he said/he said

Principals union chief lambastes city's school closure strategy

Among the press releases that went flying after the city announced its first set of school closures earlier today, the one from principals union president Ernest Logan stood out for its stridency.

In a statement the length of a short essay, Logan decried school closures as “a losing strategy” that traumatizes needy students, shuts out educators, and prevents scrutiny of the city’s reform efforts. Adding eight months to mayoral control’s age, he said twice that the Bloomberg administration has had a decade to fix all schools but has not.

Nine of the 15 schools whose closures or truncations were announced today have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools; one replaced a failing elementary school just three years ago. Logan suggested that at least two additional Bloomberg-started schools would show up on the second installment of the closure roster when it comes out tomorrow.

“The fact is that closure is an admission of failure by City Hall, whose weak or non-existent interventions amount to either a cynical statement of indifference to children of poverty or an inferiority complex about their own ability to come up with solutions,” Logan said.

The statement elicited a rebuttal from Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who called Logan’s statement “embarrassing” for the union.

“Real leadership is standing up and saying that we’re not going to leave students in failing schools,” Walcott said. “It’s embarrassing that the union representing the leaders of our schools — our principals — is more focused on making excuses and pointing fingers than on doing what is best for students. We hold all of our schools, new or old, to the same high standards.”

The policy got backup from Joe Williams, head of the nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform, which generally supports Bloomberg’s education policies. Williams called the practice of closing struggling schools and opening new ones to take their place is the mayor’s “crowning achievement.”

“These are schools that simply aren’t worthy of Gotham’s schoolchildren,” Williams said in a statement. “We applaud the mayor for resisting intense pressure to not rock the boat and make things as comfortable as possible for adults in the system, as our children are cast adrift.”

But in his statement, Williams did tread some common ground with Logan and other critics of the closures, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the nonprofit Coalition for Educational Justice.

“The mayor’s education legacy hangs in the balance here,” Williams said.

Here’s Logan’s statement in full:

Yesterday evening, Deputy Chancellor of Portfolio Planning Marc Sternberg announced to the press the pending closure of 25 more struggling schools. This is in addition to the 117 the DOE has already closed since Mayor Bloomberg took over the school system more than ten years ago.

Those opened under Bloomberg have been touted by Sternberg ‘as better than those they replaced.’  Tweed’s own failed schools number in the double digits, although the DOE sheepishly avoids making public an exact number. But in today’s and tomorrow’s round of closings alone, 11 schools were opened during the Bloomberg administration.

The NYC public school system is not a place for whimsical experiment where we open and close schools for students who have already been traumatized by previous school closings. Then, there is the tragedy of all the young people who have not been saved even briefly by the city’s new-school safety net, but have been turned away from new schools for reasons of poor academic achievement and sent to be warehoused in other low-performing schools slated for the scrapheap.

Bloomberg’s DOE has come up with a losing strategy for turning around low- performing schools, which are invariably attended by children of color from economically disadvantaged communities. That strategy includes rejecting most offers of collaboration from experienced educators and relying instead on theories hatched in ivy halls. The endgame of the strategy is to eliminate schools that the administration has had at least a decade to fix and to improve its data by creating new schools that won’t have data for as long as four years. The fact is that closure is an admission of failure by City Hall, whose weak or non-existent interventions amount to either a cynical statement of indifference to children of poverty or an inferiority complex about their own ability to come up with solutions.

The Bloomberg administration needs to take more responsibility, not less, for schools that are not doing well, rather than turning them over to private entities like EPOs or closing them and washing their hands of a deep-rooted problem that it has been unsuccessful in remedying.

CSA is mindful of Tweed’s lack of support for Principals and APs, how little it cares about the opinions of educators in the front lines and how the entire system of local superintendent support has been eviscerated so that control can be consolidated centrally.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.