Posts Tagged ‘Bronx’

A NYC Teacher Speaks of His Sabotaged School

January 31, 2017

The following is the transcript of an address given by NYC Public School teacher Jim Donohue on what has happened and is happening to his school:

Hello. My name is Jim Donohue.

I’d like to start by thanking you for allowing me a few minutes to speak tonight, and I’d also like to thank Carol Harrison and Mary Atkinson from the Bronx chapter for their support in what has been a very difficult couple of weeks.

I’m an English teacher at JHS 145, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years. JHS 145 is a renewal school, and we were told (through a leak to the New York Times) that a proposal has been made to close the school at the end of the school year.

I want to share a quote with you because it precisely defines the situation my colleagues, my students, and our school community find ourselves in today. It reads as follows:

“For the past 12 years, New York City’s ‘answer’ for struggling schools was simple: warehouse our neediest students, starve the schools of support, and then close their schools if they didn’t miraculously turn around. “

As you may have guessed, that was spoken by Mr. Michael Mulgrew back in 2014 in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the Renewal school plan.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “warehouse our neediest students.” Well, I’ve come to you tonight directly from the warehouse. How else to describe a school whose students come NOT FROM ONE OR TWO zoned elementary schools in their district, but from 94 different schools located in EVERY BOROUGH of NYC? How else to describe a school with 140 students who arrived at its doors DIRECTLY from the Dominican Republic? How else to describe a school with 53 (20% of its population) shelter students, another 50 classified as Special Needs students, and another 20 with Interrupted Formal Education? We’ve done some research. NO OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE BRONX has demographics to match this.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “starve the school of resources”. Well, I come to you from a place of terrible starvation. How else to describe a situation in which 140 out of 298 students are English Language Learners but had NO ESL teacher for the entire 2014/2015 school year, and only 1 this year. How else to describe a situation in which 60% of a school’s population are English Language Learners, but have NO Bilingual math teacher, NO bilingual science teacher, NO bilingual English teacher and No Bilingual Social Studies teacher? How else to describe the following absurdity: One year into the renewal program, a program that promised ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to schools like ours, the DOE allowed the Success Academy to take 18 of our classrooms, which scattered our staff and students across 3 floors of a building occupied by 4 different schools, and forced us to dismantle our computer lab in order to convert it into classroom space?

Mr. Mulgrew mentioned the closing of schools, which brings me to my true purpose tonight. After attempting to systematically starve JHS 145 to death, the DOE now calls for the school to be closed. And I say “ATTEMPTING TO STARVE TO DEATH” because we are far from dead. Despite DOE claims that our students “FAIL” the state ELA and MATH assessments, we have data that shows otherwise.

Our students come to us reading at levels between Kindergarten and 4th grade. Do they miraculously (another term used by Mr. Mulgrew) achieve grade level scores on these tests at 145? No, they do not. What they do is move, consistently, from Kindergarten levels to 2nd grade, from 2nd to 3rd or 4th, from 3rd to 5th or 6th and so on.

Despite years of neglect, our students have won the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition 8 times, more than any other school in the citywide tournament.

Our students have won the BronxWRITeS Poetry Slam more than any other school in the city, recently sharing the stage with Mayor De Blasio and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in an exhibition at Goldman Sachs.

The DOE’s 2014-2015 School Quality Snapshot tells us that “86% of this school’s former 8th graders earned enough high-school credit in 9th grade to be on track for graduation,” a number that is nearly identical to the citywide average of 87% and better than the district average of 81%.

Our kids are some of the most vulnerable in the city, living in the poorest congressional district in the country, but they are smart and capable and worthy of respect. They are not failures.

Finally, I want to use a term that Mr. Mulgrew didn’t use. That term is DIRTY POOL. Because a full 3 weeks before the DOE’s closure proposal even becomes official, and 2 months before the PEP vote takes place, and despite the DOE’s claim that the closing has NOTHING to do with the charter school, Success Academy’s website has begun advertising for applicants to its new middle school, opening in 2017, at JHS 145. In recent weeks, Success Academy staff members have been measuring our classrooms, apparently 100% confident that the PEP will rubberstamp our demise in March.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to ask you for 4 things:
We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the PEP agenda.
We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal.
We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members to travel to the PEP.
Finally, and perhaps mosti importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office that we are scheduling for next week.
Thank you.

Please Contact
Jim Donohue 917-318-8762 donohuenyc@gmail.com
Craig Moss 914-319-1227 poet145@gmail.com
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810 deidremw@gmail.com

Cycling the Boston Post Road

April 29, 2013

cos cob

Perhaps it comes as a result of too much Whitman and Kerouac in the bloodstream but ever since I was a kid and I learned of it snaking its way through the city I’ve been intrigued with the Boston Post Road, the Indian trail that, higgily piggily, became the oldest highway in America. It was not, of course, the car strewn thoroughfare paved of bituminous macadam found everywhere in the USA that I was moved to see, but rather the ghosts of that first, fabled mysterious road.

Or whatever remained therein.

map

I wanted to get a glimpse of the road that Paul Revere had ridden to warn of the coming of the redcoats, that General George Washington had fought to secure during the Revolutionary War, that President George Washington had lit out on for his first presidential tour, and all the rest of that early American boyhood school book stuff.

wagon

My interest was piqued considerably by a chance discovery of The King’s Best Highway by Eric Jaffee, a beautifully written and witty history of the road which I’d recommend to anyone who has an interest in the thing.

With the coming of spring I set out to see what I could see and, with trusty Trek in tow, boarded a Metro North New Haven line train to Stamford, Connecticut. My intention was to slowly wind my way down to New York along the Boston Post Road.
This I did, beginning with the nightmare of corporate architecture that is Stamford on through pretty Cos Cob and Greenwich, past working class Port Chester into pleasant Rye, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle and straight into the industrial entrails of the Bronx. Sadly, I saw no ghosts, only an odd plaque or two commemorating the way or some forgotten battle or general. But I did encounter a lot of beautiful architecture, a tiny old theatre where some great rock and roll bands once played, and a road that, like life, was seldom straight.

Here are some pics I took along the way.

Enjoy!

Welcome to Stamford

Jackie Robison 1

Statue of Jackie Robinson who lived in Stamford.

Statue of Jackie Robinson who lived in Stamford.

Entering the kingdom of Conde Nast

Entering the kingdom of Conde Nast

Along the way.

Along the way.

Church on the BPR<a href="https://raginghorse.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/

Putman monument

Putman Cottage 2

Graceful Greenwich

Graceful Greenwich

Church established in 1704

Cos Cob Volluter Fire Department

Welcome to New York

Entering Port Chester

Entering Port Chester

Capital Theater

Capital Theater

bands

Corporate America comes to Port Chester

Doorway of the Lifesavers Building

Lifesaver's Building

Lifesaver’s Building

Boston Post Road leaving Port Chester

Boston Post Road leaving Port Chester

The BPR entering Rye.

The BPR entering Rye.

Along the road in Rye.

Along the road in Rye.

BPR near the town of Rye.

BPR near the town of Rye.

Rye Crossroads

Downtown Rye

Monument for Rye Firefighters.

Monument for Rye Firefighters.

Sign in a window in Rye

Sign in a window in Rye

Smoke Shop

Smoke Shop

Rye High School

Rye High School

Doorway of Rye High School

Doorway of Rye High School

Wood frame house in Rye

Whitby Castle in Rye

Whitby Castle in Rye

Entering Mamaroneck

Good deal!

Good deal!

A family business survives

A family business survives

Little League

Mamaroneck FD

Mamaroneck scene

Old School House

The BPR in Larchmont

The BPR in Larchmont

Larchmont

Larchmont

Entering New Rochelle

Entering New Rochelle

Lovely house on the BPR entering New Rochelle

Roadside cemetary

Roadside cemetary

Tablet in New Rochelle 2

Armory in New Rochelle

For the Civil War dead of  New Rochelle

Modern

Modern

Empty Building

Empty Building

BPR leaving New Rochelle

BPR leaving New Rochelle

Leaving New Rochelle on the King's Highway

Leaving New Rochelle on the King’s Highway

King's Highway in Pelham Manor

King’s Highway in Pelham Manor

Old KINGS HIGWAY

The BPR over the Hutchinson Bridge

The BPR over the Hutchinson Bridge

A view of the Bronx from the BPR

A view of the Bronx from the BPR

A view of the Knucklehead from the BPR

A view of the Knucklehead from the BPR

Dyre Ave and the end of the journey.

Dyre Ave and the end of the journey.

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.