Chancellor Blacks Struggles: Who Is Her Role Model? Marie Antoinette, Sophie Zawistowska or Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?

 There are women of many descriptions
In this queer world, as everyone knows,
Some are living in beautiful mansions,
And are wearing the finest of clothes.
There are blue blooded queens and
Princesses, who have charms made of
Diamonds and pearl; but the only and
Thoroughbred lady is the Rebel Girl.

Cathie Black got off to a bumpy start, and bumps are turning in pot holes.
Her “birth control” and “Sophie’s Choice” throwaway lines at a meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and District 2 parents were both inappropriate and just plain dumb. The Mayor had to bail her out.
After the obligatory school visits, darting in and out of classrooms, meeting with parents with an entourage of media the public awaits the emergence of an educational policy.
The announcement of $10 million to create after school programs in the 500 plus schools with low State ELA/Math scores was made by the Mayor, with Black and Mulgrew in the background. A not to subtle reminder of who is making the decisions.
Her first sortie into the political fray: supporting the Klein, now Bloomberg plan to change teacher layoff rules from inverse order of seniority to principal choice, with a reminder that senior teachers cost more,and laying off senior teachers means fewer layoffs. (see NY1 here and NY Post Op Ed here)
Black acknowledges that there is no system to measure teaching performance,

Critics will say that we don’t yet have a comprehensive teacher-evaluation system on which to make merit-based decisions and that, until we do, seniority should rule. In fact, we’re working with the state and the teachers union to develop such a comprehensive system.

State law requires that the LEA, the Department of Education must negotiate the new teacher evaluation metrics, “we’re working with” means we are involved in a negotiation. After the negotiations are completed it will be a number of years before the new metrics, if  ever, are accepted as “valid and reliable.”
In spite of the current lack of any measurement of teaching performance she blithely advocates laying off teachers by principal choice, with ATRs and U-rated teachers first.
… we’ll not only lose more teachers (because new teachers earn lower salaries than senior teachers)
Just as superintendents and principals are able to make decisions about which teachers are best to hire, they can make informed decisions about which teachers they are comfortable parting with if the budget requires it.


So, if you’re a teacher at the top of the salary schedule you get a reserved spot on the ice floe (senilicide) along with the teachers with whom the superintendents and principals feel “uncomfortable.” (Read UFT activist, overweight, wrong race, religion or country of origin, or, whatever bias or prejudice the supervisor harbors).
Not exactly a way to win over teachers or parents, or for that matter anyone who feels they may make others “uncomfortable.”
To be perfectly honest Black is increasingly coming off as a snarky elitist, insensitive to the hoi polloi, who is perfectly willing to  make “Sophie’s Choices,” we should remind Black of Sophie’s fate.
Is Black simply Joel Klein with a prettier face, or, will she engage parents and teachers and their leaders in meaningful discussions to evolve new policies?
The current drive to school closings is mean-spirited and simply poor public policy.
The State Education Department annual summary of the reasons for failing schools always places “lack of leadership at the district and school” as the number one reason for poor school performance.
What is the responsibility of the superintendent for a failing school? Currently none, it is a disgrace.  What is the responsibility of the Network Leader? While the Network Leader has no supervisory authority over the principal, they do “support” the school.
Who is “punished”?
The teachers. They are shunted into the ATR pool, a “Scarlet Letter,” condemning the teacher to a life of being shuttled from school to school, and, if Black has her way, to be laid off first.
In an attempt to win over white, middle class parents Black is continuing the policy of creating more and more segregated, by race and class, highly selective schools.
Not surprisingly as New York City moves apart along economic lines, as the 2010 Census data re-enforces, the school system is following suit.
It’s all about zip codes.
As Ms. Black hobnobs with the plutocracy in her Fifth Avenue penthouse the poorest New Yorkers in East New York and South Jamaica and Morrisania struggle with unemployment and crime and health, with the pathologies of poverty.
Noblesse Oblige is not a viable education policy.




One response to “Chancellor Blacks Struggles: Who Is Her Role Model? Marie Antoinette, Sophie Zawistowska or Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?

  1. Curriculum, curriculum, curriculum! Include music, arts, gym, shop and home ec and the rest will fall into place because the kids will demand it and the low performing teachers will have to rise to the occasion. It is all about engaging the kids! Funny how they seem to be missing in all these discussions. I thought it is supposed to be all about them?!!


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