First Impressions: Superintendents Prowling Schools Engendering Fear or Building Partnerships with Teachers and Parents

  • “Two things remain irretrievable: time and a first impression.” ~ Cynthia Ozick.
  • “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” ~ Will Rogers.
  • “You only have one first chance to make one first impression that lasts a lifetime.” ~ Nas.

Summer school is off and running, for kids a combination of making up for lost time, learning new academic skills mixed with sports and the arts. Some schools are clustered with other schools in the same building, three or four principals, time to work closely with students, a tutoring relationship; too many kids are missing, never showed up, attendance might be spotty, a bucolic time.

Unfortunately too many teachers are “in excess,” bumped out of their school due to budget cuts. They “belong” to the school district; no one will be laid off, as the leviathan remodels itself teachers are wondering: what school will I be assigned to? What grade?  How can I prepare?  

A lawsuit was filed challenging the budgeting process and the indomitable Leonie Haimson fills us in on the lawsuit,

Here is a press release with more detail and quotes from the plaintiffs; and here are the legal documents. If you’re going to read only one of them perhaps the shortest one that also outlines many aspects of the case is my affidavit.

City Council members who voted for the budget, cutting $215 million, are back-peddling, they were unaware of the cuts. The Mayor points to significant reductions in student enrollment and advocates criticize a flawed formula called Fair Student Funding, and, it’s only the third week in July.

I just returned from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention, 2300 teachers and health care workers from across the nation and union leaders from a range of other nations  (Education International see here), including the Ukraine. There are days, too many days, when the future looks bleak, too much negativity, the path too long and too steep. Hanging with fellow like-minded unionists and listening to a range of leaders was uplifting, with allies and leaders perhaps “we will overcome.”

Randi Weingarten’s State of the Union Address here.

First Lady Jill Biden’s Address here

Reverend Otis Moss III riveting sermon, a “must watch,” here

Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom, a historian of the Holocaust laid on a chilling view of the fight to remain free, watch here.

Speeches by  Senators Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markie, Congress member Ayanna Pressley, the Mayor of Boston and the Democratic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts  Maura Healy, currently the Attorney General of Massachusetts and former professional basketball player, a superb speech here.

Back to the Apple, as the superintendents, new and renewed, are visiting schools, the “first impressions” spread across the district.

“S/he never smiled, just walked with the principal from classroom to classroom,”

“S/he walked around the building with the principal, greeted everyone and introduced them self, upbeat, really seemed interested, asked lots of questions.”

We were on strike, the first morning, lined up in the front of the building with picket signs; a new experience, no one had ever been on strike. We had never met the new principal; he was only assigned a few days earlier. A door opened at the side of the building and a school aide wheeled out a cart with a large steaming coffee urn, and turned to the picketers, “complements of the principal,” not a bad first impression.

I laid out a “to do list” for the new and renewed school district leaders a few blogs ago (see here), you only have one chance to make a first impression.

If you’re an educator in New York City you’re a little cynical, maybe more than a little.  The behemoth plods along, for the print media, “if it bleeds it leads,” are we recovering from the pandemic, is another wave coming, is democracy in jeopardy, the big picture is cloudy.

We all live in villages; every school is a village with its own culture, some invigorating others dismal. The role of the leaders, superintendent, principal and union leader is to build together. In Boston, at the AFT Convention, recharged, we listened to colleagues from Alaska to Florida, from Oregon to Maine, all working in schools, too many fighting against a tide of ignorance, others working to build effective learning communities with unionized teachers.  

Maybe a union song …..

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