Saturday, May 21, 2016


One of the main reasons for closing schools in New York City was to bust strong union chapters. Some of these were high schools that traditionally had a majority vote for opposition groups in the UFT. High schools were and still are the base of the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus. The leadership of the union basically looked the other way or supported splitting up large high schools until it got out of control under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Now that Carmen Farina has figured out through receivership and out of time status that there is no need to close and reopen a school as four small schools to get rid of the staff, lo and behold schools are now merging to save costs.

In a Chalkbeat piece earlier this week Farina gave her rationale for school mergers:

When two or three schools consolidate, the money saved by paying for only one principal and administrative staff “goes back into classrooms,” FariƱa said, perhaps to fund additional elective classes or after-school programs.


Chalkbeat reported that there have been 25 mergers so far and Farina said that many more small schools could benefit from mergers.

Here is the response from retired Bronx High School District Representative Lynne Winderbaum on facebook:

Too late. We've closed all the great high schools after concentrating high-need students in them by over-creating small schools that wouldn't serve such students. Kennedy, Columbus, Jamaica, Stevenson, etc...gone. You don't have to be a genius to walk into a campus of what was once a single school and see 7 principals, 14 APs, duplicate guidance and programming departments, to realize what a colossal waste of money this generates. You don't have to be a genius to see the elimination of teams, specialized music and art classes, a variety of languages, special Ed and ELL compliance. You don't have to be a genius to see the toll taken by the displacement of students and teachers. So go ahead Carmen, merge the small schools because NYC destroyed everything the larger schools had to offer.

I agree with Lynne but I have to kick myself about why we didn't push for a merger when Jamaica was under the gun. From an earlier Chalkbeat piece: "City officials have also pitched school mergers as a school-improvement strategy, if a higher-performing school absorbs a lower-performing one."

If only I would have been smart enough to come up with this back in 2010. I could have called Arthur Goldstein and had Jamaica merge with the successful Francis Lewis. It would have solved our problems. Lewis could have an annex for their overcrowded school while Jamaica would've been attached to a successful school and magically improved. Someone at the Community Board actually pitched a version of this idea in 2010. Nobody took it seriously for good reason.

However, back then we all predicted that at some point in the future the DOE would figure out that it might save some real cash to not have so many small schools. That time may be here.


ed notes online said...

Unity and the DOE teamed up with Bill Gates to close large high schools. I remember when ICE and TJC had seats on the ex bd back around 2005-6 and Columbus was being closed and Peter Lamphere who taught at the school spoke at the EB meeting pointing to the destruction of the union as one of the aims and Randi backed the closing - as they did until Bloomberg went too far in late 2009 by closing 19 schools - a real shot at the UFT which was willing to go along if they did the closings more slowly like a slow drip. The dis made it untenable politically for the UFT to continue its partnership with the DOE and so on paper they turned against school closings and even did some lawsuits which won a postponement of some closings and prevented a few - like Dewey and Maxwell -- which at the time had Unity Chapter Leaders - esp Maxwell which was a strong pocket of Unity.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is too late. It is never too late. If you think it is too late, why do you fight?

There are enough people with memories of what big schools are like (and there are a lot of good/great big schools around to help). This would also be a great time for people getting strong union people into the schools (and/or create strong union people). Any time you get fewer admins and more teachers and classes/courses is a good thing.

Jonathan said...

It's not too late.

But incredible damage has been done.

And even if we began to merge schools today, I'm not sure we could repair the damaged histories and traditions - and those things DO matter.

We've been pushing merger for some time. Mulgrew adopted two or three years ago the idea that "some of our schools need to be..." but I think that was just a throw-away line that never went anywhere.

I'll dig up and publish the last resolution we brought to the Executive Board... I think a year ago. Unity tabled it and never came back to it.


Jonathan said...

Found it and published it: Many NYC High Schools Got Treated Badly by Bloomberg/Klein - When Do We Fix the Damage?

Anonymous said...

The UFT also stopped Bryant from closing which did not, and does not, have a Unity Chapter Leader.

TeachmyclassMrMayor(andyoutooMrMulgrew) said...

It is also the alma mater of then chancellor Klein, which kept it off the list until the end. UFT also couldn't selectively pick the schools in that lawsuit. It was all or nothing.

ed notes online said...

Right - Klein alma mater - and Richard Barr, a lawyer and Columbus grad, once confronted Klein at a PEP about the fact he closed everyone's school but his own.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:09 - do I detect Unity scum?

Anonymous said...

LIC stayed open. Unity CL (but, decent guy). Same rumor about Klein (I think he went to the old LIC, and then Bryant). LIC had a relatively strong chapter.

I think one of the goals of small schools was to get the # on staff under 45, so the CL was no longer a comp-time position, and thus weaken all the chapters. Many schools have no CL, and I'd venture to say that most schools have no Delegates. Just the way Unity wants it.b set the DA at 4:15 and pack the chairs with retirees. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Klein w as gone. Walcott tried to close Bryant. UFT sued and won. It isn't always about Unity.

Anonymous said...

You are right.

Jonathan said...

When the first round of voluntary closures in the Bronx began....

Voluntary? Unity signed off. The State did not ask for this. Gates promised money, and Randi and her Dr. Doom sacrificed our schools. Walton, Stevenson, Columbus (which was spared complete closure, for a few extra years), Kennedy, Evander.

Unity agreed to close those schools. For money. Maybe for other reasons too. But the biggest reason for screwing our members was Gates cash and Gates influence (which bought us nothing, but the accusation is that Unity worked against our members, not that it worked out for them.)

Maybe some of it's not about Unity. You could be right. But in these most egregious cases? Unity was responsible.

I wrote something (some comments worth ploughing through).

Lynne Winderbaum also wrote, with more detail, but less finger-pointing.