Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Plan to “Disassemble” the Buffalo Schools by Dr Barbara Nevergold

When a Buffalo Board of Education member promises to “disassemble” the School District, we should question his intent and his motivation. According to the dictionary, the definition of “disassemble” is “to take (something) apart”. Synonyms for “disassemble” include: dismantle, take to pieces, break up, deconstruct, and strip down. Further, “disassemble” is a verb, an action word that connotes the concerted effort it takes to take something apart.
South District School Board member Carl Paladino is on the record talking about his plan to “disassemble” the Buffalo Public School District. Speaking before the Erie County Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee, chaired by Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick, Paladino explained how he would dismantle the public schools: “We’re going to open charter schools; we’re going to hopefully help the privates and the Catholics to become better and be able to take more kids. We’re supporting the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters….” He concluded by describing his (their) plan further as “…the game that we’re playing.”
This is not the first time that Paladino has spoken of his goal to “disassemble” the District Schools. In a December 2013 interview with Buffalo Rising, he pledged to make a motion that the Board of Education members resign and “request that SED (the State Education Department) appoint a special master to reorganize the BPS.” While that motion went nowhere, Paladino has waged a campaign of disruption, dissension and dysfunction. He routinely disrespects, intimidates and bullies women of color, staff members as well as members of the Board. Even with this unprofessional behavior and gross failure to support the School District that he was elected to lead, Paladino has not only voiced his plan but he has proceeded with its implementation with the support of the majority Board members, the current administration and high officials in the State Education Department.
In his own words, Paladino has made his intentions clear. But what about his motivation? A recent report from the Alliance for Quality Education, entitled “Good for Kids or Good for Carl?” examines Paladino’s business dealings with at least 6 local charter schools. This study reports that “Paladino’s companies are the leading charter school developers in Buffalo” and details his support of each of the identified charters. Following the publication of this report, the Buffalo News’ interviewed Paladino on October 22nd. He responded to the question about his conflict of interest by saying that he would be a “frigging idiot” not to take advantage of these business deals. He tried to justify the conflict by saying that he is the only developer to invest in such risky deals. Yet, it does not appear from the report that he has lost any money on his investments. It’s quite the contrary in fact.
The recent mandate from the State Education Department for four “out of time” schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Bennett, East and Lafayette High Schools forces the District to consider independent charter school applicants. And in order to secure those applications, the majority members of the Board voted to ask the Commissioner (prompted by SED staff) to offer an unprecedented third round for charter school applications just for Buffalo. No time was given for public input or questions. Yet, it’s not too late for the community to ask questions about the propriety of a Board member who has investments in charter school development and boldly proclaims that his game plan is “…the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters….” If Paladino won’t answer these questions, what about asking the State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. or Western New York’s Regent, Robert Bennett?

Teacher: A Poem

How does it 
To have a target
on your back
To have people
in every walk of life
but yours
Tell you how to do your
To be hated
All because you
love children
and want to
see their minds
soar and their bodies
move in time 
to a music all

What A Difference A Year Makes: The Evolution of BATS

BATs is not the same group as it was a year ago. It is far more urban and multiracial and has changed its focus. It is now as concerned with school closings and school privatization as it is with testing and common core and with fending off attacks on teacher tenure and due process. It is also much more explicitly concerned with issues of poverty, racism and social inequality than it was when the group first began. This has been a gradual evolution and many people have left because they are uncomfortable with the change. But history does’t stand still and neither did BATs . Some people may disagree with my analysis. But that is what I think has happened. The group is also far more collective in its leadership and I do NOT call the shots.

Ten Demands of the BATS Teachers March on Washington on July 28, 2014

1. End all federal support for Common Core Standards.
2. End all federal grants that require teacher and school ratings based on student scores; end high stakes testing.
3. End federal incentives to close and privatize community schools and stop preferring charter schools over public schools.
4. Insist on high quality teacher-developed curriculum based upon knowledge of child development, rather than narrow, top down, test-based standards.
5. Replace Arne Duncan with a lifetime public educator, and require that veteran public educators have majority representation on Education Committees.
6. Promote equity and adequate funding of all public schools for all students; with appropriate class size for all students.
7. Ban all data sharing without parental and school district permission, with full disclosure about collection and sharing for informed consent.
8. Enact legislation that calls for all schools with public funds to operate with transparency and protect the free speech rights of teachers, principals, students and parents.
9. End ties to Teach for America, and support mentoring for new teachers as career professionals.
10. Restore the federal rights of children with special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and protect the needs of English language learners.

The Logic that Drove Teach for America to Become A Replacement Labor Agency

Last night, during a very interesting thread on Teach for America on the Badass Teachers Association page which included some current and former TFA Corps members, one TFAer pointed out that the organization’s destructive and pernicious policy of placing its members in urban school districts like Chicago where large numbers of veteran teachers have been fired is a result of it’s desire to reduce “The Achievement Gap.” And therein lies “tragic flaw” that has made TFA a destructive force in the American educational landscape. Thinking that the most effective path to reducing poverty and inequality in the United States is RAISING TEST SCORES in low performing schools is strategy so bizarre, illogical and without historical precedent that it should have been laughed out of the conference room, but it has not only become an article of faith in Teach for America, but to a cross section of politicians and school reformers throughout the nation. The fact that child poverty and wealth inequality have actually skyrocketed during the years this strategy has been pursued has not given the TFA leadership and their powerful friends pause; but evidence based thinking is something they seem to never apply to themselves. They continue with their slash and burn mission, even though everything they are doing, as the article below argues, is based on false assumptions