Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Post Janus Landscape Is Upon Us - Which Side Are You On?

In case you were vacationing in a cave in the tribal region of Waziristan and somehow missed the news, the Janus case was decided predictably by the Supreme Court. Another blow has been struck against organized labor on behalf of corporations and billionaires. As a result of the decision public sector unions have lost the right to collect dues from members. Member must now sign a card expressing their desire to have dues deducted. No big deal you say, who wouldn't sign and pay dues for the protection of a union especially in the era of teacher hating corporate ed reform? 

Now there's a question isn't it? Who exactly would try to dodge out of paying their fare share to enjoy the salary raises like the one we just got for starters? Who are the teachers that would try to  take advantage of the situation where it's now technically doable to rake in the job protections, the health and dental benefits and the general peace of mind we enjoy as members of collective bargaining agreements without paying their dues? What kind of cheapskate, penny pinching short sighted shitheads would think that sitting back and refusing to pay dues while everyone around them pays dues is going to be a good move in the long term? We all have a good guess already of who these teachers are based simply on their attitudes about unions and their unwillingness to tip a server. There will be a few you can bank on it. 

Big picture though I am hard pressed to imagine how anyone employed as a public school teacher in 2018 can look at the crowd funding of this awful case by entities like the Koch Brothers and the Wal Mart Waltons never mind our own Secretary of Miseducation's Betsy Devos by way of her Mackinac Center and think that these billionaire players are looking out for them by allowing them to ditch out of supporting their union with a few bucks a month. Do you really think these union busting zillionaires are trying to protect you from being bullied by Phil and Becky picking your pocket?  Seriously? If you honestly think that I have to conclude you are way too stupid to be a teacher. 

I'll conclude with a cautionary tale from my earliest days teaching in Buffalo. I started at Burgard Vocational in 1988 teaching in an old woodshop in the back hallway of the first floor.  A security guard I'd worked with previously at Ken High told me where the ditto machine was, who ran the coffee club and who all the scabs were. I was then introduced to my mentor/co-teacher who told me what paper to use for plans, when IEP's were due and who all the scabs were. My first free period I went to the faculty room for coffee and they told me some guys cooked pepper and onion sandwiches on Fridays if I wanted one, also who ran the check pool and who the scabs were. Mind you the strike took place in 1976 and this was 12 years later. If you think it's going to be cool and NBD to slide along not paying your dues because Betsy and the Waltons and the Kochs bought a Supreme Court ruling to bust unions you should probably check that impulse. We have a great opportunity now to stand together and stand up against the oligarchs who want us to be paid in firewood and left hooks. If you think your union dues are too high a price to pay for benefits and protections then do right by yourself and the rest of us and go teach somewhere without a union. Let us know how it goes. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Is Our Children Learning?

Anyone familiar with my situation knows I am pretty much operating out of a Skylab situation nestled away from the diurnal grind in the relative quiet of Amherst. While I remain a Buffalo teacher I teach inside a therapeutic day school operated by New York State Office of Mental Health and CPC that serves Buffalo students and kids from local suburban high schools. My point in all of this is that I am not really up in the so called mix as I was my first 5 years at Burgard and the following 3 at South Park. Yet even from my safe suburban distance I keep hearing the same disheartening drumbeat from my friends and colleagues in the rest of BPS. If I had to put it in a Haiku it would look like this:

Kids out of control
Foul mouthed, aggressive and rude
Boss says it's my fault.

I'm not much at Haiku but I think this about covers what I am hearing. Granted it's hard to get a real picture of what's going on in the larger setting but my contacts here and there and everywhere all seem to be on the same page. It's as if there's a district wide policy of blaming teachers for discipline problems and admins refusing to issue any kind of meaningful consequences for even the most outrageously disrespectful behavior. A teacher aide friend in a high school tells me he hears more filth and obscenity by 10:00 on a given day than you'd hear in three straight episodes of Deadwood. Another hears kids saying things like "Oh I better sit down before this bitch starts on me with  that bullshit..." or "Hey, I gotta piss and you let that motherfucker go ahead of me?" If any of this is brought to the attention of administrators they say things like "These kids are in Special Ed that's what they do..." or "Let me see your plan book, students act up when you fail to engage them..." When I ask second level questions about the whys and wherefores I hear that there's a push to avoid suspension at all cost. ALL COST. And that's fine, I'm all for the restorative justice idea but when there's no justice and no sense of respect being restored we're just making excuses, kicking the can and emboldening kids who are bold enough already. When you refuse to address bad behavior you're asking for more of it and giving permission for it to continue. 

Years ago I worked in a Quality School. We were led by the teachings of William Glasser and his Total Quality movement. There were some good principles in play but there were also a lot of ways kids could get between the cracks with phoney apologies and trite shows of acknowledgment that they'd been less than Quality. It seems to this pedagogue that any eduphilosophy is going to have its Achilles Heel and it's the job of those promoting said framework to be honest about that reality and step in when needed. No matter how sound the philosophy is there's no way any kid should be allowed to spew filth and threats at adults and other kids without ending up at a Superintendent's Hearing in City Hall. If I'm reading this all wrong and we're actually in the early stages of a transformational  new approach to discipline, one where consequences are so subtly crafted and ingeniously applied to the point that they don't even appear to exist then I'll admit I'm reaching and go about my business. 

Sadly though, while talking to a friend in NYC the other day I hear this isn't simply a Buffalo trend. My friend suggests it's more likely a national trend. If this is true then I guess we can stop scratching our heads in wonder when we hear of teacher shortages. It's enough that we're under fire from the ed reform and public ed for profit class, that we're evaluated on meaningless test scores and micro mismanaged by career climbing bug eyed crazies who've fled the classroom for power and prestige, but stir in an endless stream of obscenity, abuse and threats of violence from people we're trying to educate and you've all but guaranteed your teacher shortage. 

If anyone thinks things discipline wise are swell in Buffalo please let me know. I only wrote this in response to what struck me as a pervasive and systemic refusal to address student misbehavior in any fashion that didn't involve blaming teachers for causing it. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Later, Carl.

After all the times I had to blog about this guy I guess it's only fair to have the last word on his pointless and failed tenure as a member of the Buffalo Board of Ed. I searched his name in the upper right corner of this very blog and the results were a stumble down memory alley I'd just as soon forget. Carl trying to ram his handpicked Superintendents into place and failing. Carl's fake black friend "Herman" on Facebook sounding suspiciously like Uncle Ruckus of Boondocks fame. Carl cursing out a reporter and Carl's tropically shirted goon looking like a stray cast member of a community theatre production of South Pacific as he shoulders said reporter out of the way. Carl's friend Sandy Beach lisping about Austin Harrig implying that Paladino's 18 year old opponent in the race for the Park District seat had some kind of masculinity issues. Very classy stuff that, a fat old man in his 60's using his right wing radio mic to ridicule and belittle a teen ager who dared to run for office against his millionaire developer pal. 

Who can forget this gem from the Carl email dump unleashed by WNYMedia.net during the ill fated Carl for Gubner run? More class. What's funnier than starving people in a developing country fleeing for their lives from a relief plane bringing them food and medicine? 

I could go on. Seriously I could... for pages. But really folks who wants to sift through a sewer of such hateful mean spirited garbage. I can't help but think of Al Capone ending up on The Rock because Elliot Ness went through his taxes. Not for bootlegging or bomb throwing or roughing people up and or deep sixing them but for freaking tax evasion. Before anyone calls the Lake Erie Italian Club to report me for besmirching a fellow paisan let me say ethnicity here is merely coincidental. While the obvious ways to get Capone seemed to end up stifled by threats or bribes or a curious lack of evidence in every case, the Feds put their thinking caps on and said forget all that. They went for something just as illegal yet not quite as sexy. Instead they pinched him for not paying the tax man. While the protests that blew up Board meeting after Board meeting centered around the outrageously hateful and racist remarks published in Artvoice, everyone kind of knew the First Amendment would protect Paladino even as a sitting board member from removal. So they got him for violating the rules of Executive Session and sharing confidential details with people who had no business hearing them. A little like bringing in Elliot Ness to rifle through the books and find the smoking tax return that would bring about the check mate and the end game of Carl's disastrous participation in public life.*

*In spite of the Enron like decline of Trump's brand and the trickle down effect it's likely to produce in Trump apologists like Carl Paladino, we've all heard that he's ruminating about yet another run at the Governor's office. Being removed from one elected office could actually work to Paladino's advantage in running for a higher office when you consider the angry white demographic whose heartfelt sense of manifest grievance he courts with his talk of coons in the basement and his baseball bat. 

I'm not here to say he's your next Governor as much as I'm saying we best not snooze on this one. If you ever needed an example of addition by subtraction look no further than Carl Paladino's removal from the Buffalo Board of Ed. I'm not shedding any tears about the democratic process being sideswiped by Mary Ellen Elia either. I've seen this sentiment expressed in a few places elsewhere. The guy screwed up, was evaluated by his superior and found to be unfit to complete his elected term. Teachers these days get terminated all the time in the current climate of so called ed reform. Why should he get special treatment because he's Carl and for years Buffalo has excused him with "Oh that's just Carl being Carl." In the great big world it appears that excuse holds no water. Maybe for once Carl being Carl actually had some consequences. Enjoy the victory Buffalo, it's been a long time coming. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Anybody Betting On This?

Hell of a time to come outta retirement but I think this issue bears some scrutiny. While I am glad Larry got a ticket to take in the big Paladino hearing I am less than optimistic about the outcome. It's been said elsewhere that state ed commissioners are slow to pull the plug on board members over local disputes, the dynamics of this case are going to diminish those odds from slim to somewhere around infinitesimal. Not because Paladino has the right to spew any kind of bigoted hateful bile he wants -- though some will say he has exactly that right -- but because Mary Ellen Elia and Carl Paladino play for the same team in the larger scheme of things. 

Remember, before Elia took her brown parachute from Hillsborough School District in Florida and leaped into the loving arms of Meryl Tisch, she'd been dancing with Bill Gates's millions and toeing the ed reform line with lots of testing and lots of talk about 5% of the teaching force being fired on Gates's say-so. She is no friend of public education and no friend of teachers. In case anyone is suffering from a case of mid June brain flatulence, let me remind you she shares quite a bit of common ground with Carl and Lars Quinn and their unflappable drink fetcher Patti Pierce. Like a lot of my fellows I honestly believe removing Paladino from the board would be an addition by subtraction. But if I were somehow forced to lay money on it I'd have to bet on Carl. 

As local lawyer to the stars and the vexed who are able to pay, Paul Cambria said today, there are many options available to Elia between doing nothing and giving Paladino the hook. When someone of Elia's ilk is forced into a corner as she has been in this situation you can rest assured she's going to choose the path of least resistance. I am thinking she's going to do the Commissioner's version of the Principal "putting a letter in his file." Whatever form the censure takes you can be sure it will be toothless and pointless but somehow will allow her and Paladino's detractors to save face. She can say his behavior didn't meet the threshold for removal but it did warrant a strongly worded letter. Paladino can say "See I toldjas." And everyone else will say "There now he doesn't look so smug. Three or four more of those letter and he'll be out on his ass."

In the wacky world the ed reform class has made of public education it's fair to assume expectations on teachers will be unreasonably high while those on reform friendly administrators and foot soldiers like Elia will be virtually non-existent. As Christopher Hitchens an avowed atheist said of his impending death from esophageal cancer, I still don't believe. But I do like surprises. 
Surprise us all, Mary Ellen.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's the Stupid, Stupid.

A Facebook friend posted a pic of Jeff Sessions on or about the day we learned Sessions used some alternative truths in his confirmation questioning -- remember the part where he forgot to tell everyone he was just kidding when he insisted he hadn't met with any Russians during the campaign? In the comments below I think I called Sessions a redneck pile of shit. Said FB friend saw me my remark and raised me with his own equally blunt assessment of the guy who was too racist to be a judge in the 80's but just racist enough to be Attorney General in the current clowncar known as the Presidential Cabinet. Truth be told I've never even met the friend in question. We share a fondness for left leaning policies and their practitioners, food, Key West and mountain bikes among other things. I also have reason to believe he is a retired or possibly still working teacher and Buffalonian. But you know how these things go on social media. Friends of friends are close enough so you kind of roll together. 

Out of the clear Blue or maybe I should say the Red sky comes Eugenia T. GreatAgain, who must be a friend of my friend as I know nothing of her. She names us both and points out that "not all of us are rednecks you know, we just want what's best for our country. And you both need to be careful, you're coming pretty close to being racist" My usual response to an unknown collective "us" is You got a mouse in your pocket? But in this case I suggested she might want to recede to her safe space before she melts in the face of all this meanness. She then shoots back that I must have anti-social behaviors, a word she's doubtless gleaned from countless hours of staring slackjawed at Dr, Phil and Oprah. Usually I opt for the block option at this point as I don't know this person nor do I care to and I guess it's considered bad form to flay unknown friends of friends on their walls. Instead I offered this summary of the situation:"I posted a comment about a politician which you internalized and took to be about you. Then you proceeded to tell me I was flirting with racism." I saw later that she'd responded again but instead of reading it I went to Wally Cox for the block. If you're old you get that. 

I guess the point is friends there's a lot of stupid out there. The fact that I am calling a southern politician with a questionable at best history of race relations a redneck strikes me as an in house remark. I am white. He is white. I cracked him for being the kind of white guy that makes being a white guy a shitty thing. A white lady jumps into the fray after deciding I was talking about her when I called Jeff Sessions a redneck telling me I'm flirting with racism. A white guy cracking another white guy being told by a white woman that he's as good as racist makes about as much sense as Kelly Ann Conway on her best day. Which isn't saying much of course. And just off the top of my head I have to ask what exactly does a fellow middle class white person see in legislation that encourages mining companies to unload all manner of toxins into waterways near mines that would approximate "what's best for our country?" Likewise, if we stick to the water theme, how does this fine middle class white  lady consider removing funding that goes toward protecting the Great Lakes as anything close to "What's best for our country?" I'm sure she's ok with spending billions we don't have on a wall we don't need while kids in Flint are guzzling lead in their tap water too. But I have to ask At what point is this "what's best for our country?"  

Those of us who waited in the rain for hours to hear Bernie Sanders speak saw how he was marginalized by the machinations of  DNC insiders. We were told to give Hillary our vote and giver her a chance. And when that didn't work we watched as a crude, ignorant bully and bigot was sworn in a #45. Give him a chance we were told again. Since he's been President #45 has played golf in Florida, what? every weekend? He's continued to shoot his mouth off on twitter and elsewhere and shows no signs of any Saul like conversion on the roads to Damascus or Mara Lago. The only conclusion I can reach as a resident of this planet for 55 years now and a public school teacher for 29 of them is that we're being asked to keep giving stupid a chance. Stupid, friends, is not working. It hasn't worked, it isn't working and it won't work. We need to say no to stupid a dozen times a day if that's what it takes. Just say no to stupid. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Secretary of Education: A Fine Tradition of Dunces

Portrait of Addition By Subtraction 
In Arne Duncan the Obama administration had a useful idiot who'd drive the corporate reform agenda and keep the POTUS sharp on the basketball court. Apparently Arne had played semi-pro, off Broadway basketball in the Tenerife' intramural leagues at some point but settled for handing out test packets to America with the help of his Bachelor's degree in Sociology. Arne for the record had never spent a minute teaching in a classroom anywhere. In November of 2013 Arne put his semi-pro sized Chuck Taylor in his mouth and pissed off the White Suburban Mom  population suggesting that her kid wasn't as smart as she thinks he is. What's more is he was touting Common Core in the process. Here's Arne: saying pushback against CCSS is coming from...“white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”  His actual quote is dizzying in its arrogance and nastiness. I wonder if he thought because he was addressing state school superintendents that nobody would know he said it or was he really so clueless and bereft of judgment that he didn't think it was an objectionable remark? The world will never know but my guess is yes to both queries. Up until then Arne had made the usual amount of gaffes on smaller levels but the "WSM" bombshell as it became known on Facebook was a Waterloo moment in Arne's career as the face of American corporate ed reform. 

Meanwhile, a month before Arne's White Suburban Mom Massacre, we here in the Empire State had our own little Arne, aka Lil John King who was melting down bigly on stage in Spackenkill NY . King and his handlers -- Dowager Empress Tisch and Regentus Flatulentus Bob Bennett -- went there to shut parents and teachers up on the topic of high stakes testing. I'm not always one to click the links and watch the videos but if you click one link today click this one where the little weasel monopolizes the forum and refuses to let anyone else speak then lies about the use of high stakes tests in his own kids' Montessori school. He also declares his own kids off limits for discussion not realizing that sending his own kids to a private school where none of this ridiculous testing occurs might appear hypocritical to parents whose own kids are throwing up and crying from test anxiety. While people in the video clip are telling him to sit down and shut up and that he's already had his turn King drones on mercilessly. 

I'd never lined up the timelines of these two failures and their downward trajectories before but it makes perfect sense that Arne was flaming out in D.C. while King tried to take his standardized tests and go home in a snit. He actually cancelled the rest of his Shut Up and Take the Test Tour or tried to after being thoroughly pantsed by the people he'd been appointed to do right by. But Andrew Cuomo and his corporate ed campaign donors were not hearing it. Lil John was taken out to the woodshed by Tisch and told to get out there and stand up to those bullies. Can't you just hear her saying I aint raising no punks? Remember now this is a guy who once told an audience he'd sooner eat an undercooked steak and quaff a glass of stale wine than tell the waiter he had a problem with his meal. John King wouldn't, as the saying goes say shit if he had a mouthful, yet here he was trying to fight parents and getting his ass whooped in public. Imagine the angst. You can see why he chooses to take his lumps when you what a terrible fighter he is.  

It wasn't long before someone found a youth basketball league for Arne to ref or a sneaker company to shill for and Obama sent him back to Chicago with a nice size 12 Jordan print on his ass. About the same time Andrew Cuomo had supped full of horrors on John King's tragic performance as the head of NYSED and was looking to bundle him up for a draft pick and a box of tape. Remember too that King lacked the teaching experience and the credentials needed for the NYSED gig but friendly pols and hacks ignored the regs and handed him the job qualified no but politically wired yes. Why you may wonder am I wasting a 60 degree morning in February in Buffalo NY rehashing the last two stooges to hold the title Secretary of Education? Fair enough. While we're outraged and disgusted that a dilettante know nothing like Betsy Devos has been allowed to buy a cabinet seat in the #45 cavalcade of 1%ers, I have to ask how different this is than Penny Pritzker of Hyatt Hotel fortune and Chicago pal of Obama being installed as Secretary of Commerce? Her own workers despised her and she treated them like shit. We've seen this game before is my point. And if an unqualified dope is being seated in the Department of Education we can safely say she's just the third stooge in a succession of friends and family hiring to take the seat. 

Betsy's debut as we've seen has been a disaster. She was repelled from the back door of a school by a total of about 3 protestors and has since been armored with US Marshals. Nothing says approachable and in your corner like a US Marshal on either shoulder and that moron Randi Weingarten posing for selfies as she trails along in your wake. Devos, as noted previously, tried a funny on twitter and got flamed by teachers and parents. Then she accused teachers of standing around waiting to be told what to do and was roasted by the very teachers she'd observed when they finally found an unguarded door to slide her in. My friend Burkie in high school knew all the untended doors at the Aud which was handy for sneaking into Van Halen shows and Sabres games. I wonder if Betsy has a guy like that on staff? So the pushback on Betsy Devos in week one has been devastating. She appears flustered and clueless like a lot of what's coming out of the White House. Rumor is she made a feeble attempt to stick up for transgendered kids as #45 rolled back Obama's protections for them. But soon enough she was bullied by the boys and remembered her place as a girl with a checkbook in their big manly world and she caved in. If there's anything I'm finding a little strength and hope in it's this piece by Derek Black that Norm had on his blog a few weeks ago where he offers some calming thoughts: 

The skeptic might say, yeah, but if she wins, she has power and can do what she wants.  Fortunately, that is just not true.  As a reaction to Secretary Duncan's overreach with No Child Left Behind waivers, the Every Student Succeeds Act severely restricted the powers of the Secretary.  As I explain here, the Act shifted an enormous amount of power and discretion back to the states, reducing the Secretary to a paper-pusher.  

Maybe we can thanks Stooge 1 for his over reach and Stooge 2 for going away and leaving New York to fend for itself. If Betsy's little more than a paper pusher for the next 4 years she may just learn something about making bad investments. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Betsy and Randi and Bears Oh My!

Betsy and BodyGuard Flee Three Protestors, US Marshals Brought In

Betsy Blackwater tried to slither into a D.C. school through a back door and was turned away by a crowd of about 5 protestors and several reporters trotting alongside her in case she said something stupid enough to merit jotting down. Instead she was hustled back to her black Suburban with a look of constipated angst furrowed into her brow. She's now being protected by U.S. Marshals in case another retired teacher or angry parent drops a "Shame!" chant on her or stretches their arms across a doorway to block her.

After taking a lame stab at humor  -- Where can I find the pencils? hee hee hee --and being twitter roasted 50 ways from recess, she's come out with her first impressions of the teaching profession and trust me you will not be surprised. "Teachers," it seems to the billionheiress by injection of the Amway fortune, "are waiting to be told what to do." Here's the entire quote in her own imbecilic words: 

“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child,” DeVos told a columnist for the conservative online publication Townhall. “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

Mmmm, yeauuuuh. An incredibly bizarre take on the profession coming from someone who's never practiced it, has no background in it nor in its administration and has never allowed any of her own precious spawn to be exposed to the professionals who've dedicated their lives and careers to it. Teachers do their jobs and teach. If they wait to be told anything it's to divine the latest nonsensical gotchas contained in the latest round of arbitrary and capricious directives from the whatever reformy top down bureaucrats hold sway over their district and/or state ed departments. 

How many data points do I need to include in my SLO's this time? How many artifacts do I need to unearth from the bottom of my coffee saturated messenger bag and by what measure do I bet against myself to move students from arbitrary point A to capricious point D in whichever unrealistic interval of time I am allowed with kids who don't come to school, come to school and sleep or come to school 4 levels below their grade level? Yeah Bets, if you think you caught a whiff of teachers waiting on something, trust me they're not waiting on you to come rolling in on your white horse of the edupocalypse anointing us with vouchers and your wealthy white privileged version of the Jayzus, no, far from it. The only thing teachers have learned over the past, what? 10 years? is what exactly are the arbitrary and capricious gotchas du jour by which teachers will be attacked and declared unfit to practice their profession? THAT'S the ONLY time I see teachers WAITING for anything Besty. They find out what hoops they're forced to jump through to keep their jobs then they do it and return to teaching kids. 

Of course she managed to toss in a couple of edu buzzwords to try and make herself sound credible. "Empowered" "Great Teaching" Too bad she couldn't have handled Al Franken's simple question about her position on the Growth vs Proficiency debate. It would've earned her some of the cred she's trying to find on Ebay and in ed reformer crib notes. 

To be fair Devos didn't have to visit a school to make the comment she made. Based on the reports from teachers who described her visit to the school -- they did eventually find an unguarded side door to sneak her into -- the teaching Devos witnessed had nothing to do with her statement. She's just trying to lay down her opening line of rhetoric upon which she will complain that unions are interfering with great teaching and labor contracts are too restrictive to allow great teaching. Surely this will be followed up with plans to offer vouchers to schools who aren't bound by unions and contracts. We'd all be disappointed too if at some point she didn't decide that these contract and union bound schools were receiving far more in federal funds than they truly deserve. We've seen it already. We know it better than she does. 

If there's any one party running loose on the public ed scene who needs to simply STFU and GTFO it's this dipshit who completely mischaracterized what transpired and in typical slimeball fashion is already trying to suck up to the reformers:

Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson.We don't condone such acts.We want her to go to pub schls

— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 10, 2017

No. We Don't Want That. And you heard wrong Randi. Nobody came anywhere near her. Get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off. Better yet get your facts straight then shut it. Your remarks can only make things worse for teachers. Collect your hefty paycheck and go back to rescuing the Nigerian school girls or trying to attack the Nurse's Union for daring to support Bernie Sanders. Yours is the last voice we want to hear in any discussion of public education. Your eruptions only serve to remind us that we need to dismantle and retool teacher unions as badly as we need the same with Democrats if we're ever going to support them again in anything.