Friday, December 04, 2015


Some of us believe that somewhere, somehow there really is some kind of karma and what goes around really does come around. However, don't ever expect to see it from Bill de Blasio-Carmen Farina's Department of Education or you will surely be disappointed.

In the case of the former deputy Chancellor in charge of explaining closing schools to the public in the Bloomberg days and now Dewitt Clinton High School Principal Santiago Taveras, I don't believe there will be a large price to pay for his inflating student grades Clinton. I read the Post stories of his private shower and the grade fixing scandal.  Post reporter Susan Edelman finds one of these scandals about high school grade tampering regularly.

Changing failing student grades to passing is standard operating procedure in the Department of Education administration unwritten playbook for troubled schools. The rules concerning the students are fairly simple:

  • Pass'em all by any means necessary
  •  If they don't all pass, blame the teachers and reorganize the school.

Students don't magically improve when schools are closed or renewed or received or whatever else they do these days.  The only change firing teachers and hiring all new ones does is it kills any academic standards that may have existed previously because newer teachers are easily pushed into passing every student regardless of whether they deserve to pass or not. My guess is based on his former job as the "community engagement czar" who came to tell school communities why they were failing, Taveras picked up an idea or two about how to make a school look good on paper and is utilizing what he learned then in his new life as a principal.

I also saw Marcia Kramer's piece on Taveras on CBS 2. The best quote from this story comes from what appears to be our completely clueless mayor:

"My Department of Education initiated that investigation," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, "and that investigation will proceed promptly, and if we find any wrongdoing, there will be very serious consequences for the individual involved."

If our mayor was serious, he would now have to investigate a great many of our high schools as what Taveras is doing is anything but unique. Then again if we parse de Blasio's words in Clintonian fashion, he said there would be very serious consequences if they find any wrongdoing. They more than likely won't because grade changing is routine in the Bloomberg-deBlasio era.

Wouldn't it be real karma if the person who ran around and recommended that schools be closed, thus ruining so many lives of UFT members and students, was truly sanctioned for grade fixing?  If there was any justice in the de Blasio-Farina DOE, we would be optimistic. However, due to the reality that is the public schools in NYC, we'll probably have to look for justice elsewhere.

On a side note, I never met Santiago Taveras because when Jamaica was on the chopping block for the second time in 2010, the Chapter boycotted the community engagement czar's visit.  That is a what unions do. By the fall of 2010, everyone but a community activist and me figured out Jamaica's goose was already cooked.

We had been saved by the courts earlier that year but the DOE-UFT agreed to let new schools open in our building anyway.  Meanwhile, the DOE strongly discouraged students from attending Jamaica and never provided promised supports which had been part of the settlement of the 2010 lawsuit. In addition, most of the school's administration was not very popular (see Sue Edelman's transcript fixing piece for details) so our Chapter decided to boycott Taveras when he came to Jamaica. He was met by an empty auditorium. For anyone who wants to know how to successfully stage a union boycott, email me.

Finally, we were even considering sitting out the entire round 2 of the school closing battle in 2010-11. This may not be popular here but one of the reasons we kept at it furiously that year was besides community, parental, teacher and student support along with help from politicians, then UFT Secretary Michael Mendel took up our cause.  He was a tremendous advocate.


Chaz said...

Michael Mandel was also in charge of the super secret ATR committee that never bothered to ask ATRs their opinion and he was the father of the useless ATR rotation system.

He might have been a help to you but where is Jamaica High School now? Just in our memories. The only tangible result is the ATR rotation that doesn't benefit anybody.

James Eterno said...

Please at least spell his name right Chaz. Mendel was an excellent advocate for us. I never said he didn't have a hand in UFT policy blunders. Mendel was a key negotiator in 2005 so he probably helped set up the whole ATR mess. Mendel and I spoke several times about the difficulty of negotiating with Joel Klein and his successors. That was not the point here. We often hear the UFT did nothing to help closing schools. In our case that was not true.

James Eterno said...

Also, Senator Tony Avella was a huge help setting up a rally, a press conference and a concert on behalf of Jamaica. He also complained to the State Ed Department on our behalf which got us a ton of money. Does that make up for his yes vote on Cuomo's last two budgets? Well no but I like to weigh everything and not see the world as all good vs evil. It's more complicated than that.

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