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Sunday, January 24, 2010

NYC Erupts in Anger Against Mayor Bloomberg's Privitization of NYC Public Schools

The past seven years of Mayor Bloomberg's reign as Mayor of the City of New York have been designed to lead up to the privitization of NYC public schools with a workforce that marches in step quietly behind any and all policy decisions and with a mandate to disenfranchize parent/teacher/administrator opposition. Although the protests coming from parents, teachers, and yes, even the children who are part of the public school community, slowed down the take-over (and Bloomberg is not happy about that), now Joel Klein is ready to hand his boss the prize: a city full of public school charter corporations bubbling with no-bid contracts and children who have received a sub-standard education and, if a member of a minority or in District 75 schools, are capable of mid- to low level management positions in the businesses run by Bloomberg's corporate allies.

Racial, age, disability, and religious discrimination against people of all ages is rampant; special needs children are not getting their services and are being thrown out of their schools without due process; staff are being terrorized, and the "investigators" supposedly holding up the law are violating public policy by filing false reports on anyone who has been labelled as deficient in any way. It is a fact that every organization at some time has some employee who does something either deliberately or by accident and/or in error, that is illegal, or not approved under policy/law. The integrity of the leadership of the organization can be gleamed by the action taken after the illegal action is discovered. The Bloomberg/Klein regime holds onto power by guaranteeing immunity to everyone who supports the regime's agenda. You cannot prosecute anyone who is protected by the umbrella of immunity. The people to blame are the immunized administrators of the injustice being handed out, not the perpetrator, necessarily. A principal may threaten a teacher to do whatever is necessary to get a student removed from the school, and I blame the principal. (However, not all teachers removed from their classes and placed into a rubber room are innocent). We need to do extensive fact-finding to get to the bottom of who did what to whom, and this is what is not being done right now in New York City, and in the rubberized cities outside of New York, like Washington DC, Rochester, Chicago and Los Angeles. New York City is not the only place where educators have been sitting in rooms awaiting charges that may or may not be true.

Under the Bloomberg/Klein administration, illegal actions and/or improper conduct performed by people who are supposed to establish private corporate power in the NYC public schools are overlooked or treated as a minor event, with a tap on the wrist, if there is any consequence at all. If someone inside the corporate structure is actually hit with media coverage for wrong-doing, then he/she is removed from the position for a short while, and then brought back under a different title (as in the case of Chad Vignola, Tony Alvarado, Bruce Irushalmi, etc.). The most important part of the privitization process is the sustained success of The Coverup. Thus the city-wide disdain for anyone who speaks out or writes on blogs and websites. I've had my share of insults hurled at me by Joel Klein's people, and all of my four children have been attacked at their schools. I would not have continued my work as a reporter of corruption unless I had the support of my daughters despite my near-death in 2006 due to heart failure.

What does Mayor Bloomberg do when a Principal tells his people that a teacher/parent/staff member is asking questions? Below are some of the well-known and documented actions taken in retaliation:

* A child who cannot be controlled is suspended, to teach him/her and his/her parents/guardians a lesson (the suspension process is completely broken, is an example of outrageous racial profiling, and is driven by gestapo-like administrators who dump children into the school-to-prison pipeline);

* a students' grade is changed to failing or just above, to 'tell' the parent/guardian to keep away from the school affairs;

* a SOHO report (online disciplinary report that is part of the OORS, or Online Occurence Reporting System) is written on 'incidents' that never happened, and placed into the student's record - the one that the parent will never see;

* the parent is told to leave the PTA position that he/she has, is removed by force if necessary, or is told that he/she will not be allowed to enter the school building unless escorted by security;

* an allegation will be created, and the SCI or OSI "investigators" will go into the school to ask the Principal what the "fact" is that the Principal wants "proved". Then the "investigators" are given telephone numbers of parents of children who are failing in school or are in trouble, and they "interview" - actually coach - the parents/guardians - in what the case is about, then use this information to make up a story about the person who the Principal wants out of the school;

* a sense of instability and, in many cases, outright terror, is cultivated so that at any minute a person who works inside the public school system feels terrorized, hopefully enough to keep quiet and act like a robot to any directive.

The facts are obvious if you want to see them.

First, Joel Klein is not an educator, and he does not care about education policy, public school curriculum, anything to do with support for excellent public school management designed to encourage high achievement. Klein was hired because he is an Attorney, and he assisted the Clintons in Washington DC when the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals shook the nation. Linda Tripp testified that Klein, who took over for Vincent Foster the day after Foster died, was the person who scared her the most in Washington. Joel Klein was hired to make sure of one thing: the privitization of public schools in New York City would take place, and the coverup would be effectively managed, and the general public fooled. In this effort, Klein was, and remains today, ultimately unsuccessful. But the effort to retaliate against anyone who dares to protest Bloomberg's policies still is constant. Last thursday for example, there was a protest of Bloomberg's policy of closing schools, and the protestors won the right in court to protest in front of Bloomberg's home on 79th street between fifth and madison avenues. Evidently the police took pictures of the protestors. The next step is to find out who each person was, and....tap his/her telephone line? Arrange for the IRS to review all past tax returns? Any and all of the above?

The office of civil rights Attorney Norman Siegel sent an email to NYC listservs enraged at the Bloomberg administration for the NYPD picture-taking:

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2010
Contact: Norman Siegel at 347-907-0867, Julie Cavanagh at 917-838-6465

Parent, Student, and Teacher Protesters Demand Explanation

Last Thursday afternoon, January 21, on E. 79 St., across from the mayor’s mansion, parents, students and teachers peacefully protested against the Bloomberg Administration’s proposals to force mass closings of public schools and their takeover by charter schools. They were exercising their constitutional right under the First Amendment to publicly demand that these policies that undermine the public school system and deprive their children of an adequate education be stopped.
Meanwhile, a reporter on the scene caught on videotape the actions of police who were taking photographs of the protesters from the roof and inside a private school across the street. In 1985, the federal court ruled that it is illegal and a violation of civil rights for the New York City police to take photos of protesters, unless they have cause to believe that a crime may be committed. The city signed a consent agreement that year, restricting police surveillance according to these rules, called the Handschu Guidelines. In the case of this peaceful protest, there was no such cause. The video is available on YouTube at
The protesters are asking for a full explanation as to why the pictures were taken and how the police plan to use the photos. The protestors also want to know whether any videotaping of them was done. Finally, they are considering filing a complaint with Judge Charles S. Haight Jr., the federal judge who has continuing jurisdiction over the enforcement of the Handschu Guidelines.
Lydia Bellahcene, a parent at PS 15 in Red Hook Brooklyn where the DOE is proposing an extension of a charter school co-location, said, “Mayor Bloomberg and his cohorts can not be allowed to dismantle public education. I am outraged that there was this kind of surveillance at a peaceful protest of mothers and others. We broke no laws, and the NYPD should not be allowed to violate the laws for Mayor Bloomberg’s benefit either. The mayor and the NYPD should get used to these protests, because I and mothers across the city will be doing it again.”
Rachel Ali, student at Maxwell High School, said: “Major Bloomberg has gone too far! He is being undemocratic in his actions as if to say that he is an exception to the rules of this nation. Rules are created to maintain order and he has already broken the law by running for a third term. How much corruption can there be in one city, where the major can destroy the public school system because he thinks his way is better! His illegal surveillances are another example of his mindset. He thinks he can do whatever he wants and that the people of New York will simply accept his actions, but he is wrong. We will stand for what we believe in.”
Lisa Donlan, public school parent and the President of the Community Education Council of District 1 on the Lower East Side, said: “The illegal surveillance of a peaceful group of orderly, organized protesters is yet another example of this administration's autocratic and unreasonable rejection of the voices of parents, students, teachers and taxpaying citizens in this city. Mayoral control has already attenuated our opinions to the point of irrelevance; by treading on our basic First Amendment rights to gather and protest peacefully last week this Mayor has once again shown his true colors: they are NOT red, white and blue.”
Khem Irby, public school parent and education advocate said, “In light of the fact that our Mayor does not have the potter's touch to fix what he has perfectly broken for seven years, I request an immediate halt in these public school closings. The board of education should take the challenge to be more creative with the communities and plant the resources to revitalize those schools. This act is an admission that the job is too hard for him. Breaking the law is not the answer either.”
"This type of intimidation and undemocratic action by the mayor is the very reason why the community believes he is destroying public education. No matter how good the intentions, when one man shuts out the voices of the community, and believes that his beliefs should have special status above all others: whether it concerns first amendment rights, decisions regarding public education, or the legal use of the police force - it is a danger to the very essence of our democratic ideals,” said Seung Ok, teacher at Maxwell Vocational high school in Brooklyn, a school which the administration has slated for closure.
“The intense police force and surveillance of a peaceful group of parent, student, and teacher protesters last Thursday highlights a clear attempt by Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration to silence and intimidate stakeholders in education policy. The hallmark of this Administration has been to deny and disenfranchise the voices of parents in the debates surrounding school policies, such as school closings and charter school invasions. This is a clear intent to dissuade active participation in advocacy efforts on their children’s behalf,” says Julie Cavanagh, teacher PS 15, “We view these actions as a violation of our civil liberties and will continue in our struggle to protect our children’s public education system and our First Amendment rights.”

Additional contacts: Lydia Bellahcene:, 347-463-9809, PTA PS 15- 718-330-9280; Seung Ok:, 646-244-4468

People like Joel Klein have only disdain for the general public, especially public school parents, who, to him, are simply not successful enough to pay for private school. Public school parents are failures, and their failure represents stupidity. Their failure to make billions of dollars results in their inability to find out what Klein is really doing, and to write, speak, and/or put information in the 'main' media. Of course, everyone in the 'main' media are bought by the Bloomberg/Klein regime. (See my story on the misinformation of Steve Brill, and Success For Lucienne).

Teacher Hipolito ("Polo") Colon (pictured at right) sued Joel Klein after he, Colon, was threatened with termination at a secret Executive Session of the PEP on September 19, 2006. The PEP is an entity that was made up and it has no official executive or administrative function except to agree with anything Klein wants. All meetings are highly scripted, and Open Meetings Law is not honored. Panel members even violate their own By-Laws - Michael Best, Secretary, never writes minutes, as he is mandated to do (I know, because I filed a FOIL request for these minutes). Anyway, Polo Colon's crime was that he made a list of wrong-doing by his Principal, Liza Carabello, at PS 120 in Brooklyn, and called the Office of Special Investigations to come to the school and talk with him about what she, Ms. Carabello, was doing wrong. The investigators came to the school, but they came to get him, not her. He was removed to the Rubber Room by the Gotcha Squad. NYC BOE Attorney Tae Kim wrote the TAC memos. Later on, Mr. Colon received confirmation that Queens Superintendent James Quail had found that Mr. Colon was right about the allegations against Carabello, and he (Quail) put a letter into her file. She continues her terror at PS 120. (See my article on "The Gotcha Squad").Polo's lawsuit has survived two motions to dismiss by the New York City Law Department, and is currently before New York State Supreme Court Judge Cynthia Kern, the fifth judge on the case. Law Department Attorney Matthew Leighton sent Polo a stipulation that he could see papers relevant to his case only if he stipulated that he would never, never, never, show anyone these documents. Currently, Defendant Klein cannot be deposed, according to Leighton, because he is too high up in the administration, and he is the Attorney for the NYC BOE, and cannot break the Attorney/Client Privilege. Notice that I capitalize "Privilege".

Joel Klein also, I believe, has disdain for the Rule of Law. He has what I call the "arrogance of immunity" about him whenever he appears in public. He is being sued right now in many courts and lawsuits, not only Polo's case. Indeed, he was just sued by the UFT and several others for disobeying the law on reducing class size:

January 6, 2010
City Ignoring Law on Class Sizes, Suit Says

Despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce class sizes, the city’s Department of Education has ignored state law and allowed classrooms to grow in the last couple of years, the city teachers’ union and other groups said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The dispute stems from a lengthy legal battle that ended in 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled that the state was failing to ensure that New York City and other high-needs districts were providing all children with the opportunity for a sound basic education. The ruling led the state to send the city about $1.5 billion in the last three years, about $750 million of which was earmarked for class-size reductions.

But despite the new money, and a decline in student enrollment citywide, class sizes have increased, according to the lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx.

“This is a lawsuit about broken promises to the parents and children of New York City,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, said at a news conference. The lawsuit, which asks the court to order the city to comply with the law, was joined by several groups, including the N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic Federation.

Education officials dispute the charges. Average class sizes have increased since 2008, they acknowledge, but that is because of budget cuts, which have hit even as teacher salaries rise. Compounding matters, the amount of money provided by the state under the law, which is supposed to increase each year, was frozen this academic year, meaning that additional teachers could not be hired.

The state, the officials point out, has continued to approve their plans each year and provide the funding, known as Contracts for Excellence money. “The charges are without merit,” said David Cantor, press secretary to the city’s school chancellor, Joel I. Klein.

The ruling permits the money to be divided among six areas, including class-size reduction, middle school or high school restructuring, or full-day prekindergarten programs. Because large class sizes were found to “negatively affect student performance” in city schools, according to the ruling, officials were required to develop and fund a five-year plan to reduce them.

According to that plan, by 2012 the city will reduce class sizes in kindergarten through the third grade classes to an average of fewer than 20 students from 21; in middle grades to 23 students from nearly 26; and in classes of core high school subjects to 24.5 students from 26.6.

Instead, preliminary city data for this year shows that class sizes in the lower grades have an average of 22 students; in the middle grades, 25.8 students; and in the upper grades, 26.8 students.

City officials say that even though at least one-quarter of the Contracts for Excellence money has been allocated to class-size reduction each year, year-to-year gains are not required and only the final target number counts. But the lawsuit asserts that the city has not done enough to ensure that the money earmarked for class-size reduction is being used for that purpose. Part of the problem, the suit charges, is that principals may use the money as they see fit. In addition, the lawsuit asserts that in some cases, the funds have been diverted to counteract budget cuts.

Attached to the lawsuit, for example, is a memo that was sent to principals in May 2008 to provide guidance on reducing class sizes. It does not mandate principals do so; instead it encourages principals to consider the issue in conjunction with other performance metrics. “As you establish your goals for next year and decide how to align resources,” it states, “class size is a key consideration.”

The lawsuit comes as the teachers’ union is negotiating a contract with the city, and it could signal a desire by Mr. Mulgrew, the union president, to confront the mayor after declining to endorse anyone during the election. Among those joining him at the news conference were Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, and Bill de Blasio, the new public advocate, who has indicated he intends to challenge City Hall more frequently than did his predecessor, Betsy Gotbaum.

Education officials say that whether the courts will accept the lawsuit is in question. The Contracts for Excellence legislation states that notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the “sole and exclusive remedy” for a violation of the law shall be a petition to the state education commissioner, currently David Steiner, whose decision, it states, “shall be final and unreviewable.”

Joel Klein has no contract. Education Law 2590-h says that he MUST have a contract. When I first filed a Freedom of Information request for his contract in 2005, and received back the letter from former NYC BOE FOIL Attorney Susan Holtzman that he did not have a contract, I thought this was strange, that something so simple could have been 'overlooked'. I knew what the law said, and I knew that Klein did not have a contract and was making $250,000 to be "Chancellor". But without a contract.

In fact, according to Michael Best, the General Counsel for the NYC BOE and Secretary of the Panel For Educational Policy, no one has contracts - not the Principals, Deputy Chancellors, Deputy Mayors, no one inside the NYC BOE administration. Best's point to me was, I guess, was to make it seem that the fact that Joel Klein has no contract was not important.

Well, perhaps it is important.

Second, a bit of background: Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein expanded a fake curriculum, "fuzzy math", part of The Workshop Model, and deliberately sabotaged anyone really teaching it by not setting up adequate training and professional development courses in how to implement this program.

Then, when teachers were told to teach The Workshop model without adequate training, they were given "U" ratings and thrown out of their positions as incompetent. People without tenure were simply fired, while tenured teachers were sent to a room nicknamed a "rubber room" to await a hearing on their competence/misconduct.

Principals have been given the right to manage their schools any way they want, and this includes setting up a budget, handling personnel issues, admitting and keeping special needs children, and abiding by Title 1 funding, special education, and No Child Left Behind laws and legislation. They can do this Right Thing if they want to.

What we have to do is hold accountable those who corrupt the system, harm people, and use immunity to get away with crimes and misconduct. We need to write about these people and celebrate the alliance of the internet with the awareness that for too many years people elected to publicly-funded positions have promoted policies that do not serve the public interest. We must continue to challenge those who believe they can continue to violate the public trust and ask them to stop and listen to the buzz of millions of people visiting websites, emailing each other, blogging and chatting online about what is going on behind closed doors. We must promise to hold everyone responsible for his/her actions (factually documented and not alleged). I call this process "e-accountability".