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.