Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mayor de Blasio and the Trailers

 To the left you can see my workplace of many years. Home sweet home for me and hundreds of ELLs over the last few years, until my supervisor kicked me out to protect a much-coveted second-floor classroom. I'm pretty happy there in that I have an LCD screen and can use technology for the first time in my 30-year career. It's so much easier to teach ESL when you can project huge visuals at will.

I was pretty surprised to learn that, unlike his predecessor, Mayor de Blasio actually plans to get rid of the trailers in NYC. Having spent over a decade in those moldy monstrosities, I'm the first to applaud that action. In fact, I'm up for bringing a bunch of lawn chairs, setting up a barbecue, and having a huge party in celebration. But unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. What surprised me most was the note in the Mayor's Capital Plan to take down our trailers.

This was a particular surprise since no one had alerted me, or as far as I could tell, anyone else in our building. In fact, Class Size Matters estimates that fewer than 20% of the seats needed in Queens high schools are going to be created. How, then, can you eliminate existing seats? I'm not a math expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I'd love to know how this is done. Or even why this is done.

In our school, we use all eight of our trailers every period of the day. While the DOE is unable to calculate how many kids use our trailers, I don't find it that difficult. 8 times thirty is 240. Multiply that by ten, for our ten-period day, and you have 2400 kids using our trailers each and every day. If you take away our trailers, we will lose all that space. How will we make up for it?

When I became chapter leader six years ago, we were severely overcrowded. I wrote about it in the Daily News and worked very hard to get it covered in the Post and the Times, among other venues. Colleagues reported that Klein and Bloomberg had to acknowledge us on TV. Then UFT VP Leo Casey helped our School Leadership Team get a meeting with Tweed in which we agreed to limit enrollment, and we managed to slow things down a little.

Unfortunately, when and if Mayor de Blasio closes our trailers, he's made no provision to place our kids anywhere else. I know our principal dreams of adding another floor of classrooms, and perhaps a culinary program. It's a great idea, but it will cost a whole lot of money. I don't see anyone offering it, and unfortunately all the hedge fund zillionaires are placing their lot with Eva Moskowitz. If Cuomo and his rich pals get their quasi-voucher program there will be even less money for lowly public schoolchildren.

I told multiple callers from UFT leadership that I refused to work for Bill Thompson. Instead, I worked for Bill de Blasio, I contributed to Bill de Blasio, and I went to his inauguration. It was a beautiful day, though we were all pretty much freezing our butts off.  I very much support Mayor de Blasio's initiative to get NYC kids out of trailers.

But, Mr. Mayor, if you take kids out of trailers you need to provide some other space for them. I don't want kids coming to Francis Lewis High School or any other school at 6 AM, staying until 6 PM, and eating lunch at 9 AM. Please find a reasonable alternative for us, and for other city schools, before you knock down those diabolical little boxes.
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