Posts Tagged ‘Union busting’

What Cuomo Wants

March 8, 2015

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It is no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a man of terrifying ambition, wants someday to be the president of the United States. To prove himself worthy of the limitless financial backing of the One Percent to whom he answers and in whose name he governs, Cuomo wants to prove that he can achieve two goals that no previous governor of New York, never mind one of the Democratic Party, has ever even dreamt about. By the end of his second term as Governor, Andrew Cuomo wants to leave a New York State in which the public school system has been largely or completely privatized and one in which public unions, particularly the teachers’ unions, have been all but eviscerated. In fact, if all goes Cuomo’s way, he will leave New York State well on the way to being a Right To Work state before the vast majority of people even know what hit them.

To achieve these extraordinarily radical ends, Cuomo in his State of the State speech put forth a number of extraordinarily radical proposals. If passed into law on April 1, they will render the New York State public school system and the teaching profession that sustains it almost unrecognizable and certainly unsustainable. Collectively, once implemented, the proposals will inevitably lead to a mass firing of teachers, a mass exodus of teachers and a mass shortage of teachers, as no one in his or her right mind would enter a field in which working conditions were so degrading, evaluations so unfair and arbitrary, and job security virtually non existent. The mass bloodletting and exodus as well as the unsustainability is most certainly the point, even as Cuomo, the self-proclaimed “advocate of students, “ wants the general public to believe that he believes otherwise.

Cuomo wants the public to believe that his insidious attacks and demeaning demands on teachers are necessary, while at the same time the offer of merit pay — a scheme that has been tried and has failed for over a century — will magically attract serious and qualified people to teaching.

Cuomo wants to keep the vast majority of people oblivious to what he is doing and confused as to why he is doing it.
To keep people oblivious, Cuomo wants those New Yorkers who are even aware of his proposals to believe in his apocalyptic vision of a “crisis of failing schools,” which, in turn, will lead them to believe that his proposals are actually about improving public education rather than eliminating it, and then using that process of elimination to undermine the teachers union. He knows that if New York State’s public school system is privatized, all bets are off and the floodgates are open. Cuomo wants to be the governor responsible for opening those gates and directing that flood into the radical reconfiguration of labor relations across the board and, at the same time, launching a full scale attack on the social contract itself.

The governor wants New Yorkers to believe he cares, and cares deeply, about the welfare of children, that much the more African American and Hispanic children in poverty; therefore, he wants New Yorkers to remain in the dark about the judicial decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, in which it was decreed that New York State owes New York City schools upwards of $ 2. 5 billion, a decision Cuomo refuses to even recognize despite the fact that the state has a surplus.

Moreover, Cuomo wants people to believe that, despite the neo liberal underpinnings of his politics, he, Andrew Cuomo, is somehow “progressive.” To create and sustain this illusion, he has supported gay marriage and raising the minimum wage; he has come out against fracking and will even meet with and praise certain private sector union leaders, the better to undermine labor solidarity. This Cuomo will do even as he and his proxies in billionaire created fronts like Families For Excellent Schools do everything in their power to demonize teachers and undermine the teachers’ unions.

Andrew Cuomo wants to divide and conquer, and at this dark art he is very cunning and very skillful.
He wants New Yorkers to see his all out attack on teachers as one that is isolated to the teaching profession and not, in fact, as an all out war on labor in the state and a prelude to the privatization of the social contract itself.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is a man of terrifying ambition who wants to be the president of the United States and is willing to go to any lengths, any lengths at all, to please the radical and ruthless rich who have stolen the power to catapult him or deny him entrance to the White House.

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Charter School Front Buses Thousands of Children To Albany To Use As Human Props

March 4, 2015

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Playing by their own rules while crying about being oppressed has been a charter school tactic for years and, with the compliance of a wholly subservient media, a highly successful one. When a charter school “co-locates” with a neighborhood school and their demands for whatever space they desire are not immediately met, you can rest assured they will launch a PR campaign claiming that their rights are being violated, and you can rest with equal assurance that the media will report it so. Playing by their own rules took a significant leap today as, under the aegis of the hedge fund created and bank rolled front Families For Excellent Schools, charter chains emptied their schools to bus thousands and thousands of school children to Albany to be used as human props in their ceaseless campaign for more and more of everything at the expense of everyone else. Given the fact that almost all charter schools are anti union, the little ones should be seen, too, as unconscious and innocent extras in the campaign to break the teacher’s union,
clearly the long term goal of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Please note that the principal of any public school who pulled anything remotely like such a stunt as shipping her charges hours away on a school day in the dead of winter would be fired and possibly arrested, as well he or she should be.

Charter school entrepreneurs fear no such consequences and claim, with straight faces, that the thousands of kids were engaged in “a civics lesson.”

Yes, they actually say that.

At times today, everywhere you looked you saw kids decked out in red shirts and red caps both bearing the Familes For Excellent Schools slogan, “Don’t Steal Possible” — about as poorly a constructed sentence as you can make but… what the hell? It’s all about the kids, no ?
I ‘d be curious to see the bill for the thousands of hats and shirts, the mountains of sandwiches, and the hundreds of buses for this excursion but, as with all things charter school, I rather doubt such information is easily obtainable.

This young fellow does not like "failing schools"

This young fellow does not like “failing schools”

I have yet to see any corporate news reports of the use of these children in such a cynical manner in a struggle that they cannot possibly understand, but I am confident that all major media will find it not merely acceptable but as heartwarming as a movie by Disney.
As George W. Bush used to say most blasphemously as he plotted and schemed and conned and terrified America into invading Iraq, “And may God continue to bless America.”

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Addendum: And then there’s the astoundingly arrogant Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families For Excellent Schools, seen here doing his best to not answer questions (and distance himself from the much loathed Eva Moskowitz) even if he does admit (very, very testily) that, “I am not an educator.” Not being an educator, apparently, qualifies one to play savior to the “800,000” kids who are “failing” in the “education crisis” created by real educators. Kittredge’s non educator and non educated status is, however, evident in his occasionally mangled syntax and incoherent statements ( shared, it seems by all Families For Excellent Schools messiahs and adherents), as in when he declares the the entire New York school system ” steals possible.” On the other hand, given that Kittredge and his charter school confederates enjoy the luxury of making their own rules with impunity, perhaps the man is simply extending this principle to English grammar. Clearly, Kittredge is a man accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed and with that sense of regal entitlement shared by so many education messiahs, is transparently pissed that a guy as important as he, Jeremiah Kittredge, has to actually answer basic questions. Note that as Kittredge and his handler (“That’s a wrap.”) bolts, a reporter states plaintively: “You should probably wait and let the rest of us ask our questions.”

No chance of that.

At any rate, after viewing this clip ask yourself this question: would you buy a used car or anything under heaven from Jeremiah Kittredge ? These poor charter kids can have no idea how cynically they are being used and by they time they realize the hustle it will be too late for many.

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Nicholas Kristof ‘s Grand Epiphany: Unions (At least in the Private Sector) Should Not Be Eviscerated

February 20, 2015

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I suppose in a political climate as demented and one dimensional as ours, one in which the Democrat president of the United States has been insidiously union busting since the day he entered office, one in which the Democrat governor of New York is actively union busting and talking about the public schools system as a monopoly, one in which
Governors’ Scott Walker of Wisconsin and billionaire Bruce Rainer of Illinois are succeeding in bringing their states back to the glorious 19th century, one should be grateful for any public utterance that does not portray unions as a collection of thugs and cigarette-smoking child molesters or parasites. I suppose my gratitude should be that much greater when such an utterance appears as a kind of mea culpa in as influential a publication as the New York Times. Furthermore, I suppose one should applaud that much the more any one who has the courage to publically admit they there were wrong as has the Time’s Nicholas Kristof in admitting his ignorance in regards to an issue as enormous and far-reaching as the presence of unions. This, even if in his admittance Kristof continues to reference deceptive mercenary blowhards like Stephen Brill, a man who has written so damningly of phantom public school teachers , and continues to point to demagogues like New York’s Police Benevolence Association (PBA) Patrick Lynch as representative of union leadership across the board.

That he would resort to lowlife’s like Brill as a source and Lynch as a model billboards Nicholas Kristof’s appalling ignorance of and distance from the subject of unions. Such ignorance and distance does, however, help explain Kristof’s decade long cheer-leading of union busting vehicles such as charters schools even as he fails to mention the protections he enjoys as a member of the Writer’s Guild, as do all writers employed by the New York Times. Such ignorance of and distance from the realities of unionism also explains Kristof’s paltry reasons for his qualified change of heart.

Kristof begins,” Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions.” Kristof’s wariness is the natural result of over three decades of ceaseless anti-union pro-corporate, fact free propaganda of exactly the same kind Kristof himself has, up to now, repeatedly and self righteously spewed. But Kristof still misses the much larger point. Like all Americans – every single one of us – Kristof has benefited from the mere presence of labors unions, regardless of his personal membership or lack there of.
It is a fact that the presence of unions forces the fruits of labor to be more fairly distributed and labor rights not merely to be created but to be recognized and respected. Kristof makes a reference to this later in his article when he writes: “Or look at American history. The peak years for unions were the 1940s and ’50s, which were also some of the fastest-growing years for the United States ever — and with broadly shared prosperity. Historically, the periods when union membership were highest were those when inequality was least.”
And again: They “unions” are pushing for a higher national minimum wage, even though that would directly benefit mostly nonunionized workers.”

These are, of course, facts that are well known to any one who has ever taken a course Labor History 101 or read a decent history of the United States. If we had an education system run by educators, these facts would also be known to every high school student in the nation. While new to the likes of Nicholas Kristof, the cumulative effects of unions have been known to and hated by industrialists and corporatists since the first union was formed, a truth of which that neo-liberals and millionaires wishing to be billionaires dare not speak. It is also a truth that 99% of Americans, many of those who would benefit the greatest from the presence of unions, either don’t know or, for suicidal ideological reasons, reject. And in this rejection lay their complete and utter immiseration,
a reality that their contemptuous masters — think of the relationship between the Tea and the Koch brothers — have long ago set in motion.

Remarkably, (or maybe not ) Nicholas Kristof also fails to even mention what has inexorably risen in the void created by the systematic destruction of unions: namely oligarchy. Indeed, an oligarchy that makes a daily and demoralizing mock of our pretense to democracy.
“To understand the rising inequality, you have to understand the devastation in the labor movement,” says Jake Rosenfeld, a labor expert at the University of Washington and the author of “What Unions No Longer Do.”
“All the focus on labor’s flaws can distract us from the bigger picture,” Rosenfeld writes. “For generations now the labor movement has stood as the most prominent and effective voice for economic justice.”

Instead, Nicholas Kristof puts forth the preposterous claim that “Union bosses” (note: not union “leaders” ) and the 1% are on equal ground in terms of power and the ability to destroy with absolute impunity.
“One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons”.

Let me be clear here: Unions, like all human institutions, are inherently imperfect and, yes, at times corrupt and in need of reform. Still to compare union corruption and its effects to what has been wrought by corporations or politicians in Washington D.C. or Wall Street is obscene. Unions are not responsible for depleting the earth of its resources bringing about an ecological catastrophe we may not be able to stop, let alone reverse. Unions are not responsible for invading countries under false pretenses and murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Unions are not guilty of the pilfering of trillions of dollars from pension funds and implementing a myriad of sleazy schemes designed to rip off the trusting and that brought the world economy to the brink of catastrophe in 2008.
No. The people responsible for these atroctites or who cheer leaded these atroctites are the very same who are doing all they can to destroy the remnants of unionism here and around the world.

And they are doing so, of course, in the name of fairness and freedom.

Finally, in words that reek of self-congratulation, Kristof comes to understand what enlightened people as far back as the 19th century understood was their only road to dignity, social justice and a decent wage.
“This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong. At least in the private sector, we should strengthen unions, not try to eviscerate them. “

How nice of Nicholas Kristof to arrive at that conclusion that unions should not be “eviscerated.” But note well, my fellow public school teachers, Kristof’s stipulating that the non-evisceration be limited “to the private sector ” which, in the all out war against all public institutions, should strikes us as particularly weasel-like and ominous.

Such words, in an article that ostensibly defends unions, could only bring comfort to the likes of Obama, Cuomo, Walker, Rainer and all their patrons who know that the first step to a “Right To Work” or union free nation is the evisceration of public unions.

Nicholas Kristof is not our friend.

Vergara Part Two : How the 1% Have Learned to Use the Noblest Causes for the Most Venal Ends

June 13, 2014

David Welch: A Civil Rights Leader of our Time

David Welch: A Civil Rights Leader of our Time


There have been more than a few events in the past 20 years or so that, even as I accepted their possibility, sent chills down my spine upon learning they actually happened. This sensation of primal fear tended only to grow stronger with time to ponder the deeper significance of such events upon the direction of the nation, a nation in which I now raise a young child.
One was the Supreme Court’s still unfathomable decision to appoint George W. Bush president in 2000. Another was the same Bush’s decision to eviscerate a virtually defenseless Iraq under the pretense of somehow making it into a democracy. A third was the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that permits the military to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities under the pretense of fighting terrorism.

All of the above are clear and unmistakable evidence that strange, terrible and extraordinarily powerful forces have been unleashed in this country, met only with an as yet equally extraordinarily absence of an effective resistance. In very short order in all of the cases above, what shortly before seemed inconceivable almost overnight become what is cynically called “the new normal.”

Add to these now the decision in Vergara vs. California, which may seem small potatoes when compared with the above, but, unless things change in this country and radically so, I fear it is anything but.

The case, we are meant to believe, was brought forth by nine preternaturally litigious kids who just grew tired of being the victims of “grossly ineffective teachers” who, protected by California’s laws on tenure and seniority, robbed them of their civil rights to a fair and adequate free public education. Somehow, the kids’ cause came to the attention of Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and modern day civil rights leader David Welch, co-founder of Infinera and founder of the advocate group StudentsMatter, and David being David… well, he just had to act. Welch, out of the kindness of his massive heart, massively bankrolled the civil rights lawsuit, hiring none other than the “high-powered legal team chaired by famed litigators Theodore Boutrous and Theodore Olson, ” the same legal team, in fact, that brought us George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.
The solution to this alleged civil rights case, concluded Judge Rolf Treu, is not to extend probation or hire better administrators or anything sensible and moderate like that. No. The solution, declared Treu, is to gut all job protections for all teachers across the state of California; and, if Boutrous and Olsen and their mega rich employers are to be believed, across the country – just like the Common Core.
Or so goes the dark Disneyland narrative.
What is this decision?
It is many things and none of them good. All of them are portents of a bleak and miserable future for 99 % of Americans.
To be sure, the decision is a particularly powerful and harmful volley in the most insidious, sustained and fantastically financed public relations assault on a legal profession in American history, arguably in human history, otherwise known as “education reform.”

Think about it.

Has there ever been a legal profession that has undergone the barrage of insults and insinuations and insane claims ( education is now a threat to national security) from every conceivable form of media—documentary, newspapers, Hollywood film TV, and radio — as have teachers in the past decade or so?

If so, who? When ?

Vergara is too, if one needed it, yet another billboard proudly displaying the Obama administration’s utter subservience to the American oligarchy whose goal is the privitization of every facet of American public life, beginning with the public school system. Consider the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan concerning a ruling that has surely disgusted any serious teacher and will likely dissuade any serious young person from becoming a teacher: “For students in California and every other state, equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher. The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems.”

Neither Duncan nor anyone else on planet earth can explain how stripping teachers of due process (tenure) and the dignity and liberty that goes with it can, in any way, shape or form, help students be taught by a “great teacher,” but what the hey.
Duncan, as shameless as ever, did doubtless please his masters with his straight face declaration that the lawsuit was, in fact, brought by children and not yet another saintly billionaire using children to ram into place their stealth agenda.

To be fair, Duncan does see a role for public participation in the privatization of public education: “Together, we must work to increase public confidence in public education,” said the man. After spending years using nothing less than the weight of the federal government to systemically and as a matter of public policy destroy public confidence in public education, this is what the secretary of education would have us do in the wake of this devastating judgement — “work to increase public confidence in public education.”

Some times one has no words.

It is ample evidence of the dark genius of the 1% who have figured out how to manipulate or purchase the institutions and mechanisms created to insure a modicum of democracy and justice – namely, elections and the courts – and use them to destroy democracy and justice.
It is also ample evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the “reformers,” who will use anything, even children as innocent class warriors, to get their way in their stealth class war.
Most egregiously, insofar as the “reformers” have hijacked the language and iconography of civil rights, the most emotionally resonant, heroic and spiritually charged movement in American history, the Vergara decision is, to my way of thinking, outright blasphemy. But not merely blasphemy: Vergara is blasphemy wrapped in perversity, sugar coated in obscenity.
The blasphemy is using the sacred spirit of civil rights for the venal cause of union busting under the shameless pretence of helping kids.

The perversity is the insinuation that magically appearing billionaires who never taught a day in their lives care more about the fate of the urban poor than the teachers who serve them day in and day out.

The obscenity is the political obsequiousness that fortunes that no sane society would even allow, never mind genuflect before, are allowed to dismantle the institutions — unions and public education – that built America, and are doing it in the name of freedom.
But it is a grave mistake to perceive the Vergara decision as simply another attack, however brutal, on teachers and education. Education is merely the conduit. Vergara is an attack on the rights of every worker in the USA, union or not.
The 1% may know little of history, but they know enough about the union movement to know that, in time, the force that revolutionized even non- union industries, forcing them to treat their workers with dignity, pay them fairer wages and provide them with some modicum of security, was the threat of unions. They also know the absence of unions has exactly the opposite effect. Consider the working conditions of most Americans in the land of the free and the home of the brave since the shrinkage of American unions. No due process. No job security. No pension. No nothing but a wage that for most people has not grown since 1973.

It is in this light that the Vergara decision need be seen: as yet another objective indication of a new, if yet to be fully formed, oligarchic despotism where most of us are to live as obsequiously as valets before our rapacious and one dimensional overlords, grateful to have jobs of any kind, more grateful still for their philanthropic gestures.
The Vergara decision is an act of barbaric civic, legal and spiritual violence against the working people of this deranged country. Sooner or later, when people come to fully
understand that the overlords running their lives, those who have bankrolled and orchestrated decisions such as this, could not care less if they or their children lived or if they died, it will inevitably result in barbaric physical violence.
In the immediate future, what Vergara is about is wrecking the teachers’ unions, the faster to privatize the public school system and all of public life so as to create a revenue stream that will continue the greatest transfer of wealth upwards in human history. In the long term, it’s about eviscerating union consciences altogether so that in a generation or so, solidarity among workers (or anyone for that matter) will seem as distant and romantic as the moon, a process already well under way.
It is also about the insanely rich using the trappings of democracy to hollow out democracy, to insure that “government of the people by the people and for the people” does indeed perish from this earth.

Bloomberg: Good Riddance to the Corruptor And All He Stands For

January 1, 2014

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The seemingly interminable mayoralty of Michael R. Bloomberg has at last come to an end. Bloomberg, it should be recalled, arrived on the scene as a political novice and ran on the notion that his business savvy was just what the city needed and that immense wealth would keep him above the corruption which had periodically stained other administrations, most recently that of the now sanctified Ed Koch. A rich man, so the thinking went, was beyond corruption. An immensely rich man, such as Bloomberg, was that much the more above corruption. That may or may not be true. But what is certainly true is just as riches might place one beyond the temptations of more traditional forms of corruption – financially enriching oneself — it simultaneously provides the means to corrupt others and to bend them to your will with promises of a life on permanent Easy Street in exchange for implementing ones policies, even if such policies bear only a nominal relationship to previous ways of doing things. All you needed to do was surrender your principles, sell your soul and submit to the will of Mike Bloomberg.

Many did.

Bearing that distinction in mind, I submit with no fear of contradiction that Bloomberg, who, as the plutocrat politician is something new and horrific in the American political reality, is far and away the most corrupting mayor in the history of New York City. Indeed, as most clearly evidenced in the disgraceful machinations that led to his third term, machinations that ignored the will of millions of New Yorkers who twice voted for term limits and revealed much of the City Council to be Bloomberg’s valets, corrupting was Bloomberg’s modus operandi. And a highly effective method at that.

The method was most effective and most evident in Bloomberg’s radical restructuring of the public school system, meant to lead, intrinsically, to a radical reconfiguration of labor relations. Twelve years after the political ascent of Bloomberg, several campaigns, all linked, all unknown or very murky at the time, have become crystal clear to all who wish to see them. The first is that Bloomberg’s covert intention from day one of his mayoralty was to privatize the NYC public school system and do so by any means necessary. The second was that the United Federation of Teachers was to be destroyed altogether or rendered powerless. The third and most important was that what Bloomberg was doing to schools in New York City and other mayors were doing to schools in other major American cities was neither coincidental nor part of a zeitgeist but was the initial steps in a long term neo liberal agenda backed by the richest individuals and corporations in the nation as well as the leaders of both political parties. The plan is to privatize all remaining aspects of the social contract, most crucially the school system. For a comprehensive analysis of this insidious campaign, see The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers and Their Unions by Mary Compton and Lois Weiner or Weiner’s The Future of Our Schools.)

Bloomberg’s method toward achieving this end was two- fold: 1) place already corrupted individuals in positions of enormous power and influence. Hence Joel Klein, Cathy Black, and Dennis Walcott, non-educators all, as Chancellors of Education. 2) Create corrupt institutions such as The Leadership Academy, built on the sociopathic and ultimately suicidal ideas of Jack Welch, designed to spit out principals needing no educational background whatsoever to run schools along the lines of businesses and to undermine unions. In this way the traditional role of principal as “first teacher” was overnight corrupted into the vulgar idea of the principal as the CEO. Such CEO principals were given jobs all over the city so that they would soon dominate the school system, hounding, demoralizing and firing fine teachers, and reducing our children to data points.

Bloomberg helped corrupt the very idea of education by reducing all criteria for learning to a standardized test, all evaluations to data.
With his repeated attempts to institute merit pay, a scheme that has been proven a failure for over a century, Bloomberg attempted to corrupt teachers, turning all against each other in an ceaseless competition for better students, which, by design would leave the most neediest students as pariahs as teachers were forced to debase their souls to save their jobs.

With his embrace and ceaseless promotion of charter schools Bloomberg helped corrupt communities, turning residents against each other at the same time corrupting the very idea of a public education system.

With an appeals system that virtually approves the rating of every principal over every poorly rated teacher – a scandal that merits comparison with any true totalitarian system and one that had to be ordered from the top — Bloomberg could be said to have corrupted whatever remnants of due process remained for teachers as well as the souls of every single DOE flunky that went along with it. This very grotesque display of human obsequiousness was on public display for all to see in the hand picked zombies who made up Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), the single most undisguised totalitarian governmental unit I’ve ever seen in America.

One could go on and on. The damage Bloomberg has done to students, teachers, schools, parents, entire communities, is incalculable. And the problem with corruption, and particularly the form of corruption that Bloomberg thrived, on which is both personal and institutional, is that it is far easier to induce than it is to remove.
But removed it must be. In all its forms. It is a monumental task and one that will take courage, resolve and patience. And we all have our parts, however seemingly small, to play. The first is in the demand that it be done.

Bill De Blasio is our new mayor and Carmen Farina, a career educator, our new chancellor. They are question marks, both, yet there is reason to be hopeful, and hope is a feeling I’ve not felt about my city and my profession for many a long, long time.

It is brisk and the sun is shining. I’m going to take a New Year’s Day walk with my family and breathe in the air in my city, in our city.