Mayor Bill de Blasio finally threw in the towel and is terminating the costly and academically questionable school renewal program at the end of the school year.
The Renewal program cost the City $770 million dollars and despite the additional funding, 24% of the 94 schools were forced to close due to continued poor academic performance. Only 22% of the schools improved enough to escape the Renewal program, while the remaining 54% of the schools did not improve enough to leave the Renewal designation.
Worse, that any school that was designated as a Renewal School was marked as poorly performing and many parents refused to send their academically proficient child to those schools. Moreover, the Renewal High Schools lost more and more students over the last four years as few middle school students would apply to them due to the stigma associated with them. Finally, the Renewal Schools suffer from high teacher turnover, large class sizes, and has an inexperienced staff, not a good situation for academically struggling students.
In addition, the Renewal Schools had poor leadership and an an over abundance of administrators with conflicting and overlapping directives that only confused and dispirited the school staff. Further, many of these administrators were removed from their previous school for misconduct or incompetence.
These are some of my past posts on the problems associated with the Renewal Schools. Here, Here, Here, and Here. To read all my posts on the Renewal Schools, this is the link on Turnaround Schools.
The problems at Forest Hills High School has reached the newspapers as the New York Post and the Queens Chronicle have articles dealing with the problems at the high school.
Add this to the articles written by the local education blogs and the question is will Chancellor Richard Carranza take action? I will not be holding my breath waiting for the DOE to make positive changes since it's dominated by Bloomberg era policymakers.
One can only hope that removing Superintendent Juan Mendez and Leadership Academy Principal Ben Sherman would be a start. However, based upon previous history and the Bloomberg era ideology that permeates through Tweed, I am not optimistic for that happening unless Chancellor Richard Carranza "cleans house at Tweed". Here is what the Mayor said about the weed smoking at the school.
One of the potential improvements of the new contract is the elimination of oversized classes in a timely period. The new UFT contract requires that oversized classrooms must be quickly arbitrated.
Previously, schools could apply for exemptions for class sizes, which ranged from 16 for pre- kindergarten to 34 in high schools. When the union did push for arbitration, the arbitration could take months to be scheduled and very little was accomplished. See the frustration NYC Educator had in his school.
Under the new contract the union can take the DOE to an arbitrator immediately. If the arbitrator sides with the union, the decision is binding,. The overcrowded class must be lowered to contractual limits within 5 days. First, any oversized class will be submitted to the Superintendent to resolve, if that fails, then there will be immediate arbitration to address the overcrowded classroom. No longer can the DOE delay until the issue becomes irrelevant.
It looks like the union contract adequately handles the oversized classroom issue. However, let's see if the DOE actually abides by it and if not, what will the UFT do about it?
Can A terrible Principal destroy a great school? Just ask the faculty at Forest Hills High School and they will tell you yes. 91% of the facility gave Principal Ben Sherman a no confidence vote in a poll conducted recently. His failure to collaborate with staff, make questionable decisions detrimental to students and staff alike, and goes after teachers with a passion reserved only for the worst principals in Queens..
Principal Ben Sherman has a history of problems with school staff before he was given the Principal job at Forest Hills High School. He was already despised by school staff in his previous school, East-West International . You can read it on the ICEUFT blog Here. You can also see that Principal Ben Sherman had one of the lowest teacher trust factor when it came to Queens high schools during the 2015-16 school year at East-West Here.
Ben Sherman, despite his problems with the staff at East-West, was promoted by Superintendent Juan Mendez who always seem to select and protect the worst Principals in the Queens high schools. Just read my posts Here and Here and who can forget this?
Now Principal Ben Sherman has made life miserable for the staff at Forest Hills High School and once again has one of the lowest trust factors in all of Queens high schools. You can see my list Here. His teacher trust factor is lower than the infamous Judy Henry and Namita Dwarka.
Will Chancellor Carranza remove Ben Sherman? Probably not unless the Forest Hills faculty can get Susan Edelman to published a New York Post article about the Forest Hills High School fiasco.
Claiming your Social Security payments is a
retirement milestone. But not everyone receives their Social Security
check on the same date. Benefits are paid out on Wednesdays, and those
with a date of birth early in the month receive Social Security payments
before those who were born later in the month. Understanding the timing
of your Social Security
direct deposits can help you manage your retirement finances. Here is a
breakdown of when to expect Social Security checks, how benefits are
paid and guidelines about when to apply.
How do you apply for Social Security?
You can apply for Social Security online at ssa.gov, by calling
1-800-772-1213 or in person at your local Social Security office. You
must be at least61 years and 9 months
old to submit an application for retirement or spousal benefits, and
payments can start as early as age 62. Your age when you enroll plays a
big role in determining your payment amount, so take care to see how
much you will receive at various claiming ages.
How much Social Security will I get?
You can get a personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefit by creating a My Social Security account
at ssa.gov/myaccount and viewing your Social Security statement. Your
statement lists how much you are likely to receive in retirement if you
continue working at your current salary until your full retirement age,
age 62 and age 70. "If you look at your Social Security statement today,
your estimated benefit is based on your previous year's income," says
Ross Menke, a certified financial planner and founder of Lyndale
Financial inNashville, Tennessee. "If
you do stop working earlier, that will have an impact on what you would
be eligible to receive as a Social Security benefit." The statement also
lists how much you will qualify for if you become disabled and what
family members might receive if you pass away. Social Security statements are mailed to workers age 60 and older who don't have a My Social Security account.
Most workers pay 6.2 percent of their earnings into the Social Security
system and employers match this amount. Self-employed workers
contribute 12.4 percent of their paychecks. However, earnings that
exceed $128,400 in 2018 are not taxed by Social Security or used to
calculate retirement payments. Workers who earn more than $128,400 will
see a bump in their paycheck when Social Security taxes stop being
Social Security payments might also be taxed in retirement. If the sum
of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your
Social Security benefit exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 for couples), federal
income tax could be due on part of your Social Security benefit. If
these income sources exceed $34,000 ($44,000 for couples), up to 85
percent of your Social Security payments may be taxable. There are also
several states that tax Social Security benefits.
What is the Social Security wage limit?
You can work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time.
However, if you are younger than your full retirement age, part or all
of your Social Security payments could be temporarily withheld. Social
Security beneficiaries who are younger than their full retirement age
can earn up to $17,040 in 2018 before they will lose one benefit dollar
for each $2 earned above the limit. The earnings limit jumps to $45,360
for those who turn their full retirement age in 2018, and the penalty
decreases to one dollar withheld for every $3 earned above the limit.
However, once you turn your full retirement age your benefit will be
recalculated to give you credit for your withheld benefit and continued
earnings. You can earn any amount without being subject to Social
Security withholding after you turn your full retirement age.
What is the average Social Security benefit?
Social Security payments to retired workers averaged $1,410 per month
in March 2018. The average spousal payment is about half that amount, or
$735. Widows and widowers receive survivor's payments worth an average
of $1,342 monthly.
What is the maximum Social Security benefit?
The maximum possible Social Security benefit
changes depending on the age you retire. A worker who retires at full
retirement age in 2018 could be eligible for up to $2,788 per month. The
maximum benefit at age 62 drops to $2,158, while someone who delays
retirement until age 70 in 2018 could get as much as $3,698 monthly. In
order to qualify for these large payments you need to maintain a high
income throughout a career of 35 years or more. "Those who receive the
maximum benefit possible are those who've earned at or above the highest
taxable wage base all of the years that are used in the benefit
calculation," says William Meyer, founder and managing principal of
Social Security Solutions, a company that analyzes Social Security
claiming strategies. "That person would have exceeded the maximum
taxable earnings in each of the highest 35 years."
How do I get a new Social Security card?
U.S. citizens with a driver's license or state-issued identification
card can use their My Social Security account to apply for a replacement
Social Security card online. You can also fill out a paper application
and mail it in or take it to your local Social Security office.
How do I qualify for Social Security disability?
you have a medical condition that significantly limits your ability to
work and perform basic activities such as walking or remembering, you
might qualify for Social Security disability payments. Be prepared to
provide medical records documenting your condition and why it prevents
you from working. Social Security disability payments won't start until
six months after your disability began. There's also a several month
wait time to process disability applications.
Security beneficiaries are required to sign up for electronic payments.
Social Security benefits can be directly deposited into a bank or
credit union account or loaded onto a prepaid debit card. The payment
dates vary based on your date of birth. If your birthday falls on or
before the tenth of the month, you will receive your payment on the
second Wednesday of each month. Those born between the 11th and 20th get
their payments on the third Wednesday, and people born late in the
month get their direct deposits on the fourth Wednesday.
When Social Security Is Paid
Security checks are normally paid on the second, third and fourth
Wednesdays of each month. “The exact arrival date for Social Security
checks depends on the recipient’s day of birth,” says William Lipovsky,
CEO of First Quarter Finance in Lincoln, Nebraska.
If you were born:
On the 1st through the 10th: Expect a check to be paid on the second Wednesday of the month.
On the 11th through the 20th: Expect a check to be paid on the third Wednesday of the month.
On the 21st through the 31st: Expect a check to be paid on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
is a slight change for holidays. “If the payment date falls on a public
holiday, the payment will instead be made on the Tuesday just before
the originally scheduled date,” Lipovsky says. You can view the schedule
for payments during 2019 at ssa.gov.
How Social Security Checks Are Paid
Beginning on March 1, 2013, Social Security checks are no longer mailed. You can receive your payment through two ways:
Direct deposit. You can choose to have the Social Security check deposited directly into your bank or credit union account.
Direct Express debit card.
You can have the Social Security check loaded onto a debit card through
the Direct Express card program. You don’t need a bank account for this
setup. The card works for making purchases, paying bills or getting
cash. However, there may be fees associated with some transactions.
What Time Frame the Amount Covers
Security benefits are sent out the month after they are due. “Social
Security checks are paid in arrears, so any check received is for the
month prior,” says Adam Beaty, a financial planner at Bullogic Wealth
Management in Pearland, Texas. For example, your July payment is
distributed in August.
you start receiving benefits, you might notice that at the beginning of
the year your payment amount is different. The Social Security
Administration adjusts payments each year to keep pace with inflation.
As prices in the U.S. fluctuate, the benefits you receive could change
to help cover the rising costs. The annual cost-of-living adjustment is
calculated each October and paid out beginning in January.
When Social Security Payments Will Start
of the decision regarding when to start Social Security payments is up
to you, but your payments could change depending on the age you sign up.
“Currently, the earliest you can start taking Social Security
retirement benefits is at age 62,” says Logan Allec, a certified public
accountant and founder of Money Done Right in Santa Clarita, California.
However, if you choose to start payments at age 62, you will receive a
To receive your full benefit, you’ll need to wait until you reach full retirement age.
Your full retirement age depends on when you were born. If you were
born between 1943 and 1954, for instance, your full retirement age is
66. If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67.
Whether you should take Social Security benefits early
will depend on your situation. If you need to stop working earlier than
your full retirement age due to health reasons, you might decide to
start taking Social Security to help cover your bills. However, if you
have a large amount set aside for retirement, you could choose to draw
from those funds and wait until your full retirement age
or up until age 70 to start Social Security payments. “This is why it’s
essential that you budget for different scenarios,” Allec says. You can
sit down with a financial advisor to look at your current plan and
create backup strategies.
How to Start Your Benefit
begin receiving Social Security, you’ll need to fill out an
application. You can apply for Social Security online at ssa.gov or make
an appointment at your local Social Security office. To avoid any
surprises, it’s best to start this process early. “Don’t do it at the
last minute,” says Tim Sullivan, a national Social Security advisor and
owner of Strategic Wealth Advisors Group in Shelby Township, Michigan.
You might begin the process three or four months before you want to
start receiving checks. This will give you enough time to make sure you
have all the right forms and aren’t missing out on any potential
Don’t Overlook Taxes
Depending on your financial situation, you may have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefit
in retirement. “Many soon-to-be retirees assume that Social Security
benefits are not taxable since, after all, they already paid taxes on
the income they contributed to Social Security over their working
years,” Allec says. “Unfortunately, that is not how the system works,
and the method for determining the taxability of your Social Security
benefits is not so simple.” Retirees who owe taxes on their Social
Security benefit need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to the
IRS or have federal taxes withheld from their payments.
If you plan to continue working in retirement
or aren’t sure how taxes will work, it might be helpful to sit down
with a Social Security advisor before retiring. You can go over your
expected taxable income during the coming years, and then determine the
right time to start taking Social Security payments in retirement.
Research the Social Security process now to avoid any surprises in
UFT members just received a 2% raise on Valentine's Day and the total 42 month contract (Feb 2018 -September 2022) is 7.5% or 2% annually. This contract was negotiated by New York City which has a multi billion dollar surplus. How does our contract compare to the recently settled Los Angeles and Denver teacher contracts?
The Los Angeles teachers contractgave them a 6% raise for the two years, or 3% annually, despite a one billion dollar shortfall for the Los Angeles Board of Education. Moreover, the City committed to have a full time guidance consular, librarian, and nurse for every public school. Additionally, the City will reduce class size by two students next school year. Finally, the City agreed to a charter school moratorium for the next year.
The Denver teachers contract was all about raises. The three year contract had an average raise of 9% or 3% annually. Moreover, the contract increased and added steps, 20 in all, that guaranteed raises for every teacher. Finally automatic cost of living raises, based on the local CPI will be included.
Comparing the three contracts, one can see that our annual raises are 1% lower than both Los Angeles and Denver for the length of the three contracts. Furthermore, Denver has an improved salary step scale and a cost of living raises based on the local CPI.
The bottom line is our UFT leadership negotiated an inferior contract when it comes to annual raises.
Note: After a 7 day strike the Oakland California teachers received an 11% raise for 4 years (2.75% annually) plus a 3% bonus. Also including a reduction in class sizes.
A couple of years ago I was at a small screened Bloomberg high school in Western Queens. The staff was mostly young and untenured and the Principal told the staff to have the students address them by their first name. I am old school and I believe that children should address their teachers by their last name, Well I had to take over a class for the rest of the year as a teacher quit. The Principal was not happy to have me for the rest of the year since he liked young teachers and I did not fit his definition of a "good (young) teacher". Worse, he was aware that I knew the contract and told teachers their rights as the Chapter Leader was untenured and was a waste of time when it came to representing the staff.
The first day I took over the class I wrote my name on the whiteboard, as the students slowly walked into the classroom, five minutes late, one student asked me what my first name was. I told him that as a teacher I use my last name to the students. He persisted and asked me again what my first name was. When I told him I go by my last name he told me teachers go by their first name. Therefore, I told him my first name is mister. The student finally stopped asking me for my first name.
As the week went by, I noticed students were calling me mister or "yo mister". Eventually, the Principal got wind of my refusal to give the students my first name and called me into his office. Interestingly, he sent me a letter asking to see me and my union representative before the school day starts since it could result in disciplinary action. Normally I would be concerned but I knew it was about my refusal to give the students my first name.
The next day I walked in to the Principal's office five minutes before school started. The Principal was pissed. He wanted to know why I didn't show up earlier. I told him he never listed a time and that making a disciplinary meeting should be done on school time. He arraigned for a another teacher to cover my first period class.and started the meeting.
The Principal charged me with insubordination for my failure to follow school rules for not giving the students my name. I responded by saying "can you show me in the contract or the Chancellor regulations where I am required to give students my first name"? Clearly frustrated, the Principal screamed "its my rules". I explained to him that its my choice and not his and I told him to call his Superintendent or DOE legal and get guidance before he gives me a letter to the file. The Principal must have decided or given guidance that he should drop the issue since I was within my rights..
For the rest of the year when students greeted me in my classroom or hallways it was always "yo mister".
I was sent the article and after reading it, I felt it was necessary to reprint it in its entirety on my blog. Obviously, many of you can relate to her experiences.
The article describes why teaching in NYC urban schools can be a horror. Student disrespect for education and their teachers, dysfunctional families and communities, negative peer pressure, lax student discipline policies, lack of resources, uncaring and incompetent administrators, and failure of our union to combat the antagonistic culture at the DOE. Moreover, the union failed to protect the teachers from DOE aggression and their biased investigations.
Its not bad teachers that causes poor student academic achievement as the media and the politicians would claim but its the many obstacles put up by the DOE and dysfunctional families that discourages good teaching and make the majority of teachers flee the system and the profession before being vested for a pension.
teaching is a common explanation given for the disastrously inadequate
public education received by America’s most vulnerable populations. This
is a myth. Aside from a few lemons who were notable for their rarity,
the majority of teachers I worked with for nine years in New York City’s
public school system were dedicated, talented professionals. Before
joining the system I was mystified by the schools’ abysmal results. I
too assumed there must be something wrong with the teaching. This could
not have been farther from the truth.
French and Italian in NYC high schools I finally figured out why this
was, although it took some time, because the real reason was so
antithetical to the prevailing mindset. I worked at three very different
high schools over the years, spanning a fairly representative sample.
That was a while ago now, but the system has not improved since, as the
fundamental problem has not been acknowledged, let alone addressed. It
would not be hard, or expensive, to fix.
Washington Irving High School, 2001–2004
NYC teaching career began a few days before September 11, 2001 at
Washington Irving High School. It was a short honeymoon period; the
classes watched skeptically as I introduced them to a method of
teaching French using virtually no English. Although the students
weren’t particularly engaged, they remained respectful. During first
period on that awful day there was a horrendous split-second noise. A
plane flew right overhead a mere moment before it blasted into the north
tower of the World Trade Center. At break time word was spreading among
the staff. Both
towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next
class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of
rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval,
some getting out of their seats to do a sort of victory dance. It was
an eye-opener, and indicative of what was to come.
next three years were a nightmare. The school always teetered on the
verge of chaos. The previous principal had just been dismissed and
shunted to another school district. Although it was never stated,
all that was expected of teachers was to keep students in their seats
and the volume down. This was an enormous school on five floors, with
students cordoned off into separate programs. There was even a
short-lived International Baccalaureate Program, but it quickly failed.
Whatever the program, however, the atmosphere of the school was one of
danger and deceit. Guards patrolled the hallways, sometimes the police
had to intervene. Even though the security guards carefully screened the
students at the metal detectors posted at every entrance, occasionally
arms crept in. Girls sometimes managed to get razors in, the weapon of
choice against rivals for boys’ attention. Although I don’t know of
other arms found in the school (teachers were kept in the dark as much
as possible), one particularly disruptive and dangerous boy was stabbed
one afternoon right outside school. It appears he came to a violent
death a few years later. What a tragic waste of human potential.
the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the
students wouldn’t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I
could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among
themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or
each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A
particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a
conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the
lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, “I don’t talk to
teachers,” turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the
best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed
not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he
also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other
school in the district. It worked; they got good results.
was unthinkable in New York, where “in-house suspension” was the only
punitive measure. It would be “discriminatory” to keep the students at
home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously
disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious
offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all
power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.
Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who
wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who “cooperated
with the system” was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they
couldn’t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the
offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle
threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There
were certainly precious few books being brought home.
tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing
worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who
wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal
was informed and I was reprimanded. This was “discriminatory.” The
students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from
imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students
to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs
in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going
through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet.
abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the
time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms
I’d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and
harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The
student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the
eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.
the girls were meaner than the boys. The latter did not engage at all.
They simply ignored me. Except for the delinquents among them, the boys
didn’t make trouble. The girls on the other hand could be malicious. One
girl even called me a “fucking white bitch.” It was
confidence-destroying and extremely stressful. I was often reported to
the principal for one transgression or another, like taking a sheet of
paper from a student. Once I was even reprimanded for calmly taking my
own cellphone from a girl who’d held on to it for half an hour, refusing
all my requests to hand it back. The administration was consistently on
the side of the student. The teacher was the fall guy, every time.
abuse ranged from insults to outright violence, although I myself was
never physically attacked. Stories abounded, however, of hard substances
like bottles of water being thrown at us, teachers getting smacked on
the head from behind, pushed in stairwells, and having doors slammed in
our faces. The language students used was consistently obscene. By far
the most commonly heard word throughout the school, literally hundreds
of times a day, like a weapon fired indiscriminately, was “nigga.” The
most amazing story from those painful years was the time I said it
you just have had enough. One day a girl sitting towards the back of
the classroom shouted at some boy up front, “Yo! Nigga! Stop that!” I
stood up as tall as I could and said in my most supercilious voice, “I
don’t know which particular nigga the young lady is referring to, but
whoever it is, would you please stop it.” The kids couldn’t believe
“Yo, miss! You can’t say that!”“Why not? You say it all the time.”“Uhh… Because you’re old.”“That’s not why. Come on, tell the truth.”
went on for a bit, until one brave lad piped up: “Because you’re
white.” “Okay,” I said, “because I’m white. Well what if I said to you,
‘You’re not allowed to say some word because you’re black.’ Would that
be okay?” They admitted that it wouldn’t. No one seemed to report it. To
this day, it’s puzzling that I didn’t lose my job over that incident. I
put it down to basic human decency.
course my teaching method had to be largely scrapped. The kids didn’t
listen to me in either French or English. But they had a certain
begrudging respect for me, I think because I told them the truth. I’d
plead with them, “Look, kids, you’re destroying yourselves. Yes, the
system stinks, but it’s the only show in town. Please, please don’t do
this to yourselves. Education is your only way out.” But it was useless.
I didn’t possess whatever magic some teachers have that explains their
success, however limited.
from the history teacher from Texas, other Washington Irving educators
stood out as extraordinary, and this in an unimaginably bad learning
environment. One was a cheerful Lebanese math teacher who had been
felled as a child by polio. He called himself “the million dollar man”
because of his handicapped parking permit, quite a handy advantage in
Manhattan. Although he could only walk on crutches, he kept those kids
in line! His secret? A lovely way about him and complete but polite
disdain for his students. Where he came from, students were not allowed
to act that way. Another was a German teacher, the wife of a Lutheran
minister. Her imposing presence—she fit the valkyrie stereotype—kept
those mouths closed. You could hear a pin drop in her unusually tidy
classroom, and she managed to teach some German to the few hardy souls
who wanted to learn it.
most impressive of all was a handsome black American from Minnesota. He
towered over us all, both physically and what the French call morally.
He exuded an aura that inspired something like awe in his colleagues and
students. I think he taught social studies. He was the only teacher who
got away with blacking out his classroom door window, which added to
his mystique. He engaged his students by concentrating their efforts on
putting together a fashion show at the end of each school year. They
designed and produced the outfits they strutted proudly on the makeshift
catwalk, looking as elegant and confident as any supermodel. To
tumultuous applause. They deserved it.
the school was always on the verge of hysteria and violence, it had all
the trappings of the typical American high school. There were class
trips and talent shows, rings and year books—even caps and gowns and
graduation. High school diplomas were among the trappings, handed out to
countless 12th graders with, from my observation, a 7th grade
education. The elementary schools had a better record. But everyone knew
that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under
the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster
culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.
came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It
was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being
rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say
things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no
good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came
from black leaders like Martin Luther King and some of the best writing
from authors like James Baldwin. I would tell them that there was
nothing wrong with speaking one’s own dialect; dialects in whatever
language tend to be colorful and expressive, but it was important to
learn standard English as well. It opens minds and doors. Every new word
learned adds to one’s wealth, and there’s nothing like grammar for
organizing one’s thoughts.
all fell on deaf ears. It was impossible to dispel the students’
delusions. Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and
have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know
that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a
community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing:
As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m
black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be
most Dantesque scene I witnessed at Washington Irving was a “talent
show” staged one spring afternoon. The darkened auditorium was packed
with excited students, jittery guidance counselors, teachers, and
guards. Music blasted from the loudspeakers, ear-splitting noise
heightened the frenzy. To my surprise and horror, the only talent on
display was merely what comes naturally. Each act was a show of
increasingly explicit dry humping. As each group of performers vied with
the previous act to be more outrageous, chaos was breaking out in the
screaming audience. Some bright person in charge finally turned off the
sound, shut down the stage lights, and lit up the auditorium, causing
great consternation among the kids, but it quelled the growing mass
hysteria. The students came to their senses. The guards (and NYC
policemen if memory serves) managed to usher them out to safety.
on two consecutive days, enormous Snapple dispensers on a mezzanine
were pushed to the floor below. Vending machines had to be removed for
the students’ safety. On another occasion, two chairs were chucked out
of the building, injuring a woman below. Bad press and silly excuses
ensued. Another time, word spread that a gang of girls was going to beat
up a Mexican girl. There was a huge crush of students who preferred to
skip the next class to go see the brawl. The hallway was packed, there
was pushing and shoving, causing a stampede. I was caught in it and fell
to the ground; kids stepped over me elbowing each other in the crush of
bodies. Eventually, a student helped me to my feet. Badly shaken, I was
taken to the nurse’s office. My blood pressure was dangerously high; I
was encouraged to see a doctor, but declined. My husband came and
brought me home.
thereafter, the teachers union (United Federation of Teachers, or UFT)
fought the Department of Education, which had recently loosened the
already lax disciplinary rulings. They organized a press conference and
asked me to speak at it about the worsening security situation. The
principal refused me permission to leave even though my supportive
assistant principal found a fellow language teacher to take over my
classes. As soon as school was out, though, a union rep implored me to
rush downtown with him as the press conference was still going on.
Questioned by reporters in front of the cameras, I spoke about the
stampede. There was a brief segment on the local evening news. The
principal was furious, and the next morning screamed at me in the lobby
that I was a publicity seeker who just wanted to give the school a bad
name. However, the UFT was successful in this case, as the former, less
inadequate disciplinary measures were restored, and things went back to
their usual level of simmering chaos.
it was clear that my generally robust mental state was deteriorating, I
did not want to quit. The UFT encouraged me to go into counseling; I
didn’t see the point but acquiesced and agreed to see one of their
social workers for therapy. Her stance seemed to be, “What is a nice
girl like you doing in a place like that?” I started to write about the
situation to people in authority. The UFT president Randi Weingarten and
the DoE head Joel Klein were among the recipients of my letters
detailing the problems we faced. I visited my local city councilman, who
listened politely. I did not receive a single response.
thereafter, my beloved husband died after a brief illness. The students
knew, so were somewhat subdued when I returned to work. But one
afternoon a girl, I forget why, muttered “you fucking bitch.” I finally
broke. I screamed at the whole class and insisted that they all get out
of the classroom. Furiously. Any physical contact was strictly forbidden
between staff and students, so my voice alone did the job. It was also
strictly forbidden to send one student out of the classroom, never mind
the whole class. The good-hearted teacher next door came to my aid. The
administration took pity on me and did not press charges.
the meantime, the UFT somehow found the “nice girl” a job at Brooklyn
Technical High School. There was one going for a French and Italian
teacher, as there were not enough classes for another full-time French
Brooklyn Tech, 2004–2009
Tech was considered one of New York’s “top three” high schools.
Students had to test in. My first principal was a big, jolly black man,
but he got caught on a minor offense and was sent packing. His misdeed
was bringing his daughter to school in New York from their home in New
Jersey, which, although against the rules, was hardly unheard of. There
was a $20 million restructuring fund in the offing for his replacement.
The new principal ended the unruly after-school program that purportedly
prepared underprivileged children for the entrance exam. Disruptive
behavior subsequently dropped considerably.
new principal ‘s word was law. Under the last-in-first-out system, my
job was never secure. Most students were the children of recently
arrived immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. A
minority were from older Irish and Jewish immigrant families. The many
obvious cultural differences were fascinating.
assistant principal was an amusing old cynic who loved a hassle-free
life. Under him, teaching was a pleasure. It was hard work, as classes
were large and students handed in assignments to be graded, but it was
rewarding. On Friday afternoons he would announce, “Okay, girls and
boys, it’s time to go to the bank,” our signal that we could leave with
impunity before the legally stipulated hour. However, some teachers
always stayed behind for hours on end to avoid bringing work home.
the disruptive students at first, the classes were manageable. What the
youngsters lacked in academic rigor, they made up for in verve.
However, as the years passed, micro-management became more burdensome.
Supervision became stricter, with multiple class visits and more
meetings. Some “experts” up the DoE ladder decided that we had to
produce written evidence that our lesson plans conformed to a rigid
formula. The new directives did not take into account that
foreign-language teaching requires instilling four different skill sets
(listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and therefore a different,
more flexible methodological approach. Unfortunately, our easy-going
assistant principal had his fill of the worsening bureaucratic overload
and retired. Instead of an eccentric opera buff with a sense of humor,
an obedient apparatchik would enforce the new rules.
the spring of my 5th year there, he informed me that I had been chosen
to replace the Advanced Placement French teacher, as her results were
poor. I did the AP training course and prepared for the new challenge
that would begin in September. The day before school began, however, he
phoned to say that my job was terminated. “There wasn’t enough interest
in French” to justify my position, apparently. This was despite
vociferous protests from students and parents. I would like to know if,
as a member of the UFT’s advisory council, I had asked the principal too
many questions. He was so kind as to find me a place at a “boutique”
school way down in Brooklyn’s Flatlands.
Victory Collegiate High School, 2009–2010
Collegiate High School seemed promising. It could boast of Bill Gates
money, and was one of only two or three new experimental schools
co-located in what was once the venerable South Shore High School. It
served the local, partly middle-class, partly ghettoized black
community. The principal informed me proudly that the students wore
uniforms, and no cellphones were allowed. The classes were tiny in
comparison to other high schools, and there were no disciplinary
the devastating blow to my career, I set out hopefully on the long
commute to Canarsie. The metal detectors should have clued me in. Any
pretense of imposing uniforms was eventually abandoned. Cellphones were a
constant nuisance. Administrators turned a blind eye to the widespread
would be repetitive to go over the plentiful examples of the abuse
teachers suffered at the hands of the students. Suffice it to say, it
was Washington Irving all over again, but in miniature. The principal
talked a good game, believing that giving “shout-outs” and being a pal
to the students were accomplishing great things, but he actually had
precious little control over them. What made matters worse, the teaching
corps was a young, idealistic group, largely recruited from the
non-profit Teach For America, not the leathery veterans who constituted a
majority at the two previous schools. I was a weird anomaly to these
youngsters. What? I didn’t feel pity for these poor children? I didn’t
take it for granted that they would abuse us? The new teachers were
fervent believers in the prevailing ideology that the students’ bad
behavior was to be expected, and that we should educate them without
question according to the hip attitudes reflected in the total absence
of good literature or grammar, and a sense of history that emphasized
example of the “literature” we were expected to teach was as racist as
it was obscene. The main character was an obese, pregnant 14 year-old
dropout. The argot in which it was written was probably not all that
familiar to many of the students. Appalled, I asked an English teacher
why the students had to read this rubbish. She was shocked at the
question: we have to teach “literature the kids can relate to.” Why on
earth did the school system believe that such a depraved environment as
depicted in this book was representative of the very mixed group of
families that inhabited the area, many of whom were led by middle-class
professionals from the Caribbean? The “language arts” department (the
word “English” was too Euro-centric) made one obligatory bow to
Shakespeare—a version of “Romeo and Juliet” reduced to a few hundred
words. It was common knowledge that the Bard was “overrated.”
small classes faced a large photograph of Barack Obama displayed
proudly in front of the classroom over the title “Notre Président.” The
picture resonated as little with the students as the Pledge of
Allegiance. Like at Washington Irving, all I managed to do was to get
them to stand for it and sing some songs. I did have the rueful
satisfaction towards the end of the year, however, of being told after
the class trip, “Mary, you won’t believe it! The kids sang French songs
all the way to Washington!”
the classroom, the children did as they pleased. Since the classes were
smaller, some students managed to learn a bit of French, but most
obdurately ignored me. One memorable 16 year-old fresh from Chicago
loved French but was contemptuous of me. She was tall and slender, quite
beautiful, and in love, it seemed, with another girl in the class, who
was not blessed with similar beauty. Throughout the year they were an
item. I finally managed to separate them, insisting that they change
seats when it became increasingly difficult to stop them from necking in
the classroom. That was when, despite her love of French, the Chicago
girl left my class never to return, except once, when we were watching a
movie. She came in, sat down and watched with us, breezing out again at
the film’s end. This was not unusual behavior. Some students had the
run of the hallways, wandering around as they pleased.
before, students engaged fully in the ancillary aspects of high school
life. As before, I tried to encourage them to engage in the learning
process. On one memorable occasion, I said to them: “You are not here to
play, you are here to develop your intellect.” The puzzled stares this
remark elicited spoke volumes. It seemed an utterly new concept to them.
school had an exceptionally good math teacher, among other excellent
ones. In November, students sat for the preliminary Scholastic Aptitude
Test that all juniors were required to do in preparation for the real
thing in the spring. I had to proctor the first half. As instructed, I
walked up and down the aisles keeping an eye on things. It all went
smoothly. When the language section was over and the math part began,
however, students stopped working. They sat there staring at the desk. I
quietly encouraged them to make an effort, but the general response
was, “I ain’t doin’ it, miss, it’s too hard.” I could not get them to
change their minds; they sat doing nothing for the rest of my shift.
preliminary test results that came back in the spring were abysmally
low—despite the fact that every single response bubble on the math test
had been filled in. Either the next proctor forced the kids to randomly
fill in the bubbles, or some administrators did so, another example of
the rampant deceit the school system indulges.
the terrible 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a number of Haitians joined the
school. These youngsters were remarkable for their good manners and
desire to learn, for their outstanding gentility in fact. They provided a
most refreshing change, but it didn’t last. They quickly fell into the
trap of hostile resistance.
June, things were really depressing. Not only was the academic year an
utter failure, word spread that 10 girls had become pregnant. Since
there were only about 90 girls in the school, this represented over 10
percent. The majority of the pregnant girls were freshmen, targeted it
was said by a few “baby daddies” who prided themselves on their prowess
and evolutionary success. One of them, however, was the beautiful
“lesbian” from Chicago. As her jilted partner moped around, cut to the
quick, it was impossible not to feel terrible for her.
again, I finally and suddenly broke. The threat was from an unlikely
source, a big lad who was always subdued. He was in the special
education program, and never gave any trouble when I substituted in that
class. But one afternoon, for some unknowable reason, this usually
gentle giant came up to me and said, “I gonna cut yo’ ass.” That was the
final humiliation I would suffer in the New York City public school
left that afternoon never to return. I left much behind: trinkets I’d
brought from France, hoping to use them as prizes for the highest
achievers; my beautiful edition of Les Fables de Jean de la Fontaine;
class records, French magazines, CDs and other educational materials.
But I brought away something priceless: an insider’s knowledge of a
teacher phoned me to say that in her culture “I gonna cut yo’ ass”
should not be taken literally, it just meant that he would teach me a
lesson. “I don’t care,” I replied. Another called to express her
astonishment that I would abandon my students. Why on earth did that
matter, I answered, they hadn’t learned anything anyway. The school
would hand out passing grades no matter what I did.
* * *
is not poor teaching or a lack of money that is failing our most
vulnerable populations. The real problem is an ethos of rejection that
has never been openly admitted by those in authority.
should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them
ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep
down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This
they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less
capable? It makes perfect psychological sense. Being very young,
however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the
reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So
they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and
also take revenge on a fraudulent system that pretends to educate them.
The authorities cover up their own incompetence, and when that fails,
blame the parents and New Post teachers, or lack of funding, or “poverty,”
“racism,” and so on. The media follow suit. Starting with our lawmakers,
the whole country swallows the lie.
do precious few adults admit the truth out loud? Because in America the
taboo against questioning the current orthodoxy on race is too strong
and the price is too high. What is failing our most vulnerable
populations is the lack of political will to acknowledge and solve the
real problems. The first step is to change the ”anti-discrimination”
laws that breed anti-social behavior. Disruptive students must be
removed from the classroom, not to punish them but to protect the
majority of students who want to learn.
I read with humor that PolitiFact found that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's educational record of improvement was mostly true. However, a closer look at the data finds that Mr. Bloomberg's education policy was a failure.
The only real improvement was the bogus graduation rate. However, every educator knows that the improved graduation rates were because of "credit recovery" courses, administrative pressure to pass failing students, scholarship requirements, and linking teacher tenure to student grades. This is known as academic fraud.
What PolitiFact failed to investigate was the increasing class sizes under Michael Bloomberg, the bloated DOE Bureaucracy, the underfunded public school budgets, where most schools received only 82% to 86% of fair funding and the rise of charter schools at the expense of the public schools.
Just as important was Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to eliminate teacher tenure by bribing the Republican controlled State Senate by donating almost a million dollars to their campaign and asking them to eliminate 'Last in, First out". He also approved non educators to the highest positions, including the Chancellor at the DOE. Be it Joel Klein, Cathie Black, and Dennis Walcott. Under Mayor Bloomberg the DOE no longer collaborate with teachers to improve schools. Instead, they were considered the enemy to the classroom teacher.
Mayor Bloomberg refused to give teachers their rightful raise, loaded up the "rubber rooms" till the expense was too much even for the Mayor, and even wanted to double class sizes with up to 70 students while eliminating half of the teaching force. He and Chancellor Joel Klein was the force behind the ATR crisis and was willing to waste 150 million dollars annually.
He hated public schools so much that he closed 162 of them while approving just about anybody who wanted to open up a charter school. The Mayor allowed charters to inhabit underutilized public schools and used a suspect utilization factor to expand charter schools that were co-located with public schools.
Finally, Mayor Bloomberg made sure all reserve funds were spent so that the more union friendly Bill de Blasio had no funds to pay teachers their retroactive raises.
The UFT elections are fast approaching and I have reviewed the candidates of various caucuses and here are my candidates for the various union posts.
President: Lydia Howrilka:of Solidarity Caucus
Lydia Howrilka is a tireless worker and has made the Solidarity caucus relevant and no longer a one man show. She was rubber roomed because she stood up for her rights and was discontinued before winning in Court and received a new position at another school.
By contrast, present UFT President Mickeal Mulgrew is disconnected and arrogant. He rather suck up to the Mayor and the Chancellor than give his members an adequate raise. The MORE candidate does not reflect UFT membership with MORE turning sharply left with it's Socialist/Communist philosophy.
Executive Board: Arthur Goldstein and Micheal Shirtzer UNITY caucus and Johnathan Halabi New Action caucus.
Secretary: Francesco Portelos Solidarity caucus.
Treasurer: James Calantjis Solidarity caucus.
Presently, these are my candidates I will be voting for. As the electron date comes closer, I will be listing more selections as the electron slates are published..