Archive for February, 2011

Iris Blige and Bloomberg’s DOE: Beyond Good and Evil

February 15, 2011

Can there be any morally acceptable or professional reason why Mike Bloomberg’s Department of Education has not fired Iris Blige, the Bronx principal who ordered her assistant principals to write damningly false evaluations of almost a dozen teachers in order to fire them ?  Can there be any situation in which such unconscionable and vile attempts to destroy the careers of fellow professionals would be considered worthy of nothing more than a fine?

Can there be any other way of perceiving an act that debased and degraded the assistant principals Blige reduced to her stooges other than as a monstrous abuse of power and public trust?  Can anyone think of any profession —  other than  teaching in the present age of  their demonization —   in which such disgusting behavior would not lead to immediate dismissal?

Consider these facts.

The aforementioned charges against Blige were substantiated after a two-year investigation by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) , hardly  an organization hostile to principals or friendly to teachers. For a teacher, an annual unsatisfactory rating (or U rating) is not merely an extremely negative  judgment of  their teaching ability, it  is increasingly used   to begin  the  process of a teacher’s termination.  In short, it is an extremely serious matter – that much the more so when Bloomberg and Bloomberg’s minions are spending enormous amounts of energy trying to find new ways to fire teachers. (read more here).

Indeed, in the relationships between a teacher and a principal, I can scarcely think of any act more venal than those that Blige ordered.   And Iris Blige ordered this act to be done again and again and again against people whose sole fault, apparently, lay in the fact that Iris Blige, public servant, did not like them.   Therefore she set out  to destroy them.

And how does Mike Bloomberg’s DOE react to this horrific betrayal of public trust ? How does Mike Bloomberg’s DOE respond to this grotesque and terrifying abuse of authority?

It responds thusly: Iris Blige — who earns at the very least $132, 000 per annum – was fined $7, 500 – or less than $1000 for every teacher’s life she  attempted to destroy.

More. Somehow, despite these appalling revelations, the DOE found Blige fit to continue on as principal of Fordham High School of the Arts where her reign of terror  took place.

Nor are the orders Blige gave the only professional marks against this  educator. Blige is apparently so unbearable as a supervisor that few can stand working under her for long.  More than 100 teachers and 11 assistant principals have walked in five years.   Nor has such an atrocious reputation escaped the attention of either the upper echelon of the DOE or the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the latter of which held an anti-Blige rally outside the school that drew no less than 400 educators, parents and students and more than 30 UFT chapter leaders.

Thus it is safe to say that the gloriously destructive career of  Iris Blige has hardly been under the radar.

Given all this, it is extremely difficult for a person of good faith to make sense of the DOE’s decision to merely fine Blige and allow her to continue on in her position.

You might think the DOE would consider Blige a tremendous embarrassment, that much the more so as she is a product (a more appropriate word than “graduate) of the New York City Leadership Academy, the insidious institution created by Bloomberg to  fashion an army of  instant principals who are meant to impose the “business model” on the schools they are given.  You might think that the DOE and Bloomberg himself would use the horrific example of Blige to highlight exactly the kind of unprofessional behavior that brings disgrace upon the school  system, exactly the kind of vicious role model that is ruining the morals of the youth of America.

And all that.

But if you were thinking such thoughts, such thoughts would serve to reveal to you only how great is the distance between your thinking and that of the DOE under the dictatorship of Mayor Mike Bloomberg.   Make no  mistake about it:  a decision of this import,  of this  level of  controversy, of this degree of outright, naked  contempt for  teachers across the city would never have been made without the approval if  not the instigation of  Michael R. Bloomberg.

Consider it part of a pattern.  Just as Bloomberg had a golden opportunity to show teachers and parents a modicum of  respect and good will by hiring a educator to replace the much loathed former prosecutor  Joel Klein as Chancellor  of Education but choose instead  the clueless and haughty magazine publisher Cathie Black, so too with Iris Blige was Bloomberg  presented with an opportunity to, at the very least,  indicate that he and his DOE believed in fair play and some modicum of  professional behavior and decency.

But in neither case was it to be.

Instead, Bloomberg and his DOE used both opportunities to deliver the same not so    subtle, appallingly anti-democratic message: I,  Bloomberg, will do  as I will, when I will, to whom I will. If people disagree, it is only because they are inferior; if   innocent people are hurt in implementation of my ideas, such is the price of progress and in the end I will be proven right.  I, Bloomberg,  reign over this city and dwell in the region beyond good and evil and I, Bloomberg,  will purchase or destroy anyone and anything that dares to get in the way of what I, Bloomberg, know is right.

Both Cathie Black and Iris Blige are less messengers of Michael Bloomberg than they are messages in human form.  Their purpose is to serve in the greater glorification of Mike Bloomberg by doing their respective bits in the undermining and  dismantling of the public school system and its replacement by private corporations. Matters of  truth, fair play, and the common good  are of absolutely no relevance in the world in which they have chosen to dwell, in the game in which they have been chosen to play their parts.  There is only power and powerlessness. And in  Bloomberg’s world there is only one person who should have power.

There was no reason for the selection of Cathie Black as Chancellor of education other than to allow Mike Bloomberg to declare his God-like powers over the city of New York and his sea-like indifference to the concerns and beliefs of those affected by his decisions, especially educators and parents.    There is no reason for Iris Blige to continue working as a principal after attempting to ruin the lives  of  innocent teachers other than to allow Mike Bloomberg to let every   teacher in this city know how little he and the DOE  —  his DOE –  really think  of their work, no matter who they are, no matter what quality of their  teaching.

Such are sick and sad conclusions, but sad and sick are the fools we have permitted  to take power. No matter what walk of life we are in, no matter where we work or what we do, Iris Blige is a message that we ignore at our own peril. My fear is great and grows greater by the week that if we do not as a nation awaken and find some way to stand up to the forces bent on rendering us powerless, we will wake sooner than we think in a world so intellectually and spiritually barren as to be beyond recognition.

State Finds Millions of New Reasons to Harass and Fire Teachers

February 8, 2011

This from today’s New York Times:

Most New York Students Are Not College-Ready 
In light of new data, the state may have schools report both the graduation rate and the college ready rate.

So after nine years (and counting) of  imbecilic federal laws, state and city laws  concocted by politicians and  their corporate employers, New York State education officials released graduation statistics showing  that less than half of students in the state are leaving high school prepared for college and “ well-paying careers.”

Only one thing to do.  Put even more pressure on teachers.  Bust their unions.  Degrade and demoralize them that much the more.  Remove even more responsibility from students and administrators.  Have Bill Gates fund more inspiring movies like  “Waiting For Superman.”  Close more schools. Create new and exiting ways to fire teachers  and do so.

That’s the ticket.

Been working so far.

Aftermath of the Great Walk Out: The Mighty Bloomberg Reduced to a Scold

February 7, 2011

In his never ending quest to remake New York City Public Schools in his own image, Mayor Mike Bloomberg began last week in one pose and ended it in a strikingly different and far weaker one.

On Sunday last Bloomberg was on the offensive, lashing out and acting essentially as a  political terrorist: on Friday, Bloomberg was babbling on the radio, an incoherent scold.  What happened in between – a mass walkout of UFT members and parents from one of Bloomberg’s signal educational institutions, the mockingly undemocratic Panel for Educational Policy   — was the nearest thing to an uprising that Bloomberg has yet encountered.

And hopefully the first of  many, many more.

One week ago today Mayor Mike Bloomberg entered the Christian Cultural Center in Flatlands Brooklyn, and delivered a divide and conquer, union bashing doomsday sermon that warned of laying off  15,000 newer teachers due to massive cuts in the state budget.


The New York Times billed the “bluntly worded speech” as Bloomberg’s  “first major confrontation” with Governor Cuomo. I disagree.  I would categorize the speech  as nothing short of a political terrorist attack designed to do nothing  other than to strike fear into the hearts of newer teachers across the city, the better to turn them against their union.

Bloomberg  was demanding Cuomo use the financial meltdown orchestrated by the mayor’s   Wall Street pals and the governor’s Wall Street allies   to somehow justify eradicating the state rule protecting the seniority rights of teachers and other civil servants.  Taking a page directly from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, Bloomberg self –righteously insisted Cuomo use the completely unrelated financial crisis to radically re arrange or remove a state rule  that provides some modicum of   security and dignity to   the 80,000 professionals who have dedicated themselves to educating our  children.


It is for the children, of course, that the seniority rule  is  to be abolished,  for Mike Bloomberg ( like Michele Rhee, Bill Gates, Eli Broad  and the Wal-Mart family and other prominent education reformers  ) is always putting children first.

A big part,  indeed, the biggest part, of putting children first for Bloomberg and his fellow reformers is stripping teachers of all rights, all due process,  all say in how they should do their jobs.   Oh, yes, and destroying their unions.   For Bloomberg, a perfect world would be one in which  teachers would work in perpetual  competition with   an ever enlarging army of fellow teachers, the younger and less experienced the better, forever attempting to prove their “merit” by raising their  students  scores on standardized bubble tests. The winners of the perpetual competition would get to keep their jobs another year or so.

Of course, Bloomberg cannot say that.  What Bloomberg says instead is that he  wants the seniority rule abolished so that his Department of Education “can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions”  about  teacher layoffs.

What Bloomberg knows is that abolishing seniority will be a major step in giving   principals what Bloomberg wants them to have: the right to  fire anyone they feel like firing for any reason they feel like  firing them for.

Bloomberg also knows that there is no credible method of evaluation in place to measure what he calls “merit.”

Most importantly, Bloomberg knows that the public has no idea that there is no credible method of evaluation in place and would naturally assume that the mayor of New York would not insinuate there was one if there wasn’t one.

But there isn’t.

He knows too that, due to “principal  empowerment”, a Bloomberg scheme that gave principals full control over their budgets,   the negation of   seniority would give principals every financial incentive to fire teachers with experience, and replace them with cheaper, more malleable novices.

Again, Bloomberg  knows that, by and large,  the public has absolutely no idea of such insidious incentives and that most parents would be as appalled as the ones who walked out of  Bloomberg’s PEP hearing at such treatment of their kid’s teachers if they found out.

Rest assured Mike Bloomberg is not about to tell them.

What he will do and in fact did was insinuate that there was a great injustice afoot, both to teachers and to students, and possibly a little racism as well.

The injustice was as follows: due to seniority rules, some of these 15,000  newly hired teachers would lose their jobs despite their great work.  Bloomberg offered not a single shred of evidence, nor a single digit of his beloved data to back up this assertion, which is quite astonishing when you think about the fact that it is with data that this man accumulated his 20 billion dollars.

But then again, maybe not.

Like a skilled terrorist,  Bloomberg was appealing not  to reason but to the  base impulses of selfishness, fear and survival.

There is, in all probability, a small truth in Bloomberg’s statement.  If layoffs,  indeed, were to occur, especially in the massive numbers that Bloomberg threatened, some good or at least potentially good newly hired teachers would lose their jobs.  That’s sad.  And in a perfect world that  would not happen. But that’s the trade off with all seniority rules everywhere.  Seniority is an imperfect solution in an imperfect world created to do several very good things.  It is meant to make arbitrary, capricious dismissal due to one’s race, creed, political views or the fact that  some 24 year old Leadership Academy principal doesn’t like your face, more difficult.  Seniority is also meant to reward dedication to an extremely difficult and taxing profession.   Lastly,  it is meant to provide some modicum of job security in a world in which, pathetically, job security is rapidly going the way of the pterodactyl.

Before the advent and apotheosis of  what Diane Ravitch calls the “Billionaire Boys Club”   ( Bill Gates, Eli Broad,  Wal-Mart family and etc) , those wacky  unelected, unaccountable fellows who,  despite never spending  a single moment teaching are force feeding their moronic ideas on an entire generation of  students and teachers,

it was commonly assumed among people that actually knew what they were talking about that teaching was an art that, no matter what your natural abilities, took years to master.

There are those, and Mike Bloomberg is  surely among them, who would like to see that wisdom too go the way of the pterodactyl. After all, this is the guy who after burdening New York with the catastrophic  chancellorship of prosecutor  Joel Klein,  thought it was a good  idea to follow up that act with publishing executive Cathie Black.

There is a similar message in both of these contemptuous selections and in Bloomberg’s self-righteous indignation over the hypothetical tragic young victims of   seniority: educating is so simple one can do it right out of the egg.    Indeed, one can instruct 80,000 licensed and certified teachers on how to  teach straight out of the egg.

Bloomberg then implied that  not only would these poor young teachers unfairly suffer but  so would their charges in the poorer, high need schools  and neighborhoods where they worked.  As poor neighborhoods tend to be neighborhoods of  people of  color, Bloomberg also seemed to be implying that seniority was not  only unfair, it was somehow racist.

“ The mayor, “ said The New York Times”, told the congregation that state cuts to New York City’s education budget, cuts he has said could reach $1 billion, would disproportionately hurt poor neighborhoods, where schools tend to have the newest teachers because of high turnover.”

Note:  As Bloomberg well knows, poor neighborhoods do not have the newest teachers because of high turnover but because of programs such as the New York City Teaching Fellows which has a policy, dubious indeed if not outright reckless, of deliberately placing the least trained, least experienced, least qualified teachers into the schools with the highest needs.   I know this because I am a New York City Teaching Fellow and I was placed in exactly that situation. Imagine the outcry if a similar policy were implemented by the FDNY or the NYPD.

So much for putting children first.

“So we have to really do something about this,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Across this city, layoffs would send exactly the wrong message to our kids. You know, we tell them, ‘Work hard, play by the rules, you can rise as far as your talents can take you.’ And yet Albany rules say that when it comes to teaching, talent doesn’t matter, results don’t matter.”

This is truly rich.

The Times makes no mention of the congregation’s reaction to Bloomberg’s speech but one would like to think there was at least one extra high volume echoing horse laugh when the Mayor who contemptuously ignored the will of millions of New Yorkers who voted for term limits, spoke of playing by the rules at the very moment that he was, in fact, arguing to change yet other rules that were in his way.

Ultra rich.

As stated above, contrary to the Times, I do not believe Bloomberg’s weasel-worded address was aimed anywhere near Albany. Bloomberg knows you don’t affect change in Albany by talking to families in a church in Brooklyn.      I believe the overriding purpose of Bloomberg’s speech was an attempt to turn every newly hired teacher in the city  against their union which, like every union worth its salt, unequivocally supports seniority.  I believe that  Bloomberg was attempting nothing less than to help cause a generational rift in the NYC teaching corps, the better to divide and conquer.   (For more of this, see my earlier post on Educators 4 Excellence, an execrable organization funded by Bill Gates and others for the sole purpose of union busting. The DOE has helped them along by allowing the two founders to work as teachers but one day a week.  Sweet! )

Bloomberg’s insinuations were base, divisive and dishonest no matter how you looked at them but information released to the public two days later made them that much the  more so.     Two days after Bloomberg’s speech, Governor Cuomo released a budget proposal that called for cuts of 2.9 % and made it clear that there was nothing in the proposed state budget that would require local layoffs.   Is there anyone in this city not employed by or otherwise beholden to Michael Bloomberg who believes that a man as obsessed with data and power as is Bloomberg did not have this information before he stepped into the pulpit to deliver his speech?

If so, how else to categorize Bloomberg’s actions than as an act of low life political terrorism?  And mark this:  judging at least from the newer teachers in my own school, Bloomberg succeeded in scaring some of them out of their wits.

And lest we forget, Mayor Bloomberg gave this divisive, dishonest   address on a Sunday  in a house of God.

Did no one walk out? The Times does not say.

Tuesday night brought Bloomberg the first of two  rubber stamp Panel for Educational Policy Hearings (PEP) which, despite overwhelming opposition from parents, teachers, community activists and elected officials, ended  predictably with all of Bloomberg’s appointees voting for every school closing and every charter school co-location requested by the DOE, including one in my own school.

If anyone were seeking concrete evidence of how thoroughly contemptuous Mike Bloomberg is of the democratic process and the people of New York, they could do no better than to attend a PEP hearing or cast an eye on how it’s comprised. Of the thirteen members of the panel, eight  are selected by Bloomberg with the understanding that they are to be his puppets, a role in which they happily oblige.  Refusal to obey Bloomberg leads to an immediate firing.  In 2004, Bloomberg  summarily  sacked panel appointees critical of his plan requiring students to earn a minimum score on state exams before being promoted. Not surprisingly, panel members have  never voted down a school closing, a co-location   or any significant policy requested  by Bloomberg. When state lawmakers required the mayor to appoint two parents to the panel, Bloomberg selected two who head  organizations with financial ties to his philanthropy.

Yes, this really is New York, not Bucharest.

Borough presidents select five members.  It is only within these that there is any integrity.

An absolute travesty, as has been every other PEP of the past nine years, the Tuesday night “hearing” dragged on for five and one half hours. This gave me plenty of time to observe the distinguished panel and consider how foolish were those who believed, in Bloomberg’s  first campaign all those years ago, that the same obscene wealth that would keep Bloomberg from being bought would somehow keep Bloomberg from buying others —  and buying them by the dozen.

Twenty billion dollars in the hands of a complete narcissist with limitless political ambitions is as toxic to a body politic as you can get.   And New Yorkers  have been getting it for nine years now.

The Tuesday night PEP was notable for three things.  The first was  the level that charter school mogul Eva Moskowitz would stoop to when she bussed in, fed, and robed in orange tee shirts  hundreds of parents and a small army of five and six year olds. Child after child after child was sent  up to the mic to praise   her ever expanding empire.

It was creepy.

The second was the now infamous incident where an extraordinarily haughty Cathie Black, four hours into the phony hearing, mocked the audience in an open mic before delivering a boilerplate rational for closing schools.

The third and far  most important thing was that for the first time, and none too soon, one saw real rumblings of rebellion against the entire insulting process.  The scorn for Black, and indeed, it for all of the panel members except those not chosen by Bloomberg was  palpable and ceaseless. Elected official after elected official decried the process.   Angry shouts of  “Fraud!”  echoed through the auditorium as the  panel members read their verdicts.

Thursday night brought the second PEP hearing of the week and the great walk out.

References to the events in Egypt were heard again and again. Some invisible line had clearly been crossed.  Outright rebellion was in the very air.

And how does Mike Bloomberg respond to thousands of people at last rejecting his contempt and his phony hearings? At last demanding a real democratic process?

Mike Bloomberg responds as if speaking of and to disobedient children.

Mike Bloomberg scolds them.

Then, for good measure, he calls them an embarrassment to the  country.

“This is not democracy, letting people yell and scream,” Mayor Bloomberg said on WOR’s  John Gambling radio show. “It’s embarrassing for New York City, New York State, for America.”


Note above the same bizarre disconnect  that Bloomberg displayed in his weasly attack on  seniority   where  he  spoke of  changing the rules for  those who played by the rules.  In the same manner, Bloomberg seems to believe that    stacking a public body with stooges and staging pretend  hearings with pre-ordained results is   somehow a perfectly acceptable  part of a democratic process.

Bloomberg then veers not only into slang  ( “ dissing ?”)  but  into absolute incoherence.

“When you’re yelling at a meeting like they had last night, you’re yelling at the teachers, you’re dissing them, you’re dissing the principals, you’re dissing the school safety officers, you’re dissing the custodians, you’re dissing the taxpayers paying for it,” Bloomberg continued.

Whatever Bloomberg is talking about in the above passages has nothing at all to do with the events of   the February 3rd PEP hearing.  The people yelling that were disrespecting no one. The people yelling that night were yelling because they spoke and were not listened to for years.  The people yelling that night were yelling at one thing and one thing only:  the disgraceful and pathetic collection of souls bought by Michael Bloomberg and paid to do his bidding which was to pretend to listen to them.    Ultimately, the people yelling that night were yelling at the Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg who has   treated them, their children, their schools, their teachers, their communities, their government with absolute contempt for nine long years.  All had played by his rigged rules until all good faith was at last depleted and their fury erupted.

Bloomberg is a man who has long been accustomed to being obeyed, long been accustomed to  and getting what he wants when and how he wants it.   The events of Thursday night may well have shocked him to his core.  May it be so.  If ever a man needed and deserved shocking it is Michael R. Bloomberg. And may it be the beginning of the end for this devious, corrupting and tyrannical figure who believes it is his right to overturn any law that stands in the way of his monumental ego.

Let Bloomberg be “embarrassed” by people standing up for their rights.  Let Bloomberg be “embarrassed” by people refusing to be mocked.

Every such statement exposes him  for what he is and what he and his supporters believe.

And in no way do they or Bloomberg believe in democracy.  Indeed, they hold it in hardly hidden distain.


As for myself, even as I fully understand that what took place on Feb 3rd is at best the beginning of a beginning and perhaps not even that, I have never felt prouder to be a member of a union, never felt prouder to be a member of the UFT, never felt prouder to be a New Yorker, as I did that wild, electric, passion filled night.  Oppression begins to end with the word  “no “ and oppression is the truest word to describe the Department of Education under the reign of Michael Bloomberg to which   2000 decent, educated and committed  people said “no”  to last Thursday.   Many, many more are needed.  But, if built upon with courage and intelligence the refusal of February 3rdh could be the beginning of a new beginning.

As too many children are being lied to and cheated out of anything even resembling a real education, as too many teachers are being debased and degraded, as too many  families are being turned  against each  other as part of  deliberate, conscious  strategies aimed at privatizing education from Tweed straight across the country, it is  my fervent hope we make it so.

The alternative is simply too bleak to even contemplate, never mind accept.

UFT Walks Out of Bloomberg’s Sham Hearing

February 4, 2011

Rightfully declaring the entire process a scam and a fraud, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) staged a massive walkout of this evening’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) hearing at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Green, Brooklyn.  The walkout took place about 7:45, an hour and a half into the meeting and included not only all UFT  members but hundreds of angry and frustrated parents and students.   The hearing was the second in two days at Brooklyn Tech, the purpose of   which was to close 12 more “ failing” schools in addition to the 10 that were closed at the conclusion of Tuesday’s five and half hour marathon scam fest.

Chants of  “Black must go!” erupted the moment Chancellor Cathie Black appeared on stage and lasted a full five minutes before temporarily halting.   The chant began again and again holding up the beginning of the process for long stretches of  time. Nobody seemed to mind.

Patrick Sullivan, one of the few panel appointees  who is not a shameless Bloomberg stooge, received a standing ovation when introduced.   As one of the few members of the panel who has actually stood up to Bloomberg and advocated for the children of this city, Sullivan deserved it.

By the time Ms. Black was formally introduced the chanting had begun anew and went on and on and on.

I have never witnessed such scorn hurled upon a public figure before.  Then again, I have never witnessed a public figure who has  so thoroughly invited such  scorn.  Two nights ago in the same auditorium,   the audience demanded that Black answer the questions that were addressed at her — literally all questions to the chancellor had been  intercepted and answered by deputy chancellors –Black broke a four hour silence but scolding the audience and then mimicking them.(

It was a shocking and bizarre  display, even for one who wears her arrogance as proudly as does Black.  And  it was  not, as they say, well received and was doubtless on the mind of many who attended  the hearing.   I cannot see how this person can continue in the role of chancellor for much longer.   I would not be surprised if she were gone in a month or less, either pushed by a embarrassed  Bloomberg or just sick to death of  being treated with the same contempt she showers on others.

Either way, to see the back of Black could come none too soon.

Speaker after speaker denounced the recklessness and arrogance of Bloomberg and the DOE.   Councilman Charles Barron threatened to show the panel how to close down schools by organizing a massive student walkout.  It’s a delightful and powerful idea and I hope he goes through with it.  Barron also told Black  that she was completely unqualified for the job of chancellor, pointing out correctly  that Black could not even legally teach a class in the school system over which she presides or even enter a classroom unaccompanied by a certified teacher.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew straight out accused the DOE and by extension the panel of lying to teachers, parents, students and the city by setting up schools to fail and then blaming teachers for the failure.  The panel, said Mulgrew,  was  a disgrace and  had no legitimacy whatsoever.

And how right he is.

Shortly thereafter the crowd of at least 2000 people began to slowly rise from their seats and head for the doors leaving Ms. Black and Bloomberg’s largely hand picked panel sitting silently on the stage. I later heard that perhaps 150 people remained.

We walked laughing and smiling into the night.  Some blew whistles.  Some chanted.

It was 29 degrees outside and I felt not in the least bit cold. Neither, I suspect, did any  of  the others.

It was beautiful.

May it mark a new beginning of simply refusing to be treated with contempt.

Addendum:  As all suspected would happen,  Bloomberg’s rubber stamp PEP voted to close all 12 schools.