Posts Tagged ‘Success Academy’

Paul Ryan Comes To Harlem

May 14, 2017

In a sense, the visit of such a person to such an institution made perfect sense, that much the more in the Age of Trump. After all, here you had Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, one of the leading proponents of the ceaseless war on the remnants of the social contract, fresh off his successful orchestration of a billionaire tax cut masquerading as a health care bill intended to strip millions of healthcare, visiting Harlem Success Academy, the flagship school of Eva Moskowitz, one the most successful practitioners of the publically funded privately managed scams called charter schools.

The two, after all, have a lot in common. Both owe their careers to the largesse of the richest people in the country and, in the case of Moskowitz, the politicians in their employ. Ryan, of course, is a prime example of such an employee.

Hence, Moskowitz beckoned, Ryan came.

Despite their almost limitless financial backing, and a government that seems pleased to give them both almost anything they ask, both parade around as heroic strivers for the underclass against the wily tyranny of the status quo, i. e. the public sector and labor unions.
Both are corporatists, through and through.
Please note that Harlem Success Academy is but one of three schools housed in the building in which Ryan made his visit.
What was the purpose of Ryan’s visit? A visit that necessitated police barricades and TV crews at 7:30 in the morning when I arrived to teach in the school that Ryan had no intention of visiting . A visit that brought hundreds of furious protesters whose whistles and howls I could hear intermittently throughout the day, one especially loud volley signaling Ryan’s arrival, another, his hasty exit.

For Moskowitz, Ryan’s visit was a public relations bonanza, made to show the world how connected to power she really is. A few years ago I literally bumped into presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the hall of my school as he was leaving Success Academy after visiting with Moskowitz.

It is not hard to imagine what would happen if a public school official called Ryan’s office and offered a tour of a public school.

For Ryan the visit was an opportunity to show how much and how deeply he cares about the children and people of Harlem, even if he and Donald Trump and a bunch of rich white guys recently celebrated stripping them of their healthcare while taking aim at Medicare.

Full disclosure: Ryan, who arrived hours late, did make a last minute gun-at-the –head, perfunctory visit to a special needs class in the 811 school which Moskowitz tried ruthlessly to gobble up as part of her ever expanding empire, to hell with the special needs kids who are schooled there. Almost certainly agreed to because of the pressure asserted by 811 teacher Mindy Rosier, Ryan was reportedly escorted into a classroom of children who had no idea who he was, smiled, said hello, shook the principal’s hand and was hustled up the stairs for an hour long visit with Success Academy.

Using children for political props is nothing new to Moskowitz, even if the same act would find any DOE principal out of a job and possibly in jail should they pull such a stunt. Over the past few years Moskowitz has bussed children up to Albany and had them parade over the Brooklyn Bridge, all on school time, all as their teachers were on the city’s dime, all under the pretext of giving the kids a “civics lesson.”
Ryan’s visit, presumably, was just another such “lesson. “

But what, precisely, was the nature of the lesson? What did the students learn? That it was somehow OK for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to visit their school and not the public school next door in the same building? That the students my colleagues and I teach are somehow not as important? That passing savage health care bills that will destroy people’s lives and render millions helpless so the richest people in the country can have yet another tax break is just fine?
That some people count and some people don’t ?

Yes, it made perfect sense that these two should meet, as it is so perfectly revealing of the nature of all things in the Age of Trump.

Ryan and friends celebrating stripping millions of Americans of healthcare.

Addendum: http://thechiefleader.com/news/news_of_the_week/house-speaker-gets-a-private-look-at-success-and-a/article_a5d7128c-2ab7-11e7-8d4d-6364c3ca180d.html

The Sorrows of Empire and the Cult of Eva Moskowitz

May 12, 2016

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Another day, another scathing article about Eva Moskowitz and Success Academies, her would be charter School Empire beloved by billionaires and hedge fund managers. According to leaked documents, SA’s damning teacher turn over rate is mirrored in the upper echelons of Eva Land. There is, states the document, an “exodus from the organization’s top ranks.”
Apparently, even those attracted to the snake oil Moskowitz has been peddling for years, even those benefiting form the millions and millions of philanthropic hedge fund dollars, can not stand working for this person.
“We don’t have a qualified talent pool to fill the spots left by the departing school leaders,” said one executive in the risk assessment”, in one of the documents. “We are already in the territory of putting people in leadership role[s] who are not quite ready yet.”
Yikes!
Then there is the matter of Moskowitz, currently garnering a salary of $567,000 ,attempting profiteer on yet another student data system scam.
“As consequential as any of those exits was the departure of the Success’s chief technology officer, Steven Gittleson, which followed a period of internal recrimination over the network’s floundering $20 million student data system, called SMS.
That system-wide data tracker was created internally and budgeted for a minimum cost of $20 million as of August 2015, according to an internal budget document.
The broader hope was that SMS — like other aspects of Success’s operations — could set a standard for student data systems and a model for charter schools across the country, and possibly become an additional source of revenue through licensing deals.
Moskowitz and Gittleson signed a profit-sharing agreement in 2014, according to a copy of the contract obtained by POLITICO New York, that would have allowed the network to commercialize the product and eventually sell it to other educational organizations.”
Sweet!
Then there is this kind of stuff:
“I am concerned, “ said one writer of the report,” about high-performing employees and executives being ‘poached out’ of this organization as we become more prominent in our branding,” said one senior leader. “It also leads to loss of tribal knowledge, creating a high stress environment.”
“Branding?”
“Tribal knowledge? ”
What is this stuff ?
Is this the language of the public school system that Moskowitz and her supporters, despite all evidence to the contrary, claim SA to be.

Then there is the moral degeneracy of spending $700,000 on a rally.

$700,000. On a rally.

“The documents reveal uneven returns on political spending, including more than $700,000 on a pro-charter rally last year in Albany…”

Finally, there is the matter of Eva herself.

“CEO ( Moskowitz ) possesses unique knowledge of and insight into the Success Academy pedagogy,” a description of the issue in the risk assessment reads. “Absent the CEO, the organization may struggle to achieve outstanding scholar outcome.”
Please ponder again.
“Unique knowledge of and insight into the Success Academy pedagogy.”
“Absent the CEO, the organization may struggle to achieve outstanding scholar outcome.”
If this is not a description of the leader of a cult, I don’t know what it.
Spooky.
And the public is paying for it.

Thoughts on Friedrichs Vs. California, Eva Moskowitz, and Human Dignity

October 4, 2015

SC

Some time within the next few months the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If the justices decide in favor of Friedrichs, all public employee unions across America will be decimated and all public employees would immediately become “at will” employees laboring under the Right to Work model.
For anyone wondering what a Right to Work model would mean for a teacher in New York City one could do worse than take a long hard look at what lays within the recently leaked five page internal document addressed to the staff of Eva Moskowitz’s non-union Success Academy.

From what one can gather from the leaked SA doc, outside of having zero job security, no say whatsoever in working conditions and working endless hours, the “at will” teachers at Success Academy are apparently obliged to do whatever it is their leader orders them to do or else. According to the document, this would include (but not be limited to) debasing their language, creating a false sense of crisis and conning the parents of their students into attending whatever it is master Moskowitz desires them to attend regardless of whether they could afford it or not.

The document was written by something called Success Academy’s “advocacy team,” whose job apparently is to supply “messaging assistance” to staff. In this case the “messaging assistance” consists of not only helping teachers convince SA families to attend a rally but to help teachers convince these families that the transparently political event is somehow not political by supplying the language they are to use with the parents. (The rally, organized by the sleazy and cynical Families For Excellent schools, yet another billionaire created front for school privatization, was meant to take place on Sept 30 but was postponed because of rain.)
“This is not a political event,” employees are being asked to tell parents who may be hesitant about participating in a rally with political implications, reported Politico. “This is an event in support of your scholar, our school, and the right for families to have access to equal schools.”

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Of course, for anyone who has been unfortunate enough to “co-locate “ with a Success Academy, the fact that Moskowitz forces her teachers to debase the English language is evident on a daily basis. Take, for instance, the word “scholar .’’ Here is a word you will hear SA teachers saying in passing 10, 20, 30 times a day. You will here it drop incessantly from the lips of administrators in meetings between your school and Success Academy. Once I heard it while waiting to see the nurse when a teacher from SA called a mother on his cell phone to inform her that “your scholar fell down in the playground and hurt her elbow. “ In every other part of the English speaking world the word scholar is commonly understood to mean a distinguished academic, a specialist in a particular discipline or, at the very least, 
a person who is highly educated.

Not in Moskowitz land. There the word “scholar” means every student in Success Academy, excepting of course those kids with lousy test scores who are booted out and into the land of non-scholars as quickly as possible. In Success Academy “scholars “ are children as young as five.

Now I understand the rationale behind this misuse of language – somehow addressing them as “scholars” inspires them to great heights and all that — but as I do not support forcing teachers to debase their language, never mind to practice magical thinking on other people’s children, I whole heartedly reject it. And I do not find it harmless. It is to use language in the same manner and for the same reason as an ad company: to sell a product. Misuse of language is never harmless. As even one of Moskowitz’s five year old “scholars” knows, calling an acorn an oak tree does not magically make it into one, even if Eva Moskowitz demands you say it does.

Then there is Moskowitz’s singular use of the word “civics, ” as if taking 9000 school kids up to Albany or marching them across the Brooklyn Bridge during school time is actually engaging them in a “civics lesson. ” This too one assumes must also be echoed ad infinitum by the teachers in her employ. Of course, if this outrageous behavior is indeed presented to SA students as a civics lesson, you can rest assured that there would be no mention of the fact that the exact same actions are strictly forbidden for a public school, that any public school teacher involved in such a stunt would be sighted for theft of services and any principal who allowed it would have his or her job on the line.

One can also safely assume that SA teachers would be careful not to mention the extremely un-civic demand given by their “advocacy team” that their memorandum be carefully kept away from parents less they see how completely they are held in contempt.

To my way of thinking, to oblige teachers to debase their language, act against their conscience, and betray their intelligence while insulting that of their students’ parents or risk losing their livelihood is morally, intellectually and spiritually grotesque. Simply put, a person who has been stripped of their language by being forced to speak another’s has been stripped of their personhood. And yet, as “at will” employees, even if such a teacher wishes to grieve such degradation, they have nowhere to grieve it.

That said, I have no doubt whatsoever that, even if Moskowitz is extreme, these kinds of demands and worse will begin to be made in schools across the board and across the United States should the Friedrichs decision be made against public unions. Should that nightmare scenario come to pass, all of those who remain public school teachers will find themselves working to one degree or another for some one like Eva Moskowitz. Those who have been trying to recreate American schools in their image will have removed the last barrier to complete and utter domination. They will flood American schools with their corporate apparachiks who, like Moskowitz, will delight in making humiliating demands and in destroying the careers of seasoned teachers — all for the good of the children, of course. Should that nightmare scenario come to pass, the war against public school teachers which has been raging for over a decade, fueled by the richest individuals on earth in cahoots with the most powerful politicians in the United States, may at last end with the both American children and their parents on the losing side. At the very least, it will be an enormous step backward and, if the Moskowitz model is any guide, a massive and insidious assault not only on the dignity of teachers but on all Americans from coast to coast.

The Education of Co-Location

March 1, 2015

ACUnknown

On Friday February 27, the United Federation of Teachers held another round of forums in communities across the city to speak out against the horrific proposals of Governor Andrew Cuomo on public education. One of Cuomo’s proposals is the creation of 100 new charter schools, institutions wildly favored and completely dominated by the super rich, who shower their favorite charter brands with their tax deductable largess and have created an extremely visible two tiered school system. The two tiered system is all the more visible (and to parents it is meant to be) in what have been called “co-locations, ” or public school buildings in which public schools and charter schools uneasily co-exist. No charter brand has received more 1% largess than Success Academy, the ever-expanding empire of Eva Moskowitz, which has a public relations budget in excess of a million dollars. Success Academy began in my school as Harlem Success Academy , and has been expanding both in my school and throughout the city ever since. As a teacher and chapter leader who has dealt with co-locating with Success Academy from day one, I was asked to speak briefly on the experience at the forum held at the Church of the Holy Trinity on E. 88th Street. In the words below I did so.
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On the Education of Co-Location

As we all know, education takes many forms. There is, for example, the education we receive in our homes and in our communities, where we learn how to comport ourselves, how to interact with others, and hopefully, what it means to be a decent person. Then there is the formal education we receive in our schools, where we learn to read and write, solve mathematical problems, gain knowledge of history and science and, above all, learn to think and discern, which provides us the tools to make sense of our lives and our reality.

In my experience of many years of co-locating with Success Academy at PS/MS 149,
I am forced to the appalling conclusion that, due to the extremely targeted and reckless largess of the super rich, largess that could never be matched by public funding, some co-locations can be said to provide yet another form of education, and a particularly cruel form at that.
The education is all the more powerful because the lessons are unspoken and must remain unspoken, or at least disguised, for this particular education to be allowed to continue in a nominally public institution in a nominally public system.
My students at PS/MS 149, like most kids sensitive and intelligent, learn daily and silently, without words, without language, that they are simply not as good as their co-located counterparts at Harlem Success. They learn daily and silently, without words, that some children are simply better and more deserving than others. Some children deserve the newest and brightest technology, as well as brand new carpeting, brand new books, fresh paint jobs; some children deserve what happens to be laying around or nothing at all. Some children deserve music programs; others can have theirs taken away and their instruments jammed into closets and forgotten. Some children deserve block rooms in which to explore and play and others deserve to be taught in stairwells and hallways like children of a lesser God.
Some children deserve fresh food delivered daily and wheeled through the hallways for all to see; others can dine on the considerably lesser fare of the DOE.

Indeed, if you are looking for a perverse negation of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which outlawed the separate and unequal public schools of the Jim Crow South, you need look no further than the co-location of PS/MS 149 and Harlem Success Academy.

Each day I see the Success Academy students marching through the crowded hallways and stairwells of 149, passing students from my school, children from the same neighborhoods, displaying no recognition whatsoever of their common humanity. Each day my students watch as the ephemeral teachers of Success Academy snap their fingers and bark orders at their “scholars, “ all the while behaving as if my fellow teachers and myself, in effect their co-located colleagues, did not even exist.

These things too are an education, and you can rest assured that both groups of students are learning their respective if silent lessons which, if put to words, could be rendered simply: some people count and some do not.

There is something very powerful going on here and something very wrong. It is morally wrong. It is educationally wrong. It is civically wrong and it is spiritually wrong. Such cruel disparity and militant hubris has no place at all in a public school system, no place at all in a democratic society. Such education, however well disguised, has no place in our communities, our city and our nation.

Moskowitz Backs Down (For the time Being)

January 8, 2015

PUBLIC HEARING ON SUCCESS ACADEMY’S SWITCH TO D1 IS THIS THURSDAY (1/8) at PS 20 ANNA SILVER!

We have almost 2300 signatures on our petition with more coming in.
Now we need to stand strong and turn out for the hearing to let SACS, SUNY, and the DoE know that District One is strong, District One is united, and District One says NO THANKS!

Public speaker sign in starts at 5:30. Hearing begins at 6pm.

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Rosie Mendez Addresses the forum at Anna Silver School.

Rosie Mendez Addresses the forum at Anna Silver School.

Twenty-four hours before a public meeting on yet another of charter entrepreneur Eva Moskowitz’s machinations — in this case switching districts in which to open up another unwanted Success Academy — the Department of Education (DOE) suddenly announced that the meeting was to be called off.

No reason was given.

Members of Community Education Council 1 simply received word that the meeting was not to be held.

Hard cheese old chap!

Insulted at such cavalier treatment, CEC 1’s fearless President Lisa Donlon decided to hold a public forum in its stead in which members of the Lower East Side community could speak their mind about Moskowitz and her ever expanding charter empire.
This they did. Fervently. Angrily. Passionately.

The forum began with a speech by Lower East Side Councilwoman Rosie Mendez , a fierce supporter of public school in her district. Later in the evening New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, also a strong supporter of public schools, arrived in support of the community.

Somewhere in the middle of the many speakers it was announced that some guy named Cohen from the DOE was there and wanted to explain what happened. He spoke very briefly and in a somewhat penitent tone stated that since the Moskowitz “ charter proposal had been withdrawn for August 2015”, the DOE saw no reason to hold the public meeting.
Cohen did not explain why they waited until twenty four hours before the meeting to announce that.

CEC 1 President Lisa Donlon was quick to point out to that Success Academy had not withdrawn its application.

Speaker after speaker told horror stories about dealing with Success Academy and while there was a sense of relief at the DOE’s announcement, there was no misunderstanding the fact that Moskowitz and her hedge fund backers would be back when they sensed the time was right.

The crowd of about 200 people included parents, principals, and teachers, including a contingent from MORE. It was refreshing to witness such a display of rebellious intelligence and community.

Addendum: http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/01/08/success-academy-cancels-its-plans-to-open-new-schools-in-2015/#.VLACxihy_zK