The Carpenter and the Financier: Can Mutual Repect Create a New, Collaborative School System that Benefits Kids, Parents and Teachers?

On Monday, about 3 PM, you may have noticed a breeze rushing across the city, it was one mighty exhale as 100,000 or so school employees breathed a sigh of relief, they survived another year.

Budget cuts and threats of layoffs, school closings, a new teacher evaluation plan, charter schools and rubber rooms, test prep, endless test prep, teacher data reports, quality reviews and progress reports, and, oh yes, those smiling faces eager to learn.

The carpenter turned teacher turned union president loves striding before the thousand member delegate assembly and engaging in a “conversation.” For teachers, he is one of them, unlike his predecessors, Weingarten and Feldman, he spent years as a classroom teacher. He has both challenged the chancellor every chance he gets, and won the closing school lawsuit. He melded together a strong alliance of dozens of community-based organizations, including the NAACP, to battle the deprecations of the Klein assault on public schools.

Two stops north on the # 6 a self-made billionaire media mogul and mayor runs the city. Aloof, sharp-edged, the other Michael plainly does not suffer fools gladly. He manipulates the City Council, disdains local politics, and runs the city as the CEO that he is.

Somehow the two Michaels gained a mutual respect.

Last week they journeyed to Albany to lobby for a budget and traipsed down to Washington to fight for city funding.

The most effective thorn in the side of the union was the rubber room. It generated newspaper article after newspaper article, all blaming the union. The Klein administration loved rubber rooms, it allowed them to attack tenure. The mayor and the union president sat down and worked out a settlement, rubber rooms would disappear and with strict time limits teachers would no longer rot away awaiting hearings for months or years. 

As the chancellor was about to send out 4400 layoff notices the mayor swept aside the chancellor and canceled the notices.

A jointly agreed upon charter school bill that both raised the cap, created transparency and gave the Comptroller auditing power plus a sweeping change in teacher evaluation across the entire state.

The eleven schools in the just created transformation zone will “try out” the teacher evaluation plan a year early as well as a differentiated staffing plan that will allow cohorts of teachers to earn 15% and 30% above the scale.

Can a solution to the ATR pool be far behind?

From Boston to Los Angeles, from Chicago to Miami “persistently lowest achieving schools” are closing, drastic budget cuts and layoffs, attacks on seniority and tenure are commonplace. Unions and mayors clash.

Mulgrew and Bloomberg have a mature relationship, they’ve agreed to disagree and worked together when they can.

While teachers scatter with the winds (or, teach summer school!) the legislature continues to duel over a budget and a Teacher Jobs bill languishes in Congress.

The carpenter and the financier grapple with their vision of a school system, and, maybe, just maybe, they can agree enough to remove the 52 Broadway/Tweed guerilla assaults and begin to build toward a collaborative future.


One response to “The Carpenter and the Financier: Can Mutual Repect Create a New, Collaborative School System that Benefits Kids, Parents and Teachers?

  1. No, since the Chancellor can’t be trusted. Look at the blame game about the school calendar. Tweed won’t take responsibility for anything.


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