Friday, August 21, 2020

Important Update from the Chancellor

 Dear Colleagues,

For many of us, the five months since COVID-19 hit New York City in March 2020 have been the most painful, challenging, and heartbreaking of our lives. At DOE, it’s been meeting after meeting. They run into one another as we ignore our current problems and desperately pretend we dealt well with them back in March, when we sent people to their deaths. But hey, these things happen. 

Despite the evidence in front of you, we need you to believe that the 1.1 million students and their families who rely on New York City’s  public schools have the high-quality education they deserve. Of course, that's only as long as we don’t have to bother with providing sufficient PPE, reasonable COVID protocols, or perish forbid, actually doing testing and tracing to make sure no one gets sick. 

And we do it to keep trying to mask our hopeless ineptitude. Right now fewer than 1% of all COVID-19 tests are coming back positive. Of course who knows about all the people who aren’t being tested, who haven’t got medical insurance, or who are asymptomatic? Who cares if it didn't work in South Korea or Israel, and who cares about universities that open just to close within days? You are part of our great experiment, and once you start dropping dead, we'll be on to another. (Of course we will say extremely solemn words about you before doing that.)

And we won’t change our minds because we are pigheaded beyond belief.  We don't care if the Daily News editorial board, who usually hates teachers and everything they stand for, now supports the UFT. We don't care if the city council is against us. We don't care if Cuomo thinks it's too risky. And by we, I mean my boss, as I do have my career to think about. Look, if I stab him in the back, who’s gonna give me another sweet gig like this one? We have seen the worst—neighbors, colleagues, friends have been taken far too soon, including 79 DOE employees. So what’s the big deal if we have 79 more? Look, we’ll close the schools as soon as people start dropping dead so please don’t strike. Think of my reputation, please!

And I’ll remind all of you—who work in service to our students every day to keep building our school communities, give our students an excellent education, keep our students nourished and healthy, and our buildings safe—that while we’re wiling to risk your lives, those of your students, and all of your families, the fact is we in Tweed have private offices with multiple air conditioners and fabulous ventilation.  

That is going to look like classroom discussions from desks spaced six feet apart, even though everyone is faced in the same direction including the teacher, and no one can approach anyone else. We think that students being tied down to seats, wearing masks, and being unable to socialize will meet their social and emotional needs. Look, during our meeting, I hardly interacted with anyone, so why the hell shouldn’t that be good enough for you? 

Kids showing off their science projects through a webcam and elbow bumping their friends in the schoolyard. That’s not actually a complete sentence, but hey, I’m the frigging chancellor. In my fevered imagination, stuff like that will happen. 

Cleaning supplies in every room and physically distanced talks on the classroom rug for students to share what they’ve gone through, and their dreams and fears for the future. Another incomplete sentence, but hey, I’m the frigging chancellor. And I don’t want to hear all that crap about how your school hasn’t been cleaned in three decades, or how I never replace custodial employees when they leave. Take our word for it, okay?
We’re building towards another new normal, and we’re at the point where it all feels strange and unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating—Yeah, that’s the ticket.  Let’s go with that.
But we are working towards something so important, so please, please ignore the fact that we’re unwilling to do reasonable testing and tracing. We don't care how many good reasons there are for us to turn back--we're going with this. In fact, we don't even care if you're in a frigging windowless basement.
It must be said that we are doing all of this against the devastating economic backdrop COVID-19 has created. More than $8 billion in revenue to the City has been lost. I’m gonna fire 9,000 of you if we don’t get any money, but hey, it’s not my fault, man.    

We have already cut hundreds of millions of dollars in programs, initiatives, and materials from the DOE budget. All of us here at Tweed have had to make do with virtual gala luncheons, and honestly we can’t be sure whether or not the cooks are spitting in our food because we aren’t allowed to tip on our DOE expense accounts.   

Right now, we can’t be sure either form of assistance will come through, and we must plan for the worst. By that, I mean the worst for you, not me, because I’m keeping my big salary, my free house, and my incredible expense account. You, on the other hand, are expendable. Why else would we be sending you into situations in which you risk your lives and those of your loved ones? 

We are still paying valuable lip service to caring about whether or not you lose your jobs. and that should be good enough for anyone.   

Every single day, many times per day, I ask myself how we can be the only major city in the country heading towards partial in-person reopening this fall—and also be talking about layoffs at the same time. You can imagine how bad I must feel. I mean, not bad enough to give up a cushy gig like this out of principal. Not bad enough to provide you with adequate custodial staff. Not bad enough to train them in new procedures. Not bad enough to provide you with adequate PPE, adequate response procedures, or adequate testing and tracing. THAT would be pretty darn inconvenient.    

New York City is the economic, educational, and cultural heartbeat of our state and nation—and was at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. Nurturing the success of our students is crucial to our nation’s future.   And I promise you, as soon as enough of them start dropping dead, we’ll go straight to remote.
I am sure you have many questions. I know that because I answered so few of them in the single hour I laid out to speak with you. I also know I showed up late, left early, and delegated every single answer to my subordinates. But hey, everyone needs their peeps.   

I will not rest in the fight to make you think I care about you. I thank you for everything you are doing, every day. And please, please don’t go on strike. That could jeopardize my career, and that would suck for me.
In unity,  

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