Sunday, July 19, 2015

Larry Quinn Declares The Eagle Has Landed. Well, Sort of...

I happened to catch Larry Quinn on tv today applauding the receivership of four so called "low performing" Buffalo Public Schoools. The fact that's he's Lars Quinn is problematic enough. But the malarkey issuing from his gob in a cavalcade of ed reform cliches was simply infuriating. Standard response from a Buffalo News comment troll would be : Truth Hurts huh?  And if it did I'd admit it. But none of what this aloof clodabout with a fetish for teacher sick days had to say was even remotely accurate let alone truthful. 

In his best impression of The Patrician whose patience has been strained to its limits by the hobgobbling little teacher minds he's been charged to whip into shape, Quinn explained that now the schools were being given all the resources they would need to be successful and improve themselves. I am paraphrasing but he continued to say that all these schools needed to do was improve and nobody would be bothering them. But if they didn't improve the state would sweep in essentially to rescue the children Lars cares so deeply about from the clutches of dumb, lazy, shiftless and cosmetic ridered teachers. 

For openers, there is a tacit admission whether Quinn accepts it or not that these schools have been operating with something less than the resources you'd find in a school not deemed "failing." We all know the sociopath in Albany has been starving Buffalo Schools for millions and millions and if you can't see that underfunding hurting kids in places like Bennett, MLK or Burgard you're not looking very hard. 

While Quinn paused for a sober breath, Board Member Nevergold managed to squeeze in the point that nobody in State Ed or the Board or anywhere else appears to have any idea how the growth, improvement, success or non-failure of these schools will be measured. The schools only have a year to get everything back up to snuff but the ones holding the sword over their heads don't exactly know what snuff looks like just now. 

I think the Principals of these schools need to memo the Board and State Ed with a timeline of their own. Give them until the middle of August to specify exactly what the school has to do to keep from being engulfed by the shock troops of privatization. Deadlines are good for everyone I think. And if they can't come up with a clear and concise and realistic goal for each school then it is going to add another 6 months to the school's grace period if you can call it that. 

Quinn misleads the unwary when he tries to say these schools will be getting all of the resources they need to get the school back on track. They may get some money but it won't go to the classrooms. It will go to administrative "costs" and travel and consultants and a new air conditioner for the office. If you haven't heard about School #6 they have their own Superintendent, Omar Tabb who lives in Phoenix. When it was brought to Superintendent Omar Tabb's attention that primary grades classes were bursting at the seams with 38 at risk students he refused to redirect any of the school's funds toward hiring the appropriate number of teachers. Instead, he rolled out a spitball from the Ed Reform 101 handbook, saying "A great teacher can teach a class of any size."

 While the resources may very well be on site, teachers and students are in a similar situation as people in places like Somalia: Aid is arriving -- and there's plenty of it--  but it's being hijacked by profiteering warlords whose own personal gain comes before all else. The school was handed a budget windfall, or so they like to imply anyway, but that doesn't mean the school has any chance of getting off the schnide if the guy in charge of the financial decisions is going to pay himself for travel and spout ed reform cliches at teachers whose classes are packed with more than 3 dozen kids.  Have a look at where School #6's money is going. And where it isn't. Then ask yourself if Larry Quinn has any idea what the hell he's talking about . 

I trust you see what I'm talking about when you look at the  diversion of funds away from kids and into all kinds of pockets whose mission is suspect and whose urgency appears lacking. Lars can spout off all he wants about the resources being in place and now it's time to "put up or shut up" but what he's claiming and what's really happening in places like the ones he mentioned is disingenuous at best. He's perpetuating the Poppa Knows Best mentality of the fed up businessman who's at the end of his rope with these namby pamby teachers and all of their petty gripes. He acts like he opened up his own wallet, tossed a couple of million dollar bills on the table and said "you've got one year now get to work or I am going to shut you down." That would be such a gratifying narrative and a validation of the Paladino/Sampson/Quinn's Old White Male Gestalt. The only problem with it though is that it's complete bullshit. The money is not finding its way into classrooms. It rarely does especially when there's a middleman involved whose priorities lean more toward his own enrichment than improving some poor kid's education. 

The goal here folks for NYSED and the Larry Quinns involved is to close and privatize as may public schools as possible. It's not the goal of teachers or even Principals for that matter. But you have to wonder how hard some of these other players are really going to try to save these schools. Especially when closing them can make some already rich people richer. Next time Larry Quinn explains the bountiful resources being flung at these "failing schools" maybe we can ask him for a printout that shows exactly where all of these resources are going. Better yet, let's just show him our printout. 

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