Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Charter School Movement Proves My Point in Less than 6 Hours

Yesterday I threw out an idea for my fellow teachers that some might call paranoid. Essentially I encouraged teachers to be more paranoid because there are forces around us from both within and without who would like nothing better than to see us put out of work so our schools can be converted into charter schools where the focus is always on Profit not Proficiency. I only got as far as briefly introducing the cancer within, forgive me for assuming we tend to be Democrats but they are sadly the default party of anyone without a million dollars. And before I was able to correct the typos I found in the piece a little tiny invite came dribbling out of the Buffalo News. It was an invitation to the community to attend a "hearing" on whether East High School and Waterfront Elementary shall be turned into charters by the same lovely folks who run charters where kids need private transportation in order to attend. Anyone catch the institutionalized racism in this lily white policy?  This clever proposition was submitted quietly and only the Board President at the time Mr. Petrucci was appraised of the situation. Not the other Boardfolk, not the Superintendent of the Month, not the Principals, just Lou Pettrucci. Anyone besides me hearing Scot Walker talking to his billionaire donor here saying "we're going to divide and conquer?" O.k. so this proposal pissed off some people as it was done as an end run in spite of what Friedman and lawyer Polowitz  will try to tell us. The District Parents Chaos Committee has been suspiciously quiet lately aside from Mr. Radford's tweet calling for the community to rise up and take away the teacher's cosmetic rider. You know the one we'd all love to be rid of but nobody will negotiate on it with us? Yeah that one. Well here's some of what was said when this little charter conversion proposal came to light a few weeks back :

The effort is being led by Amy Friedman and Steven Polowitz, two of the co-founders of Tapestry; and Emilio Fuentes, whose three children attended district schools. What makes this situation unusual is that it involves turning two existing district schools into charter schools, rather than starting a new charter school from scratch - and this plan is being advanced by an outside group, rather than the district.

Amber Dixon who shares some history with Al Gore as the next best Super we never had said this of the situation :  "This is the Buffalo public school system. It has to maintain itself as a strong Buffalo public school system, and it has to partner with other entities and agencies creatively and willingly, but as a strong system," Dixon said. "So it can't just lay there passively and let people pluck away two schools and make them charters."

Amen to that Amber. And this is the lady the boardfolk found wanting in her performance. Instead they went in another direction and seem to have found someone whose fluency in Spanish doesn't keep her from profoundly dysfluent English peppered with the Uhhh, Uhhhh. Uhhh. disarticulation of a 7th grader forced into presenting a powerpoint the rest of the group did all the work on.

 So the charter school sleight of hand continues and they announce their "hearing" is be held on a Saturday morning  at 10:00. They managed to give as little notice as possible, less than 24 hours and one even has to question AGAIN the Buffalo News's complicity in this ghetto stunt by placing the "announcement" in the Community News section NOT the SchoolZone blog where more people would read it.  Should this plan go forward and with all of the resources available to the deformers we have every reason to believe it will, we will have a precedent in Buffalo and the deformers will have succeeded in using yet another of their little templates to screw up public education for the many so the few can enjoy a tidy profit and whittle away the real Buffalo School kids until they are down to their little core of good test takers whose standardized test scores reflect the carefully manicured little educational testing hothouse they were taught to pass tests in. Thanks to the charterians and the deformers for proving my point in less than 6 hours. There's no way i could have made it so clearly on my own.


  1. I just got home from the meeting. The Principal and several Waterfront teachers were there, and spoke up for the District. A retired WF teacher did a great job explaing and defending the school. Her husband, Ed, was also a speaker who knows what he is talking about.

    There were no parents there from either East or Waterfront.
    The Charter proposal will cost a lot of money, as they are planning to increase the staff by more than a third. They sort of hid the fact that grants from foundations are the only way they could pay everybody. The moderator,Valarie Nolan, exlained that they would use the $12,000 per student to pay the 133 salaries .
    ( Present staff is 90 ) When I commented she fluffed it off.

    The Board Vice President came for ten minutes just before the meeting closed.
    It was interesting to see how the Charter folks run meetings.
    Everyone from the blogs did a good job of maintaing their anonymity.... except moi.

    1. Such a show of faith that you made it to the meeting. My lifestyle particulars rarely facilitate such travel. No parents from either school is a conundrum. Or is it ?

  2. I have a feeling that if we don't watch out, Buffalo is headed for the same fate as the Philadelphia public school district.

    1. The best thing for Philly is time. It will take a little time for the trojan horse they signed for to start tipping over and its wheels coming off. Sadly though as in the case of these 2 schools the proof in the pudding of a charter trying to do what a B-Lo school does will come mainly at the expense and stupefication of two entire buildings full of kids who can't afford to have their time wasted by edu clowns teaching them to take tests.

  3. Peg,
    I was there, too. So much to discuss about this so I'll keep it short. The charter people attempted to be genial and persuasive, at first. By the end of the meeting, they were becoming a bit combative, since the audience was clearly not in their favor. Kudos to the Waterfront teachers. Eloquent and prepared. I was struck by the attempt Of the charter spokespeople to make us feel sorry for them (The Chameleon Community Schools Project, who will also be the non-profit CMO of these two charters) because they feel like victims of the State timelines for both today's meeting and the application submission. They have(no surprise) been able to get the application deadline extended from July 15th until July 31st.

    They were asked why they chose those two schools specifically. Ms. Nolan, Executive Director of Chameleon Community Schools Project, was a bit hesitant when asked this but I got the feeling that without the willingness of both Principals, Casey Young and Dave Hill, to encourage the Chameleon Group, none of what they are now doing would have been feasible. In fact, the charter proponents have had significant access and multiple meetings with the Principal, staff and parents at Waterfront and have been actively proposing the charter conversion since the Fall. Principal Hills was in attendance and spoke but seemed to be attempting to both back his faculty, which he admits he has only known for 1 year, and not insult the Chameleons. He basically only served to make it clear that you cannot have this both ways.

    Mr Fuentes became emotional and cried when talking about the children of Buffalo in his opening presentation. He weepily stated that the "system destroys their humanity". Yet he became a bit loud and shrill when responding to a teacher question about staffing and salaries and benefits. He repeatedly said that many adults (read that as teachers) will "have to take a haircut". The "haircut" refers to the current teachers at the proposed charters having to accept less pay, longer day, longer year or leave (transfer from) the school to maintain their current salaries and benefits. The haircut line was repeated at least 5 times. Mr Fuentes stated that this (charter proposal) is for the kids and he does not care about the adults involved. "They (adults) will survive." He reminded us that there is a large market of ready (New? Young? Willing to work for less?) teachers available to take the jobs. As you know, there will be no union involvement. EVERY educational and salary decision will be made by the Chameleon Board. No district involvement. Mr. Fuentes did try to sweeten this news by saying that "a" (one) parent would be on the Board.

    One of the biggest sticking points for the Board of Education will be the fact that in order for this conversion to happen, the district will have to agree to lease the buildings to Chameleon Community Schools Project.

    1. Mr. Fuentes once thanked the Eden Schools -- Digga digga Go Raiders! and the nuns for saving his childhood. He shows up every so often as a sleeper charter shill who quietly bides his time until he gets the call that they need their soulful minority guy to lay it on thick. Yeah I should be nicer but isn't it convenient how these little start ups always manage to find their minority sound byter to give them cred. Reminds me of when my daughter attended Immaculata Acaduncery and the girls there had a standing joke about the sneaky way the office used to summon the 3 asian girls and the black girl to the office for another photo op. If high school kids can spot it it's probably real.

  4. Isabella,
    Good job on relating the guts of the meeting. I didn't go into to much detail because I was in a time bind .
    I was not impressed with Emelio's crying because he was supposed to be telling us about the good parts of the waterfront background and his community work, and instead ended up bragging about his kids.
    ( actually it sounded as though he did a good job raising them ...with the help of the Buffalo teachers.) It didn't bother me during his presentation, but I got angry when he and "Val" cut short Doris Gayles ( the 20 year WF teacher. )
    It seemed to me that they were not going to let any one complete a sentence, or answer a question, unless they were initiated by the Charter school supporters.
    They also over did the "rush" to get their application in...what a crock! They have all the time they need. Creating urgency is another part of the shell game.
    My adrenaline was bouncing off the ceiling, so I tried to not to be too confrontational ..they know my name, and took lots of pictures.< grin>
    I wish we had met while we were there. I'm glad you were there too.

  5. Thanks, Peg. I am sure we will meetup at some point since I fear this Chameleon group is going to dig their heels in and press hard to get their way on the conversion charters. After all, they are well funded and have the backing and resources of the local REform groups at their disposal and they seem
    to be a group that is used to getting their way, at any cost.

    There is so much going on, so little time.

    PS: I too enjoyed the sense of "urgency" that they were attempting to portray. When asked by one of the awesome retired teachers from Waterfront why they couldn't wait and allow the new Sup't some time to read the application, they responded "the children can't wait!!!" The Shock Doctrine in action..... :)

  6. The children as we all know are somewhere below algae on the food chart of these people. Their own profits, egos and self aggrandizement could be franchised. Or wait, I think they all ready are.

  7. I was the retired teacher from the Waterfront...Actually, I went to the meeting because it concerned the most memorable principal and staff in my teaching career.
    I'm glad you had a positive reaction to my affrontery. "Val" was pretty perturbed by my challeging her. (I am trying to place the accent...If she ever gave a spelling test everyone would flunk it. No phoneme could be expressed by our alphabet.)

    The green sheet about the Waterfront stated "25 years" . Actually we opened the Waterfront in September 1977, so in September the school will be 37 years old, not 25. I think I was the only "outlier" on the window side of the room.

  8. 35 years...not 37... sorry

  9. Thank you, Peg and Isabella, for attending the meeting. I wish I could have been there.