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Monday, July 4, 2011

Education Eminent Domain: Bloomberg's School Land Grab

Eminent domain, according to Wikipedia:
"Eminent domain (United States), compulsory purchase (United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland), resumption/compulsory acquisition (Australia) or expropriation (South Africa and Canada) is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent. The property is taken either for government use or by delegation to third parties who will devote it to public or civic use or, in some cases, economic development. The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are for public utilities, highways, and railroads[citation needed], however it may also be taken for reasons of public safety, such as in the case of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Some jurisdictions require that the government body offer to purchase the property before resorting to the use of eminent domain."

It seems to me that all the rallies, the begging and protests for an end to the co-location of charter and public schools are having no effect on the Bloomberg-political-complex. Mike Bloomberg and his Assistant Dennis Wolcott aren't listening because they dont have to, no matter how "nice" Mr. Wolcott is to the general public..... kind of  "I cant hear you" because "you dont/cant understand our policy" deafness. Their approach to the closing of schools reminds me of my studies in planned obsolescence. Let's not forget that FIFO and LIFO, popularized in Mayor Bloomberg's PR campaign to get tenured teachers out of their jobs, was, you may know, always defined as moving old products off of a shelf for tax advantages. People are not products, Sir!

I have posted many articles about the land grab in New York and other states on my website
FATAL $UBTRACTION: How State-Mandated Property Tax Exemptions Subsidize New York City Private Education at the Expense of Public Schools and CUNY

Eminent Domain: KELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al.

Does the Federal Government Have a "Property Right" in Our Public School Children?  

The last article by John Wenders raises many interesting possibilities about how Bloomberg may view the public school children in NYC that he cheerfully put into the hands of Cathie Black for, thankfully, a short time. But the article that I would like to turn your attention to is:
Michael Cardozo: In Defense of Eminent Domain or Taking Private Property For Public Use
Let's suppose for a minute that Mike Bloomberg designed the closing of schools in 2002, then left the undesirable schools with no teachers, supplies and a Principal from the Leadership Academy who was there ONLY to close the school, all for the take-over of property, albeit with a school already placed on it. If the school was in a location that he wanted, he made sure that it failed, so that he could take over the property in kind of a new version of eminent domain. Giuliani played around with getting a new Stadium in a sweetheart deal that was not really covered in the press, and Norman Siegel lost his case against Columbia University.
I still remember vividly the day that Courtney Ross, owner of the Ross Global Charter Academy, walked into my daughter's school, NEST+M, in 2005 with her entourage - including Garth Harries - and a tape measure. She walked down the hallways telling her people which rooms suited her students, and she sent the person with a tape measure to find out exactly how big the rooms she liked were, for the 'take-over'. We parents sued the New York City Board of Education as well as the Regents, and won. We had Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on our side.
Anyway, years from now when the Bloomberg Administration is studied as a period of outrage and chaos in New York City, students will understand there is only one way to do something under the Bloomberg unwatchful eye (remember CityTime?) - his way, without strategy or planning. 

July 3, 2011

A Failing School? Not to These Students
New York Times

Everyone knows Jamaica High is a bad school. The past two years, it has received D’s on its report card from the city and been labeled persistently dangerous by the state.

In February, the Bloomberg administration placed Jamaica on a list of 22 failing schools it planned to close. The mayor and his schools chancellors have sent letters encouraging students to enroll elsewhere, and the shrinking of the student body has led to a decline in financing, squeezing the juice out of Jamaica High.

There was no money for lab lessons in advanced biology, which upset Doreen Mohammed and Tonmoy Kabiraj, who hope to be doctors. Courtney Perkins’s advanced math class did not have graphing calculators until eight months into the school year. The last music teacher was sent to another school, which really frustrated Mills Duodu, who plays violin, trumpet, drums and piano.

City officials have vigorously fought a lawsuit brought by the teachers’ union seeking to save the 22 schools, 15 of them high schools. In May, the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, called the union’s position “unacceptable” and vowed to “defend the honor of our students.”

This surprised Afsan Quayyum and Doreen, who graduated from Jamaica High, in Queens, last week. They did not realize their honor needed defending. Afsan, the valedictorian, plans to start an engineering program this fall that will give him a bachelor’s degree from Queens College in three years, and another from Columbia University after two more. Doreen, the salutatorian, has a full scholarship to Columbia.

Their classmate Gerard Henry is struck by all the people he meets who have never stepped inside Jamaica High yet are sure it is a living hell. “If I say, ‘My name is Gerard Henry and I just graduated Jamaica High School,’ they say, ‘Oh my God, you’re one of them?’ If I say, ‘My name is Gerard Henry and I’m going to Columbia next fall,’ they say, ‘Oh my God, you’re one of them?’ ”

It is puzzling how a school can be labeled failing and yet produce Afsan, Doreen and Gerard, not to mention Mills (who is heading to Denison University in Ohio), Kevin Gonzalez (Stony Brook University), Courtney (Howard University), Nujhat Choudhury (University of Alberta) and two top math students who are best friends: Muhammad Ahmad (Clarkson University) and Mohammad Khan (City University’s Grove School of Engineering), known throughout the school as “the Mohammads squared.”

Of course, it is possible that such seniors are the exceptions. As James S. Liebman, the Columbia law professor who developed the city report card, wrote in an e-mail: “Good high schools aren’t satisfied when just a few kids get into strong colleges. They aim for all kids to do so.” Education Department officials point out that the graduation rate at Jamaica has stayed at about 50 percent for years.

But it is also possible that the deck has been stacked against Jamaica High, that the 15 “worst” high schools have been packed with the students with the worst problems. According to an analysis by the city’s Independent Budget Office, these schools have more poor children (63 percent versus 52 percent citywide), more homeless students (6 percent versus 4 percent), more special-education students (18 versus 12). For 24 percent of Jamaica High students, English is a foreign language, compared with 11 percent citywide.

The “worst” high schools are sent the eighth graders who are the furthest behind: their average proficiency score on state tests is 2.6 out of 4, compared with 2.9 citywide, and more of these students (9 percent versus 4 percent) are over age, suggesting they have had to repeat grades.

It is no big mystery to Doreen why Stuyvesant High gets A’s on the city progress reports while Jamaica gets D’s: “Only the smartest kids are accepted,” she said.

Jamaica High’s enrollment has fallen to about 1,000, a quarter of what it was in the mid-1970s. No new pupils will be accepted this fall. In three years, when the last of its current students graduate, the school will close. Four new small schools will take over its storied building.

Each administration wants to be remembered for pioneering something or other, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg long ago chose small schools and charters.

James Eterno, Jamaica’s representative to the teachers’ union, has been portrayed in the news media as a man who cares more about preserving jobs than — as the mayor never tires of saying — “putting children first.”

That is not how Kevin Gonzalez sees it. For Kevin, Mr. Eterno is the United States history teacher who stayed late to tutor his students, helping Kevin earn a top score of 5 on the Advanced Placement test.

Doreen and Gerard definitely feel put first. Jamaica had no college adviser this year — until October, when Mr. Eterno stepped in. “Before Christmas break he stayed late to make sure everything was perfect to send to the colleges,” Gerard said. “Mr. Eterno went way beyond.”

After Doreen was accepted to Columbia, she spoke with people at the admissions office. “They told me how Mr. Eterno kept calling them about me and faxing them stuff,” she said.

Last Tuesday, students did not have to be at the graduation ceremony until 9 a.m., but Doreen was up at 4:30 getting ready. To ensure she was out of bed by 6, Nujhat set two alarms, “my cellphone and my mother.” When Afsan was asked if he was nervous about delivering a speech, he said: “A little, but I’m fine now. I’m fine. I got my confidence back.”

No Jamaica High band is left to play “Pomp and Circumstance.” But Clayton Ezell, a senior, belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” as if he were Robert Merrill standing at home plate in Yankee Stadium.

The third-ranked student in the senior class, Tonmoy, whose father was a professor in Bangladesh but drives a taxi in New York, gave a speech about the need to see the glass as half full.

After the ceremony, the parents lingered: it was hard to tell that their children had attended a failing school. Muhammad Ahmad’s father, also named Muhammad, said his son’s full scholarship to Clarkson was a sign that the family plan was working. The father had been an accountant in Pakistan, but he, too, drives a cab here. “My job here is not a recognition of my dignity,” he said, “but I am supporting my kids to a great future.”

Of course, it is still possible that Jamaica High is a failing school. The two D’s may be deserved. But it did not fail Afsan, Doreen, Courtney, Nujhat, Gerard, Mills, Tonmoy, Kevin or the Mohammads squared.