Posts Tagged ‘Francesco Portelos’

Linda Hill: An Opportunity For Farina To Exorcise the Lingering Presence of Bloomberg

February 28, 2015
Linda Hill

Linda Hill

Until very recently Linda Hill, principal of Dreyfus Intermediate School on Staten Island , was known, when at all, as the chief tormentor of teacher Francesco Portelos, whose career and reputation she tried and failed to destroy, even if she did cause the man an enormous amount of hardship. Portelos’ offense was to point out to the powers that be that Hill was ripping off the public by claiming to be doing two jobs at the same time in different places: an impossibility. For his courage, Portelos was rubber roomed, investigated endlessly by the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), eventually vindicated but nonetheless, crazily, fined $10, 000.
He has also been proven right. The same OSI that hounded Portelos has confirmed that Hill was doing precisely what Portelos said she was doing.

Not that it matters at all in the strange universe of the Department of Education, made all the more strange, and strangely corrupt, during the reign of Michael R. Bloomberg. Indeed, during the darkness of the Bloomberg years, in which experienced principals were given buyouts and newly minted Leadership Academy replacements were urged to think of themselves as CEO’s, their primary function was apparently to hound, demoralize and degrade teachers as much as possible.
Think of a corporate mini version of Mao’s Great Leap Forward which produced the Great Chinese Famine. Bloomberg’s maneuver, in turn, created a different kind of famine but a famine nonetheless. As a bonus, principals who proved incompetent, insane, sadistic or criminal were not fired but merely shifted to another school or warehoused at Tweed where they continued to collect their significant salaries. I know. I had one who managed to fill all four of those categories and the last I heard she’s still collecting Disgraced Former Principal Dole. As with the mafia or the IRA or the Ivy League, once you were admitted into the club it was very, very hard to be tossed out.

The New York Post, which shamelessly cheerleaded for all things Bloomberg during his twelve nightmare years as absolute ruler of New York City schools, has attempted to somehow link Hill’s criminal behavior with current Chancellor Carmen Farina’s tenure; this despite the fact that Hill’s $55, 000 worth of thievery was done under the watch of Bloomberg’s trio of preposterous non-educator Chancellors of Education, Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott.

That said, OSI’s confirmation of Hill’s criminality merits an immediate and appropriate response from Farina, namely Hill’s firing (at the very least) and (as much as I know it will never happen) a public apology to Portelos for the hell he’s been put through.

Failure to do so will not merely make a mockery of justice but it will make a mockery of Farina, and billboard what every Leadership Academy scandal reiterates: the ghost of Mike Bloomberg is still very much present.

This is an opportunity. I hope, for the good of all, that Farina uses it and uses it well. But, sadly, I am not holding my breath.

Duncan To Marry Common Core Standards

March 13, 2014
Secretary of Education and Civil Rights Leader Arne Duncan to Marry

Secretary of Education and Civil Rights Leader Arne Duncan to Marry

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stunned much of official Washington today when he announced that he plans to legally marry the Common Core State Standards “sometime in the very near future.” Mr. Duncan made his announcement at a press conference in the Rose Garden, surrounded by President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and new Under Secretary of Education, Ted Mitchell, former CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund.

Reporters appeared to be momentarily silenced by what many considered the strangeness of the statement but quickly recovered and questioned both the timing of Duncan’s announcement and the authenticity of Duncan’s motives, as well as the legality of the act itself.
Duncan denied that the wedding was a symbolic gesture or a publicity stunt designed
to draw attention away from the volcanic parental rejection of the CCSS across
the country, especially in New York State.

“This is about love, said Duncan, his voice at times cracking with emotion and his eyes appearing to tear. “True and abiding love. And there’s no doubt in my
mind that the love I feel for the Core, the Core
feels for all the children of America, every last one of
them and especially those we want to help close the achievement gap.”

Duncan acknowledged that there are legal challenges in the unprecedented mating of man and document but, with Attorney General Eric Holder’s blessing, is determined to “ break new ground in the civil rights issue of our time.” Duncan links the proposed union to the larger struggle. “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times,
education is the civil rights issue of our age. Our marriage is just another Rosa Parks’ moment on our way to helping all of our children become college and career ready.” Duncan, still legally married to Karen Luann Duncan, acknowledged that before the marriage to the Common Core could take place he had to first divorce his current wife. Holder is said to be personally involved in this process which he is prepared to expedite.

Duncan would neither deny nor confirm the rumor that Andrew Cuomo offered the use of the Governors mansion in Albany New York for the ceremony but did acknowledge that Cuomo would be a guest at the wedding.
A press release from the Department of Education revealed that the ceremony would be a gala and star-studded event with guests including Mark Zuckerberg, Wendy Kopp, Randi Weingarten, Oprah Winfrey, Mike Bloomberg, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Bill and Melinda Gates, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Bono, Eli Broad, David Coleman, Rupert Murdoch, John Legend, Jeb Bush, Thomas Friedman, Kid Rock, Bill Keller, Corey Booker, Whitney Tilson, Caroline Kennedy, as well as President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama.

The ceremony will be presided over by President Obama. David Coleman, the “architect” of the Common Core Standards, will give away the bride. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Educators Association will serve as best man while American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten has agreed to be the maid of honor.

The event will take place in an undisclosed location and will be funded in its entirety by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

—————–

Note: This post is dedicated to the pea-heads in both the DOE and the NYPD who thought it a good idea to throw my courageous friend and colleague Francesco Portelos in jail for 33 hours for writing a piece as silly as this. Good thinking fellas! These are strange and terrifying times in which we dwell and we need more than ever to look after each other.

Without a Bang or a Whimper: Dennis Walcott and the Banality of Shilldom

December 26, 2013

walcot 3 images-2

Unless I missed something, contrary to the hagiographic sendoffs to Joel Klein, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott has passed into history with barely a peep from an often all too adoring media. Of course, given Walcott’s actual accomplishments, this is exactly how it should be but, as so few things in education reform are reported as they are, the absence strikes me as odd if morally apt. In any case, Dennis Walcott seems to have ended his days as the accidental chancellor of the largest school system in America with neither a bang nor a whimper.
It could not have come sooner.
I don’t know how many of Mayor Bloomberg’s Nicolae Ceaușescu-like Panel of Education Policy (PEPs) I attended while Walcott presided, but I could never see the man (or what was left of him after years of working under Bloomberg) without thinking of Robert Musil’s terrifying existential masterwork, The Man Without Qualities. This was true even if Musil’s work took place in the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Walcott’s reign occurred in what may well prove to be the beginning of an outright American plutocracy (and as a result of that plutocracy.) There he would sit in silence in the center of the stage, squint-eyed as if in contemplation, long slender fingers against each other as if in prayer, displaying one of his two true talents: appearing to be thoughtful and concerned without actually being so. There he would sit in silence as speaker after speaker, teacher after teacher, parent after parent, student after student would argue, beg, scream and sometimes weep that their school not be “co-located” or shut down altogether which they always were. There he would sit in silence, surrounded by other handpicked shills, *surrounded in turn by the NYPD, haughty to the public, obsequious to Bloomberg, the perfect corporate Yes Man, the Ultimate Shill, the Man Without Qualities.

When Walcott did speak, at events or for the TV cameras, it was always with the same calm, subtly condescending tone, always employing the same exhausted-at birth-slogans (“college and career ready,” “ competing in the global economy, ” “data driven,” “accountability “) disguised as policies over and over and over again as if he were an automaton. Which in a sense he was.

walcot 2

Incredibly, as with all of three of Bloomberg’s chancellors, Walcott was not an educator but a career political appointee — a mandarin — who knew when to speak, when to be silent, and how to take orders. Above all, he knew how to please the king. At this he excelled. From a teacher’s perspective there was something grotesque about taking orders from a person whose pedagogical qualifications would not allow them to enter a classroom without the presence of a certified teacher but, of course, part of the whole corporate reform project is to destroy the self worth of teachers at the same time you praise them. As with his two predecessors, Walcott’s lack of qualifications did not in the least stop him from pontificating about education as if he knew exactly what he was talking about. In this way did Walcott play his part in the wholesale de-professionalization of education in America, “ from the Grand Coulee Dam to the capital” as a poet once sang.

Walcott, of course, was an accidental chancellor, thrust into the role following Bloomberg’s insane decision to replace former prosecutor Joel Klein with magazine publisher Cathy Black. It took poor Cathy but ninety days — ninety days of slow motion self destruction and public spectacle — until Bloomberg unceremoniously threw her under the bus and about ten seconds after that for Cathy Black to become” Cathy Who? ” in the vicinity of Mike Bloomberg and City Hall.
It’s safe to say that Bloomberg was the only man on earth, perhaps the only man in human history, who thought people like Black and Walcott were somehow qualified to run(or pretend to run) the largest and most diverse school system in America.
Black was an absurd figure in a way that Walcott was simultaneously too empty and too calculating to ever be. But, for all her failings, Black was not a shill in the way that Walcott was. Black was her own person and one who seemed to (fatally) believe that she was going actually to be chancellor somehow, rather than to play dummy in Mike Bloomberg’s ventriloquist act. That belief, as much or more than her spectacular incompetence and foolish comments about birth control and the like — is precisely what got her into trouble and brought on Walcott.

In his twelve year reign, no act was more emblematic of the delusional world of Mike Bloomberg than his appointment of Cathy Black and no act more desperate than his replacement of Black with Walcott.

In a way, Walcott’s ascension, though reckless and irresponsible, was easy. At least for Walcott. What happened ? Walcott went from the concerned looking guy in the back of the photo opportunity with Bloomberg to the concerned looking guy in the front of the photo opportunity with Bloomberg. And yet his position, he knew, remained exactly the same.
Walcott’s years standing behind Bloomberg looking concerned taught him something that a Cathy Black never learned: Walcott knew that his job was to discern Bloomberg’s will and make sure it was done. His job, that is, was to be a human appendage.

And so he was. And one that was particularly skilled at Walcott’s other true talent: concealing his subtle viciousness. This viciousness was ever present in Walcott’s very attitude towards teachers — U rating appeals reached a level of almost 100 % rejection under Walcott, a scandal worthy of Federal investigation — but perhaps found its purest expression in the DOE’s relentless persecution of Francesco Portelos, a teacher who had the temerity to stand up to a corrupt administration and has been paying for ever since.

Meanwhile the city has grown so politically and morally degenerate under Bloomberg that Walcott’s open, undisguised and clearly illegal politicking for Bloomberg on the public dime in a public school to public employees was not only not scandalous, but happily reported by the NY Times, which, too, seems to have degenerated in somewhat similar lines during the Bloomberg era.

Extremely skilled at appearing to be thoughtful.

Extremely skilled at appearing to be thoughtful.

Years of tip-toeing around Bloomberg left Walcott no doubt as to the proper decorum to use in pleasing the tycoon knowing that the pleased tycoon would ensure his personal comfort till the ends of his days.
For a handful of Americans, and Dennis Walcott is one of them, one of the wonderful benefits of living in a nation that allows individuals like Bloomberg to accumulate the wealth of nations is that those who serve such kings are well compensated for their service. Rest assured Walcott will be.
I will not miss him for there is nothing there to miss. And I am not alone.

Meanwhile, four days before he is sworn in, Mayor Elect Bill DeBalsio has yet to announce a new chancellor. This has unsettled many a NYC teacher and for excellent reason. Unquestionably, the pressure on DeBlasio from the hydra headed billionaire backed corporate reform groups and personages (like Bloomberg) are relentless. Equally unquestionable is the wholesale demoralization and worse of the NYC teachers profession and the school system as a whole if DeBlasio dose not stand up to them and do the right thing.

I do not even wish to imagine what is bound to happen is he does not.

*With the exception of the noble and brass-balled Patrick Sullivan.