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The Reverse Midas Touch

The Lords of Tweed possess the reverse Midas touch – they can turn gold into dross.

Park West was a troubled high school that had fallen on hard times. The entering classes were all level one and level two kids (below the State standard), forty percent overage and many had not chosen the school. The building was constructed with wonderful culinary arts kitchens: half of them were closed.

The school received a three year federal grant to reform their instructional program. The Chapter Leader, Bob McCue and Frank Brancato the Principal investigated programs all over the country. Bob is a great teacher and a caring human being; he is a wonderful example of teacher union leader. His chapter meetings are well attended and vigorous. The school chose the John Hopkins Talent Development Model, hired Frank Smith, a well respected former Columbia University professor and started making progress.

In spite of their efforts the State Ed Department placed Park West on the SURR list (Schools Under Registration Review) in January, 2003. I served as the UFT member on the State Review Team, made up of Regional Superintendents from around the State. We spent four days carefully observing classes, interviewing kids, teachers, parents and administrators. The school was making slow but steady progress. On the last day of the SURR visit the Team Leader makes a detailed oral report to the staff. We told the staff we would not be recommending redesign, the closing of the school, but did recommend a restructuring of the supervisory responsibilities.

A few months later the Manhattan High School Superintendent, a contender for one of the new Regional Superintendent positions placed the school into redesign, closing the school, and announced that Park West would be replaced with a number of small schools.

Three years later the small schools are struggling, hopefully they will succeed and many of the Park West teachers have been scattered to other schools.

Lo and behold: this year the Tweed masters decide that maybe creating 150 new schools in three years is a little too speedy and decide to wave their wand and impose Small Learning Communities, and, guess what: they mandate the John Hopkins Talent Development model.

At Park West a team of teachers, lead by their Chapter Leader and Principal spent months exploring possible approaches that would fit their school community: a sensible approach. This year Tweed simply imposes a program. Programs do not make for good schools. Schools of excellence are characterized by teams of teachers working with a school leader and making actual decisions that impact on the lives of the students in their schools.

Will they ever learn?



  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Dec 20, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    “Schools of excellence are characterized by teams of teachers working with a school leader and making actual decisions that impact on the lives of the students in their schools.

    Will they ever learn?”

    As long as Unity is characterized by folks who accept everything and anything that comes down the pike, giving away everything and anything and accepting little or nothing in return, I don’t see you guys setting much of an example to follow.

    I wish you could appreciate, even remotely, the irony of Unity mouthpieces making such pronouncements.

  • 2 Chaz
    · Dec 20, 2005 at 6:10 pm


    Another very good and insightful article but NYC Educator is correct. Unless UFT-Unity starts being pro-active rather than take the body blows, more Tweed nonsense is the final product.

  • 3 no_slappz
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 6:49 am

    The article is simply more evidence that a state-run education monopoly is incapable of providing for and managing the education of a significant portion of this city’s students.

    When corporate competitors fail — as the DOE has failed here — they are replaced by better operators.

    But that can’t happen when a government-backed monopoly controls the finances of an entire industry.

  • 4 R. Skibins
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 9:06 am

    I agree. To our union leaders: Part of your job is to take risks. If you wish to lead properly, you must be willing to risk it all for the benefit of the membership. Otherwise, step aside. Take a page from Mr. Toussaint.

  • 5 NYC Educator
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    “Take a page from Mr. Toussaint.”

    Is he one of those New Orleans musicians or something? The writers at Edwize don’t appear to have heard of him.

  • 6 Sgt. Pepper
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    no_slappz: Enough of that garbage. It is the duty of government to promote the general welfare of the nation. Public education does that. If things were run your way, then only the lilly-white millionaires would be educated, and the rest of us would be as bad off as we were over a century ago. Wait a minute… are you Joel Klein?

  • 7 Schoolgal
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    Gee. Do you think if the Executive Board voted for a stike, we might have gotten back our summer vacation????

    I now hear that most of the, unionsincluding the UFT, are turning their back on the TWU. (Maybe the Blogmaster should remove that rally post)

    I forgot. The rule is we are supposed to only reply to the above article–so here it goes:

    Oh yes, great post. I totally agree with everything on this post. Keep up the good work.

  • 8 mvplab
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 9:05 am

    I think it’s a great post despite the sarcasm.

    A union is as strong as its members. I agree that we need to show some muscle but when you have flab for members then what do you do?
    For example, in a comment in another post one person said that 48 teachers have been assigned to hall patrol. Why isn’t that chapter up in arms? Why aren’t they making life miserable for the administrators in that school? Flab!
    But our members are good at bitching and moaning. You can read their comments here.

    And for the lovable wingnut who populates the comments with privatization babble, what was the last great thing that NYSE did for poor public school kids? Give them tours!

    Public education, run by the government produces wealth for the nation–from the bottom up, not “trickling” down.

  • 9 no_slappz
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 10:34 am


    You asked:

    “…what was the last great thing that NYSE did for poor public school kids?”

    The NYSE has never been in the business of running schools or educating kids. However, by working directly for the NYSE, many formerly poor public school kids have become quite prosperous.

    Moreover, the NYSE, which had been a private business, is going public. In other words, NYSE stock will soon begin trading, giving everyone a chance to own a piece of the stock exchange. You can bet that a few shares will find their way into various portfolios in teacher pension funds.

    You also wrote:

    “Public education, run by the government produces wealth for the nation–from the bottom up, not “trickling” down.”

    Public education? ALL education produces wealth for the nation. Knowledge, unlike the public school system, is not controlled or held captive by a single monopolistic government central command.

    You have confused “knowledge” with the venues through which it is disseminated.

  • 10 no_slappz
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 10:55 am

    Sgt. Pepper:

    You wrote:

    “It is the duty of government to promote the general welfare of the nation.”

    True. But not the way you think.

    To “promote the welfare of the nation”, the government must stand out of the way while maintaining fair markets in which citizens and the organizations to which they belong can compete.

    Based on your view, the government should manufacture cars and computers and airplanes. Wouldn’t that be dandy.

    You also wrote:

    “Public education does that.”

    True. Up to a point. Public education has clearly shown the limits of its operating ability. Public education obviously fails those who drop out of school. Public school also fails many kids through its inability to address their specific needs.

    Every monopoly suffers from this huge shortcoming.

    You wrote:

    “If things were run your way, then only the lilly-white millionaires would be educated, and the rest of us would be as bad off as we were over a century ago.”

    The kids of lily-white millionaires often attend private school. They did a century ago, and they do today as well. However, the public school system in NYC is a century old.

    That aside, to claim that wealthy whites want to subjugate non-whites by limiting access to education is nothing less than delusional.

    You will have no luck finding even one white millionaire who agrees with you.

    This country is fortunate to have many philanthropists who GIVE considerable sums to improve the educations of those who are trapped in ineffective schools. There are many Wall Streeters who privately pay tuition for poor non-white kids in this city. Many others do likewise. Caroline Kennedy, for one. Bill Gates for another.

  • 11 Persam1197
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    Here we go again. We’re analyzing the schools and the system we work in. We’re looking at ways that we can make this system better by sharing information and experiences and here we go again on this privatization crap. Sgt. Pepper is 100% right: it is the duty of government to promote the welfare of its citizens. Why is this such a difficult concept for you, No-Slappz, to understand? Yes, there are philanthropists out there but that does not negate the responsibility of the state to provide services. Providing services does not mean “monopoly” as you define it ad nausem. Your issue is about public money being used only in the public sector. Well, duh! “Cars, computers, and airplanes are not essential services, they are commodities. You are mixing apples with oranges.

    If you believe the system has problems, work to improve it, not divest it of resources. If you really believe the stuff you’re saying, all government authority should be transferred to private corporations because they’re competitive.

  • 12 mvplab
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    Persam1197 is right!
    Remember, most corporations are run by people who are the products of public education. How did they get so smart and productive? Is the wealth of this country a result of “intelligent design” or the hardwork of its citizens who were educated in its public schools?

    Schools are not failing! Government is! They want to starve the system to bankrupt it so that the private sector can come in and profit from the last frontier for corporate America that wants schools beholden to stockholders not to parents, teachers and children.

    Public education and Social Security-the last strongholds against corporate America! Let’s keep it that way! We don’t need to Enron our schools or our pension system!

  • 13 Schoolgal
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Finally, someone from UNITY realizes that we are becoming a union of FLABS.

    Those of us who you refer to as “bitching” are the ones to stand up to admins and get the heat because we have Chapter Leaders who will not.

    If you think it is easy to work in a school where union rules have little or no meaning, then step into my shoes.
    Lunch meetings are called on the spur of the moment and everyone is afraid to not show up. My Chapter Chair tells me that if I don’t show, then the principal will meet with me after school and that’s legal. (However, I know she is wrong, but the principal told her so, so it must be true.)

    She also tells me that the extra paperwork we have to do on our own time is not legal, but if she grieves, it “may” cause more trouble.

    We must hand in our students’ Writer’s Notebooks, drafts, finished products and conference notes on a monthly basis to prove we are actually teaching.
    Thanks Lucy!

    My Chapter Chair allowed a new teacher to begin lunch duty last month. What goes here?

    Each teacher received a write up on how their bulletin boards and rooms should be set up. This after our contract was ratified.

    Now my tax dollars will support the Leadership Academy. Well isn’t that great.

    Sarcasm aside, what are you doing to rally teachers that a union should be strong. Oops that’s the TWU not UFT!

    (Is Sgt. Pepper the same guy who used to tell us to stay away from the little refrigerator in our hotel rooms????)

  • 14 NYC Educator
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    You’re thinking of Dr. Pepper.

  • 15 redhog
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    I’m a chapter leader who, within the rules set down in contracts negotiated by our Union, has made principals surrender and submit more often than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Oceania. Much work needs to be done in chapter-building and the vanquishment of needless fear. Hey, Schoolgal: give your principal my number. my last one cried like a baby because her insidious intent was thwarted by the grand design of our Agreement.

  • 16 Schoolgal
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 9:18 pm


    Why don’t you apply for an SBO Transfer to my school? I will personally nominate you for Chapter Chair.

    I knew it was Dr. Pepper.

  • 17 redhog
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    O.K., I admit my remark just above this one would sound pompous were it not “tongue-in cheek.” But seriously, all members must regard it as their solemn duty to help create an atmosphere in which a chapter leader will likely emerge from the ranks of the fittest. Too often, the job is accepted by default, even under protest. A strong chapter leader is critical to execution of the rule of law.

  • 18 Schoolgal
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 9:31 pm

    Or, the other reason one becomes a Chapter Chair…the extra preps.

    Happy Holidays Redfish!

  • 19 mvplab
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    I’m not going to pick on schoolgal because s/he’s on the front lines and is fighting for his/her survival and dignity, but his/her school is not in the struggle with him/her. Maybe schoolgal should run for chapter chairperson! I would vote for him/her to find out if he/she can produce the activism that he/she thinks is so necessary.

    I will ask all of you on this board, “what are you doing to rally your troops to be strong activist members?” How are you going to respond to the no_slappz right wingnuts who will spit on you when you’re on strike? (Like when the public spit on the TWU picketers in Queens.)

    How will you respond when parents curse you?

    Will you form a human chain around the school to prevent your colleagues from crossing the picket line? Will you spit on them and write down their names in a log and point them out as scabs to new teachers years after the strike is over?

    If you can’t unify your staffs now, how will you do it when the going is really tough and it will need real sacrifice.

    This from Frederick Douglas should be instructive: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

    Have you reached your limits? Are you ready for the consequences of “no contract, no work”?

    I know Redhog and I will laydown our bodies across a school’s threshold to keep out scabs, will you?

    ICE/Mice-Unity/Bluenity–this will have to go beyond caucus politics. Are you ready?

  • 20 Chaz
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    My Chapter Leader is super. He has taken the the principal on time and again and won. With the new contract, the principal has actually asked my CL to come up with ideas for the revised circular six and he did. No teacher will be doing potty patrol, hallway duty, and cafeteria duty. He also convinced the principal it would be in the school’s best interest to put the extra time into the school day rather than a tutoring session. By the way my CL is not well liked by Randi or her educrats. However, the teachers of my school think he is god.

    A good CL is priceless!!!!!!!

  • 21 redhog
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 5:30 am

    Schoolgal: For your information, there are no extra preps for middle school chapter leaders. And I have insisted on an average or worse program each year, because I don’t want even the temptation to be bought.
    It is true that strong measures need to be available to reign in renegade members.
    Chaz: I don’t know you or your chapter leader or your school, but I know you are wrong about Randi’s feelings with regard to them. Many chapter leaders have bucked convention, gotten results, and when these results uphold the interests of our members, the Union respects that. The Union must be careful about which actions it openly endorses for reasons that need not concern individuals in the same way. Happy holidays, blog comrades.

  • 22 no_slappz
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 7:02 am


    YOu wrote:

    “This from Frederick Douglas should be instructive: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.””

    Perhaps you don’t know the identities of the oppressed: the kids and their parents.

    Once again, a voucher system would overcome every issue for which you claim to fight.

  • 23 curious3
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 7:07 am

    Hey Redhog,
    You seem very knowledgeable on education matters. I have been trying to get statistics on the number of teachers that have been terminated from the NYC system in the last few years (and not just transferred into other schools or admin jobs). Do you know how I can get this information?

  • 24 Peter Goodman
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 8:52 am

    half of all new teachers leave within five years and the DOE does NOT conduct exit interviews – some of these are “encouraged” to leave – the DOE terminates probationary teachers (less than three years) and a number of tenured teachers are brought up on charges under State Ed Law – some of those are terminated. The DOE does NOT make data available without FOIA requests – and even then it takes many months – the SED does have data available – the process in NYS is called 3020a (the citation of the law). Have fun …

  • 25 Schoolgal
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 6:06 pm

    Gee, I thought the gal in Schoolgal would give my gender away.

    As for rallying the troops, I was CC and I made sure I had a strong policy commitee.The teachers themselves were not strong individuals.

    A few years ago 3 teachers wanted to grieve the extra paperwork since our CC wouldn’t and went around asking for backing. Not one teacher would back them!

    You cannot rally idiots.

  • 26 NYC Educator
    · Dec 23, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    I disagree–you can certainly rally idiots. Look at all the people who voted for “protection of marriage.”

  • 27 redhog
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 4:45 am

    Didn’t our Mayor “rally” the partially-clued citizenry a few days ago? Bloomberg is indeed a “man of the people” as he stands erect on the Brooklyn Bridge just across from everyman’s “J and R.” He shrugs off winter’s chill as hovering helicopters emit, with laser-precision, beams of warmth that create an invisible cozy kiosk for the Mayor, following and encasing him as he strides. Above, streamers trail a Bloomberg corporate jet, scrambled from the Murdoch Airfield, proclaim across the porcelain, cloudless skies the wondrous handiwork of his sea-to-shining-sea unionless holdings. Bless his ascot!

  • 28 no_slappz
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 7:58 am


    Based on your writing, you possess a small talent for redirection. When a problem lies to the east, you turn people’s heads toward the west.

    It’s unfortunate that what works in the world is anathema to you. Satirizing Bloomberg reveals how little you understand the benefits of competition and why it improves everything.

    The hugely successful Bloomberg Corporation of today was nothing more than an idea in the early 1980s. At that time there were a few information systems used by Wall Street. They were all lacking in identifiable ways.

    Bloomberg saw the insufficiencies of the existing competitors as evidence an opportunity was staring him in the face. He, as a Wall Streeter and consumer of information, founded a company employing thousands of people with technical and computer expertise to deliver information and other services to subscribers.

    Quality and timeliness are two words the Bloomberg Corporation take seriously. As a result, competing firms — and there are many — feel similarly.

    Result: lots of information sources doing their best to give customers what they want.

    The cost of a Bloomberg terminal — it’s actually a private internet network — is about $1,500 a month. There are more than 50,000 subscribers worldwide. Most subscribers find it invaluable.

    The customers are happy. They get what they want. Is that bad? Apparently it is in your world. I guess that’s what lifetime inside a government-controlled monopoly does to one’s thinking.

    The last person Jonathan Swift would satirize is Bloomberg. But you can be sure if had been exposed to the NY Department of Education — both state and city — the irritation would have led to greater works than Gullivers Travels and A Modest Proposal.

  • 29 no_slappz
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 8:37 am

    Persam, you wrote:

    “If you believe the system has problems, work to improve it, not divest it of resources.”

    Parents do not have eons available to push rocks up mountains. Parents’ concerns are much more immediate; overseeing the education of their children during the 12 or 13 years they’re subject to government educational forces defines the period. But decisions to stay in public school or head to private school are made each year.

    Kids can’t wait for changes in the system. But, in truth, they are forced to wait. Parents without the means to send their kids to private school are also forced to wait, mainly for changes that fall short of promises. Parents with enough money can deliver for their kids.

    That’s the reality. Unless your kid is enrolled in a decent gifted program.

    You also wrote:

    “If you really believe the stuff you’re saying, all GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY should be transferred to private corporations because they’re competitive.”

    Government authority — no. One of Government’s chief jobs is to prevent unfairness in human endeavors. That is the manifestation of its AUTHORITY. We have civil and criminal codes that attempt to identify the lines that citizens should not cross.

    By its authority, government stops and/or punishes wrongdoing.

    Meanwhile, beyond maintaining our national military forces and local police forces, there is no area of activity that government should control and wield ultimate authority.

    Private industry always performs more efficiently and effectively than government. You will have no luck identifying a government organization that outperforms a private enterprise where competition between the two exists.

    Governments understand the inherent risks of competing with private enterprises. That’s why competition is limited whenever possible, as it is in US primary and secondary education.

  • 30 NYC Educator
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 9:20 am

    And let’s not forget his initiative to remove political parties from local campaigning. He funded that with his own money, but didn’t attach his name to it.

    Kind of like what Unity and Redhog did when they fraudulently changed his name and portrayed him as “a voice from the trenches.”

    You just can’t trust people like that.

  • 31 redhog
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    NYC Educator: I fraudulently changed my name? I have left my name, and my mark, and my defiance against injustice,wherever I have set foot or typed. There is one Redhog, though he is capable of respecting more than one perspective. Are you saying that I am NOT “from the trenches?” For well over thirty years I have taught junior high school English, a full complement of classes, including some of the worst in the school’s vivid memory. The irony, paradox, and contradiction of your point of view is that you presume to know my name while indifferent to my identity.

  • 32 NYC Educator
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    You helped tired, entrenched, anti-democratic Unity sell us out, and pretended to be someone else to do it. Unlike most of us, you’re not long in those trenches.

    Go ahead and feign ignorance, but many of us will suffer with the degradations you’ve helped reintroduce to our profession after you’re gone. Your post as Jellyfish was full of fanciful nonsense, and you were utterly unable to defend its contradictions and inaccuracies.

    Edwize’s publication of a prominent poster under another name was utterly unethical, and your complicity was a disgrace. You deserve joint credit with Unity, the ineffectual, crooked party you write and work for.

    Your response today, as usual, is prolix, pedantic nonsense. Considering that, I do not doubt you’ve taught some of the “worst” classes in your school’s “vivid memory.” Still, its beyond me why you choose to boast of it.

    I’m completely aware of your identity, such as it is, Redhog, or Jellyfish, or whatever you’re calling yourself today. Whoever you think you are, bombast is a poor substitute for character.

    Aside from your frequent and preposterous chest-thumping, I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever of the latter.

  • 33 redhog
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    So tell me what you really think.
    Have a lovely vacation and I wish you a speedy recovery.

  • 34 firebrand
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    Sgt. Pepper I love you. Thank you for giving No Slapz a good smack. He/She/It needed it.

    I wish you could give the mayor, Klein and Weingarten a couple of whacks too! lol.

  • 35 no_slappz
    · Dec 29, 2005 at 9:44 am

    Peter Goodman writes:

    “Schools of excellence are characterized by teams of teachers working with a school leader and making actual decisions that impact on the lives of the students in their schools.”

    Goodman’s reasoning is a strong endorsement for more independent private/voucher schools, uncorrupted and free of the distortions of government control and mismanagement.

    “Will they ever learn?”

  • 36 northbrooklyn
    · Jan 8, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    I guess you aren’t working in a private/voucher school.