Thursday, December 31, 2009

SCRL High School Protests School Closure

Mon, Dec. 21 - Bronx, NY

At the High School for Community Research & Learning over 100 protesters, mostly students, loudly voiced their anger at the Department of Education's (DOE) notice to close them down. Students filed out in front of their Stevenson Building in the bitter cold with hand-made signs, some which read, "SCRL did not fail, the DOE failed us", "Phase-out is not a solution" and "Money for War, Money for Stadiums But No Money for Education". As this energetic crowd picketed up and down the sidewalk, they chanted loudly "Save Our School" and vowed to raise outrage at their DOE "hearing" on Jan. 5 at SCRL High. Click on title for video.

Jamaica High School - James Eterno Blasts Closure Attempt

Dec. 17, 2009 - 700+ Protested Against New York City's Attempt to Shut Down Jamaica High School, Queens. James Eterno, the UFT (teachers' union) Chapter Leader & member of ICE-UFT speaks to outraged crowd. James is cheered as he defends their successful record despite efforts by the Department of Education to sabotage their high school.

(Click on title to view video.)

Jan. 21 - Citywide Protest at Bloomberg's

Stop Bloomberg’s school closures

& Invasion of public schools with charter schools!

Thurs. Jan. 21 by BLOOMBERGS’s Home

17 E. 79th St. ( 5th and Madison Ave)

4 – 6:30 pm.

Come join 22 school communities of the neighborhoods affected by proposed closure and charter takeovers as students, parents, teachers, and citizens let the mayor know that one-man rule over 1.1 million students in NYC is wrong and detrimental:

  • Why at his residence? One citizen of NYC makes absolute decisions concerning our students in the public school system. Instead of funding and supporting our neighborhoods, he is abandoning our community schools – so we will go to his neighborhood to voice our dissent.
  • Why do we defend our schools? The rationale behind school closures has been the 4 year graduation rate. However, the 5 year graduation rate of these schools average 75 % and keeps rising. Schools should be rewarded and supported for not giving up on our children. Fact: only 50% of all COLLEGE graduates get a bachelors degree in 6 years. Fact: 3 out of 4 Americans live meaningful productive lives without a Bachelor’s degree as plumbers, entrepreneurs, cosmetologists, EMT, police officers, firefighters, etc. The mayor’s elitist vision of society is labeling the rest of us as losers.
  • Why not Charter Schools? The little known secret behind charter schools and small schools is that they steal the highest achieving students from district schools, and turn away ELL, Special Education, and struggling students. It is not the new paint, the potpourri in the bathroom, nor the inexperienced teachers that burn out after several years: it is the theft of talented students from every grade level. Bloomberg is abandoning the majority of our students to second class status, in a two tiered system of overcrowding and disparate funding. While the budgets of community schools have been cut 10% in the last year and half, charter schools have received millions in capital plan and resource dollars.
  • Why not the vision of one man? Bloomberg is bringing a vision of business accountability that has destroyed even the business world. The mindless slavery to data – has cut arts and music programs, dumbed-down the curriculum with gamed testing, brought corruption into our schools via credit recovery and credit tampering, have pushed good teachers from struggling schools, and installed lawyers, bureaucrats, and billionaires to make educational decisions without any true community input.

Sponsors: THE EMERGENCY COALITION TO STOP SCHOOL CLOSINGS; INCLUDING PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND STUDENTS AT PS-15K, Jamaica HS, William H. Maxwell CTE, Concerned Advocates for Public Education - CAPE, Grassroots Education Movement - GEM, Independent Community of Educators - ICE/UFT, ... (list in formation)

For latest updates on the Jan. 21 protest go to: 718-601-4901


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Maxwell Protest Against Closing (Pt. 3) - The Forum

Dec. 13, 2009 Maxwell High School, Brooklyn.

Video Part #3 - Forum with DOE District Superintendent.

Mayor Bloomberg announced the closing of over 20 public schools. Maxwell High denounces this unfair callous attempt to privatize with charter schools. Over 250 people protested outside and then inside against the complicity of the District Superintendent. Grassroots forces are organizing locally and citywide to stop this ruthless assault on education and school-workers.

Click on title to view video.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rallying to defend our schools

New York City teacher John Yanno reports on the gathering wave of protest and opposition to the city's plan to shut down a record number of schools.

December 15, 2009

THE NEW York City Department of Education announced this month that an unprecedented number of city schools are on the chopping block due to low performance, including several large high schools with a long history in the city.

But teachers, parents and students are speaking out and holding protests to show that they are tired of being the victims and scapegoats for the crisis in education--and they want our schools fixed, not privatized. Now, a protest at William H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn earlier this month is becoming a model for other demonstrations in defense of the schools.

Among the big schools that the city is threatening to close are Christopher Columbus in the Bronx, Norman Thomas in Manhattan, Beach Channel in Queens, and Paul Robeson and Maxwell in Brooklyn. All serve populations of mostly working-class Black and Latino students. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has closed nearly 90 schools since taking control of the city school system in 2002.

A few weeks earlier, the mayor stepped up the pressure on teachers. On the day before Thanksgiving, Bloomberg stood beside Barack Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and announced that the city would immediately begin using student test scores as a factor in determining tenure for teachers in spite of a law prohibiting this practice.

That law is set to expire in June 2010--in addition, Bloomberg wants the New York legislature to make a number of other changes to the law to make New York eligible to compete for funds from the so-called Race to the Top program passed as part of the economic stimulus legislation earlier this year.

One change Bloomberg called for was requiring New York's school districts to use "data" to evaluate teachers and principals. Additionally, Bloomberg said the state should jettison protections that shield senior teachers from layoffs and make it easier to fire "absent teacher reserves" (ATRs)--teachers who lose their positions due to no fault of their own, for example, when a school closes, or because of declining enrollment within a school.

Currently, ATRs remain on the payroll until they find a placement. But because schools have to find room in their decreasing budgets to cover the cost of teachers' salaries, they are reluctant and often unable to hire senior ATRs, and instead opt for hiring newer, lower-paid teachers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ON DECEMBER 9, teachers, students, parents and alumni of Maxwell, one of the few high schools still offering career and technical education in the city, made it clear that they aren't ready to see their high school close. They protested in front of Maxwell to demand that the Department of Education fix, not close their school.

Teachers angrily pointed out the city's hypocrisy--the high school has measured up to even the Department of Education's twisted view of "success."

Maxwell was able to pull itself off the state's Schools Under Registration Review list of "failing schools." After receiving an F rating on the mayor's progress report in 2006, the school raised its score to a D. The following year, it met the standards for a C, but the city changed its grading system.

"If the scale had not been abruptly changed, the school would have been just shy of getting a B on last year's scale," said Seung Ok, a teacher at the school, delegate in the citywide teachers' union assembly and member of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), a coalition of teachers, parents, students and community members formed to protest attacks on public schools.

The abrupt change of standards was no surprise to most of the protesters at Maxwell. Many in the crowd criticized the Department of Education for wanting schools to fail--so they can be closed to make way for charter schools.

After the protest, some 200 people filed into the Maxwell cafeteria to listen to the district superintendent explain why the school was slated for closure. When the superintendent started to tell the angry crowd that Maxwell was "failing," he was met by an angry chorus of "boos" and chanting from the assembled students and teachers.

The overflow crowd was allowed to ask questions and make statements. Some talked about the funding inequality between schools in poorer, communities of color--like Maxwell--and "elite" city schools. One speaker pointed out that when closed schools reopen, either as smaller public schools or charter schools, they often receive better funding and superior equipment, like Smart Boards and LCD projectors--why didn't students at Maxwell deserve the same, the speaker asked.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew came to the meeting. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, spoke forcefully against the closure and promised the union would fight back.

But some in the crowd were skeptical, and they have every right to be. The UFT leadership has relied on lobbying politicians, phone banks and "playing nice" with Democrats as their main strategy for years. But many rank-and-file members who recognize this strategy has failed are beginning to demand that the UFT begin to mobilize its membership to fight. "The real power is with the teachers," said Brenna Farrell, a teacher at Maxwell. "If we can mobilize all the teachers, we can get results."

The rally at Maxwell is only the beginning. Teachers at other closing schools are beginning to organize rallies, including Norman Thomas High School, Jamaica High School, Paul Robeson High School, Alfred E. Smith High School and Beach Channel High School. A group of 20 teachers, many from closing schools, attended a recent GEM meeting to discuss a plan for a citywide rally against the closings.

Plus GEM, along with the Independent Community of Educators and Teachers for a Just Contract, two opposition caucuses in the UFT, will attempt to present a resolution to the delegate's assembly on December 16 calling for a citywide rally.

The UFT's past strategies have failed to win a fair contract, stop mayoral control or stop school closures. It's time to use the real power of the union--the rank-and-file teachers, 100,000 strong, who are fed up with Bloomberg's attacks.

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UFT Mulgrew: Stop City Hall School Closures. Bronx PEP

Dec. 17, 2009 - 22 to 30 NYC Public Schools are targeted for closure by Mayor Bloomberg & Klein. UFT President Mulgrew calls to stop City Hall. Mulgrew's militant rhetoric at local schools must be backed by militant citywide action.

United grassroots action by the UFT members, school-workers, parents, students and community on a citywide political level is the only way to defend and promote quality public education and the rights of workers. Join GEM in building the citywide fightback and organized grassroots political muscle.

Stop the drive to privatize with charter schools. Attend the GEM Planning Meeting on Jan. 5 to build citywide protests against the school closings.

Click on title to view video.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maxwell High School Reps on WBAI - FM

Education On The Crossroads Show (WBAI 99.5fm) featured Maxwell High School (Brooklyn) UFT Delegate Seung Ok and two students. The three spoke eloquently and passionately in defense of the success of Maxwell. They denounced Mayor Bloomberg's capricious attempts to close Maxwell and more than 21 other schools this year.

Click on the title to hear the archived WBAI recording.
Maxwell's poignant presentations are in the latter half of the recording.

Basir Mchawi hosts this education talk show every Thursday at 7 PM.
Tune in weekly as he brings in speakers from the front lines and grassroots to address current issues.

Citywide Protest to Stop School Closings Planning Meeting - Tues. Jan.5 - 4:30 PM

Please broadly circulate, post and print. Get the word out. Public education is on the chopping block. Angel Gonzalez, GEM

Citywide Protest to Stop School Closings

Planning Meeting - Tues. Jan.5 - 4:30 PM

CUNY Graduate Center

34th St & 5th Ave (Bring ID) - Room 5414 ;


Grassroots Education Movement - GEM

(updated pdf flier attached listing Jan 5 meeting)


Dec. ’09 - Mayor Bloomberg’s Department of Education (DOE) announced the planned closings of 17 public schools. Soon the DOE plans to place many more so-called "failing" public schools on the chopping block. Since 2002, when the mayor was given control of public schools, more than 90 had already been shut down while ignoring the democratic voice and opposition of parents, community, students and school staff.

Despite the fact that targeted schools, such as Maxwell High, have made marked improvements while overcoming overcrowding and other imposed negative conditions, the City does not accept its responsibility for its failure to improve our public schools. It is the City that has failed to provide necessary funding, resources, facilities (e.g. libraries), adequate services for high-needs students (e.g. English Language Learners and Special Education) and smaller class sizes. Instead, the City exacerbates the problems of our neighborhood public schools with its policies of school closings. The resulting overflow of students, who do not find seats in newly established select smaller schools, must be absorbed by other already overcrowded public schools. This just serves to "bring down" those other public schools farther – a potential set-up for "failure".

Thus, like the domino-theory, the City deliberately causes more school "failures" and at a later date clamors for their closings. School by school, the City fulfills its long-term goal of turning-over all our public schools to the private sector with charters. This "charter-privatization" of our public schools follows a racist pattern -- charters are invading, dismantling and taking over public schools that service predominantly Black and Latino students.

The discredited high stakes testing and school rating formulas continue to be unfairly used by the DOE to rate and punish school and teachers. But the City carries on with its contradictory and narrow-test-based performance reviews. To close schools and to find space for the private-charter takeovers of public schools, the City will change the standards or "raise the bar", as it wishes, just like it did with Maxwell High. In other instances (such as with PS 15K in Red Hook and PS 241 and PS 123 of Harlem), the DOE will use skewed available-space formulas to declare that schools have extra space, such a specialty and library rooms, for the imposition of a charter school there. Year after year, these charters slowly invade and demand to expand with the DOE willingly complying by granting charter expansion rights. Charters eventually will consume the entire public school building.

The City, with it flawed school-closings policies, deflects its blame in this "school failure" and viciously, with media hype, blames teachers AND THE TEACHER UNION for the school’s problems. The City continues to trash our valued neighborhood public schools along with important long established school-community support networks and traditions. With school closings, many educators (especially the more skilled, experienced and higher paid) are threatened with losing their permanent placements and are forced into the costly (over $80 million yearly) pool of unassigned teachers (i.e. ATRs). Thus, students lose the talents of seasoned teachers only to be replaced by less experienced and cheaper teachers. Students often lose the vital programs, such as orchestra, drama and team sports, which only larger schools can provide.

With school closings and the imposition of private charters, our community, parents and teachers lose their right to democratic input into their schools. Charter schools are managed by private boards that have ultimate control. Most unfairly have no school worker unions and thus save costs by providing less in pensions, wages, compensation, benefits and worker rights. These economic factors along with inordinate demands and workloads result in the high turnover rate of charter school staff.

Unfortunately, in this battle to stop school closings and privatization, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union has been a complicit partner to the privatization agenda. The UFT’s strategies of wasting millions on lobbying, making deals & concessions to the city, endorsing political candidates and issuing empty rhetoric have failed. The strength of a union depends on the ongoing organization and actions of its membership. It is not enough for the UFT to just protest at isolated targeted schools and then pack up its bags.

Local UFT rallies at schools, at Community Education Councils and at the Chancellor’s Public Education Panels, are important but inadequate. However massive citywide protests are critical against Mayor Bloomberg & government (City & State) to successfully stop school closings. GEM is MOBILIZING the UFT & our community FOR CITYWIDE PROTESTS to STOP:

 School Closings

 Privatization with charter schools

Overcrowding and large class sizes

The flawed high stakes testing madness

Union-busting of charter schools

The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) debacle by restoring teacher seniority rights in our UFT contract

Dictatorial mayoral control

Join GEM in our struggle for democratic, equal and quality education and for a strong democratic union at school-UFT-chapter and citywide levels. Help stop school closings and privatization with charters -

Attend GEM’s Jan. 5 planning meeting.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CITY WIDE RALLY - Hands off our schools!!!

Thursday, JANUARY 21st !! At Bloomberg's residence (It's official) - stay tuned! A call out to all the 22 communities: students, teachers, parents, community members. Let's show the mayor, that one man does not have all the answers. Let's show him what true democracy is all about! Keep in touch with this blog for the latest updates ----G.E.M.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pressure the UFT: Build Citywide Protest to STOP Closings! Dec. 16 - 4 PM - UFT Delegate Assembly - 55 Bway


Maxwell High School - Forum Denounces Closure!

Click on title to view video.

Dec. 9,
'09 Maxwell High School, Brooklyn.
Part 2 - The Forum.

Mayor Bloomberg announced the closing of over 20 public schools. The community voiced its outrage. Activists denounced this callous ploy to give away public school space to private charter schools. Over 250 people protested outside and then again inside the cafeteria-forum against the complicity of the District Superintendent.
Community advocates and UFT grassroots groups are organizing locally and citywide to stop this ruthless assault on students, public schools and ALL school-workers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maxwell High School Rallies Against Closing - video #1

Click title to view video.
Dec. 9, 2009 Brooklyn, NY. Mayor Bloomberg announced the closing of over 20 public schools. Maxwell High denounces this unfair callous attempt to privatize with charter schools. Over 250 people protested outside and then inside against the Dept of Education and the complicity of the District Superintendent. Teachers, parents, students and community are organizing locally and citywide to stop this wholesale ruthless assault on public education and school-workers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

UFT Mulgrew Applauds Barron: "Shut Down Tweed"

(Click on title to see video.)
12-09-09 Councilman Charles Barron: we may have "to shut down Tweed [the Dept of Education]" if City persists in the unfair closing of public schools. UFT Pres. Mulgrew applauds Barron. At Maxwell High School 250+ protested their notice of closing. Build the movement to fightback citywide against the drive to privatize our schools with charters. Pressure the UFT to defend democratic, quality & equal public neighborhood schools & school-worker union rights.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maxwell HS Protests School Closing - Dec 9 '09

GEM Leaflet on School Closings: Dec. 2009

"Stop Closings" GEM: Dec. 2009

Congrats to Seung, UFT chapter, & parents: phenomenal work at Maxwell !

GEM, ICE, TJC represented!
In an outside rally and indoor forum, Over 250 people shouted down the bankruptcy of the Mayor Bloomberg and his lackey Dist. Superintendent.
Through the night, GEM, Councilman Barron, and crowd hollered out and clearly delivered our messages:
  1. Stop the charter privatization schemes.
  2. Fightback Citywide.
UFT Mulgrew was there and heard these chants loud and clear. Now lets put the heat on our union bosses.
Let's make sure these messages get out to all our schools and at all UFT levels.
Stop the Corporate-Government-Education-Privatization-COMPLEX!
Angel Gonzalez
"There is no victory without struggle; nor is struggle possible without sacrifice!"
¡No hay triunfo sin lucha; ni hay lucha sin sacrificio!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Comments on NY Times article on Charter school shared space

Another one slammed out of the park by the CAPErs at PS 15.

Commentary on the NY Times article on shared space in public schools.

What can money buy you in New York City? Apparently not your own real estate. Instead, these corporate backed, millionaire and billionaire donor driven private companies and organizations, use public money and public resources to fund their school experiments.
Their money buys fancy computers, paint, and new furniture. It buys them glossy flyers, robo-calls, mailers, and t-shirts. It can buy them press coverage, even the final say in the New York Times!
Money can buy you power, and in NYC, money and power go a long way. What our neo-liberal and conservative friends fail to see however, because their money blinds them, is the ultimate consequence of their race to the top, their greed, their pestilence; the undermining of our society, the destruction of our democracy, the ruin of what it is that makes us great; an ideal that in this country all are created equal, that we have rights, and among them, we decided long ago, is the right to a free and fair public education that rejects separate but equal and seeks to prepare thoughtful citizens of the world.

Money can buy you a school in New York City. It can buy you stolen goods off the backs of our children and their schools and it can place you on the front lines of a movement to dismantle public education. Luckily for us, the parents of teachers of CAPE, we don't have money. All we have is our integrity, truth, and honor. We have our voices and together we call for the protection and preservation of public education and our community public schools.


What Your Money Can and Cannot Buy

Monday, November 23, 2009

Charter Schools Occupying Space in NYC Public School Buildings

Mucho thanks to Mollie from GEM for putting this list together.

Organized by District


Here is another view of the list with more detail
Charters in Public Schools 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PS 15/PAVE Story Redux

Cross-posted on Ed Notes

CAPE, which was formed to battle the PAVE invasion at PS 15 (and is now working with GEM to reach out to other schools in the same situation) posted an announcement this morning that it ain't over 'till it's over.

The CEC15 has bravely forced the DOE to at least pretend to function within the realm of our republic and has agreed to have a public hearing and have the PEP vote on whether PAVE Academy should be able to extend their two year agreement, an agreement by which this charter was sold to the Red Hook Community who fought it.

Please join in our fight to protect and preserve public education, our children and our school! Sign the online petition and circulate it. Contact the NYC PEP and tell them to vote no in allowing PAVE to break their agreement and stay housed in PS 15's building past June 2010... further, we need to fight to expose the faulty DOE formula that is hurting schools and our children.

While some people thought the battle was over when the DOE ruled, as expected, to give PAVE its 2-year extension, Jim Devor of CEC15, which held a contentious meeting at PS 15 back in September, filed a complaint that under the mayoral control renewal law, the PEP must discuss the issue first and then rule in favor of PAVE. This will happen at the January 26 PEP meeting, which will held in the crater of the moon where water was discovered. I'm guessing the vote will be 9 to 2 for PAVE (money and influence talks) but it all should be a worthwhile event.

Ed Notes covered the story from the beginning and we have lots of video from the Sept. 17 meeting. The single best piece is PS 15 Makes Their Case. (Use the search blog for PAVE to find more coverage.)

Excerpts from the Gotham Schools report:

Responding to protests that it was breaking the new mayoral control law, the Department of Education will hold a public hearing before extending PAVE Academy Charter School’s stay inside a district-owned building. The law passed this summer requires the DOE to issue an “educational impact statement” and hold a public hearing on any proposed changes to the way school building space is used, and then to put changes to a vote before the city-wide Panel for Educational Policy.

Last month, DOE officials notified the principals of Red Hook’s PAVE Academy and P.S. 15 that the charter school would remain in the P.S. 15 building, even though PAVE originally agreed to leave the building at the end of this school year. At the time, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte said that there was no need to follow the new rules since a hearing had been held before the charter school moved into the building two years ago. But after protests from the district’s Community Education Council members, DOE officials said this week they will follow the new procedure after all.

CEC President James Devor drafted a resolution this week calling on the DOE to follow the new law in the case of P.S. 15. The resolution also states that if the DOE does not follow the new procedure in making space decisions regarding P.S. 15 and PAVE, it would join any lawsuit designed to force the DOE to adhere to the law.

A CAPEr commented at Gotham:

This is a victory for due process, for what we have been fighting for. Now we need to make sure the process is transparent… a hearing is one thing, being heard is another. What is at issue here is not charter schools (although many of us have opinions about them), what is at issue is a faulty DOE space sharing formula that is bad for kids and bad for schools— and not for nothing– both groups of kids and schools!

The DOE formula does not take into account the space demands of our special education population and does not take into account a full prep schedule, as well as the space needed for the enrichment and intervention services that make PS 15 an AAA school. I should also mention we have a medical, dental, and social services program at our school as well that requires space.

We all feel for PAVE parents who fear losing a place for their child’s school, but firstly, this is the fault of Robertson and his poor leadership, planning, and judgement and second of all, PS 15 students should not suffer for his incompetence. He has more than enough money to go and find himself a space somewhere else where he would not be negatively impacting the education of over 350 other students, whose parents choose PS 15. We should not be functioning in a system where we rob Paul to pay Peter. Support our fight in keeping PAVE to their two year agreement!

Friday, November 20, 2009

GEM/CAPE Meet, Will Do Two Conferences on Public Schools and Charters

A group from GEM and CAPE met this past week to discuss plans for holding conferences and workshops on public education and the impact of the charter school movement sometime this year. Details will be announced as the conferences take shape.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

GEM NEWS: November, 2009

Share with your colleagues. Download the pdf:

Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Separate & Unequal at PS123M with Charter Invasion

Summer’09, Harlem:
CEO Eva Moskowitz's HSA2 Private Charter School took over P123's third floor with the NYC Dept of Education (DOE) approval. CEO Moskowitz newly painted, lavishly renovated and refurnished HER third floor with state-of-the-art equipment.
ONLY a limited number of lottery-selected students benefit from those separate elitist conditions. BUT the majority of the PS123 (2nd & 3rd floor) students have the same older unequal facilities.

The following photo essay shows the unjust and unequal conditions facing PS 123. The DOE's imposition of a private-charter school at the public PS 123 has divided the community there.

Successful schools, especially in crisis times, need united parents and staff, not the divisive cut-throat competition fomented by the DOE.
(Click title to download photo essay.)