Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mike Bloomberg and the Magic Mirror

Carmen Fariña is talking about consolidating her some schools. This is a direct reversal of the signature policy of her former boss, Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg, of course, had to look in a mirror every morning and ask it who was the reformiest of all, and as long as he kept closing schools it said,

Working teachers drop and crawl cause you, Mayor Mike, are reformiest of all.

Now Bill Gates, whose assful of wonders produced the small school initiative, backed up on it when he found out it didn't work. But because NYC is the first to adopt the worst ideas, and the last to drop them, Bloomberg plodded on regardless. I mean, why have one principal in a building when you could just as easily have five? And why have students abide by one set of rules when you can have five? As an added bonus, you could always dump in a Moskowitz Academy, have the whole thing refurbished, and make students in the other four schools feel like total crap because they aren't worthy.

But that's not the only benefit of small schools as far as Mayor Mike is concerned. After all, with Fair Student Funding, whatever that is supposed to mean, the fact is that every school has to be concerned with teacher salary. After all it now comes out of the school budget rather than central. So wouldn't you know it, principals with very small schools tend not to hire teachers with big salaries.

That's just part of it, though. I talk to teachers in schools that have inquiry teams that meet each and every day. Every single person in the school does that. Now there's supposed to be a C6 menu, and if you don't get one of your first three choices, you get another three. That means there should be six choices, at the very least. So could it be that every single person in the school happened to make the same choice? That's quite a coincidence.

Actually, this tends to happen when there is no chapter leader and no knowledge that there is a contract, or rules, or any of those messy things. And if you start a school with 20 teachers, all of whom are untenured rank beginners, you tend not to have a whole lot of union activism. After all, being chapter leader can be like swimming in a pool of sharks, and you're unlikely to opt for that when you have yet to master the doggie paddle. Also, while I've seen untenured teachers as chapter leaders, I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone. After all, when you can be fired for a bad haircut (and new teachers are unlikely to find time to seek out a good one), you might not want to be bringing multiple grievances to your principal. Also, you may want to spend time learning your job rather than going to Multiple Meetings About Everything.

In fact, it's likely newer and smaller schools have no chapter leader. I've been to class size grievance hearings where I've met teachers from small schools who weren't chapter leaders. They'd tell me their principals asked them to go. Now I will grant you it's a special kind of principal who will appoint people to grieve school class sizes. And given that, I'd suppose that most of them just go unreported.

If you have no union presence, it's a Principal's Paradise. Do whatever the hell you wish, and no one raises a peep. Will the young teachers get tenure and decide it's time to rise up and enforce the contract? Or will they simply become accustomed to doing Whatever the Hell the Principal Wishes and stay that way?

Bloomberg's magic mirror told him this was the way to go, but I'm not sure teachers who just follow instructions and question nothing are ideal role models. Isn't it our job to not only teach, but also model critical thinking? How can you do that when you aren't permitted to question anything, let alone criticize it?

Fariña is looking at a more practical problem. Why is she paying all these people to do all these things that are redundant, wasteful, and unnecessary? Of course consolidation is a reasonable solution, and hopefully she'll see fit to restore community schools, and even communities themselves. I mean, sure her boss is still pushing mayoral control, which does the exact opposite, but maybe this is a baby step in the right direction.

So if we put together five schools, will one competent chapter leader emerge? Will one principal who truly understands leadership rise to the top?

Only time will tell.
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