Blackened: The Motto of the Department of Education, “Lasciate Ogne Speranza, Voi ch’intrate”


The Bloomberg brain trust was planning to release the Cathie Black firing through a U-Tube of a seppuku ceremony, with paid for banner ads running across the bottom of screen – they thought millions of hits would make up for the budget shortfall and eliminate teacher layoffs, but, looks like Julian Assange was racing to put it up on Wikileaks … another botched press event!
The Mayor has learned his lesson from the professional sports team, you can’t fire the players (although Bloomberg tried really, really hard!), so you fire the manager.
In spite of her total lack of qualifications Black plunged into the job, the sin of hubris, with a glib tongue and the illusion that you can control the press she blithely drifted from Tweed to schools in light touch visits and could not understand why the wisdom of  crowds prevailed.
With an approval rating of 17%, only slightly above Gaddafi, her fate was sealed.
Teachers, bloggers, the anti-Tweed crowd are rejoicing; however, I’m sorry for the 1.1 million kids. Dennis Walcott as Chancellor! A nice man who spent the last eight years carrying messages back and forth from Bloomberg to Klein to Bloomberg.  He hasn’t been too successful at his current job, getting Black up to speed and pumping up her rep as a wunderkind manager.
The Mayor has acquired a serious malady, the reverse Midas touch, whatever he touches turns to shit. No one in his administration seemed to care as the boroughs were drowning in snow, bike lanes are a pain in the ass to pedestrians and drivers, Cuomo slapped him down calling his cries about potential layoffs “propaganda,” and, yes, his drive for the presidency didn’t get beyond Hoboken!
To say the New York City school system is adrift is too kind an analysis. If you enter Department headquarters and glance up you might expect to see Dante’s famous warning as he entered the Gates of Hell, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate“, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”
As another round of budget cuts looms, every employee worries. The Mayor threatens. A Chancellor out the door. A host of crucial decisions waiting to be made, by whom?
For the kids nothing changes, each and ever day their teacher greets them at the classroom door with words of encouragement. Every night teachers slave over grading papers and wrack their brains for a new way of getting across literacy or math skills. That new kid from Ghana or Haiti, with not a word of English, arrives just in time for the state tests.
Effective principals, and there are many, praise their staffs, arrange for some Friday get together with food and beverage and understands that every one needs a little “sugar.” The Leadership Academy Simon Legree types threaten and scowl and, be beginnng to have second thoughts about their own futures.
In my decades as a New York City public school student and classroom teacher superintendents and chancellors came and went. I have sat through innumerable meeting at which principals laid out the latest idea du jour. I might have asked a sarcastic question, usually ignored, and did what I knew was best for my students. I ignored the crackpot theories and learned from the creative wizards scattered around the city.
We survived Joel Klein and Cathie Black and we will survive Walcott. We will protect our kids as best we can and continue to wait for a school leader who can truly lead.
We deserve it and our kids deserve it.



5 responses to “Blackened: The Motto of the Department of Education, “Lasciate Ogne Speranza, Voi ch’intrate”

  1. You don’t mince words!!! And you are right about the state of affairs. I hope Walcott can do better than you predict – I hope he feels emboldened to act independently from the Mayor when it comes to doing what’s best for the kids – he is also a stakeholder after-all. But your best words are about the good teachers and principals – who ‘stand by’ their kids despite of the lack of true leadership coming from the DOE. But isn’t that the way it usually is – wonderful people doing good works at the local level while Congress dithers, or worse!


  2. Michael Fiorillo

    Yes, they’re starting to receive skeptical media coverage (it only took nine years!), and they do seem to be in relative disarray, but last I saw they were still aggressively closing schools, overseeing charter invasions of public facilities and instituting teacher evaluations based on invalid tests and black box formulas. It’s still a little too early to celebrate.


  3. Loretta Prisco

    To think that all of this devastation to our system could have been avoided if the UFT did not give us Mayoral Control in the first place. And agreed “tweaks” to Mayoral Control more recently.


  4. Nothing changes under the Mayor’s poodle. To think it will is like winning the lottery. Don’t expect it to happen.


  5. Walcott is Bloomberg. There will be more of the same garbage.


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