Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dear Earth, We Have Arrived, Please Act Accordingly, The Educational Reformers.


1   [kant]  
insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasmfor high ideals, goodness, or piety.

With this in mind let's have a quick look at the latest offering to the editor in the "reformer's" letter writing campaign where they attempt to create an alternate reality and an alternate Buffalo where their smash and grab schemes for Waterfront and East High School enjoy wild support in the community. 

The author of said prose, Cathy Skora, for whatever reason neglects to disclose that she is a dance teacher at Elmwood Village Charter School. Have you ever noticed they always seem to do that ? If a Buffalo teacher throws down somewhere in print it's always pretty clearly stated. Is that because Buffalo teachers understand the Herculean task before us and we are proud to put a shoulder to the wheel no matter who says what about us or against us? Duh, yeah. But for whatever reason the Charterians always make a point of leaving something out. Like this dear lady who included a quote she attributes to Albert Einstein but there exists no proof he ever said it. More likely it came from the guide book to Narcotics Anonymous which was copyrighted in 1982 and published in 1983. Call me petty but a teacher and a writer should KNOW those little facts and avoid repeating non facts.  

In keeping with the sins of Charter School omission I would also like to have a look at the so called Grass Roots movement this lady claims the Chameleons are a part of and the claim that  "We are, indeed, witnessing a marvelous evolution in Buffalo based on what the city needs, as determined and as driven by this population."  

Well if the population of Buffalo is driving the charter school/chameleon/ReformED revolution shouldn't we have seen some more parents and maybe even a few teachers who are part of this MARVELOUS EVOLUTION? From all reports the hastily assembled meeting at Waterfront announced on a Friday afternoon for the next morning at 10:00 AM in the middle of July, included ZERO parents in support of the Chameleons land grab. A loud and emphatic NO vote was registered for the Chameleons though whose smarmy, cant filled introduction gave way to smirks and snickers and hand written notes back and forth when they began to feel the pushback of this community they are purportedly claiming to save. And while our dance teacher claims that it's the population of Buffalo driving this nonsense it's clearly not. Here are a few words from a Waterfront teacher on the subject : 

 I prefer to work with the actual stakeholders in the school- the students, administrators, faculty and parents, to improve the ways in which instruction is delivered to our children. The Chameleon group does not have buy-in from these important people. As a matter of fact, we polled our parents and they preferred to use the partnership turnaround plan. They do not want a charter school. We have made gains in test scores at almost every level. Don't be deceived by the business people (they are not educators) who are trying to take over the school into believing that charter schools have a magic bullet that will instantly fix problems in our school system that have been decades in the making. At the ill-timed meeting this group held a few weeks ago, it was obvious that they knew nothing about our student population, specifically the fact that approximately 24% of our student are English language learners. Why wasn't notification of the meeting made in any language other than English? Because the group does not really care about our kids. They see a beautiful building in a prime location and an opportunity to make money.

Repeating what the lady said : Waterfront Parents do NOT want a charter school.  

On another front this same bunch of merry "reformers" has an eye on East High School for the same purposes. The fact that there are all ready people and various groups working within East doesn't appear to have dawned on the "reformers." See this is how they do business, in a vacuum,. They show up to do you good whether you want it or not and whether it's good or not is up to them, what you need to do is shut up, stand aside and defer to their greater self proclaimed expertise. One of the professionals working at East High  took the time to write a little note to Artvoice. In his letter, Joe Gardella, the John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry at my alma mater UB, points out the same exact cluelessness and lack of context the "reformers" prefer to do business in.  Here is Professor Gardella : 

As one of many education and social service support partners dealing with students at East High, I note that Chameleon has made no effort to contact us to understand or assess our efforts within East’s educational activities. Further, leadership at East High has been effective and vigorous in describing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) focus in the turnaround plan for the school. I wonder how the Chameleon plan will engage the ongoing work without an understanding of what is presently underway.

And doesn't the Chemistry Professor go and bring up that other Charter School Bugaboo  -- well ONE of them anyway... Professor Gardella : 

Secondly, I sincerely hope that any consideration of new charters or conversion to charter school management will examine the poor record of support for students with disabilities by most charter schools, and require a plan to address support for special needs students. In recent studies by Ms. Madeline Morcelle and myself at UB, we documented the track record of service to children with special needs in charter schools serving Buffalo Schools students over the past several years. Reflecting the national problem that charter schools under-serve students with disabilities as reported by NPR and other major media outlets, charter schools serving Buffalo schools students register significantly fewer students with disabilities; reflecting New York State’s poorly conceived Charter school legislation in many ways ... One of Chameleon’s founders, Steven Polowitz, has been vocal in numerous public meetings regarding charter schools as a general solution to the City School’s needs. He has been silent on the issue of charter schools’ separate and collective under-service to students with disabilities.

So are we seeing any patterns here friends? Before we leave the issue of Charters and their indifference to the disabled it bears mentioning that another teacher chimed in on her observations at the Chameleopalooza and had this to add : 

I attended this meeting and came away with a very different message than this reporter. I don't recall seeing him there. There was absolutely no data presented that there was any knowledge of these particular students' needs. These schools were consistently referred to as "the system." There were a lot of vague promises offered like a longer school day and year as well and smaller class sizes. This is not a revolutionary concept. Many charter schools in this area have those in place yet students are still being returned to the Buffalo Schools on a regular basis. Here is an example the information they do not want you to know: If you put 20 students in a class (as they have promised to do) in a building with 34 classrooms, you would be able to educate 680 students. Currently there are approximately 850 students at Waterfront. In order to show remarkable and quick results, which of the 
170 students do you think will be pushed out? 

Reality dictates there can be no discussion of Charter Schools without discussing which kids they are going to get rid of. It simply can't be done. But don't ask them to talk about it, it's a very touchy subject. My father always said people can tell all the lies they want about me and I don't care, it's when they are telling the truth that I get nervous. 

Maybe next time we hear from one of the regulars in the "Reformer" lineup they will be at least the tiniest bit forthright and drop some of the shuck and jive and the sleight of hand. You can only fool a handful of people for a little while then they figure you out and you piss them off. 


  1. You must have bought a new hammer! A sledge perhaps? On second thought, it must be an automatic electric one.
    This time I can hardly count the "nails" you have sunk into the sweet talking fairy tale spin masters at the reptilian headquarters.
    I think you are channeling some classical author...William S. maybe?
    You Rock, Sean!

  2. Cathy Skora certainly has the right to speak and write on her own behalf. She was not representing Elmwood Village Charter School and therefore was prudent not to write as though she speaking on behalf the school.

    John Sheffield (writing on his own behalf) and also Director of Elmwood Village Charter School

  3. It is great to see so much passion about education in Buffalo. That was my main point of the article - it is great that people are taking action to make things better in the city of Buffalo.

    Success nor failure is born overnight. There are clearly problems that need to be solved in educational systems. I applaud any and all individuals who take a step to try a different approach to solve a problem. Paths to progress are not always clear nor without barriers, but we will never realize progress unless we take action.

    I continue to be exhilarated by all of the action in Buffalo that is focused with good intentions to make a healthy and productive environment in which to live - this includes finding solutions that will lead to educational experiences that prepare future leaders and advocates for the city of Buffalo.

  4. Puny earthlings, you cannot resist the Replicants and TFA-bots from The Deforma Galaxy!

    Surrender now, and perhaps your punishments will be tempered by our cosmic ruling class charity.

  5. Thank you Mr. Sheffield for stopping by. I have no beef with Ms. Skora's right to comment any way she see fit. In fact she is most welcome here as are you in spite of what may seem like a hostile environment. My main concern is there appeared to be a deliberate lack of full disclosure readers are entitled to when someone essentially makes a sales pitch to them in the form of a letter to the editor. The missive would read quite differently if readers were told the author was say a parent from the school or a Buffalo teacher who believed the chameleon approach was a winner. In not disclosing her relationship to the local charter school movement I felt there was a bit of disingenuousness afoot. Either way funny story : when you were Principal of OLSH and my girls and oldest son attended my wife was accosted by one of the parish busy bodies who complained that her kid lost his shoes in May and she asked for permission for him to wear sneakers for the rest of the year. According to her you told her sorry but no that would be unfair to all of the other students. As my wife told me the story I said I am with Sheffield on this one. Yeah laughs my wife, me too, he applied the rules fairly but she thought she deserved special treatment. That's kind of awesome, we both laughed. Funny thing about education is you never know who's noticing and how far your influence goes. I hope you are well.

  6. Cathy Cathy Cathy... First I am thrilled to see your comment here. In my crusade to get out the message I believe the community is entitled to hear, I sometimes cringe when I re-read some of my harsher rhetoric. Forgive me but I always do a quick google to see if I can get any background on folks whose names pop up. I saw that you have spent years working with the corrections system so we have a lot in common since many of the kids I have taught over the years are familiar with the same system and sadly many of them end up spending some of their lives involved with it in some capacity. I guess the problem I see in a good person advocating for this charter maneuver is that you are looking at a waterfront revitalization as any good Buffalonian would in a positive light. However mixing that potentially awesome potential with the plans of a few very well connected people who claim to have community support when they simply have very little, in my mind is a faulty conclusion. The redevelopment of the waterfront will be great and we will all benefit. This charter school grab for waterfront school is its own story with its own players. And are we to believe they are grabbing at East High so they can improve the Waterfront as well ? See my point ? It's a convenient smokescreen to claim this Waterfront grab is part of a larger picture aimed at spiffing up the waterfront but there is no objective correlative for East so they just kind of hope nobody notices the difference. Be assured Buffalo teachers are all for the recovery of our great city in as many places as we can enjoy it. This scheme to take over Waterfront and East however is not part of any larger plan except the one charter school advocates are tirelessly chipping away at, namely the end of public schools and the advent of a privatized school system staffed by inexperienced low paid 20 something kids who do as they are told. This is not great education, it's not even good education. It's just business and business aims to make a profit above all else.

  7. Michael - isn't cosmic ruling class charity a bit oxymoronic ? Ah but that's the point isn't it.

  8. p.s. I think we're in double jeopardy disclosure court here folks now that I see Ms. Cathy Skora's epistle is also posted on the Chamelon website under the heading "Community Voices." Yeah the Charter School Community, not the one at East High or at Waterfront school but their own little self serving chorus. I left them a comment which is "awaiting moderation." LOLZ

  9. I saved News articles because of the Comments. Tonight
    I noticed that the comments have been erased. Have they been doing that all along, and I should have saved them in Word...or what's up?
    Thanks for setting me straight.
    I know that there were comments after Cathy's article...You did a good job unearthing her association with the reptilian" business as usual."
    Amy's letter is terrific.
    Thanks for all of this, Sean.