Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unrest in District 14 - Is Moskowitz the Catalyst?

My old district has been popping up in the news recently as the school wars heat up, a somewhat surprising development since things seemed fairly quiet. I wonder if the aggressive entrance of Eva Moskowitz with a massive advertising campaign that has inundated the area (but only certain selected areas ripe for creaming) for her new Brooklyn Success Academy was the catalyst.

I spent my entire career 35 year (and beyond with part-time work) in District 14 (Williamsburg, Greenpoint and northern Bed-Stuy) and I could write a book on the history and political and educational complexities of the area. I recently have been spending time in the area - we are editing our film at the home of Reel - or Real - reform Studios. And I went back to my old haunts when Cathie Black came to the CEC 14 meeting on Feb. 28. (Cathie Black District 14 Town Hall: No Sex, but Pl...)
where I taped principal Brian De Vale challenged Black by supporting LIFO while holding a Teddy Bear (Teddy Roosevelt founded the civil service system over a century ago - Brooklyn Principal Challenges Cathie Black).

I put up another video (Voices of Parents, Teachers and Principals at Feb....) of that meeting where people challenged Black and another principal challenged Santiago Taveras (whose desertion of the sinking ship helped precipitate Black's firing) on whether the he actually believed the PEP and DOE actually listen to parents - Taveras was lying through his teeth. It's a half hour long but if you scroll to the last few minutes you can see that confrontation.

Saturday's NY Times had some more references to District 14 activists. In one article PS 34 principal Alicja Winnicki is quoted:
 "there is also a sense of disappointment that principals who once relied on people outside the building to make them feel connected to a wider sense of mission now correspond with education bureaucrats primarily through data and documents. We attend to our everyday instructional life and communities, and we keep submitting the documents required of us,” said Alicja Winnicki, the principal of Public School 34, a successful school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “But I feel that with every reorganization we become more and more isolated. I hope that Mr. Walcott will make sure that he reaches out to us.”
 Good for her. I know Alicja since she was a teacher.

In another article, we hear from PS 132 parents Sarah Porter and Janine Sopp:
Sarah Porter and Janine Sopp, whose children go to Public School 132 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, signed up to speak at the hearing, but left after Mr. Walcott did; Ms. Porter said she had gone there for a chance to talk to him directly about the city’s need to control growing class sizes, so there was no point sticking around. “He says he listens to people and he talks very nicely, but he’s still implementing the same policies,” she said. Sounding equally disappointed, Ms. Sopp called Mr. Walcott “another mouthpiece for the mayor.”

Yes, Walcott may help delay things for a while, but the Bloomberg ship is still sinking.

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