberg said it is possible the early engagement team will find that the school has its best chance of succeeding if it has more time to see Gassaway’s vision through.
    “If a principal is saying they want more flexibility to get the right adults in a building so they can improve their capacity to execute on a good plan, I would, as a former principal, I would say I agree with that,” Sternberg said. “The question is whether there is the right plan…and that’s what we’ll explore.”

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