It's teacher hunting season!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FLASH: Consultant caught in NJ 44 arrest sweep found DEAD

Jack M. Shaw, a consultant among the 44 people arrested in the New Jersey alleged corruption cases last week,
has been found dead. Edward J. DeFazio, the Hudson County prosecutor, said the circumstances surrounding the case of his death are "suspicious", as The New York Times reported Tuesday, July 28.
Who is this Shaw?
Mr. Shaw was a longtime Democratic operative who cut his teeth working for Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago and later was a campaign aide to Gov. Jim Florio.
He also worked on Robert G. Torricelli’s 1996 Senate race, Robert E. Andrews’s 1997 bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, and Jon S. Corzine’s election to the Senate in 2000.
Over time, he became a fixture in Hudson County Democratic circles. He was an adviser to Robert C. Janiszewski, the former county executive later convicted of corruption.

Making things messy, at the least, is the relationship between Shaw and the Jersey City mayor:
Prosecutors said Mr. Shaw proposed that Mr. Dwek make $10,000 in donations to the re-election campaign of the Jersey City mayor, Jerramiah T. Healy, in exchange for approvals.
According to a federal complaint, Mr. Shaw later told Mr. Dwek that he had given the money to Mr. Healy.
Aides to Mr. Healy, who has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday night.

It might be early to say this, but this strikes me as looking more like a thriller or a story of the likes of "The Sopranos."

Daily News first in detailing extent of organ (kidneys) -brokering scandal, and first in covering juking stats of City hospital deaths

It has been almost a week since the incredible news flashed midday that 44 people had been arrested in New Jersey and that aside from the usual agents of governmental corruption, dealers in organ smuggling had been arrested.

The attention to the latter point is the result of the valiant work of anthropology professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes (University of California-Berkeley). She has been trailing this story at least since 2003, documenting a lucrative international trade in kidneys. Yet, U.S. authorities ignored her (while South African and Brazilian authorities made great use of her sleuth work). Furthermore, CBS News' Sixty Minutes did not want to follow through on her story. (Could it be that Dr. Scheper-Hughes' research tainted the reputations of doctors at some of New York City's more prestigious hospitals?) And the U.S. State Department "dismissed [Scheper-Hughes' reports of] organ trafficking as "urban legend."

Let's give a shout out to the New York Daily News, for this newspaper gave ample attention in its July 24 coverage of the corruption arrests to her research and her essential role in tipping off the facts to U.S. authorities.
Dr. Scheper-Hughes documented the physical coercion in securing the kidneys, paraphrasing the threats that the kingpin of this smuggling operation made, while displaying a pistol:
"You're here. A deal is a deal. Now, you'll give us a kidney or you'll never go home.' "

The details of her research will appear in her forthcoming book, ''A World Cut in Two, The Global Traffic in Humans for Organs.''
Click here for the MP3 audio file of WNYC's Brian Lehrer's interview, Friday, July 24 with Dr. Scheper-Hughes.
* * *
As if organ-smuggling isn't eerie enough, The New York Daily News ran an expose Sunday, July 26, 2009, on scrubbed hospital records that concealed deaths at the hospital, "Hospital records were sometimes falsified to cover up medical mistakes." Click here to read Robert Gearty, Benjamin Lesser and Greg B. Smith's story and watch the Daily News' two videos.
Well, this is a parallel to the tendency of New York City schools to not report incidents of violence. Terrorize teachers against reporting student acts of violence, drastically slash the numbers of deans, and voila! A drastic reduction in student violence.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Mis-rule of Joel Klein that NY Times has ignored

On the New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, there are major problems in news media reportage, except for WNYC and a couple of reporters for the tabloids, the city's media (notably, the New York Times) are merely repeating the press releases of the city Department of Education.

This is a terrible civic example to the children and the public. In history classes there are warnings against the concentration of power in one person. It is called autocracy, the word is treated as a dirty word. Yet, there is no critical discussion of the ills of this kind of leadership.
As to specifics of his mis-leadership,
1) Klein has misallocated resources into no-bid contracts for consultants. Millions have been spent on these consultants, while schools have scrimped on teaching staff and resources.
2) On January 21, 2003, Klein adopted the misguided "Everyday Math" program. This poorly conceived constructivist approach to teaching math was twice (several years prior) rejected in California after careful studies of the program. (See the New York Sun and the City Journal on this issue; and this assessment by David Klein, a California professor of mathematics.)
3) He has exerted a social class bias in closing down schools. The closed schools has happened extensively in schools with high minority and low income student populations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. It has not happened in southern Brooklyn, eastern Queens or Staten Island. In the wide-spread closure of large schools he has foreclosed the opportunity for students to have options in their English classes, their foreign language choices or chances to study in Advanced Placement classes. Now, there is no possibility of taking AP classes, there is only one choice (within one grade within a school) of English class topic or foreign language. No more French, German or Italian, just Spanish.
4) The city has neglected to provide special education resources (special education-certified teachers and classes) in schools. Now, special education students are injected into regular education classes. As students and teachers will tell you, this move often leads to greater disruption in the class. This neglect of special education has forced the United Federation of Teachers to launch a campaign for monitoring the denial of special education resources.
Why the neglect of special education resources? For one matter, the appearance of large percentages of special education students in schools is seen as a negative indicator. The solution? Just erase the special education students.
5) The graduation rates are a distortion. As WNYC reported in May, a Columbia School of Journalism PhD candidate (Jennifer Jennings) showed that the number of high school graduates does not match the number of in-coming ninth graders. Before Klein, students had the opportunity re-take classes. True, it was common for students to take six years to graduate. At least this was better than being pressured to leave the school for commercial trade schools or GED programs. A real Regents high school diploma is better than a GED certificate.
6) The value of a New York City public education remains troubled. The CUNY schools are having to put the vast majority of NYC school graduates through remedial education in English and mathematics.

These comments address just the beginning of the ways that Klein has mis-served the city. These examples of wrong-headed policies would have been addressed *publicly* had they been subject to open discussion by an independent body. The Senate is to be praised for not renewing mayoral control. After seven years, it is a demonstrated failure. Bravo to Brooklyn's Senator John Sampson for aiming to have greater variety of voices on the new Board. Let's hope that the new Board will have some real independence and power.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WQXR, as WNYC property, will move to 105.9 in October

IN an update to my earlier post, WQXR (formerly New York Times radio) will move, as a WNYC property, to its new location, 105.9, in October. The WNYC official blog still swears that the change will not disturb the classical music format.
keywords: Changeover, transition, station move.

NYT sells WQXR radio to ... WNYC & Univision!

The New York Times has decided to sell its classical radio station, WQXR, presently at 96.3 FM. (Personally, I credit Hugh Hamilton, the host of WBAI's "Talk Back," for bringing this news to the radio airwaves this afternoon.) The station began as a mainly classical music station in 1936, it launched its FM station in 1939, and it had been a Times property since 1944, from wikipedia.

And purchasing the station is the listener-supported, National Public Radio affiliated station, WNYC, and the Spanish-language commercial television network, Univision.

This appears to be a desperate arrangement from a number of angles. First, from the Times' side, it has been losing millions in the current freefall collapse of commercial daily newspapers. So, it sought to sell off one asset.

And from the side of the station, it will be a great loser. It will shift from the middle of the FM dial to the top or right edge of the dial, to 105.9 WCAA, a Univision radio property will move from that upper range position to WQXR's position.
The 96.3 signal broadcasts from a transmitter with 6,000 watts, reaching 42 miles and 17.1 million people. The 105.9 transmitter has a 600 watts signal, reaching 30 miles and 12.6 million people.

And the employment-side of the equation is reminiscent of restructured companies or restructured schools: the nineteen full-time and two part-time employees will have to reapply for their jobs.

The Times article, the source for the above information intimated that the ownership change "could alter its character." Yet it quoted WNYC's chief executive officer, for reassuring words, “We will not only look to continue those relationships [with the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the Julliard School], but to extend and expand and deepen them.”

But one cannot but help think that WNYC's acquisition of WQXR could carry a different perspective of music and mission. First, the station has a record of curtailing music: in the early 1990s the station carried an over-night music program, and it carried daytime music, albeit with an extremely disconcerting host, Steve Post. This features were curtailed over the course of the 1990s, and the final death blow came amidst the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.
Also, the station has been trending away from the standard presentation of classical music or concert music. It replaced the more traditional David Garland with the more modern and eclectic Terrance McKnight. (I enjoy his creative juxtaposition of music selections, but as one can see from the message board pages at the station, the replacement with McKnight has not been without controversy.) And in the late night hour, and particularly on weekends, it has broadcast canned music with canned-sounding voices, as opposed to the warm, spontaneous voices of local hosts.

Alas, with public school systems' wholesale elimination of music programs, particularly music appreciation programs, particularly in New York City, the mission of classical music stations is a precarious one. The elimination of music appreciation or school bands/ orchestras has meant the growth of generations of students with little appreciation for classical music --or jazz music, for that regard. Is it any wonder that popular music these days usually lacks the playing of instruments, or that rap, the chanting upon repeated sound-machine sounds, represent the leading trends of popular music these days?
(Some other things we can expect to vanish from the new WQXR: the markers as the station of the upper classes: the stock reports, the occasional ads for bonds or other investment vehicles. Some great features have already left the station: the lower-tech announcements of the next day's Times front page and editorials have been replaced by announcements from Bloomberg News. --Any wonder that there are fewer damaging articles on the administration in the Times than in the Daily News??)
So, more than buttressing the Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera or the Julliard School is at stake. The new WQXR could serve as a platform for re-generating an audience for "concert music."
There is no word yet as to when the actual transition of stations (WQXR to 105.9 and WCAA to 96.3) will take place.