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Infamously misleading compromises

November 29, 2010

So the streets have been quite active and abuzz with news regarding the waiver for Cathie Black, which would be necessary under New York State law in order for Mayor Bloomberg to appoint Black as the next chancellor of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). David Steiner, NY State’s Education Commissioner, is expected to announce a waiver as early as Monday (11/29/10) for Black, a media executive who has no experience or credentials in public education.

Outgoing dictator/chancellor Joel Klein naturally piped in on the way out the door to enlighten everyone as to how criticisms of Black for lack of education experience were misguided.  Justifiably, there has been many such criticism and protest throughout NYC from teachers, parents, and community activists.

Even after a state educational panel rejected a waiver for non-educator Black, Bloomberg is still moving ahead with Black as his mayoral appointment for chancellor. (Side note: This proves to be yet another example of how under mayoral control there is a complete absence of checks and balances and lack of respect for parent/teacher/community input. Yeah, that’s one of the major reasons we oppose it.)

In fact, City Council Member Charles Barron has been on the offensive, together with parents/community activists, by pushing for a temporary restraining order to prevent Black from becoming the chancellor. This seems to be part of a larger legal push back by civil rights leaders like Barron, which is much needed in this critical moment.

Which brings us to the proposed compromise that came forth in which Shael Polakow-Suransky would serve as 2nd to Cathie Black under the title Chief Academic Officer. Polakow-Suransky does have educational experience so he is being hustled as an olive branch in an attempt to mollify opposition.

For a little quick review up to this point, edwina made a powerfully critical comment in response to a Gotham Schools piece on Polakow-Suransky, who most recently served as NYCDOE Deputy Chancellor for Performance and Accountability (in my view, this Gotham Schools writing by Maura Walz was off-base in that it was far too celebratory and uncritical of Polakow-Suransky’s history as a Broad-fellow as well as his administrative history in propagating questionable use of statistics through the NYC Progress Reports):

“Let’s review:
Klein hit roadblocks in executing his mission from Bloomberg, that is to privatize the schools and, in doing so, reduce/eliminate the influence of the unions and parents. Being a lawyer, Klein should not have crashed on the rocks of skipping the rubber-stamp PEP procedures for closing schools as he did in the case of Jamaica High School,
Bloomberg picks another Klein, albeit female and even more corporate and, as required by unwritten Bloomberg law :a carpetbagger and more disconnected from public education. Steiner, who attends the same cocktail parties, offers Bloomberg a fig leaf, i.e. “an educator” to accomplish this changing of the guard and Bloomberg picks another carpetbagger, Suransky.
Suransky, who blithely manipulated the Progress Reports to enable more closings, is supposed to fill the role of fig leaf. Anyone who has dealt with this Office knows what time it is. It is now full speed ahead toward privatization (with heavy taxpayer subsidies in the form of per pupil funding and free rent for facilities). There will not be a quiz.”

Now, many of the blog posts that I’ve read thus far have rightfully criticized and focused on how Polakow-Suransky would still report to Black and would serve in an advisory role. So even in the twilight zone scenario in which Polakow-Suransky decided to go renegade and push for a radically progressive switch from the dominant Bloomberg/Klein corp ed deform narrative, he would be quickly shut down by Cathie Black and Bloomberg. The question quickly arises, as SouthBronxSchool rightfully raised, who is really in charge? So does this sound like a compromise or more illusions and deception?

In my opinion, its important to also take a step forward and publicly recognize that Polakow-Suransky as a leader is not a compromise or concession either. Perhaps its better in principle than having a corporate executive with absolutely no experience in education or evidence of dedication to public education. But, let’s not allow the terrible options blur or obscure our analysis of Polakow-Suransky, regardless of the amount of power and responsibility he is afforded in Black’s education team. Even if he was afforded more power from the potential corporate team of  Bloomberg/Black, he still would most likely stay right in line with the current privatization agenda. In this situation, let’s not mistake faux fig leaves and disingenuous olive branch extensions for what they really are: continued camouflage for the same corporate, private agenda that benefits the same people at the top while ultimately dismissing and harming teachers, students, parents, and community.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010 11:16 am

    I say no to Mayor Bloomberg’s cronyism. Why should New Yorkers pay two salaries to please him? The time has come to tell this mayor he is not god, or even the CEO of NYC- he is however an elected politician. A politician who appears to be crying it’s my ball, and if you don’t pick my friends then no one plays. Thanks for another thoughtful blog Sabrina.
    We are walking to DC,

    • November 30, 2010 9:37 am

      This one’s by Mark, but thanks for reading, Walking Man!

      • markfriedman1 permalink
        November 30, 2010 8:03 pm

        Sabrina, I noticed Jesse mentioned you and just figured “Eh, it’s cool. Sabrina created the blog, afterall”. Either way, thanks for the mention, Sabrina.

        Jesse, you’re absolutely right. Bloomberg does behave as if he can punk whoever he wants in education and most other arenas in the city. It’s time to organize and push back further, as the momentum has definitely picked up in regards to the residents of the boroughs fighting back on education in particular.

  2. mariasallee permalink*
    November 30, 2010 7:52 pm

    What’s up with creepy shot of her in your first attached photo? Maybe I’m projecting but it looks like she’s a-schemin’…

    • markfriedman1 permalink
      November 30, 2010 8:05 pm

      I’ve actually got a good amount of creepy Cathie Black photos as well as equally creepy videos of Polakow-Suransky at “Progress Report” meetings at City Hall presenting and analyzing all kinds of statistically suspect education data used to determine which schools close and which stay open.

  3. Barbara permalink
    December 3, 2010 10:32 pm

    Wow, it is so great to see the community rise up like that. I wish they would do that in Los Angeles where we are trying to fight off the corporate interests and charters like mad. Wow, so let’s put a nurse as head of the police officers -it makes just as much sense.

  4. Frederika permalink
    December 4, 2010 10:04 am

    WOW. This is a powerful video clip that sends more than one powerful message. These parents and community leaders have their stuff together! We all need to find and nurture strong, thoughtful, informed, outspoken parent organizations like these in each of our locales to assist professional educators in their efforts to stand up for our children against the “corporatization” of our schools and the “deprofessionalization” of our educators. It may take a while for all of our communities to reach this level of parental expertise and involvement, but it is worth the effort. Teachers and other education employees cannot do it alone.


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