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An Open Letter To Mayor Bloomberg

Dear Mike,

As of this writing, you've closed 97 schools, with 20 more slated for the chopping block by year's end. To defend such actions, you've blamed the low test scores, the teachers, Albany; let's face it: you've used up every possible excuse under the sun. We all know what you're doing, Mike – you want to close the NYC Public Schools in order to make way for your pet project, the Charter Schools. The informed citizens of NYC are well aware of this plan, as are they cognizant of how Charter Schools work – you handpick the administration of such schools, dump a bunch of money in their laps, and let them have the run of the joint and the pick of the litter when it comes to both staffing and enrollment. You hire wet-behind-the-ears teachers just out of college, or fresh off the bus from the Midwest, make them work until 6 PM everyday (sometimes including Saturday), deny them their rights and privileges by barring their entry into the United Federation of Teachers, and after two or three years in the system, either summarily fire them for arbitrary reasons, or violate their sanity so thoroughly that they toss up their hands in disgust and resign.

Think I'm attempting to inject a bit of hyperbole into my argument? I personally know a teacher who was forced to paint her own classroom in one of these charter schools. Another was fired on the last day of the school year because it was determined that the goals that her students met in June didn't completely match the predictions she had made while filling out a form in September (even though every single one of the students received a 3 out of 4 on the NYS math test). I know a guidance counselor who was removed from his school and "temporarily reassigned" to the rubber room because he annotated an official document in purple ink. Last year, when you made the decision to use teachers to grade the NYS ELA exam, and took over 100 of them (myself included) out of their classrooms to do so, I learned that there are teachers out there who teach 6 periods in a row (that's four and half hours to people who have never been in a classroom, like you Mike) without so much as a bathroom break. I met teachers who aren't given a lunch period on Fridays because that's when the principal decided they should attend "professional development" meetings. After learning that I was a UFT representative, I had a line of teachers waiting to tell me their own tales of abuse, and let me tell you Mike, if you hadn't so thoroughly indoctrinated the public into believing that NYC teachers were a bunch of worthless, unprofessional part-time workers, one phone call to the newspapers would have blown your whole scam out of the water.

And it is a scam, Mike. Your whole attitude towards education is at best apathetic and at worst maliciously self-serving. Newsflash, Mr. Mayor: We didn't vote for you. We didn't endorse you. After you pulled the wool over the eyes of the city council and the people of New York City, you made it back to sit on your throne by the skin of your teeth. 50,342 votes, Mike. That was your margin of victory. 50,342 people too ignorant or too scared or too comfortable or too foolish decided that the best choice to lead our fair city was a megalomaniacal billionaire with delusions of grandeur and an axe to grind against both NYC teachers and the children they serve.

Yes, Mike, the children. You shortchanged them too. See, your Charter Schools not only get to handpick their faculty and administration, but they get to recruit the students as well – systematically denying entry to any child whose success (and by extension, the success of the Charter School) is in doubt. There are no English Language Learners in Charter Schools. No students with disabilities, either emotional, physical or developmental. No Special Education students, no emotionally disturbed students; if a kid has a speech impediment, he's not allowed to enroll in a Charter School because he might tarnish the otherwise gleaming image of the jewels in your crown. Your Charter Schools are not some groundbreaking bastion of higher learning – they are edifices of educational segregation. That's one hell of a set of jewels you've got there, Mike.

So where do all of those kids go? The struggling students, the underperforming students, the ones who need assistance and intervention more than most? You dump them into the standard public schools, cram them into the classroom, and then siphon off that school's budget for your own projects until there's nothing left. The school I at which I teach is using American History textbooks from the year 2000; in our educational environment, Sept. 11th never happened, Iraq is still under the iron grip of a maniacal dictator, and Barack Obama was just a little-known State Senator. Last week, I visited a school in which every student is given a laptop computer; we don't even have a copy machine. And when the scores go down, you shrug the shoulders of your $3000 suit, close the schools, appoint one of your lapdogs and say, "It's the teachers!" No, Mike. It's not. It's you.

I am not the only one, Mike, who is dissatisfied with the direction and attitude you and your indifferent crony, Joel Klein, are taking when it comes to both the education of NYC's children and the careers of thousands of dedicated, professional educators. A quick Google search turns up hundreds of sites where parents, teachers, and other interested parties are voicing their displeasure. Their cries will only grow louder, Mr. Bloomberg, and wadding up hundred-dollar bills and sticking them in your ears will not drown them out.

I can promise you that.

Sincerely,

Valannin

10-year veteran teacher,

Concerned Citizen,

Whistleblower Extraordinaire.

Comments

Moni said…
Wow! That's a frightening eye-opener. Send it. Of course, it may not be personally prudent for you to do so.

Can you put it on the internet and collect signatures, then send it?

Too powerful to be denied.
Valannin said…
Well, it IS on the internet...I'll just wait for the signatures to come flooding in...any day now...I'm sure they're coming...

Good to hear from you again, Moni!
Anonymous said…
Whatever that Japanese dude said, I agree with.

With that said, you are my god, O blog author.

I am a 2nd-year teacher - one hired by a Texas school district as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie who thought he was going to change everything after his social studies education coordinator popped a boner over his lesson plans. I almost thought about eventually getting the ultimate BS in degrees - a PhD in curriculum and instruction. (CORRECTION: not as full of BS as administration, but that almost can't be compared.)

I respect you not only because of your intellect, but because you're "sticking it out." I've decided to leave teaching (at least in American public schools) after this year because I think it's a lost cause. I teach in a somewhat wealthy suburban school and deal with some of the same issues as inner-city teachers. In addition, teaching in Texas means that we LOVE our standardized tests (and put too much meaning into them) and that we're gonna let veteran social studies teachers go before we let our coaches with less teaching experience off.

I came across your posts on Consumerist and have to say that you were one of the few people with any real sense of perspective. What bothers me more than the fact that I deal with too many ADD-wacko students who don't realize how amazingly nice their high school (I can handle this) is the fact that the world seems to hate teachers. It doesn't only start with administrators, but with idiot parents who think they can do our job.

When administrators pull crap like forcing meetings on us and calling them "trainings" and "professional development" which waste our precious time, they end up treating us like children. Same thing when they pester our classrooms with too many announcements and observations (I've been observed 20 times this year, and not because I'm new... it's normal)...

People complain about not having good teachers. I agree with them 100% when they say that teachers are needed for educational success. It just sucks when these teachers get turned off because of idiotic management and culture.

Thanks for what you're doing... you're a new citizen of my RSS feed.
Valannin said…
It's disturbing (but predictable) to see that this sort of behavior / attitude is not localized to the NYC Dept. Of Ed. I'd love to hear some of your stories from the trenches.

And 20 observations? In NYC, we call that harassment. What is your union rep doing? Taking bribes?

Soldier on, my friend...it doesn't get any better, but it does get more interesting...

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