Bluffing and Boasting at City Hall
A number of criticisms about the performance of the reorganized school system have been aired publicly of late. Yet, Chancellor Klein is apparently impervious to comments and concerns from dedicated professionals and citizens as he repeats his mantra of the month, his pride in parent coordinators, math and literacy coaches and the Leadership Academy, the same trilogy he so proudly exhorted at our recent Leadership Conference.
However, that mantra no longer includes his former pronouncements about how much autonomy and power he has given to Principals. As in the past, Klein's focus will shift to simply "laying the blame." So far, Klein hasn't admitted culpability for anything-not the lack of school safety procedures, curriculum choices or functional shortcomings in his organization.
It is as if there is a wall between the reality of those implementing and experiencing the changes and Klein's ability to listen to discourse and make adjustments.
Although Klein has acquiesced to No Child Left Behind and finally incorporated an approved curriculum, the question remains, "Why only in 49 schools and why only $34 million?" How much did it cost us to implement Diana Lam's curriculum? And what happened to the public promise that children would be able to move from school to school and be familiar with the materials and curriculum? How quickly we forget!
When there is no real dialogue, involvement, trust and respect, reality becomes what politicians sell and the public is willing to buy-platitudes, slogans and partial truths. The Chancellor seems to believe that if you say something often and consistently, it will be perceived as the truth.
And now, the latest proposal from Tweed promises to end social promotion. We can only hope the Chancellor will listen to us about the "bumps in the road" and how to successfully implement this program. Inexperience at the helm will only hurt children.
The Mayor has staked his reputation on what he calls a new mandate-and a new responsibility-to keep the schools safe. What a spin doctor this guy is!
Some of us remember the joint press conference, held at the UFT more than one year ago. Yes, it was the unions, all of us bad guys and gals, who demanded the administration address the rising violence and disruption in our schools before matters got worse.
Well, when the city failed to implement new disciplinary procedures to replace the tossed-aside system; the suspension process dragged out for weeks allowing suspended students back in school within days. The very "service centers" that had been set up by the administration were non-responsive and without resources. Lunchrooms were used as suspension halls.
The Mayor needs to be reminded that for CSA, it has always been our mandate and responsibility. But, HIS administration has been remiss in providing timely, adequate and appropriate services to Principals, Assistant Principals, teachers, staff members and, most important, to children and parents.
If we want substantive, long-term change, we must bring stakeholders on board and resist the inclination to be secretive and withhold information.
As I watch the Mayor in action, I am reminded of the Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," all bluff and boastful, singing, "If I Were King of the Jungle."
But the Lion had two qualities this administration doesn't have and shows little chance of developing: Grace and humility. We certainly don't see much of that around City Hall.#
Jill Levy is the President Council of Supervisors and Administrators.