Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Another Letter from the Chancellor

 Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the end of the calendar year, I am reflecting back on some of the events of 2020. We have confronted uncertainty and pain together, working as a community dedicated in service to our city’s children. Because their safety is paramount, we took a principled stand and vowed to close schools as soon as the positivity rate reached 3%.
It goes almost without saying that we backed off on that stand as soon as public pressure began. I took some hard criticism—the hardest, perhaps, of my lifetime, and of course I backed off my principles completely. We have all worked incredibly hard to protect our children and our communities from COVID-19, and continue to do so.  That’s why we’ve now tripled our threshold for closure to 9%, and when it hits that, we’ll read a few nasty op-eds in the Post and raise it again.
But the difficulties of this year extend beyond the coronavirus crisis, of course. This has been a watershed year for the struggle for racial justice in this city and country. Rest assured that we at the DOE will make you travel through COVID infested trains and buses no matter what color you are. We don’t care what religion you are or what language you speak. We’ll send you to school while we hunker down in our offices.  

What I’d like you to focus on now is events that occurred outside of my purview, because I would like you all to notice that, even as I have no coherence or consistence in my policies regarding the schools of which I’m in charge, I’m on the right side of history in other matters.
That is why I am grateful that the Office of Equity and Access and Office of Organizational Development & Effectiveness has been leading the DOE in its own reflection on where and how we need to do more and better in our mission to combat the inequities that have plagued public education in New York City for decades. One of the key ways we must do this is by looking into our own “house,” so to speak, and—creating an internal workplace culture that reflects and respects the diversity of the city we are dedicated to serving.  Believe me, we are throwing you all to the dogs while we sit around and collect huge salaries for sending you to buildings that haven’t been cleaned in decades.
I want to be very clear that it is only by ensuring truly equal employment opportunity and a diverse and inclusive culture within DOE workplaces that we can, in turn, create equitable, albeit far from safe and supportive environments where our students can thrive, or at least survive, assuming that virus doesn’t catch up with them over the next few months.
True inclusion demands focus along a multitude of critical dimensions. but please don’t criticize me. I’m a sensitive guy, except when it comes to people other than myself. I’m really interested in keeping this high-profile, high-paying gig where I just travel around and have gala luncheons. I hope this COVID crap passes so I can go on expensive junkets rather than just ordering in from Four Seasons on your dime. Man, this beats working SO much.
Our comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion Policy describes our commitment to equal employment opportunity, and diversity and inclusion, through our hiring, employee retention, employee engagement, professional development, and vendor procurement practices. All are free to come in and take the sort of risks that I never would, as I sit in my elegant, luxurious, rent-free city-owned home and compose this.
I will note that these policies complement other current and future efforts to create inclusive environments for staff and students so that no matter who you are, you feel welcome to risk infection. Now more than ever—whether virtually or in-person—we need to make sure that everyone in our school and office communities feels connected and within a warm community. These efforts span policy changes that empower students to choose their own name and gender marker on their official student record with a parent’s permission; agency-wide implicit bias training; interactive workshops on how to make workspaces more accessible for individuals with disabilities; and more. 

We sincerely hope, as positivity rates continue to explode, that you pay attention to our anti-racist message and ignore the undue danger to which we are exposing our students, and you, the people who actually do the work. You will be hearing more from me on our efforts to look inward and make the DOE even stronger, more just, and more actively anti-racist in what we do. It is my sincere hope that by focusing on this you will ignore the utter disregard I have for your health and safety. 

Please shut up and stop complaining.
In unity,

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