Midnight Oils Burn at Tweed as the Rollout of Policies Begin: The Beginning of a Road to the White House?

The midwinter recess is a pause, a week to decompress, to catch a flight and lay on a beach with an adult beverage in hand, sleeping late, reading that pile of books that have been gathering dust, movies, movies, movies, and the nightmare that wakes you up sweating at night, the upcoming state tests.

At Tweed the lights are burning late, Carmen Farina, Tony Shorris, Dorita Gibson, Phil Weinberg and Ursulina Ramirez, the new team, are creating a new Department of Education, a phoenix rising from the ashes, an opportunity, a few brief months to place their stamp, to rebrand sixteen hundred schools and 1.1 million children. An awesome task.

Across the courtyard in City Hall the spinners are working on the media campaign, The Post will savage the decisions, the Eva Moskowitz corps, the Manhattan Institute, the Fordham Institute, even Bill Gates will be plotting how to respond, how to both undercut and derail the initiatives.

Bill de Blasio is bucking the tide, a progressive in an era of rampant conservatism, a mayor who opposes charter schools, committed to public schools, a mayor with one leg in the sixties and one in the future.

The conflict with Governor Cuomo over pre-k will resolve itself – both leaders, the governor of one of the most influential states in the nation and the mayor of Gotham City – the two most powerful politicians in New York State – politicians who need each other.

The co-location of charter schools in public school buildings will only impact a couple of dozen schools; it will also send a ringing message across the political stratosphere. The upcoming reorganization of the school system – networks, geographic districts or a hybrid will impact every school, and only create a ripple.

Charging rent to charter schools will flash around the internet.

The negotiation of the teacher contract can move teacher negotiations in a new direction. The major issues for teachers are back pay – retroactive pay back to November 1, 2009, the expiration of the last contract and “respect.” Will the contract simply increase salary with a few fillips for teachers, or, will the contract move in a new direction? And, if so, what direction?

The highly touted Baltimore teacher contract (2010) replaced step increases, increases based on longevity to increases based on “achievement units,” including teacher evaluations into the salary schedule. The contract was widely praised by Arne Duncan and other reformers and undoubtedly would not fly in New York.

Can de Blasio and UFT President Mulgrew carve out a new path – a de Blasio path – a path not praised by Arne Duncan or Gates, a path in the new urban philosophy addressing the tale of two cities.

Governors and mayors are under the thrall of elitist education reformers, from Arne Duncan to the billionaire faux soothsayers who claim to foretell the future, ignoring inequality, pampering the one tenth of one percent, the widest gap in income since the 1920s, Bill de Blasio stands alone. Over the months, over the years the Mayor of New York can emerge as the leader of a new left, a revival of the tarnished liberal reputation with roots leading back to JFK and Lyndon Johnson.

The route is rocky with gaping potholes, the chancellor and the mayor cannot afford the disaster of the last snowstorm, with snow falling at two inches an hour, with hardy winds blowing, the chancellor blithely chirped,

“It has totally stopped snowing. It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there right now,” she said at a morning news conference in Brooklyn with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Asked to elaborate, Farina said, “Coming down the stairs, the most obvious thing is it stopped snowing. The second thing, it’s getting warmer – which means that theoretically the snow will start melting.”

The mayor cannot afford missteps, cannot afford ridicule – the stakes are too high.

Andrea Elliot was just awarded the prestigious Polk Award for local reporting for the five-part “Invisible Child” – the story of the life of a middle school student living in a homeless shelter frames the de Blasio agenda. The shelter is surrounded by glittering high raise rental and million dollar condominiums. A perfect example of the tale of two cities. Whether de Blasio can build thousands of units of affordable housing is years down the road. Whether he can impact the education of the public school children of the City of New York will be decided in upcoming months.

Big city mayors around the country are under assault, Rahm Emanuel is at war with the Chicago Teachers Union, and the new mayor in Los Angeles has retained the extraordinarily unpopular superintendent of schools, John Deasy.

Don’t think that Bill isn’t thinking about a run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue down the road – and path begins with education policies … winning over suburban moms and voters of color converts to electoral votes.


9 responses to “Midnight Oils Burn at Tweed as the Rollout of Policies Begin: The Beginning of a Road to the White House?

  1. “The Mayor of NY cannot afford ridicule……..” This is very true. But The Mayor of NY has brought much of it upon himself. I wonder if The Far Rockaway Principal is still there? One of the guiding tenants behind the progressive movement, has been fairness to all….Many of us don’t see it yet…We fear that if some adjustments aren’t made that this mayor’s tenure will be a short lived one. He can boast all he wants about what he refers to as his mandate from 1/3rd of the eligible voters in his election. What he better strategise for is a battle against a reactionary 2/3rds that will run to the polls in 4 years if he stays on the same path he is currently persuing.


  2. Mayor of NYC, much like being Chancellor, is a terminal political position.


  3. Marc S. Korashan

    The Principal at the Far Rockaway school (106Q) has been removed, Condon”s report recommends her termination, and a DOE spokesperson has said that the DOE will act on that recommendation. The AP in the school who supported her has resigned. The only remaining question is whether anyone will look at why it took so long for these complaints to be acted upon.

    I think that Ed has stated the issues very well. Will the school system continue to be held in thrall to educational deformers who want to apply a corporate model to education or will it move in the direction of real educational reform under the new leadership.

    The biggest tragedy of the Bloomberg years is that all the momentum to move to standards based curricula and to focus teacher son what and how they teach was lost to a mania for test scores. We can begin to move back in that direction if the current leadership starts to emphasize teaching over tests. This means abandoning all the benchmark assessments that take time away from instruction and do little to help teachers. It means scrapping ARIS (and directing all that money into providing curriculum materials that will actually help teachers instruct students).

    In terms of the new contract, it means giving schools more discretion on how to use time. Professional periods should be just that, periods for doing professional work, not an additional teaching/tutoring period (designed primarily to raise test scores). It should be a time for lesson study, for meaningful discussions about individual students and their needs.

    The contract should emphasize and support creating School Based Leadership teams that have shared responsibility for the outcomes in the school. Schools should be doing their own Quality Reviews based on the team’s perception of where the school needs to improve, not on a checklist generated by a corporate entity. Schools should be able to modify the teacher evaluation rubrics to focus on what works with their populations.

    Ultimately, the question is whether the new administration will create policies that empower teachers, parents, and administration to work collaboratively at the school level to improve education and will it create administrative structures that support that kind of work.


  4. How in the name of benevolent professional journalism, I ask rhetorically and ironically, does our media miss the huge story of unmitigated disaster that is an evaluation system that rates teachers on students they’ve never taught, in subjects they don’t teach, by experimental tests on top of a failed implementation or the faulty and superficial old exams that test different standards from the ones mandated and observably taught under that same failed implementation and all coordinated by school committees with zero preparation? Even the New York Times editorial board appears intellectually challenged by the complexity of the simple fact that this utterly nonsensical use of VAM represents 100% of the evaluation when it comes out ineffective, which is the primary focus of the whole system, firing teachers from the state level. Feigning ignorance here is clearly lying by omission, and that is what the New York Times and all of the other newspapers are doing, still. What service are they to this society?


    • The Statewide (not NYC) APPR scores released a few months ago; 1% of teachers were “ineffective,” in response to were any of the 1% found ineffective due to students scores the SED were said they had no data and the union said they were unaware of any …either we’re really good teachers or the system is deeply flawed, or, both.


  5. I believe her actions with regard to District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey and the continued operation of the useless Children First networks will tell us much about the new Chancellor.


  6. I certainly hope so. Providing the Superintendents are not political appointees but independent minded educators who work with the communities they serve in.


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