Monday, July 4, 2016

He Came from Martha's Vineyard with a Banjo on His Knee

While I am loathe to do so I've cut and pasted a scraplet of what passes for wit at The Buffalo News these days. The Off Main St. column plants its forked tongue firmly in cheek and doles out what laugh monitors at The News deem to be side splitting out takes from the lives of elected, appointed and generally wealthy and/or influential players. I smell the Sorority House slapstick of Tiffany Lankes' unfunny touch wafting off this one like a teen ager who's bathed himself in Drakar Noir to cover the scent of the 9 India Pale Ales he swiped from Dad's basement fridge...

Boardroom dueling banjos

Certain Buffalo School Board members are known for standing up for their pet issues – and spending copious amounts of time at meetings pontificating about them on their soap boxes.

It’s true for those on both sides of the divided board. And at last week’s meeting, Barbara Nevergold dominated the conversation with concerns about students who opted out of state standardized tests and were then, she argued, at a disadvantage in gaining admission to City Honors School. She has been raising the issue at board meetings for months.

Nevergold made her points early in the meeting and then wanted to raise the issue again when it came time for a vote on the consent agenda.

A perplexed Superintendent Kriner Cash reminded her she already addressed the issue. Nevergold responded by saying she was entitled to bring it up again.

“You are a one ... string ... banjo,” Cash told her.

Nevergold didn’t seem to mind the characterization. Instead, she owned it.

“And I play it well.”

What's particularly irksome about the exchange between Dr. Nevergold and Superintendent Cash in my estimation is the way Cash appears hellbent on ignoring the point Nevergold has made and made again and made at the beginning of the meeting then reiterated before the vote. You can hear Tiffany Lankes whining that Nevergold "dominated last week's meeting with conversation about concerns..." The point being that a kid's refusal to participate in state enforced high stakes testing should not be used to exclude that kid from a criterion school such as City Honors. The district and in several cases I've been shown, the Principal of City Honors, have summarily excluded kids by adding zeroes in the application where the state test scores are listed. Test refusal alone is enough to drop any kid's score on their entry rubric out of competition. And since it's a competitive process kids who refuse state testing, which is their legal right, need to have some recourse on the entrance rubric other than acepting zeroes on tests Governor Cuomo his own damned self assured New York residents are "meaningless." Seems if they're meaningless as the self declared lobbyist for students has declared then they sure as hell shouldn't be used to keep kids out of City Honors should they? 

But they are being used that way and they have been used that way and Nevergold is simply bringing up a topic a guy like Cash who's allied himself firmly with the so called ed reform movement does not want to hear. Remember how Cash got the job folks, he was foisted on us by NYSED Commissioner Elia another foot soldier and enforcer for the ed reform movement whose entire post teaching career has been a series of calculated moves within the tentacles of the so called reform network. These people live and die by high stakes testing. If it gets discredited and cast aside they lose their ability to engage in mass school closings and mass teacher firings. High stakes testing is to the ed reform crowd what a jack knife is to a boy scout. Without it all progress grinds to a halt. And here at a Board of Ed Meeting -- in the very place where a student advocate as Nevergold is attempting to advocate for students she is being blown off with a cornball phrase that sounds like it might have charmed them in Memphis and tickled their waspy sensibilities in Martha's Vineyard. Fact is Kriner Cash you're in Buffalo now, like the t shirt says, it's the City of No Illusions. And all of this just folksy "one string banjo" crap is not cutting it.  

Until the district rectifies the illegal logjam they've created with using high stakes test scores as part of the golden ticket into City Honors, Kriner Cash should expect to hear nothing but this one banjo string over and over and over again. This isn't the Lions Club or the Kiwanis and you're not presiding over your college reunion pig roast with homespun charm and witticisms. You're fiddling while kids are being turned away from a unique learning experience they've earned a right to participate in. Don't the ed reformers love to crow about kids having "access to a great education?"  Well it's time to lay off the banjo comments and get your access in gear Dr. Cash.  I appreciate Dr. Nevergold's quick repartee but I seriously hope she isn't willing to settle for exchanging verbal thrusts and parries with this dude when bigger fish beg frying. Sooner or later someone's parents are going to go to court over this. Wouldn't it be a nice change if they didn't have to? 

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