Revolutions Begin in the Streets, Not the Castles: Parents and Teachers Fight Back!

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

Shakespeare, Henry IV

I am increasingly of the opinion that Dick’s comments in Henry IV are valid. Joel Klein, Jim Leibman, Bob Gordon and Chris Cerf are attorneys who are attempting to remake the face of education in New York City – not through the courts but by edict and mandate. The Star Chamber, Tweed, simply believes they can run roughshod over the plebeians: parents, teachers and kids; and create a “Brave New World,” really more like a “1984.” In Tweed “newspeak” punishing schools with senior teachers is called “fair funding.”

At the meeting of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC), Chris Cerf, a lawyer in the Clinton administration, who jumped from Edison CEO, to consulting, (aka, whispering in Joel’s ear) to a Deputy Chancellor responded to a question about owning Edison stock. Using what he learned from Bill (the “I never had sex with that woman” approach) Cerf replied:

“I’d be delighted to do that, I have no financial interest in Edison of any kind, zero.”

As reported by the NYTimes Cerf had divested himself the previous day and had also withdrawn a waiver application from the Conflict of Interest Board.

In the “they know no shame” category Cerf’s deputy, Joel Rose, was the general manager of Newton Learning, a subsidiary of Edison and a DOE contracted provider of student tutoring services. The Office of Special Investigations sharply reprimanded Newton for a range of improprieties. Of course, the DOE spokesperson mumbled, “…the investigation into Newton’s business practices was minor …”

Should these people be leading our school system?

The lawyers who deserve to be lauded as heroes are the Campaign for Fiscal Equity  pro bono attorneys, Joseph Wayland and Richard Beattie from Simpson, Thatcher and Barlett, who spent years and the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars to win billions of dollars for the New York City school children.

I was in a high achieving, high salary, Title 1 school and I asked staff members:

“Would you consider leaving this school and moving to a low achieving school if the class size was low and the school had significantly greater support services?

A deafening silence …

“If as a result of the change in funding formula your school had to increase class size and decrease services what would you do …?”

“We’d organize with our parents and fight back … we’d appeal to our elected leaders, we’d demonstrate … we’d find other schools to fight with us … the union would help us … these are our kids.”

I asked a principal in an Empowerment School how the new School Progress Report (A to F grade that each school will receive) would impact how he functions.

“This is not politically correct, but, I have to spend more time recruiting higher achieving kids and discouraging lower achieving kids … we can’t work any harder … we just have to be nimble.”

Is this what education has come to …?

The crones at Tweed have had no influence at the “impact point,” the teacher standing in from of kids. Initiative after initiative swirls about the corridors of the castle, in schools teachers work as hard as they can in spite of the whims of these lawyers.

Smart principals will “game” the system, the “inexperienced” and “less able” will flounder and the least able kids will suffer, and, Klein and Company will move on to foundations and universities to explain why their great ideas were derailed …  blaming teachers and their union.


4 responses to “Revolutions Begin in the Streets, Not the Castles: Parents and Teachers Fight Back!

  1. As always your comments are on the money.

    A couple of things:
    “Kill the lawyers” comes from Henry VI.
    Nevertheless, I whole-heartedly agree especially if we can get Lucy Calkins an honorary degree.

    So much of NCLB gears itself to principal “gaming” and all the gaming does is statistically make a school look good by strategically shifting resources. So often it doesn’t make a dent in the overall health and climate of the whole school. Add “fair funding” to the mix and you will have principals cannibalizing each other as part of the gaming.

    Except for a few of the sado-masochistic variety, teachers want to go home at the end of the day feeling that they’ve made a difference. Very little is being done to help them at that crucial “impact point” where a difference is made. That’s why teachers will stay in difficult schools, because it is in those schools that there are leaders and colleagues who share the lessons learned that only come through experience in real classrooms.

    How long would Klein, Cerf and Rose last in a classroom? My ex gym teacher at Corlears JHS and later Chancellor, Bernie Mecklowitz, was no rocket scientist, but he had common sense and he could sure command the attention of a schoolyard full of rowdy kids.


  2. My question is why did SED and the regents grant Klein a waiver, a lawyer without any k-12 operations and teaching experience, to run the nations largest school system? I think that needs much closer examination as to who else besides the mayor thought that was a good idea.

    “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” Dick the Butcher


  3. To answer your question Tom:
    Maybe Dick the Butcher’s list can include the so-called holy man Shelly Silver, who in the real world is unscrupulously unkosher


  4. Klein and his people know no shame. They will manipulate, lie to, and stonewall the public to accomplish their purposes. Just look at today’s announcement that 20 of the new small schools will get a $45,000 grant to enable them to enroll 18 Special Ed or ELL students.

    Of course they get credit in the overly permissive media for the sound bite, but no one asks how this will enable a school to hire a fully certified, highly qualified, experienced ESL or Special Ed teacher who might actually have the knowledge and experience to help a small school serve these students. In Klein’s “fair-funding” formula all these schools will be able to hire are teachers with little experience or fellows who are still earning the certification, that for reporting purposes, they are already credited with having.

    This is not a plan iantended to serve students. It is intended to serve Klein’s continuing goal of dismantling the system. It continues his policy of devaluing knowledge and experience and ignores the needs of our most challenged students.


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