Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,
I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. At this moment the entire country is in turmoil, and none of us know what to do about it. I don't either, but it's important that you think I'm somehow in control, even though I have no idea how to handle what the hell is going on not only in the city, but also in the state, the country, and the world. You know, just like you.

It is my job to try to make you think otherwise. That's why I boldly announced that we would continue instruction last Monday as we were doing citywide PD. I knew that was awkward for you, so I announced it to parents and to principals, but didn't bother contacting you at all. But that damn New York Post couldn't write up a story about how kids weren't doing diddly-squat, even though truth be told they were not.

We started planning for this return the moment that we closed buildings in March. While it didn't do much good since we had no idea what the hell was gonna happen next, one thing is for sure: we haven't got the faintest notion just what we're gonna do when September rolls around.
Since we cannot yet predict what September will look like, we can—and we must—be prepared for a range of possibilities. Our job is to be ready and nimble. What if we are invaded by mutant clowns from Mars? We have an entire focus group looking at that. If that happens, we are 100% prepared!
Just in case that doesn't happen, there are 8 key areas outlined below. We've discussed these things with absolutely everyone except working teachers, who are complainers, and who tend to ask questions like, "How the hell can we open school buildings during a pandemic and also prevent Covid infections?" It's these nattering nitpickers and nagging nuisances who never nod to our nebulous needs.

As you all know, we left schools open for weeks after we closed Broadway. We also ignored hundreds of thousands of your signatures until the pressure became too much for us to bear. I myself, upon seeing 108,000 signatures of UFT members demanded there be 108,000 signatures of epidemiologists instead. Hey man, the mayor said everyone on board, and I value my job just as much as anyone else.

Look, if your principal asked you to work under circumstances hazardous to your health, would YOU want to be the one to tell him he's nuts? Of course not. You'd ask the chapter leader to do it for you. Well, I haven't got a chapter leader.

In the meantime, I want to ensure you are aware of these key planning considerations:

1.    Enhanced Health Measures: This is priority #1 for a clear reason: the New York Post is killing me writing about how online education sucks. Therefore, I need to open the buildings whether or not it's a good idea. I will give you lots of stuff to make you think it's not actually insane. This includes PPE and other equipment, supplies, social distancing protocols, and monitoring of health indicators required to protect our children, teachers, and staff. Sure it will be impossible to get 1.1 million kids to cooperate, but let's pretend otherwise and continue to work with the Health Department. After all, they did a great job keeping schools open after we'd had proven cases of Covid. They know how to avoid rules while pretending to do something. 
2.    Trauma-Informed Transition Back to School: The start of the 2020-2021 school year will be unlike any other that we’ve experienced. Everyone will be a nervous wreck. Naturally, both teachers and students will be concerned for their lives. That's a pretty basic instinct we must all try to overcome. This means we must focus on things like sports and sex and do our best to ignore imminent risks to our lives and those of our loved ones.
3.    Blended Learning: We know that there are a whole lot of cyber charters, and we know they all suck. We also know that what we've been doing these past few months, while better than nothing, is no substitute whatsoever for real classwork. However, those bastards at the Post keep saying we suck, and we need to do whatever we can to persuade them otherwise, even though we all know they will continue to trash us no matter what. Of course we should really be safe and not open the buildings at all, but de Blasio only has a year to go and I'm gonna need a new gig in 2021. Sorry guys, but I can't simply do the safe thing and leave the buildings closed.
4.    School Start Date: We are wholeheartedly working towards a September start date, while working closely with DOHMH to get them to pretend that it is safe to return to school buildings and offices. 
5.    Rolling/Phased Starts: Traditionally, all staff and students begin their respective school years at the same time. We are seeing so far that other countries are modifying schedules, and/or starting groups of students in person at different times. What I plan to do is make index cards with school names, toss the stack of them down a stairway marked with various starting dates, and whichever date your school name falls on will be when your school starts. I figure that's as good a method as any.
6.    Social Distancing and Split Schedules: Based on health protocols, we must assess how social distancing could be implemented. Of course we have no idea how to do that, and you don't either. What we plan to do is dump this issue on principals and let them figure out. After all, it's leadership 101 that when faced with impossible problems, it's best to delegate and then blame others for the inevitable and massive failures that will occur.

7.    Building Operations: Building operations also need to be adjusted to ensure that schools and other DOE work settings are safe, healthy places for students and staff. Sure, none of you have ever even seen a clean classroom in this city, so don't expect to see one in September either. However, we'll make a great show of giving custodians an extra few hours to wipe stuff down, and when your buildings look exactly as they always did, we fully expect you to ignore it.
8.    School Support Services: School busing and school food operations will also need to be adjusted to accommodate health and safety operations. We have no idea how the hell we will pull this off, but we'll do our very best to pretend otherwise. We will also completely ignore the pressing need for childcare that will occur citywide as parents and working teachers have no options whatsoever for their children.
In each of the above areas, we must prioritize equity, excellence, and resilience. Equity means that we will try to screw up equally no matter which neighborhood you reside in, and whatever different physical spaces you may share with Eva Moskowitz. Excellence ensures no matter what program we agree upon, and no matter how poorly envisioned it is, we will call it excellent regardless of whether any learning is taking place. Resilience means teachers better shut up and go along with whatever the program ends up being.
We will be engaging with one another at Tweed and patting one another on the back no matter what happens.

I thank you for your continued flexibility and patience. I assure you that it will be needed more than ever in the coming chaotic months.

In unity,
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