Monday, May 30, 2011


The piece linked below by Anna Gustafson, an excellent education reporter, is from the Queens Chronicle. It needs to be read by everyone.

Anna interviewed a bunch of graduating students in our school slated for closure. The kids talk about their hopes and also the obstacles they confronted in high school. I'm quite confident this story could be repeated all across the nation. There are consequences on real life people when school officials starve a school of resources. These kids succeeded in spite of what was done to them by the New York City DOE.

Please read and comment.

Also, we totally support the lawsuit that has been filed by the UFT, NAACP and others like State Senator Tony Avella to save our schools.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Last Thursday I attended the premiere of the Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman along with around 700 other people in Harlem. This educator and parent produced film is the response to the highly misleading documentary glorifying charter schools called Waiting for Superman.

What a pleasure it was to see the new movie in which teachers and parents worked together to produce a quality work that tells us what is really going on inside our nation's public schools.

It is a hopeful sign when you see regular people take the "Do it Yourself" philosophy to a new level. It also felt good to watch young veteran teachers Brian Jones and Julie Cavanaugh as the stars of the film.

The audience at the premiere was a diverse group of educators, parents, students and activists.

The Grassroots Education Movement that produced the film consists of retirees, veteran teachers, new teachers and non teachers too. People who are united by a common agenda to support public education and fight back against the so called reformers who are actually trying to destroy our public schools.

In addition, this was the first time I have ever heard Diane Ravitch speak live. She led a panel discussion after the film along with a student, a parent and two teachers that was quite enlightening. Professor Ravitch lives up to the hype and we thank our lucky stars that a person of such high regard is leading the battle against so called school reform.

Finally, it wouldn't be a James Eterno story if I didn't put in a plug for the kids from my school. So with an apology to the reader who hates that I like to talk about Jamaica High School, a school that is at the center of the school closing controversy, the names of the two students from Jamaica who appear in the film are Syeeda Nasim, a sophomore, and Kevin Gonzalez, a senior. I hope in future editions they get credited.

Friday, May 06, 2011

UFT Chapter at Aspirations HS Stops Charter School in Its Tracks

A Joint Hearing scheduled for Thursday evening for the colocation of a new charter school for just released incarcerated students and other "disconnected youth" was abruptly cancelled by the proposed school. A Charter School Association representative stated that the failure of the new proposed charter to obtain a principal caused the sudden withdrawal for the application while others understood that the pressure by local civic leaders and Aspirations High School staff brought to bear was too much for the DOE and the proposed Charter.

The building at 1495 Herkimer Street in Brownsville was converted from a sewing factory in the early 1990's and was the home for neighborhood school, EBC/ENY High School for Public Service and Law until its closing for poor management and performance by the Klein administration. In 2008 Aspirations High School, a transfer school for under-credited and over-aged high school students was opened in the building to occupy one half of the space. The remaining space left by the vacating EBC/ENY High School was then offered to Roads Charter School, a school for newly released incarcerated students.

Roads, which boasted new teacher salaries of up to $100,000 per year and a plan to take over large parts of the building, concerned the staff at Aspirations and others. The UFT Chapter at Aspirations voted, almost unanimously, to oppose the new charter. Community leaders and some parents also recognized that the proposed colocation of the Charter school the existing public school was a real estate grab for the DOE's preference for privatizing public education.

"The colocation of this school was just wrong at every level," said United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader at Aspirations High School Jeff Kaufman after the application for the school was withdrawn. Kaufman had taught incarcerated students for many years at Rikers Island before joining the staff at Aspirations.

"We have learned precious little since Brown v. Board of Education," [the landmark US Supreme Court which outlawed segregation in education.] "Segregating released students further stigmatizes these at risk students," he argued. "Newly released incarcerated students need to be carefully integrated into the community."

Kaufman also stated that concentrating newly released incarcerated students in the vacant space would have posed a risk to the students at Aspirations and the neighborhood around the school."

Kaufman cited the failure of Community Prep High School, a DOE public school attempt to segregate this population which was closed soon after it opened in a segregated facility on the East side of Manhattan.

It is not clear, at this time, how the DOE will utilize the newly vacated space.