Wednesday, January 06, 2016


There is a post at the JD2718 blog written by Lynne Winderbaum that is must reading. Lynne is a retired UFT Bronx High School UFT District Representative. Lynne was one of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) people that anyone could respect, like and certainly talk to.  As a retiree, she can tell the truth about what went on in the school closing fervor that started many years ago. Lynne makes it clear that the UFT was in on this from the start.

She tells the story of a Bronx High School meeting with principals and chapter leaders hearing stories from the Bill Gates people about how small schools could solve education's problems. 

Eric Nadelstern from the Bronx Superintendent's office and John Soldini, then UFT VP for Academic High Schools remembered that the intent to close and replace the large high schools with small schools was made clear at that meeting.  Others who were there were incredulous at the announcements of intent to close schools because they did not remember the meeting that way

When the new schools opened inside the big schools and started taking the top achieving students, the large schools took students who could not get into the well funded smaller schools and were doomed. As Lynne says:

Waivers were granted to allow (new) small schools a two-year exemption on accepting special education students.  And even after the waivers expired, the special education students were not the high-needs children displaced to the large high schools.  The English Language Learners were not the recent arrivals who were displaced to the large high schools.

Soon the displacement of high-needs children bore its predictable fruit.  The small schools looked like magic institutions with higher graduation rates and fewer disciplinary problems.  The large schools offered a complete array of special education and ELL services.  They took troubled students without screening them out. As a result, their statistics began to show the impact of the small school movement. They were deemed failing.

The same formula was used in other boroughs later except Staten Island.  In Queens it was used on a smaller scale but the story Lynne tells is familiar to those of us who worked at Jamaica High School. Just as with Columbus High School in the Bronx, there was nobody listening when we complained.

Once again we ask that an experiment be conducted when schools are having difficulty.  All the Department of Education needs to do is limit the number of high risk students that school takes until it its statistics rise to levels that are deemed acceptable. This was proposed as a solution by an outside group in 2008 and ignored by Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio.

If you spread the high needs students, you will achieve remarkably different results.


Anonymous said...

The goal is to trigger failures in the schools with the high needs students in order to expedite charter take overs.

Abigail Shure

Jonathan said...

Your readers should know that this is excerpted from a much longer post. Thanks for the link at the top to Lynne's full account.


ed notes online said...

I love the work Lynne had done - at times. But she was Bronx HS district rep at the crucial times this was happening. I get she was in a lock box in Unity - and tried her best to mitigate where she could -- but we - ICE - TJC and others were warning about the outcomes. Peter Lamphere made a great speech at an Ex bd meeting that this would break the strongest union support in the large high schools - but also the strongest support for the opposition. Maybe Unity thought that was a better deal for them. All the Unity hierarchy went along. I may have missed it but I don't remember but did Lynne say anything at these meetings?
ICE held a meeting over this issue that seemed to make some people very nervous and it attracted about 25 people including some heavy hitters. I remember how people like Peter Goodman particiapted in recommendations to close some schools, including the school I went to - Thomas Jefferson which has since been racked with small school disasters.

Jonathan said...

Lynne was Chapter Leader at Kennedy when the deals were getting made. The detail not to miss is that these schools were NOT being shut down for "poor performance" (whatever that means), but were being closed by agreement of the DoE and UFT to build small schools. Weingarten sold her own chapter leaders down the river on this one.

Lynne was DR from 2003 - 2009, including when the official fightback happened - but the deal was already done. It was remarkable that Columbus dodged the axe - the first time. It was mostly show theater to let people vent, and almost no schools were spared, no matter how wonderfully their appeals were presented.

I am not certain when Lynne first came on the Exec Board. She may have been there 2003 -06, but I am not certain. I do know that even within her caucus constraints, she managed to really fight. The high point, right before she left, was a rally against an abusive principal, Iris Blige of the Fordham Academy of the Arts, that drew hundreds of UFTers from across the borough, despite the UFT leadership's opposition.

You are right that caucus was limiting, but I choose to remember Lynne as the leader of that rally, giving them hell, and giving members voice.


Anonymous said...

Samuel Gompers CTE High School!

I was at the PEP shut down meeting at Alfred E. Smith CTE High School and personally witnessed Sterling Roberson (UFT VP of CTE) and Greg Betheil (Former CTE Exec Director - NYCDOE in the staircase talking and making a deals on the hush, as I walked by they stopped speaking until I left.

This is NOT a surprise and it is very very sad.