It's teacher hunting season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Update: 1, 2, 3, Many NYC Tahrir Squares as Parent, Student School Revolts in an Arab Spring in the Autumn

Rebellion is breaking out all over as parents and students are yelling, "No", to New York City Department of Education school chaos. The Occupy Wall Street or Tahrir Square energy is beginning to seep into the parent and student communities in the city's high schools, in quite different boroughs (Bronx, Queens) of New York City. A common thread is scandalous class scheduling that neglects to give students essential classes such as English.
(Scroll to the bottom of this post for ignored ATR factor in DOE refusal to hire teachers scandal.)

It is disappointing that these stories for the most are in alternate media (blogs) or minor commercial media (outer borough newspapers). Few of these situations are covered by major media such as the New York Times.

As indicated in one of my blog posts earlier this week, 75 students at Frederick Douglass VI High School in Far Rockaway did not have an English teacher until they refused to attend class until the administration agreed to hire a regular teacher.

Yesterday, November 22, 2011, Ben Chapman authored "Students at Grace Dodge Career & Technical Education High School in the Bronx haven't had an English teacher for months: Kids at F-rated school cut class and 'smoke weed' instead" in the Daily News that Grace Dodge Career and Technical High School in the Bronx lacked English teachers, for a total of ten missing class sections. A total of 300 students lack an English teacher.

An F-rated Bronx high school has failed to provide nearly 300 students with English teachers since the third week of the school year, the Daily News has learned.

For nearly three months, the students at Grace Dodge Career & Technical Education High School have languished in their daily English lessons without regular instructors.

Instead of learning composition and grammar, the kids sleep, socialize or cut class, senior Michelle Sanchez, 17, said.

“We just sit there and stare at each other,” said the frustrated teen. “Kids cut school and smoke weed around the corner. Or they walk around the halls and get into fights.”

The 1,182-student school in the Belmont section of the Bronx has been targeted by the city because of its abysmal performance.

Just 35% of seniors graduated on time last year, and only 1% graduated ready for college.

Teachers at the school were outraged students have gone without English instructors.

“It’s horrendous in here,” said one teacher who wouldn’t give her name.

Education Department spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the teacher shortage was due to two instructors retiring abruptly in October. That left 10 English class periods without full-time teachers, she said.

Read more from the original Daily News article click here.

Last week the Ed Notes blog published "Growing Scandal at Queens Metro Tech Exposes All the Ills of Bloomberg Ed Deform - Another Leadership Acad Principal Set to Take Fall."

The Queens newspapers have reported more negative news at Forest Hills' Queens Metro High School. The chaos echoes the scheduling disorder that the New York Times did report earlier this month:
November 23, 2011 from the Western Queens Gazette: "Queens Metropolitan H.S. Beset With Scheduling Problems"
For the second time in little over a month, a Queens high school has been revealed as awash in scheduling problems. Queens Metropolitan H.S., 91-30 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, opened in September 2010 with relatively few scheduling problems. This year, some classes lack teachers, no physical education instruction is being imparted and students have yet to receive grades for some of the course work they have completed and handed in, according to parents who attended a meeting of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association on November 15. The situation echoes that of Long Island City H.S., where students have found themselves reporting to different classes with different teachers or spending hours seated in the auditorium and cafeteria, depending on how their schedules change from week to week.

Principal Marci Levy-McGuire declared that she is working feverishly to straighten out the scheduling mess affecting the school’s 650 ninth and tenth grade students. Some parents were less than convinced. Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, whose two sons attend the school, expressed dissatisfaction with the efforts to correct the scheduling errors at a sparsely attended Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting November 17. At that meeting, it was noted that the school lacks a science teacher, classes are taught by rotating substitutes and students who registered for elective courses sit in the auditorium instead, some for as long as three hours.

City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he had heard of the problem at Metropolitan H.S. only a few weeks ago. His daughter, DeJeanne Walcott, is a physical education teacher at the school, but “shop talk” does not come up within the confines of the Walcott family home, the elder Walcott said. He attributed the school’s scheduling problem to “rapid enrollment growth”.

According to “Ed Notes”, a blog “providing information on current ed issues, organizing activities around fighting for public education in NYC and beyond and exposing the motives behind the education deformers”; “The pressure since the story broke about [Crowley’s] children at the school and the Chancellor’s daughter proved too much for the DOE and the network and Tweed types swarmed the building. They allegedly completed student programs and there is a special plan to disseminate it with scripted statements read by each teacher to their students explaining why the programs had to be changed again…The program rollout will not take effect until after Thanksgiving. There will be three days where administration will answer parent questions after school. Next Tuesday (November 29) is [a] PTA meeting where much of this will be announced.”

The Queens Chronicle reported a similar story today (November 23): "Parents livid over schedule ‘disaster’: Say students at Metropolitan High School go hours without classes."
A key quote:
Walcott said he, as well as Senior Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky, only found out about the issues at Metropolitan a couple weeks ago, despite the fact that Walcott’s daughter is a physical education teacher at the school.
“We try not to mix our respective lives as far as education is concerned because she is her own person and teacher,” Walcott said at the meeting.

[Really? We are well into the third month of the 2011-2012 year and Chancellor Walcott has not found occasion to ask his daughter, "How was your day?"???]
The Panel for Education Policy, the mayoral appointee dominated panel that replaced the Board of Education is largely a rubber stamp for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's prerogatives. Patrick Sullivan (appointee of Manhattan President Scott Stringer) has been a frequent dissenting voice on the panel. Queens appointee Dmytro Fedkowskyj made statements that suggest that he might be moving in the Sullivan direction of independence:
“I made it quite clear during the PEP meeting that the lack of a proactive interest by the DOE has harmed the school community and that policy should change going forward when inexperienced leaders take on new responsibilities. What occurred at the Metropolitan High School and at Long Island City High School is clearly unacceptable.”

NY1's story Monday night (Nov. 21) on the Queens Metro HS disaster.

The Daily News' story, Friday, November 18 on Queens Metro's scheduling problems.

Sadly, the New York Times's article on the Queens Metro mess is a snippet, merely parroting the DOE line that "help is on its way." No parent or student quotes or interviews --just the DOE's #2, Shael Polakow-Suransky, and that quote was in the context of the now-old news Long Island City scheduling woes.

On Tuesday, November 22 parents, students and area elected representatives held a protest demonstration on the Tweed Courthouse steps of the NYC Department of Education.
This example from a Crown Heights, Brooklyn school is a characteristic sample of the woes that beset schools targeted for closure:
"'The Crown' (PS 161) was a top-performing school just two years ago, with nearly all of its students passing the state’s ELA exam. But the City then cut more than $700,000 and nine educators and other staff members, sending scores into a tailspin." (From Norm's Notes, "Schools Under Attack by DOE Fight Back: Parents, Elected Officials Representing 15 Schools Targeted for Closure to Continue Season of Protests With Rally at DOE HQ, Targeted middle and high schools serve almost entirely low-income Black and Latino families, lost tens-of-millions to budget cuts over past 3 years, Many schools represented were founded, moved or co-located by Bloomberg Administration; most house large numbers of high-needs students", 11/22/11)
Full list of schools participating in last Tuesday's rally: -PS 181, Jamaica, -PS 298, Brownsville, -General Chappie James Elementary and Middle Schools, Brownsville, -PS 19, Williamsburg, -Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, Williamsburg, -PS 137, Lower East Side, -PS 256, Bedford-Stuyvesant, -PS 22, Crown Heights, -PS 161, Crown Heights, -Frederick Douglass Academy II, Harlem, -IS 171, Cypress Hills, -Samuel Gompers High School, Bronx, -Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep, Cypress Hills, -JHS 296, Bushwick, -MS 587, Crown Heights

Parent letter, which appeared in Norm's Notes, "Teacher/Parent Outrage at Queens Metro HS as DOE Ignored Problem - HS Supt Juan Mendez on Hot Seat - Network Too," (Nov. 17, 2011):
Thank you for taking the time to speak with my husband John Sadowski earlier today regarding Queens Metropolitan High School. Our son is currently a tenth grader. As you know QMHS opened its doors for the first time in September of 2010 and unfortunately this school has been a disaster since Day 1. Many parents tried to be patient, with the understanding it was a new school and it would need time to work things out. Month by month things progressively got worse. By the end of the school year parents were frustrated. We could only hope that the administration would work over the summer understanding where they went wrong and begin to improve. We found out on day one in September 2011 that we were sadly mistaken.

On the first day of school Sept 2011 the student schedules were not yet ready. My child did not receive a schedule until day 3 or 4. Some parents have told me that there child had to wait longer. What soon followed after this was schedule change after schedule change. On October 31st my son received his ninth schedule change. On some of those schedules he had five or six blank spaces and nowhere to go during those times. On one of the schedule changes he was not given a lunch period. Some parents have told me that their children still have blank spaces and they are pulling their children from the school during those times. Teachers and parents have told me that hallways and stairways are crowded with students with no place to go. One schedule my son had was filled with obvious errors. He repeatly went to the main office to report these errors and he was finally directed to the Guidance Counselor. The Guidance Counselor told my son to “find someone with a similar schedule and then just follow that student’s schedule. I was horrified to learn that this was the schools response. I later found out from other parents that their children were told the same thing. On October 28th I was at the school and Vice Principal Lambert called me and my son over. She asked my son what schedule he following, because they could not find him the past week or so. I find this very alarming!!!! He is following the schedule the school provided and they can not find him???? What if he was hurt in the halls, would no one know? Ms. Lambert answered this with a shrug of the shoulders and a roll of the eyes. On November 15th Principal Levy-Mcguire acknowledged that they schedules are still not correct and does not expect to have them resolved until sometime in December.

SUPERVISOR QUALIFICATIONS SUBTEXT TO ABOVE: The Board of Education before being supplanted in 2002 by the Department of Education did have some problems. But basic things like student scheduling were handled competently. Why then and not now? School administrators had teaching experience and came up through the ranks. They acquired their supervisor licenses by attending classes at NYC area colleges. City schools chancellors had proper supervisor licensure. Today, it is a Keystone Kops merry-go-round carnival of reinventing the wheel; supervisors often have no education experience or proper supervisor qualifications. They instead have been fast-tracked into power by the NYCDOE's "Leadership Academies." Now, there are some fair and compassionate supervisor products of the Academies, but a disproportionate number of supervisors come out with a cavalier attitude as we see with Levy-Mcguire.

The EdNotes blog reports that
It's too bad Turner was at Queens Metro on a Sunday.(November 20) If he had been there on a school day he would have found that the free enterprise school system instigated by WalBlackBloomKlein offers up fairly brand new school where kids had no regular schedules, were left in a gym "class" – taught by Chancellor Walcott's daughter no less - where they didn't get gym, a physics class "taught" by an unqualified special ed teacher, and no chemistry at all after the teacher quit in October. The principal actually did have an idea for a school that on paper seemed to offer a lot of good ideas. The only problem was that she was a grad of the Leadership Academy, the Tweed training ground for future principals ¬without a clue – with many people coming from Turner's vaunted "free enterprise" system without knowledge on how to organize or run a school. Of course, after Walcott and his minions ignored the problem for months - especial knocks to Queens HS Superintendent Juan Mendez (who was so arrogant at the Beach Channel school closing hearing last year) and network leader Gillian Smith – they finally responded – once the story hit the press.

A critical point in any of these discussions of rotating substitutes from week to week is that the so-called "substitutes" that are coming and going are actually absent teacher reserve ("ATR") teachers. These are teachers that have lost their regular positions when the DOE has closed down schools and broken apart schools into smaller units. At best, one-half of the teachers in the former school are placed in the new smaller schools.

(Back to the gap of teacher positions.) Yet, while ATRs are placed as substitutes in the gaps of English or science teacher positions, the DOE has placed them in the positions, willy-nilly, paying no regard to whether the license of the ATR temporarily filling the vacancy actually matches the subject of the teacher vacancy.
The dirty secret is that there are over one thousand absent teacher reserve teachers in the "ATR pool." Potentially there are a few hundred or at least several score of experienced English teachers in the ATR pool that can fill the vacancies at Frederick Douglass VI or Grace Dodge. The same can be said for the science vacancies and potential science teacher assignees to Queens Metro.

So, why won't the city place these ATRs into the vacancies? The principals have limited budgets. They have a budgetary incentive to hire novice teachers. The experienced teachers go unhired. (It was not always this way. Bloomberg's DOE instituted this school-unit accounting in 2005 when it created the ATR fiasco. It is curious that the United Federation of Teachers ever went along with this.)

But let us return to the details of these teacher vacancy sagas. The Western Queens Gazette neglected to cite several vital nuggets from the Ed Notes post it cited. Ed Notes wrote, "Breaking: The principal “can’t find” a physics teacher so she is using a special ed teacher to teach physics with packets prepared by another physics teacher. Parents don’t know this." Ed Notes went on to mention that physical education students are actually missing on actual phys ed lessons. With the DOE neglecting to hire experienced science teachers from the ATR pool and the DOE allowing phys ed teachers to teach the complex subject of physics one cannot help but wonder, could the DOE (Tweed, the principals, the assistant principals) be refusing to hire science teachers out of spite? (In all of this scheduling neglect, is it any wonder that "Audit Finds City’s Schools Short on Physical Education," as the New York Times reported a city comptroller John Liu audit of physical education in today's NYC Department of Education?)

UPDATE with tidbit from NYC Educator:
She or he has great list of inconsistencies of interest to those who care about teacher hiring, teacher placement and budgetary decisions in general, like no money for the Teachers Choice program (teachers routinely spend $100s each year; Teachers Choice would cut teachers' costs with a $125 or 150 check made out to the teacher for costs). NYC E pointed out that it was eliminated while the city has money to add new teachers to the rolls.

No comments:

Post a Comment