Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NYC School Closures

I stayed up late following the action on GothamSchool's excellent play-by-play post of the decision to close 20 schools in NYC.  When a meeting drags on for 9 hours because the speaker list climbs into the hundreds, you know that there are some raw emotions involved, and I'd encourage everybody to at least skim through the post to get a feel for what was being done and said.

But I'm left with very mixed feelings regarding the closures.  On the one hand, the process is certainly undemocratic -- the majority of the school board is appointed by Bloomberg, and it doesn't seem like a coincidence that 4 out of 5 of the other appointees voted against school closures while all 9 of his appointees voted for them.  The crowd greeted every yea vote by yelling "puppet!" and every nay vote by yelling "leader!"  It's pretty clear that a large number of people feel disenfranchised by the way that Bloomberg and Klein are managing the NYC school system.

On the other hand, I have little doubt that at least a few of those 20 schools were horribly mismanaged and had little chance of turnaround in the future.  When they decided to phase out the school where I taught, I firmly believed that they were doing the community a favor.  After all, it's possible for a decision to be both undemocratic and correct.  Maybe the lack of a traditional school board was actually a good thing this time, because traditional school boards have an awfully hard time voting to close schools.  And sometimes schools need to be closed.

I don't like the way that the decisions were made -- they might have been the right decisions.  The biggest question now is whether the new schools that are put in place will be any better than the old ones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is hard to say what is what in the NYC public system, the DOE & the PEP anymore. I was at that meeting. And the elected I work for spoke. And while some schools are failing, and other flailing, the answer is never to pit one group of parents, students, and teachers against each other. For me, a Community Organizer who works in gov't & focuses all her time on education, I'd say it was tragic. Seeing seething, screaming black & brown families pitted against one another looked like something out of the Willy Lynch days. Distract the sheep while the wolves come out to play.
The truth is, these are children & families lives. Using the Charter vs. Public school tactic, you are not only being divisive, you are being dangerous. And our children are the people who suffer.
I would say at this point, it is less about Charter vs. Public & more about space. Shuffling children around from floor to floor, building to building year in & year out directly effects their learning. Any educator knows that stability & consistency is the key.
Fighting for a classroom is not.

I work here, in NYC gov't every day talking to parents & parent coordinators, and teachers as well as education activists- & we are worried. We are worried for our children. Our future. And for our teachers, and our unions. We are worried that Chancellor Black is so disconnected that we aren't surprised that she lost it at the PEP hearing on 2/2, with thousands of people screaming. It was the most antagonistic meeting I have ever been to- & I've been to many. At the end of the day, it comes down to: how do we go from problems to (good & effective) policy.

Thank you for your contributions. Please continue.