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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pink Slime: Anna Phillips Reflecting On Dennis M. Walcott's First Year as "Chancellor" [Without A Contract]

I'm going to address the ridiculous article printed by SchoolBook's Anna Phillips and the media rush the past couple of days to glorify Dennis M. Walcott - and thus praise Mayor Bloomberg - and libel the teachers who, by fighting well with evidence and truth, were not terminated at 3020-a arbitration, the "teacher trials" . 

Anyone who has gone through the 3020-a arbitration in New York City knows it is a set up. NYSUT, UFT, and Department of Education lawyers as well as employees know that this forum is designed to (a) play up the DOE as an agency which values zero tolerance for any act of touching or speaking deemed by them as "improper", if you are a tenured teacher or staff member making more than $80,000/year; (b) scare all employees who think they can speak up against the System in any way and get away with it, into silence and into a state of "yes, I will lie about my colleague if it will please you" mentality.

The only part of the process that remains valid and stops total destruction of tenure rights is the intervention of a few good arbitrators who adhere to the standard known as "Just Cause" espoused by arbitrators around the country and by the American Arbitration Association.

But the answer is not to resign or settle, the solution is - IF YOU ARE INNOCENT OF THE CHARGE - to fight and bring in witnesses, testify, use a private attorney who will spill the beans on the principal, AP, Superintendent, and their motives in bringing you to 3020-a, etc.
More on this in future posts, and past posts here, here, here, and here. I also think you should read "Kleingate" and see, in my opinion, why Mayor Bloomberg brought Joel Klein to NYC in the first place and what Linda Tripp thought of him when he was hired by Hilary and Bill Clinton to help them get rid of reporter pests after Vincent Foster died.

 First, Mr. Walcott is not "legally" Chancellor. Read Education Law Section 2590-h, which states:

 "Powers and duties of chancellor. The office of chancellor of the city district is hereby continued. Such chancellor shall serve at the pleasure of and be employed by the mayor of the city of New York by contract. The length of such contract shall not exceed by more than two years the term of office of the mayor  authorizing  such  contract." 

....And Walcott has no contract. No one gives him a performance review, and he cannot be fired for any reason except by the Mayor. How is this good or even adequate public policy?

Second, I do not know who Ms. Phillips and the pollsters are talking to, but over the past year I have been talking to parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, lawyers and arbitrators, everyone dislikes Mr. Walcott with a passion, not only in the way he seems to be arrogant as he delivers bad news, but in the fact that he stomps out dissent with a big stick, the Mayor's total control. The public school system in NYC is the largest system in America, gets the most money from the US government, and has no effective voice from it's constituents. Isnt this a form of "taxation without representation"? Wasnt there a revolution fought over this?

I have had only disgust for the politicians who absorbed the pink slime policy fillers which have harmed so many people over the past 10 years. I include the Borough Presidents and their appointees to the Panel For Educational Policy, and the promotion and publicity people for these appointees - anyone who supports their being there. Yes, I include Leonie Haimson, whose personal support for Patrick Sullivan has cost many unsuspecting parents alot of time running over to PEP meetings to beg for their schools to remain open, while Haimson channels the UFT and does nothing to actually help a teacher keep his or her job.

Betsy Combier

At One-Year Mark, Walcott Sees Improvement in Education Debate's Tone

 April 5, 2012, 5:01 p.m.
Reflecting on his first year as chancellor of the city’s schools, one marked by protests over school closings and the public release of teacher rankings, Dennis M. Walcott said that, in some ways, the tone of the citywide education debate has improved under his leadership.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Walcott said that he has tried to make himself accessible and visible to principals, teachers, parents and students by opening public meetings to more audience questions and frequently visiting public schools. But in a year when the Occupy Wall Street movement joined forces with critics of the Bloomberg administration’s education policies, public meetings have been just as raucous as in the past.
“I think people view tone solely as the PEP meetings,” he said, referring to the Panel for Educational Policy, which has oversight over some schools issues. “But I think it goes beyond the PEP meetings. And I think the tone has changed. And tone is that, for me, I will respect you.”
At the beginning of this school year, Mr. Walcott laid out his objectives in an interview with The New York Times, citing few policy initiatives and saying he intended to be “the cheerleader of our education system.”
His public calendar has been full of school visits, as has his private one, and he has viewed the constant work of talking to staff and students as his way of improving the public’s perception of the chancellor.

 As for policy, he has adhered to the agenda of closing low-performing schools and opening new small ones that was established by former Chancellor Joel I. Klein.
Since he became chancellor last April, Mr. Walcott has seen his popularity with New Yorkers improve. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found growing support for him, with 43 percent of voters approving and 31 percent disapproving of his job performance.
Asked if parents have become more involved in their children’s schooling in the last year — Mr. Walcott’s stated No. 1 priority — he said that he has talked to more principals about engaging parents this year, but provided no evidence of this strengthening parents’ connections to schools.
In September, the city plans to open a parent academy, modeled on the parent university created by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina, which offers parents workshops on how to help their children academically.
Plans to begin measuring schools on how well they involve parents have not begun yet, he said.
Here is more of the interview, edited for brevity:
If you were to rate yourself, give yourself a grade for your first year as chancellor, whether it’s an A through F or a 1 to 10, what would you give yourself and why?
And my response, and this is my honest response, is I don’t give myself a grade. I don’t really focus on that. To me it’s the satisfaction of what I see when I go to schools and when I interact with students. You know me, you guys have been trailing me for a while. I just love being in the schools, I love being with the students, hearing what they have to say, meeting them, watching them learn, watching them answer questions, and my quote unquote grade is derived by the type of interaction I have with them and they have with me.
Recently, you decided not to close seven schools that you had previously marked for closure. What made you change your mind?
Over the several years they were on the P.L.A. (persistently low achieving) list these schools particularly made progress, and I’m on record saying even with Maxwell (W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School), the A school, that even though there’s progress there we still have to take a look under the hood because we still want more progress. And so staff went out, meaning deputy chancellors went out, or Veronica (Conforme), our chief operating officer, to meet, listen and talk to students in the schools. And teachers and others. And as a result of that, we felt and I felt we should just take them off the list.
One of the schools that was taken off the closure list a while ago isBoys and Girls High School, which has performed poorly for years. Why did you decide to keep that school open?
I have a lot of faith in Bernard Gassaway (the school’s principal). I think Bernard Gassaway has made tremendous progress in trying to turn around the issues that have been contributing to Boys and Girls being an F-rated school. So I have a lot of stock in Bernard. And Bernard and I meet and I’m giving him that stock to turn it around. We haven’t set a timeline but we’re working closely.
I think Bernard has made some significant changes to the school and so I’m looking for improvement and we’ve talked about a number of challenges the school faces, and how we change the image of the school around to make sure that they are attracting a board cross-section of students as well.
Looking back at the release of the teacher data reports, at the time you said that it is what the courts told you to do, so you had to do it. But was it a good idea? A bad idea? Was there anything good that came out of it?
Yes, to answer your question, I think a lot of good came out of it. Just a discussion around teacher quality, teacher effectiveness, and the ability of the teacher to do well. What didn’t come out was what are the other variables that contribute to a teacher being a good or a great teacher as well. And I think that got lost in the discussion and that was what I was trying to convey beforehand, is that one shouldn’t view the T.D.R.s as the be-all-to-end-all. It was one sliver of information.
In September, you said that your first priority was increasing parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling. Have you seen that improve?
I think there are various levels of involvement of a parent and how you define involvement of a parent. And so to me, involvement of parents is at schools. And so we put a lot of emphasis in talking to our principals around the engagement of parents at their schools and providing supports.
I think Jesse has done a lot coming on board, Jesse Mojica, as far as his role in dealing with parent and community engagement. We’re looking at how we define the role of parent coordinators. As you know back in June, we had a session on the Common Core for parent coordinators, C.E.C. (community education council) members, and P.A. (parents association) members. And we had another one in August.
We’ve done a lot of macro things to engage parents around the implementation of common core and also taking a look at having suggested items on what to ask during parent teacher conferences. We provide, I think, a variety of vehicles and forums for parents both at a macro level, a district level, or a school level, to get more involved in their children’s school.
You also said you were going to measure schools on how well they are able to get parents involved. How far along is that initiative?
We talked about it more. I don’t know if we’ve developed a measurement tool. And it’s funny, I was just going over some of the accountability measures for other metrics that we’re looking at and I’m not sure, I don’t have an answer for you on that.
SchoolBook: What are some of the other metrics you’re looking at? New metrics you will be incorporating?
When we’re ready…that one is a to-do. I still have two steps to do before I release that. But yeah, we’re looking at new metrics as far as school accountability, school performance, and how we track what they’re doing.
One of the things you wanted to do was make the public debate over education more civil, less heated. Have you changed the tone in your first year?
I know I’ve changed the way we interact at town hall forums, and so I think in that regard the tone has changed. It’s a more interactive session, definitely more Q. & A., and it’s different than other town halls we’ve done before.
I think tone can be defined as I define it, as accessibility as well. In that I think accessibility to me and the staff, that’s definitely there, so whether it’s staff or parents or community groups, I’m there. They may not be happy with everything, but the accessibility is there. At the panel meetings, it depends on the calendar itself. I mean there have been some panel meetings that actually are very calm. And there are those that are not.
I think people view tone solely as the PEP meetings, but I think it goes beyond the PEP meetings. And I think the tone has changed. And tone is that, for me, I will respect you.
Anna M. Phillips is a member of the SchoolBook staff. Follow her on Twitter @annamphillips.