Category Archives: General Article

It’s a Good Idea to Learn About the People and World Around You

I have had a great interest in learning about other countries since I was in high school. I remember my parents having one of those really big, coffee table books with a lot of photos from around the world. This was in the 1980s, and we just did not have a lot of access to learn about other countries, so seeing photos was really helpful to me. I really like learning about England and Russia. So, I’m both an Anglophile and a Russophile. Recently, I spent some time learning about Baroness Joanna Shields from England. I find these sorts of things fascinating.

My interest in all things British came about from my early naivety that the country of Britain is really no different from my own country. In fact, I thought visiting there would probably be boring because of it.

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 
feel
To have a target
on your back
To have people
in every walk of life
but yours
Tell you how to do your
job.
To be hated
envied
mocked
legislated
sued
All because you
love children
and want to
see their minds
soar and their bodies
move in time 
to a music all
their
own

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.