Monday, July 20, 2015

New NYSED Chief Does All the Talking on the "Listening Tour"

Another NYSED Not Listening Tour Ends in Characteristic NYSED Bluster

Things at NYSED never change do they? Looks like anyone who thought the new NYSED Commissioner, MaryAnn Elia, was going to be New York State's Daenerys Targaryen is going to have to settle for a combination of Brienne of Tarth and Cersei Lannister instead. No apologies for the Game of Thrones references, if you're not watching it you should be. 

NYSED Commissioner Elia told the media --just like the previous ineptocrat who held the NYSED sceptre-- she was on a "listening tour" of the state. In truth, Commissioner Elia wasn't listening to anyone. She was making statements. More to the point, she was making threats dolled up as promises. In Buffalo she continued to bang the ed reform drum about "failing schools" who'd better straighten up and fly right. 

The Buffalo News frames the palaver thusly quoting Phil Rumore's highly accurate assessment of the process:

 “That someone’s going to come in here and wave a magic wand, and all of these kids who have severe problems will start doing well, that’s just not going to happen,” Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said.

And being the reformy Buffalo News, I am not sure these statements were part of an actual tete a tete exchange. I actually think they weren't but the News likes to frame it as though it were an actual conversation just so they can give the last word to their girl, Elia: 

Elia disagrees.

“It’s important for you to understand there will be consequences if you can’t move those schools forward,” she said. “It’s handing you a tool and giving you an option to use it. If you don’t use it, I will.”

If bluster and threats from out of touch bureaucrats could fix our struggling schools, New York's schools would be leading the nation. If it wasn't enough to hear Cuomo or Lil John King popping off at the mouth with misguided machismo and tough talk directed at teachers, now we've got this Sunshine State re-tread, her million dollar brown parachute from Florida not even unpacked yet, picking up the storyline exactly where King left off. 

The real message beneath all of the posturing and screwfacing is very simple: Teachers are to blame. 

People like Commissioner Doubtfire and our own Lars Effing Quinn love to wax indignant and leap to the defense of "the children" whom they perceive as victims of an incompetent, malingering, overpaid and under accountable mob of union- armored teachers. It's the biggest load of shit you've ever heard of especially if you've spent an hour in one of these schools where teachers are sneaking kids extra food, clothes and sneakers and buying half of their kids' school supplies out of their own pockets. My first five years in the district I taught at Burgard, a school that's been targeted in Elia's crosshairs. I can't imagine the place has changed too much but I remember a hard core, dedicated, kid friendly faculty that was rougher than most of the other places I've worked. Kids and teachers often called each other by last names, which took some getting used to. Burgard kids on average tended to be pretty tough kids but in the end they were kids and the faculty looked out for them in all the usual ways teachers do for kids who have less than idyllic home lives. And for people like Elia and Quinn to get up on their hind legs and howl about bad teachers hurting kids and all the rest of their reformy scripted hogwash is simply untrue, unfair and wrong.

 It's also extremely hypocritical. On Elia's watch in Florida two students died. One choked on a school bus and the other, a special needs child, wandered out of a gym class and drowned in a pond. While it's a stretch to say Elia was responsible for these tragedies, her response in both cases drew heavy criticism. The NAACP filed a class action complaint against Elia and Hillsborough Schools in 2008:  

This 2008 complaint included both disciplinary discrimination against African Americans and discrimination against special needs students. MaryEllen Elia, the Superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools, may have failed in both areas, when you consider the January 2012 death of Bella Herrera that went unreported to the School Board for nine months. The silence conceivably required untold numbers of staff, who knew about the death, to sit in front of the board for nine months and not address what happened or recommend policy to prevent future incidents. An administration that had a duty to act and a silence that arguably led to the drowning death of a second ESE student Jenny Caballero nine months later, potentially for lack of training and updated procedures that should have taken place during those silent nine months.

Does a person with this kind of stains on her CV have any business riding into Buffalo making threats, pointing fingers and implying that teachers are to blame? Yeah I didn't think so either. But in the wacky universe of the Ed Reform Class, people like MaryAnn Elia are always the stooges  enlisted by people like Regent Tisch to go out and wage war on parents and teachers and anyone else who speaks truth to their Test and Punish regime. It's been said that MaryAnn Elia has no idea what she 's got herself into and she is going to be tested in places she's never imagined. I look forward to the impending public meltdown when a few hundred thousand Opt Out parents draw a bead on her in the coming school year. We'll see then who's making idle threats and who's making good on them. In honor of the late Van Miller I'd suggest the Commissioner fasten her seatbelt. She's hasn't seen anything yet. 

No comments:

Post a Comment