Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Running On Empty

The NY Daily News reports that a high-ranking DOE official, after repeatedly stating that the Department of Education is responsive to parents at a Monday City Council hearing, fled through a side door "with parents in hot pursuit."

The official - Jim Liebman, the DOE's chief accountability officer - ran down three flights of stairs and circled around and around a courtyard with parents and reporters following him.

The parents - part of a group called Time Out From Testing - said it had collected 6,652 signatures from parents upset about school report card grades and wanted to give the signed petition to him.

The Daily News reports that Liebman at first refused to comment on the issue "as he tried to slip through the gate that separates City Hall from the Tweed Courthouse."

Later Liebman said he thought another DOE staffer was going to collect the petition and that in any case the scene in the courtyard "was not a moment for a reasonable, calm exchange of information."

Lisa Donlen, an elected parent leader who was at the City Council meeting on the school report card program, said Liebman's flight from parents was "indicative" of the way the DOE treats parents:

"He wouldn't even stay to hear our questions ... after we sat for three hours and listened to his testimony," she said.

The News reports that during the hearing most Council members said parents in their districts were opposed to the school report card program but felt their views were ignored by the mayor, the chancellor and the Department of Education.

And then the DOE's chief accountability officer, who is apparently accountable to nobody for anything, crystallized the DOE's treatment of parents with his cowardly flight away from them.

I have two things to say here:

First, it's good to see the City Council and parent groups hammering the mayor's ridiculous school report card program that hands out "F's" to schools like PS 35 in Staten Island (where 86% of students passed the reading test and 98% passed the math test.) And it's good to see some in the news media reporting on the contemptuous way people in the mayor's administration and at the DOE treat anybody who doesn't wave the pom-poms for the mayor's reforms.

Second, none of this matters if City Council members and other politicians rubber stamp autocratic mayoral control when it comes up for renewal in '09.

If parents and politicians want the DOE and the mayor to be responsive to somebody other than themselves, they will have to write that into legislation by taking away some of the mayor's autocratic control of the school system.
blog comments powered by Disqus