Thursday, May 12, 2011


I was quite angered at Fernanda Santos’ May 10, 2011 New York Times article, “New to Teaching, Idealistic, at Risk for Layoff”. Ms. Santos doesn't go into the background of the issue. It is a soft, puff piece, designed to make us feel for new teachers, especially those from TFA.

I feel for Samantha Sherwood, the young teacher featured in the article. I know what it is like to lose my job while those I knew weren't nearly as good as me kept theirs. I feel for those TFA's I mentor through Fordham University's GSE program who, in some cases, are just as dedicated and idealistic as I was when I started. I don't care where they came from. I judge them by the core of their character. I will not prejudge. I will evaluate them based on what I see in my role as mentor, and now adjunct instructor at Fordham. I did not like being judged by my elders then who thought of newbies like me as young upstarts threatening their positions, so I wont judge her now.

After five years in teaching I had taught several different social studies classes and taught and created curriculum for new ones. I started an African American History course. I taught AP American History. I ran a humanities program for 9th graders that coordinated inter and co-curricular classes in Social Studies, English, Foreign Language, Music, Art, and even Gym. I coached football. I was the senior class advisor who ran 3 graduations, proms, senior class trips, and more. All of this was in a comprehensive high school of almost 4000, not 400. Today I would be considered an old pro at 25, but back then I was still just a youngster.

Yet, I was one of thousands, who, in the mid 1970's, were laid off, in my case after 5 years of teaching, during an even worse financial crunch than NYC is facing today. Remember the NY Daily News headline? "FORD TO NY- DROP DEAD"? Ford had "declared flatly...that he would veto any bill calling for a 'federal bail-out of New York City’."

But here's the thing. Ok, a few things.

First, if today's newbies are as dedicated as I was, they'll come back when the money returns, as I did. ) I hope this young lady does. As soon I found out I could be rehired by NYC, I did everything I could to come back to the school I loved - Adlai Stevenson High School, in the Bronx. (Now closed by order of “da mayor” and “da college drop out”---Bill Gates.

Second, if she does return to her school, I hope she isn't met by new colleagues, excessed from other schools, who resent her return. I know how that feels.

Third, it seems Ms. Santos has also tasted the Mayor’s Kool-Aid. The issue isn't as simple as "da mayor" and his media tag team make it out to be. Due process is the important phrase left out of this equation. This is the DOE’s thinking. Wouldn't it be great if we could put the most expensive folks out to pasture and keep saving money by hiring newbies at less than half the cost, and if they give us trouble, we can also fire them?

Back to history. Who remembers what it was like before the UFT was formed in NYC? Good teachers, regardless of age, were fired because of cost, or worse, because they didn't agree with how their principal did things.

Who remembers that for decades the BOE, (now DOE) hired new people like me to fill full time regular positions but we were officially paid as PER- DIEM SUBS. Yes, for two years I was paid and treated like like “Mrs. Shabberclonzky, who filled in for your absent teachers and got the lowest pay rate AND NO BENEFITS! It took a few years and, as I recall, a court case to fix that.

So as we look at the history we find that in the despicable attempts (now, before the union, and in the 1970's) to save money and keep control in their hands NYC D(B)OE will do lots of terrible things rarely reported accurately.

One is this attempt to get rid of DUE process (Tenure) by making L.H.F.F. the rallying cry. Last hired, first fired sucked then, as it does now. But it is not the real issue. The real issue is how do you keep the best and brightest regardless of age without losing DUE PROCESS. That is the problem with this article. It does what most of the articles written about education do. They divert the public from the complexities involved.

So, back to Miss Sherwood. Should she lose her job if she is as good as the article says? NO! Should she teach if she is dedicated, idealistic, and good! YES! Should she be a Chairperson? I can’t say. The major role of a Chairperson is teacher training. Is she experienced, knowledgeable, and good enough to do that after only 3 years? I’d have to say NO!

Finally, should the way the DOE under “da mayor, Uncle Mike change the way they think about education in NYC? What do you think I think?

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