The Harlem Success Tries to Turn White as the Worm Keeps Turning - Eva's Hubby Gets Into the Act

    Gotham: Eric Grannis, charter board member and Eva Moskowitz’s husband:
    Charters should integrate. (Daily News)

    Michael Fiorillo
    Grannis' piece in the Daily News is nothing more than transparent attempt to justify his wife's invasion of the Brandeis HS building on the Upper West Side. In other words, the usual charter operator's dissembling and deceptive use of civil rights rhetoric in service of privatization.
    I go further than Michael. HSA is ready to move to the white middle class where test scores come easy. My racism detector has been activated. Just like I reported the other day when Eva (rich white woman) organized poor Black people to oppose the NAACP law suit against closing schools and charter co-locos. (Eric Grannis supposedly reads ed notes so he should be happy to see his name in print.)
    Maybe we'd serve minority students better if, instead of creating good schools for minorities to make up for the bad schools minorities have had for so long, we just created good schools for everyone. As the Supreme Court has said, "he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
    Gee, Eric, how disingenuous of you. If you wanted to integrate your charter schools why don't you offer buses to all those white parents who want to attend HSA and bus them into Harlem at your local HSA schools there. Let's see how attractive the white parents consider your schools then. Or is it just about Brandeis or Bust?

    I posted a video over the weekend where you can see the new (white) faces HSA is looking for snickering at the Brandeis HS press conference where parents and community opposed the HSA takeover of whole sections of public real estate. What next Eric, HSA condos?

    Brandeis HS - Opposing HSA Invasion - May 26, 2011
    A PS 241 teacher describes the impact on her school from having a Harlem Success Academy school in her building. I challenged and captured some comments from HSA future parents, the face of the attempt to gentrify charter schools on the upper west side.

    http://youtu.be/iYhH-hsztn4

    Also this video of Julie Cavanagh savaging charters:

    http://youtu.be/frIajrQfgUo 

    For those of you who don't read the comments, here is a very valuable follow-up:
    Michael Fiorillo said...
    Norm, you are are absolutely right: one of the unspoken dynamics in charter expansion in NYC is that they are a real estate play. Whether it is the expropriating of public school facilities, or as a prelude and anchor for further gentrification of communities (i.e. Gideon Stein, Success Charter Network Board member, and head of Argyle Holdings, "Developers of premier properties in Northern Manhattan").

    As with Geoffrey Canada's incursion into the St. Nicolas Houses, while public housing units all over the city are being allowed to become run-down and (reputedly) units are being warehoused, the people pushing these schools are also tightly aligned with real estate and urban redevelopment interests in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. It's possible that, rhetoric and PR aside, this is what Grannis has in mind when he writes about "integrating" charters schools: at current rates of demographic change, Harlem and Bed-Stuy will be increasingly white neighborhoods. Maybe the black families being recruited are just placeholders until the neighborhood "tips" sufficiently. Of course, even then you will still see the faces of adorable black children on all the 4-color, glossy promotional materials.

    Finance and real estate, the twin electromagnetic poles of urban political juice, see mutual benefits from charter expansion. They continue to grow because, despite the fact that they are educationally inferior to public schools and an economic drain and diversion away from them, they represent a coalition of powerful interests.

    Remember "synergy," a Wall Street/consultant/B-School buzz word from a decade or more ago? The idea was that assembling disparate companies would lead to new opportunities and dynamism within the whole.

    That's some of what's going on with elite support for charter schools, the hoped-for synergy of corporate control of school management, curriculum, instruction, labor relations and infrastructure. It's a gold mine for them, and cold, watery soup for everyone else.

    It's happening right now. And it's accelerating.

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The Harlem Success Tries to Turn White as the Worm Keeps Turning - Eva's Hubby Gets Into the Act


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Rapture in Unity: Caucus will Outlast the End of Days Predicts Harold Camping

    Harold Camping has been wrong twice in telling us when the world will end but he says he has a sure-fire prediction that can't go wrong. Even though he has modified his prediction for the end of days from May 21 to October 21, he has issued assurances that the ironclad control Unity Caucus exerts over the UFT will outlast the demise of the earth.

    "I'm sure that if we bothered to look closely, we would find proof in the Bible that Unity Caucus will continue to exist in the firmanent," said a spokesperson for The Creator. As a matter of fact, the AFT is already rescheduling its 2012 convention, moving it from Detroit to the heavens as Unity has guarnteed every single delegate to that convention admission through the Pearly Gates – along with a per session job.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the keynote speaker at the AFT convention but he will have to use Skype – providing the technology still works with all that heat.

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To Charter School Operators: You Want the Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth

    Charter schools and charter authorizers try to get charter school parents to attend ITBWFS Brooklyn premiere movie screening Tuesday. May 31.




    A lot of people commented when I ran this headline Wednesday night:

    Rich White Woman Tells Poor Black People to Rally Against NAACP While Shutting Their Children Out of Their Schools for Hours

    'Nuff said!

    If you didn't see the short film I posted from the Brandeis HS press conf over Eva's blatant attempt to take over prime real estate on W. 84 st. that we built with tax money, check it out - in particular the arrogance of Moskowitz' supporters http://youtu.be/iYhH-hsztn4
    while a teacher at a co-located school list the crimes committed against public school kids in the name of "choice". Of course public school kids in Eva schools are not given the choice to go to a nice bathroom or given the choice to not be put near a smoking boiler room.

    I guess the charter school Klones are feeling some of our movie heat. Valerie Babb of the NYC Charter Schools, the DOE partner in crime (too bad Walcott didn't show up at the Comm Bd 12 meeting May 21 to hear NYCCS CEO James Merriman trash Tweed before running off with his tail between his legs to avoid facing off with Julie Cavanagh and Mona Davids) sent this out.
    From: Valerie Babb <vbabb@nyccharterschools.org>
    Subject: Film Screening Tuesday Night
    Date: Saturday, May 28, 2011, 10:15 AM

    Dear Parents and Supporters,
    Here at the Charter Parents Action Network – CPAN, we believe parents should be educated about the issues, their schools, and their choices. Accordingly, we wanted to inform you about a unique opportunity. A new documentary film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, is premiering in Brooklyn this week.
    The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
    Tuesday, May 31, 2011
    6:00 p.m.
    Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street
    The screening will be followed by a panel of charter and district public school parents.
    The film, written and directed by New York City public school teachers and parents, has been created in response to the highly acclaimed Waiting for Superman (which featured several charter school leaders, including Geoff Canada). It attempts to show how the many educational reforms that have taken place in NYC over the past decade are “actually hurting public education.”
    We encourage you to attend the film and make your own decisions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Valerie Babb
    Director, Charter Parents Action Network (CPAN)
    NEW YORK CITY CHARTER SCHOOL CENTER
    111 Broadway, Suite 604, New York, NY 10006
    T: 212.437.8317  F: 212.227.2763
    www.nyccharterschools.org
    New York City Charter School Center
    We don't just attempt, we show how public education has been harmed - and we had enough footage to make a 5 hour film (Shoa, NYC style).
    Here is a statement from Mona Davids' counter charter school parent org on the NAACP suit with the UFT on closing schools and charter co-locos, which charter school advocated have been trashing.

    Subject: NYCPA Statement on the Charter Schools Attack of the NAACP
    From: "New York Charter Parents Association (NYCPA)"

    Date: Sat, May 28, 2011 2:09 pm
    To: "Mona Davids"
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A message to all members of New York Charter Parents Association (NYCPA)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 28, 2011

    Contact: Mariama Sanoh, New York
    Charter Parents Association: (917) 340-8987
    New York Charter Parents Association Statement

    Charter Schools and Charter Authorizers Abuse Power by Delaying School Opening for Political Purposes

    The New York Charter Parents Association condemns the exploitation of charter school students by some of New York City's charter school leaders for political purposes this past Wednesday. We were appalled by the abuse of power on the part of charter school leaders when they delayed the start of the school day and required all students and parents -- the majority of whom are African-American and Latino -- to attend a protest rally attacking the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for supporting charter school reforms.

    The New York Charter Parents Association, with the support of groups such as the NAACP, successfully won many charter reforms benefiting charter students and parents. One such reform is the requirement that charter schools establish Parent Associations or Parent-Teacher Associations. These sensible and reasonable reforms were strongly opposed by charter school leaders and their authorizers.

    Furthermore, unfortunately, many charter school leaders and their authorizers are now non-compliant with these reforms. As strongly as we condemn the abuse of authority and responsibility on the part of these charter school leaders, we condemn even more the hypocrisy, the patronization and blatant racism exhibited by these leaders.

    In this city, the charter school movement has been led by individuals who are white and, in general, privileged. This racial profile includes charter administrators, their institutional supporters, and even a good percentage of their faculty. The racial profile of the student population, however, is overwhelmingly Latino or of African descent. In isolation, this contrast is not necessarily a bad thing. But we are seeing the manipulation of African-American and Latino parents and students by white people who see their less-privileged neighbors as a noble cause as well as
    an easy meal ticket. These white hustlers command salaries higher than that of the American President as they preside over education empires that grow at the public's expense, feeding on the tax dollars of the brown people they supposedly serve. In this model, our children are merely the widgets. These white hustlers preach "accountability" and "reform," but they rely on a lack of public scrutiny and old-school corporate discipline to sustain their organizations. These white hustlers talk about what they bring to our children, but they want to overcrowd public school buildings so they can get space for one dollar per year from our billionaire Mayor.

    Now, when other organizations who put children first and who have a history of recognizing oppression and exploitation, object to these practices and speak up for charter reforms, these hustlers have the audacity to use our children to attack our true leaders, such as the NAACP. The New York Charter Parents Association is supportive of public school choice and the existence of charter schools, but we will not stand by and allow charter school leaders -- and their authorizers -- to
    manipulate, deceive and divide our communities. The NAACP deserves our strong support and gratitude for speaking up when we need to hear its voice.

    ### About Us The New York Charter Parents Association (NYCPA) is the first and only independent citywide and statewide charter parents̢۪ organization. We are of the parents, by the parents and for the parents.

    The NYC Department of Education (DOE), SUNY Charter Schools Institute (SUNY CSI), NYS Education Department (NYSED), NY Charter Schools Association, NYC Charter Center or any charter school do NOT control us.

    We are not afraid to stand up for parent rights, student rights, accountability and transparency in charter schools. We are not intimidated by any individual or organization. www.nycharterparents.org

    Visit New York Charter Parents Association (NYCPA) at:
    http://nycharterparents.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network



    Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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Two Videos: Brandeis HS - Opposing HSA Invasion - May 26, 2011

     Brandeis HS - Opposing HSA Invasion - May 26, 2011
    A PS 241 teacher describes the impact on her school from having a Harlem Success Academy school in her building. I challenged and captured some comments from HSA future parents, the face of the attempt to gentrify charter schools on the upper west side.
    Make sure to watch the companion video below posted by Angel: Moskowitz Charter Takeover @ Brandeis HS - Ms Rackmill Speaks

    http://youtu.be/iYhH-hsztn4


    Moskowitz Charter Takeover @ Brandeis HS - Ms Rackmill Speaks

    http://youtu.be/wuAWHc4QQBQ

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Two Videos: Brandeis HS - Opposing HSA Invasion - May 26, 2011


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May 31 - Brooklyn Premiere: "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman"

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May 31 - Brooklyn Premiere: "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman"


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Heading to Chicago July 6 - Join Us

    Members of the Grassroots Education Movement will be participating along with other NYC activists. This is a follow-up to the conference some of us attended in Los Angeles in July 2009 where we formed a loose coalition of people from various cities, including Chicago and Washington DC. Within a year and a half participants from these two cities took charge of their union local.

    Contact me if you are interested. Or just click the link and register below.

    National Conference to Fight Back for Public Education

    Register online now!

    Speak, learn and share with educators on the front lines in New York, LA, Chicago, Wisconsin, Oakland, Ohio, Indiana and beyond. Plan and organize to promote our vision of an equitable and just education system, for unions that fight for and with our communities, and help build a national grassroots strategy to defend public schools.
    When: July 6th,  9am to 5pm
    Where : Chicago, IL. Teamster City

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Powerful Video: Charter vs. Public School Inequities - HSA Spent $1.3 Million on Advertizing

    Last Update: May 30, 2011, 7am

    On May 21, 2011 Community Board 12 in upper Manhattan convened a panel to discuss charter schools. Dennis Walcott was supposed to be on that panel but never showed up. Chair, SUNY Charter Schools Committee Pedro Noguera and NY Charter School and James Merriman CEO of the NYC Charter School Center said their piece and left before Julie Cavanagh and Mona Davids said their piece.

    Here are two videos I made.

    Julie in 21 minutes presents a comprehensive case against the charter school movement.


    http://youtu.be/frIajrQfgUo


    Here I extracted a 5 minute piece out of the above if you don't have time now focusing on just some statistics. Like Eva spent $1.3 million over a 2 year period to create demand. Julie breaks down how much money that comes out to if divided up amongst the public school children her schools displace.

    http://youtu.be/z3XSm3b64Gk

    I have a lot of good footage of the back and forth between Mona and the head of the SUNY Charter School Authorizers - forgot her name.

    But here is a short clip of Noguera taking off at a teacher who talked about how out of control the kids were in his school.


    http://youtu.be/ZTC798WjIik

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Powerful Video: Charter vs. Public School Inequities - HSA Spent $1.3 Million on Advertizing


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Must See: Los Angeles Teachers Produce Fab Video on High Stakes Tests

    Two Teachers and a Microphone Productions

    We are both products of LAUSD schools and have spent our careers teaching in LAUSD schools. We love what we do, and we feel that our public school teachers are compassionate, creative and critical to the intellectual and emotional success of our youth.

    If you feel the same, please call the school board members and demand that they rescind all pink slips immediately: 213-241-6389

    TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Contact your state legislator and demand that Gov. Brown's budget proposal is placed on the June ballot. In this time of crisis, the people's voice must be heard. Let California voters decide! Follow the link to find your representative and compose a message: http://capwiz.com/nea/ca/issues/alert/?alertid=31012506&PROCESS=Take+Action



    http://youtu.be/0cnRYZ5bN-c

    Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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Rich White Woman Tells Poor Black People to Rally Against NAACP While Shutting Their Children Out of Their Schools for Hours

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Rich White Woman Tells Poor Black People to Rally Against NAACP While Shutting Their Children Out of Their Schools for Hours


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Report from the Field: Is Harlem Success Academy Postponing the Opening of School Tomorrow to Make Political Use of the Children and Parents?


    Why are charters rallying to demand that other children's schools close? How does the closing help them?
    -----Diane Ravitch

    HSA is taking the morning off from school until 10am tomorrow to use their kids as political pawns at the state office building.  Whose needs is Eva Moskowitz serving now?  What do the children already enrolled at HSA get out of this?

    Eva Moskowitz is the only person who will gain from this tomorrow.  She is using children to open more schools and make more money for herself.

    FOLLOW-UP: 5PM
    “We never miss school,” said a teacher at Success Charter school who contacted GothamSchools about the rally. “It could almost be a blizzard outside and we still come to school so the fact that we are getting a delay on Thursday is a big deal here.”

    CHARTER SCHOOL PARENTS RALLY AGAINST THE UFT & NAACP LAWSUIT
    "HSA 1 will not open until 10 a.m. Thursday, allowing students to attend the rally with their parents, the flyer says. “Bring your scholar to the rally,” the flyer reads, later saying, “Parents need to take children back to school after the rally. We know it’s hard, but we want all children to be safe.”

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Report from the Field: Is Harlem Success Academy Postponing the Opening of School Tomorrow to Make Political Use of the Children and Parents?


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Why Increasing the Number of Teachers of Color Matters

    Blog of the day: Don't Settle
    I am a minority.
    With all due (dis)respect to Michelle Rhee-ing my own lips, after seeing the world premiere of the wonderfully-done The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, I am left thinking about where I stand in regards to the conversation about public schools, about teachers, and everything in between.
    Teaching in a heavily Dominican and Mexican populated neighborhood, I teach in a school that reaches out to the new minority (and will become the new majority in a few decades). However, I am that new minority myself and, in some ways already, becoming part of the new majority. Let me explain.


    Read on: http://bniche.tumblr.com/post/5659695076/iamaminority
    It was quite interesting to read 23 year old 2nd year Teaching Fellow Brent's post about being a Puerto Rican/Hispanic teacher in New York. I'm proud of the fact that our film triggered this response and I sincerely hope that when Brent is ready he joins the Real Reformers in GEM in the work they do. Calling for an increase in the number of teachers of color is one of the planks of just about every reformist activist group in NYC. The UFT also supports this demand. Our question is often what we can do about it.

    Since Bloomberg took over we have been reporting on the drop in the number of teachers of color every year - Black teacher, in particular from around 27% in 2002 to around 12% in 2008. Well, if your main area of recruitment is Teach for America what do you expect? Just look around the schools loaded with TFAers. The schools at CUNY are not high on their list for recruiting. With 75% of the grads of the schools WalBlack'nBloomKlein run needing remediation at CUNY schools it may take students a little extra time to graduate and TFA is just not interested in that population. Don't get me wrong. TFA and even Tweed are desperate for people of color recruits - as long as they are from the "right" places. It's just more likely that the very people of color TFA and Tweed want are also heavily courted by business interests.

    I worked in a school with many neighborhood people who worked their way up the career ladder - often starting out as a para and eventually becoming a teacher. They were rooted in the very communities the kids came from. But the ed deformers are out to destroy the neighborhood concept of a school, so don't expect to see this type of recruitment.

    I was out with a group of Real Reformers last night and this issue was one of the main ideas we discussed. I found it interesting that even progressive white people have so much diversity in how they view race. I admit that I often don't get the subtleties which I unfortunately don't have time to go into now. Besides, I haven't sorted it all out yet myself. But I am learning a lot from my younger activist brethren.




    Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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The Inconvenient Truth About Reviewing Your Own Film/ Principal for a Day: I Finally Sell Out

    Brian De Vale working on his upcoming music masterpiece
    UPDATED: 11:15AM

    I decided to make this post the basis of my Wave column for this Friday and I also sent it to George Schmidt for posting at Substance in Chicago. So here is revised version of what I posted earlier

    The Inconvenient Truth About Reviewing Your Own Film

    by Norm Scott

    Let me make this quick about our just released movie, "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman", made by our production "company" Real Reform Studios. The movie made by NYC teachers, parents and students in response to the recent attacks on public education, teachers and their unions and specifically the "Waiting for Superman" movie lauding charter schools, in a few short days since its world premiere in front of an audience of 700 people at Riverside Church, is going viral. Our guest speaker, the always awesome Diane Ravitch, tweeted to 13,000 people how great the movie was and we have distributed a thousand dvds in 4 days. Requests have poured in from all over the nation - and from Canada, Mexico and Israel too. We are ordering 3000 more. We are not looking to make a dime on this (though we encourage contributions to cover our costs) and we tell people to "steal our movie - go forth and make copies and distribute widely." I'm hoping I can arrange a showing here in Rockaway real soon. Look for info in The Wave.

    One of the ironies so far is how strong the response has been from some NYC public school principals while we have heard little from the UFT. We'll keep tracking that story. Since the film was made by members of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), a NYC based group fighting to defend public education, I wonder if the UFT sees the movie made without a budget (using my cheapo camera, imovie to edit, etc.) as a threat. After all, as a 100 million dollar plus organization, the UFT certainly had the resources to do such a movie. Here is a tale of how this movie has led me to sell out. Yes, I was asked to be principal for a day.

    Brian De Vale, Principal of PS 257 in District 14, made me an offer I couldn't refuse – a parking spot in his schoolyard, lunch and a serenade from him – if I would come to the school May 23 and serve as principal for a day. Ahhh, the power. I would cancel all the high stakes tests. I would rate teachers on how they relate to their students and on the responses I see from their students to their lessons and not on tests. I would ban all bureaucratic officialdom from the school. And away with all the useless paperwork that feeds the data monster. What glory!

    Brian for some reason wanted to honor me for the work I've been doing battling the ed deformers through my Ed Notes blog and GEM. He was my guest at the premiere of the ITBWFS on Thursday night and was thrilled to meet Diane Ravitch. Brian is a guy who really gets it. Before a recent District 14 CEC meeting, he held a pizza party attended by a bunch of other principals. Brian made one of the most incisive statements about what ed deform is doing to education - a total condemnation of the neo-liberal agenda though that is not the term he used.

    Brian told me to arrive at 10:30. When he introduced me to the security guard as principal for the day, she laughed and said, "My principal gets here at 7AM."Nice!

    Brian's aim was to use our film to educate his own staff about the ed deform agenda. I got to show a piece of the film at different lunch hours. The first thing I told them was I will uphold their right to a duty free lunch hour so they should leave if they want to. I was pleased to see Elizabeth, a former student from my 1975 6th grade class and a teacher at the school. Elizabeth is already a grandmother. Oy!

    Many of the teachers seemed truly unaware of the threat they face from charters and privatization. I learned something myself from the experience of watching the film with them.

    You know our theme at Ed Notes - and in GEM- Educate! Organize!! Mobilize!!! - each action building upon itself. I assumed our film would reach people who were already aware of the attacks - already educated on many of the issues – that it would help move them to the next steps of organizing and mobilizing. But here was a group of teachers who have been somewhat insulated by a great principal who fiercely protects them as much as he can. There is no charter pushing into their space and they are not threatened with closure. So I saw for myself their reactions as they watched even a small portion of the film. They truly seemed shocked.

    Then I was invited to chair the School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting over a delicious lunch. What? SLTs still exist? Brian explained that at PS 257 the SLT makes real decisions. The discussion ranged over the Tweed attitude towards parent involvement - their aim is not to get input from parents but to explain their policies to parents and use them politically.

    After the meeting I was invited by a teacher to observe a science lesson on plants. I was told this was a difficult class. The kids were gathered around a table with soil and plants. They were enthusiastic and every question led to a gaggle of eagerly raised hands. I was impressed.

    Then the school tech person asked me to try to solve a problem in getting a triple dvd burner to work. Ahhh, now I was into the meat of what I used to do in my last decade in the system. After an hour I still hadn't gotten it to work. Looks like when it comes to tech stuff, nothing has changed. I just know enough to get into trouble.

    It was interesting how slow the internet was and how some of the DOE filters made trying to get stuff done quickly so frustrating (I was trying to download drivers and software for the dvd burner.) I had forgotten the nitty gritty aspects of trying to manage tech in a school building when you have teaching and other duties. You might as well move in for the week. Actually, I would say from this narrow experience, tech at the DOE has gone backwards since I left the system.

    I stopped by Brian's office to thank him and he serenaded me with a song. My hearing may be off bit - I think I heard the words "Waffles Walcott" – Brian reminded me of the day Walcott became chancellor he did his waffles PR stunt at PS 10. Brian also made waffles for the kids that same day. There was no massive press corps to watch him.


    Postscript
    Then it was off to a rousing GEM meeting where my job was to bring a video montage of GEM's work for the past year. I had spent all day Sunday working on it and burned a dvd. I got there early to see if it would work with the equipment. It didn't. My 2nd tech failure of the day. Of course it didn't help that there was a crack in the dvd. Lesson: Make TWO copies next time. But at least I will share the montage with you when I put it up on the GEM vimeo site.

    All in all, a loooooong day for a supposed retiree.

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A Plea for Help From Friends of a Teacher With a Devastating Diagnosis

    UPDATE: THANKS TO THOSE WHO RESPONDED.
    DONATION OPPORTUNITY IS BEING SET UP WITH A BANK OVER NEXT FEW DAYS. I WILL POST THE FUND AND ADDRESS IN THIS POST AND ON SIDEBAR WHEN INFO AVAILABLE.

    IN THE MEANTIME EMAIL SARA: nutmeg74@msn.com.

    Hello everyone,
     
    The last few weeks at PS 15 have been a whirlwind as we found out our dear friend, colleague and physical therapist, Katie McGloin, mother of two young children, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.  All of our thoughts and highest hopes are with Katie and her family right now.  She has a long road ahead of her, but with the support of her amazing family, the PS 15 community, and our extended communities across the city, we know she can fight this.
     
    I hope no one minds me bringing this issue to our listserves; I know everyone has their own struggles, but we want to support Katie as much as possible and given the attacks on teachers today, I thought it proper to bring this issue into the consciousness of folks outside of our community.  None of us knew the DOE policy on sick day donation, and we were shocked to find out that you have to have 50 days banked in order to give at all.  In addition, you have to give two days in order for Katie to get one. The PS 15 community is majority female and the vast majority are caretakers, so having more than 50 days banked is not our reality.  Plus, you would have had to work for five years and never take a sick day to even have 50 days at all.  This horrific policy highlights one of the many ways in which teachers and teacher union members are NOT raking in the cash and benefits on the backs of taxpayers as the national discourse would have folks believe, and quite to the contrary, the treatment of woman in the workplace is still far from where it needs to be.  Educator rights in terms of maternity leave and sick leave fall way behind what the humane expectation should be.
    This is just shameful.
     
    If you are a DOE employee and are able to donate sick days to Katie, please see your school secretary (just tell them you want to donate days to Katie McGloin from PS 15K, if there are any problems you can contact your UFT rep.  The UFT has done an AMAZING job supporting Katie and her family and I want to thank Leo Casey who went above and beyond to get speedy assistance for her).   
     
    In addition, we are having a fundraiser for Katie in Red Hook that our occupational therapist, Sara Folland, put together.  The information can be found on Facebook here:  http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/event.php?eid=187410017976534.  If you are unable to attend this fundraiser, but wish to help, please contact Sara at:  nutmeg74@msn.com.  You can of course feel free to contact me as well.  Please share this information with anyone who cares!
     
    I thank anyone in advance who can help!
     
     
    All the best,

    Julie Cavanagh

Post Title

A Plea for Help From Friends of a Teacher With a Devastating Diagnosis


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Come to the GEM Meeting Monday, May 23, 4:30PM

    GEM just premiered "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" to an audience of almost 700 people.



    Watch a Sneak Peek here: http://www.waitingforsupermantruth.org/

    And watch some reactions to Thursday's showing as well as Diane Ravitch speaking on the panel after the movie here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W86XBS9llvM

    THEN COME TO THE NEXT GEM MEETING!!!

    After a highly successful film premiere of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" Thursday night at Riverside Church, come to a GEM organizing meeting on Monday. Julie Cavanagh and Brian Jones will help to facilitate a discussion on what we can do to take the movement forward. The discussion will be followed by breakout sessions.

    Our unions and schools are under attack!
    Join the fight to defend public education

    Bring your ideas to a meeting and a strategic discussion with the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM)

    Monday May 23 4:30 p.m.
    CUNY Graduate Center 34th Street and 5th Ave Room 5414
    Bring Picture ID

    All across the United States, from Florida to Wisconsin to California to New York, schools face severe budget cuts, teacher unions face vicious attacks, standardized testing broadens and intensifies and the privatization of our public education system continues in the name of "reform". But groups like the Grassroots Education Movement have been organizing to fight against these attacks and for a positive vision of what education should look like. At this meeting, we are going to take a look back at an exciting year of activism, and make plans for an even more exciting year, and we want your input.


    The movie was shown to overflowing SRO crowd at Socialist Party sponsored event on
    Saturday, May 21, followed by a panel consisting of GEM's Julie Cavanagh, CPE's Sam Anderson, UFT's Leo Casey, and Stanley Aronowitz.

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Come to the GEM Meeting Monday, May 23, 4:30PM


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GEM and ISO Sponsor: WHY ARE TEACHERS BEING SCAPEGOATED? May 25, 7PM

    *************************
    Public Forum - Queens

    WHY ARE TEACHERS BEING SCAPEGOATED?
    The Bloomberg/Banker Attack on Public Education

    Wed., May 25th, 7pm
    The Diversity Center of Queens
    76-11 37th Ave, 2nd Fl (btwn. 76th and 77th Sts.)
    Jackson Heights, Queens - E,V,R,M or 7 to 74th/Roosevelt

    Featuring:  
    Speaker from the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and NYC public school teacher
    Danny Lucia, Columnist for SocialistWorker.org and PS 69Q parent
    & clips from the documentary "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" 
                From Bloomberg to Bill Gates to the Obama White House, we're told that the key to fixing education is getting rid of ineffective teachers.  Teacher's pensions and benefits are also being blamed for gaping budget deficits across the country.  Behind these attacks is a plan to privatize and corporatize public education through non-union, privately-run charter schools, school closings and a punitive high-stakes testing regime.  
                But teachers, along with parents and students, are the most reliable allies in the fight for decent public education for all - including  public control over education, smaller class sizes and an enriching curriculum.  Internationally, teachers find themselves at the forefront of a battle against austerity and an overall attack on working peoples' living standards.  Come to a forum to learn how public school teachers and families are fighting back against billionaire-backed education "reform", and how the fight to defend public education plays a leading role in the struggle for a better society.
     
    NO TEACHER LAY-OFFS! NO SCHOOL CLOSINGS!

    Sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) -
    & the Queens Branch of the International Socialist Organization - isojacksonheights@gmail.com / (646) 421-2035 
    (look for us on facebook: western queens socialism)

Post Title

GEM and ISO Sponsor: WHY ARE TEACHERS BEING SCAPEGOATED? May 25, 7PM


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CB12 Blog

    Julie presentation awesome. Nailed charter issue from general and personal pov. Loved how she takes on "choice" and rebrands it. Noguera and Merriman not here to hear it. Will post video by tomorrow.

    Mona on now. Was delayed by balky 3 year old. What's Walcott's excuse for insulting this community? Still no Tweedy here.

    Mona a pissed off charter school parent. Her child's CS failing. Talks about lack of oversight and info for parents. Founded NY Charter Parent Assoc. Only indep CS parent advocacy group.

    Reason for CS is mess Tweed makes of system. Should mention mess is intentional to create need for charter.

    Talks about her work in changing law but charters not complying. Challenged Suny bureaucrat who is looking nervous. She may find she had an appointment when Q and A starts.

    Sue, sue, sue to get attention to comply with law.

    Looking forward to Q and A.

    I don't want to be a hog with my questions as locals should get first crack. Break time.





    Cheers

    Norm Scott



    Education Notes

    ednotesonline.blogspot.com

    Grassroots Education Movement



    Education Editor, The Wave

    www.rockawave.com



    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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CB12 Blog


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Blogging from Comm Bd 12

    10am

    Funny how pro charter people go first and Noguera and Merriman have to leave early.

    Merriman didengenuous. Attacks Tweed management as way to defend charters but he doesn't exist without Tweed support. He is a Tweed partner. So trashing them.



    Mona is here. Her voice will be needed. Still no DOE rep. Their trying to dig one up. Hey, send Cathie Black.



    Suny bureaucrat Sue Miller Barker. I don't follow this closely and how I wish the late Dee Alpert were here.

    Jeez. It's all about how kids perform on state exams. No other factor mentioned. Pathetic. Talking about how failed charter school - Harlem Day- turned over to Democ Prep. Why not back to the losers at Tweed, also your partner? Oh that's right, maybe because a union involved? Ignore that issue. Another sickening performance. "We care about high quality schools for kid.



    Moderator. Allow 2 questions for each from audience. But of course they will leave before hearing other side from Julie and Mona.





    Cheers

    Norm Scott



    Education Notes

    ednotesonline.blogspot.com

    Grassroots Education Movement



    Education Editor, The Wave

    www.rockawave.com



    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Post Title

Blogging from Comm Bd 12


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Gutless Walcott Chickens Out

    Slap in the face of parents and community.

    I'm at the Comm. Bd 12 (Wash Hts) panel on charter schools. As I said in last night's post there is a greater chance of the earth coming to an end than of Walcott showing up to face Julie Cavanagh (one of his employees). And so it has come to pass. Walcott is sending a rep.

    I'll post from my Blackberry as things go on. I'm video taping.
    9:30
    Walcott rep still not here.

    Pedro Noguera talking. Making some good points but also some I disagree with.

    James Merriman- charter school lobbyist supreme. Push comes to shove he will defend charters run by serial killers though pays lip service to blah, blah, blah. Just threw anti union bomb.

    9:45
    Still no Doe rep but Mona not here either.

    More later.


    Cheers
    Norm Scott

    Education Notes
    ednotesonline.blogspot.com
    Grassroots Education Movement

    Education Editor, The Wave
    www.rockawave.com

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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Gutless Walcott Chickens Out


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Spending the Rapture with Dennis Walcott and Leo Casey

    There are a lot of ways to spend your last day on earth but who would have thunk it would be with Dennis Walcott and Leo Casey. Is there any way to move the end of time up a day?

    Tomorrow in the AM I'm heading up to this panel where Walcott will be joined by charter school shill Jim Merriman, a man I love to argue with - I just hope the earth shuts down at the exact moment  Merriman turns speechless at the onslaught of co-panelists Julie Cavanagh and Mona Davids. If Walcott and Merriman actually have the guts to go through with it. I will attempt to tape whatever happens. The idea of Walcott actually having to face a classroom teacher whose school has suffered a charter invasion by the son of a billionaire contributor to Bloomberg is less likely than the end of all time.

    If we survive, tomorrow at 7PM we head over to the Socialist Party sponsored viewing of our film where Julie will be joined on a panel by Leo Casey and Stanley Aronowitz. If the earth is still around by then, I will be praying for the rapture after about 5 minutes of listening to Leo's defense of UFT/AFT policy of not opposing charters based on the "if you can't beat 'em join them" argument.

    You know, I assumed the destruction of the public school system and its replacement by charters had to precede the end of the earth. Look for Eva Moskowitz, who will make HSA students do test prep as the fire consumes the earth, to file a protest. Those who are going to heaven will still be facing the achievement gap.



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Spending the Rapture with Dennis Walcott and Leo Casey


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PS 241 Harlem Success Co-Location Evacuated Due to High Carbon Monoxide Levels In Failing Boiler/ HSA Students Told to Go Back In

    BREAKING NEWS: Friday, May 20, 10AM: PS 241 EVACUATED SECOND DAY IN A ROW

    Thursday, May 19, 10pm

    PS 241, a school noted in the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, as a school which has been squeezed in order to provide space for one of Evil Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academies (IV) in which PS 241 students were forced to locate students into sub-level rooms, were evacuated from their school today.

    The sub-level classrooms are directly adjacent to the school's boiler room, which staff and parents have complained is a dangerous location. DOE deemed it  "unfit" for HSA students, but acceptable for the PS 241 students.

    For a second time this school year, fire alarms in the building went off due to smoke emanating from the boiler. The first incident occurred months ago, and was quickly assessed as a"minor incident" and students were sent back inside. Today, ironically on the afternoon of the movie's premier, fire alarms again went off, sending the three schools co-located in the building, off into the streets to wait out the seemingly innocuous warning.

    PS 241, Opportunity Charter School and Harlem Success Academy IV students were given the "all-clear" to return to the building only to find within minutes of their return that the first floor was inundated by smoke and a foul, burning odor. The entire school was vacated a second time, only to find themselves left out on the neighboring sidewalks for quite a time. School safety arrived, followed by police cars, and lastly- four firetrucks. After what seemed to be an eternity (especially for young students), staff was informed that the building had high levels of CO2 and was not safe for occupation.

    PS 241 has a safety plan and was evacuated to a neighboring school site, PS 185/208, where are students were given a much needed late lunch and bathroom facilities. Upon returning to the "aired-out" building, we learned that while, PS 241 and Opportunity Charter School students had gone to neighboring schools, Harlem Success had chosen to stay in the building.

    Most of the HSA classrooms are located in an adjacent wing- with open halls ways around the corner from where the boiler room and billowing smoke were. However- there was a smell of smoke all over the neighborhood and even the neighboring school personnel could smell the smoke lingering on our clothing from exposure while waiting on the sidewalks.


    Anon. comment
    How will Eva and the DOE explain the safety of this sub-level location now? How will the building custodian/engineer explain why students were brought back into the building when clearly a dangerous situation existed? How can EVA explain her "commitment" to students when they did not evacuate their kids from a building filled with smoke and high levels of CO2 which needed to be aired out before the other schools' students were allowed to return safely?

    Is it really "all about the children?" Parents of HSA IV students should be outraged at the irresponsible actions of HSA.  They claim to have a brilliant science program?  Are they aware that the curriculum teaches this fact??!! They should lose their charter for endangering those children- not to mention the right to have parents entrust them with the lives and education of their children ever again!!!  If the parents do nothing- then the community should stand up for them-

    ADD ON
    We heard about this story last night at the film premiere and talked about it in the bar. HSA allegedly brought their kids back into a school with billowing smoke and toxic  levels of CO. Did they bring back everyone or just the kids who scored low on the tests? Maybe they were trying to close the achievement gap through attrition. Or if a child showed drowsiness would they drag the child to the PS 241 side of the building and claim he was a student there?

Post Title

PS 241 Harlem Success Co-Location Evacuated Due to High Carbon Monoxide Levels In Failing Boiler/ HSA Students Told to Go Back In


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Cavanagh, Casey, Aronowitz - May 21: Film Screening and Discussion- The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

    Saturday, May 21 - 7:00pm • 6th Street Community Center
    636 E. 6th Street (btwn Ave B and Ave C), Manhattan

    Waiting for Superman created an upheaval in American thinking on public education. But, Superman’s fix-all of high stakes standardized testing, privatization and union busting is not the answer for reforming America’s public schools.

    The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman provides an in-depth look at what Superman got wrong. By talking to teachers, parents and education activists, The Grassroots Education Movement exposes the misinformation of Waiting for Superman and offers real reform solutions for the future of American public schools.

    After the Movie, a Panel Featuring:

    Stanley Aronowitz - CUNY Graduate Center,
    Author- Against Schooling:For an Education that Matters
    Julie Cavanagh - Director/Public School Teacher
    Sam Anderson (unconfirmed) - Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence
    Leo Casey - United Federation of Teachers

    Sponsored by: Socialist Party NYC, NYC
    Organization for a Free Society, NYC Democratic
    Socialists of America, NYC Solidarity (list in formation)

    For More Information Contact: socialistpartynyc@gmail.com - 928-308-7563

Post Title

Cavanagh, Casey, Aronowitz - May 21: Film Screening and Discussion- The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman


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Fight Back Friday - School Communities Across the City to Participate, UFT Delegates Serenaded at DA

    Fight Back Friday at the UFT Delegate Assembly
    I know I've been haranguing you about the importance of getting your school involved in Fight Back Friday. I was part of a coalition of groups supporting FBF at yesterday's Delegate Assembly.

    I tried to tell the delegates that a consistent monthly action in front of their schools would have a bigger impact than the mostly uncovered May 12 rally. But rallies are easy. Go, march, go home and forget about it.

    Organizing at the school level is hard. Some of FBF supporters have reached out to neighboring schools and are now working in tandem. Imagine a bunch of elementary schools along with the local middle schools affecting an entire neighborhood! The UFT says it wants this to happen but is not actively supporting FBF.


    Many of the participants in this action are new to the action at the DA, which was poorly attended. Many of them are young idealistic teachers who haven't yet been featured on the front page of the NY Times - maybe because they actually support teacher rights and oppose the use of high stakes tests to measure teacher performance.

    Serenading UFT Delegates as they depart Delegate Assembly
    At the end of the meeting, the group serenaded the departing delegates, urging them, most of them Unity Caucus, to join in union solidarity songs. Few did. They seemed embarrassed.

    Here is a brief video I shot of the singing (we will not be appearing on American Idol) followed by the FBF press release. Link here to watch directly on you tube: http://youtu.be/EkXNf_Ff6aE






    Date:  Friday, May 20, 2011     
    Contact:
    Sam Coleman, Educator, PS 24K, NYCORE/GEM:  646-354-9362
    Lisa Donlan, Parent, President CEC1:  917-848-587
    Yelena Siwinski, Educator, PS 193K, ICE: (917) 628-3588

    School Communities Across the City to Participate in Fight Back Friday
    Bloomberg and the DOE must stop wasting our money and start prioritizing public education:  No school-based budget cuts and no educator lay-offs!

    On Friday May 20th, school communities across the city will take differentiated actions to protest Mayor Bloomberg's destructive education policies, including his latest budget announcement that includes the elimination of 6,000 teaching positions, 4,700 through lay-offs.  Individual schools will hold rallies, sign postcards directed at City Council representatives, disseminate flyers to spread awareness about where Mr. Bloomberg’s spending priorities lie, and they will wear black to, “take our schools back” as well as stickers proclaiming the Real Reforms our Mayor should be fighting for.
    $350 Million dollars is needed to prevent educator lay-offs and prevent disastrous consequences for our children including increased class sizes and loss of programming.  Mayor Bloomberg’s budget allocates $700 million for charter schools, $542 million in new technology, and hundreds of millions on testing. Parents, educators, children, and community members stand united in demanding our City Council reject the Mayor’s budget and call on Mr. Bloomberg to stop wasting our money and start to prioritize public education and local community public schools.

    Fight Back Fridays began last June when school communities united to fight proposed budget cuts, lay-offs and other disastrous educational policies.  This year, Fight Back Fridays have continued throughout the city.  To visit a school community that is participating in a Fight Back Friday or for more information, please contact the parents and educators listed in this release.

    Some Fight Back Friday participants include:
    PS 261, Brooklyn, PS 321 Brooklyn, Sunset Park High School Brooklyn, PS 306, Queens, PS 69 Queens, PS 503, Brooklyn, Facing History School, Manhattan, International School for Liberal Arts, Lehman High School, Bronx, PS 368, Bronx, PS 230, Brooklyn, Paul Robeson High School, Brooklyn, PS 24, Brooklyn. MS 136, Brooklyn, PS 193, Brooklyn, Bushwick School for Social Justice, Academy for Urban Planning, PS 157, Brooklyn, Green School, Brooklyn, PS 123, Manhattan, Frederick Douglass Academy 5, Bronx, El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, Brooklyn, PS 15, Brooklyn, East Brooklyn Community High School in Canarsie, PAIHS, Queens, Neighborhood School, Manhattan, Childrens' Workshop School, Manhattan, James Baldwin School, Manhattan, Humanitites Prep, Manhattan, Lyons High School, Brooklyn, FDR High School, Brooklyn, Goldstien High School, Brooklyn, Jamaica High School, Queens, Bronx international HS, Morris campus, High School for Excellence, Morris campus, Alfred E Smith High School, Bronx Families, teachers, and school staff are also meeting in front of PS 10 in Brooklyn and will march along 7th avenue to join PS 295, MS 88, and New Voices respectively.


    Endorsers include: Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Teachers Unite (TU), People Power Movement (PPM), Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC), New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCORE), Concerned Advocates for Public Education (CAPE), Independent Community of Educators (ICE)
    Additional Contacts:
    Mark Torres, Educator, Frederick Douglass Academy 5, Bronx, People Power Movement, 646-696-8485
    Emily Giles, Educator, Bronx International High School, Teachers Unite, 917-575-2936

Post Title

Fight Back Friday - School Communities Across the City to Participate, UFT Delegates Serenaded at DA


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Julie Cavanagh, Dennis Walcott, Mona Davids, Pedro Noguera on panel: Charter School Forum on Saturday, May 21 9-12, RSVP TODAY! Reply

    Here is an unusual opportunity to see/hear many of the NYC charter school "deciders" in one place at one time.


    PLEASE NOTE -- that you must RSVP for this event by today, Thursday, May 19th (see bottom of notice).  Please pass this one to people you think would be interested in attending.

    Susan

    The Community Board 12, M-Youth and Education Committee
    Invite You to:
      “Our Children, Our Choices:
    An Informative Discussion on Public and Charter Schools Options”
    Distinguished Invited Speakers Include:
    Susan Miller Barker
    Interim Executive Director
    at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute
    Julie Cavanaugh
    Director
    “The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting For Superman”
    Mona Davids
    Executive Director
    New York Charter Parents Association
    James Merriman, Esq.
    CEO
    NYC Charter Schools Center
    Pedro Noguera, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    Metropolitan Center for Urban Education
     New York University
    Dennis Walcott
    Chancellor
    New York City Department of Education
    Saturday, May 21, 2011
    9:00AM to 12:00PM  
    Registration starts at 8:30AM 
    Russ Barrie Pavilion 1150 St. Nicholas Ave (Near 168 Street) Main Floor
    New York, NY 10033  
    Lite Breakfast will be served.
    RSVP by Thursday, May 19, 2011 by calling Community Board 12  (212) 568-8500 or via email at: fe.florimon@jjay.cuny.edu

Post Title

Julie Cavanagh, Dennis Walcott, Mona Davids, Pedro Noguera on panel: Charter School Forum on Saturday, May 21 9-12, RSVP TODAY! Reply


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Jeremy Sawyer Reviews GEM Film



    The premiere of a movement

    Jeremy Sawyer reviews a new film produced by the Grassroots Education Movement in New York City in response to the anti-teacher documentary Waiting for "Superman".
    May 18, 2011
    Students, teachers and parents join a flashmob protest outside a New York City screening of Waiting for "Superman"Students, teachers and parents join a flashmob protest outside a New York City screening of Waiting for "Superman"
    SICK AND tired of Waiting for "Superman"? Despair no more. The hero is us.
    This is the inspiring message of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, a film created by the everyday superheroes of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), a New York City coalition that mobilizes against policies that underfund, undermine and privatize our public school system.
    In a play on the title of the documentary on the environmental crisis by Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim, the film explores a series of "inconvenient truths" that expose and debunk the myths of corporate education "reform." In the starring role is a movement of teachers, parents and students calling for genuinely progressive reforms that can truly make a difference in the lives of children and communities.
    In September 2010, Guggenheim, having won the praise for his film made with Gore, lent his voice to the Hallelujah chorus of corporate reform with Waiting For "Superman", a misleading documentary that views American public education through the lens of some of the nation's most powerful figures and institutions.
    That film touted corporate reformers as education "experts"--and painted teachers, tenure and the unions that protect them as the enemy. The film completely ignored the effects of broader social problems, such as poverty and racism, while pointing to charter schools and privatization as magic solutions. Though Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth offered some criticism of the role of corporations in destroying the environment, Waiting For "Superman" enthusiastically promotes destructive corporate policies in the realm of education.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO
    Attend the premiere screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, as well as a panel discussion featuring author Diane Ravitch, on May 19 at 6 p.m. at Riverside Church (enter at 91 Claremont Ave.) in Harlem. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To attend, RSVP to the film's website.
    For information on screenings, visit theInconvenient Truth website or e-mailgemnyc@gmail.com.

    While the corporate media showered Waiting For "Superman" with publicity, many teachers, parents and activists were outraged by its teacher bashing and phony solutions, including some (like yours truly) who donned red capes to protest the film's opening at New York movie theaters.
    But many others suffered through the film in silence and may have emerged demoralized about themselves, their public schools and their communities. If Superman isn't coming, are charter schools and a hostile corporate takeover of public education the only hope? The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman responds: You are not alone. Together, we can fight for real reforms.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    THE OPENING minutes of the film are breathtaking as we are thrust into the middle of the battle for public education now raging in New York City. We are taken inside massive community protests from high schools to the city's Department of Education (DOE) headquarters in the January chill.
    We see and feel the frustration with the DOE's undemocratic education policies, as well as landmark moments in the past year of the grassroots struggle for real reform in New York. We get the sense that taking on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's dictatorial control over New York schools--as well as and corporate school deformers around the country--will require a growing movement for true democracy and justice in our schools, communities and society.

    REVIEW: MOVIES
    The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, written and directed by New York City public school teachers and parents, narrated by Julie Cavanagh, Brian Jones and Darren Marelli, produced by Mollie Bruhn, Julie Cavanagh, Lisa Donlan, Darren Marelli and Norm Scott.

    The handful of images of teachers in Guggenheim'sWaiting For "Superman" consist largely of caricatures from The Simpsons and School of Rock. If Guggenheim had trouble locating actual teachers to speak to, he will find them in The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman. Far from standing in the way of reform, these teachers are fighting together with parents and students on the front lines of the struggle for quality public education.
    The film's friendly guides are Brian Jones and Julie Cavanagh, New York teachers with 20 years of collective experience and the down-to-earth charisma that comes from hours mentoring children, working with parents and joking with colleagues.
    In the world of Waiting For "Superman", people like Cavanagh--an experienced teacher at a successful public school in a Brooklyn housing project--are not supposed to exist. As a dedicated activist who teamed with her school community to fight to protect her students' special needs services from an invading charter school, she is a monkey wrench in the charter operators' plans to infiltrate public schools.
    These are teachers we can relate to. Jones, who comes from a family of teachers, tells humorous stories of his frustrating, yet exhilarating, early years of teaching. How different he seems from the suits and data-crunchers who run our schools--people seemingly bent on causing chaos and dislocation in the daily experience of teachers, parents and students.
    Eschewing the corporate talking heads that permeate Waiting For Superman, Jones explains, "We wanted to explore the truth about education reform, so we did something shocking: we spoke with parents and educators." Their voices reveal uncomfortable realities that the deformers try mightily to sweep under the carpet.
    While Waiting For "Superman" laments the fact that The Man of Steel can't save public education, the cast of "experts" promoted in Guggenheim's film is more akin to the Legion of Doom, the comic book super-villains.
    These self-anointed saviors--who generally have little or zero experience in education--scapegoat teachers and transform children into data points. They promote the same unregulated business model that "took this country to the brink of Armageddon in 2008," in the words of Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.
    Refreshingly, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman takes a hard look at the zealots, billionaires and educational "entrepreneurs" who want the keys to our schools. From former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, to Bill Gates, to Harlem Children's Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada, the film exposes some serious political and personal nastiness.
    While their machinations may enrich themselves and the powerful interests for which they speak, they leave our children and communities bankrupt. The film has a brilliant idea: why not invest in proven educational reforms, such as smaller class sizes and experienced teachers?
    Chills ran down my spine when the film juxtaposed images of flood-ravaged New Orleans with infamous statement of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." Although I already knew the answer, I still found myself asking, "Is this seriously what they want for our education system?"
    Interestingly, the film explores the lesser-known origins of charter schools as centers of innovation that were started by educators and communities in search of alternative educational services and options for students who needed them. Mona Davids, of the New York City Charter Parents Association, relates how control of charters has been hijacked by corporate interests, in stark opposition to the original idea.
    A great strength of the film is the rarely heard voices of current and former charter school parents who expose how charters serve a completely different population than public schools. Charter schools have fewer English language learners, fewer children with special needs and far fewer children who live in poverty. Many of these parents decided to leave their charter schools once they found they had no voice in school decision-making.
    Despite the selective nature of charter schools, the film points to a Stanford University study showing that only 17 percent of charters perform better than their neighboring public schools, 46 percent perform equally, and 37 percent of charters perform worse. This damning evidence of charter schools' inferiority is conspicuously absent from Guggenheim's film.
    As a school psychologist in Brooklyn who works with children with a variety of disabilities and special education needs, it was gut-wrenching for me to hear the story of Lydia Bellehcene, a parent and Community Education Council member whose child's charter school lost its psychologist and social worker. Bellehcene's child did not receive mandated special services for a year and a half.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    THE INCONVENIENT Truth Behind Waiting For Superman also stands unapologetically in defense of unions and the due process rights known as tenure.
    And why shouldn't it? Countries with successful education systems are overwhelmingly unionized. While Waiting For "Superman" sounds the alarm about the U.S. falling behind countries like Finland in education (which equals "competitiveness" in the terms of Corporate America), it never investigates what makes schools in other countries successful.
    Thank GEM for making a real documentary. We learn that Finland's teachers are 98 percent unionized. Their unions fight to keep class sizes low and make sure a rich curriculum--rather than high-stakes testing--drives learning. Furthermore, only 4.3 percent of Finnish children live below the poverty line, while an outrageous 23.4 percent of American children suffer this fate, many without health care or adequate housing. Instead of bashing teachers' unions, shouldn't real reforms give a good bashing to the poverty and neglect of our inner-city neighborhoods?
    GEM's film provides the historical context that Waiting For Superman lacks, placing the attacks on teachers in the context of the 30-year offensive against unionized workers.
    John Bettis, a parent and member of Concerned Advocates for Public Education (CAPE), poignantly describes a world without teachers' unions: "We would have a teaching staff, young, inexperienced, shuffling from job to job, unable to advocate children for fear of losing their job. That's the fantasy world for the privatizers." What should our unions be fighting for? You simply have to watch the film to see an amazing speech by a young teacher who wants to see his union transformed.
    The filmmakers don't pretend to have all the answers, but they'd like to begin with the corporate reformers' demand for their own children (who don't attend public schools): adequate resources. Leonie Haimson, director of the organization Class Size Matters, scoffs at reformers' claims that funding doesn't matter. Yeah, is that why the elite reformers pay $30,000-plus per year for their kids' elementary school tuition?
    Significantly smaller class sizes would please kindergarten teacher Mollie Bruhn, who has seen her class go from 16 to 26 students in recent years, with the time for individual attention and connection with each student dropping drastically. More teaching and less testing would be another sane demand.
    The film ingeniously brings home the connection between real reform and pedagogy through vivid examples of culturally innovative curriculums being carried out by--that's right--public school communities. Measure that, test manufacturers!
    The appeal of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman comes not from a Hollywood-sized budget, but from teacher and parent-sized hearts. At 65 minutes, it's the perfect length to watch with friends, family and colleagues, and is guaranteed to provoke discussion afterward.
    The film is a call to arms for all those who want to win a world-class education for every student. It asserts that we must stop bailing out the rich and start bailing out people, schools and communities. We will need teachers, parents, and students standing together to make this a reality. Be careful, as the film may just inspire you to join this struggle and not look back. To quote a song from the film: "Are you waiting for the savior? Wake up--the hero is you."

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Jeremy Sawyer Reviews GEM Film


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