I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Failure of State Control

Anyone want to try to convince me that this is the fault of teachers unions?
They say there are rats, mice, cockroaches, spiders, guns and fights in the hallways.
That’s why students say they walked out of a Newark high school today, to protest what they called a filthy school environment that’s also not safe. They also called for the return of the school’s former principal.
During the afternoon protest, students walked out of Barringer High School in staggered waves of 10 or 20. Some students said security guards blocked doors to prevent anyone from going outside.
A large crowd came outside when the fire alarm sounded, but soon went back in.
The demonstration came two weeks after authorities said a 15-year-old student was sexually assaulted inside a classroom at the Parker Street school. A 17-year-old student was arrested in connection with the Sept. 22 incident, police said.
Students got the word out about the protest on Facebook and said they’ve had enough of feeling unsafe and learning in an unsanitary school.
This has nothing to do with "teacher effectiveness." It has nothing to do with "setting high expectations." It has nothing to do with believing that "poverty is not destiny."

Newark's schools are not clean and safe because of a failure of state-level leadership, a lack of accountability, and a loss of local control. The state has been running Newark's schools now for nearly twenty years, and yet they can't even guarantee a clean, safe place for Newark's children to learn.

You can't blame local citizens and their elected representatives for this because they have no say in how their schools are being run. In fact, under the current superintendent, Cami Anderson - hand picked by Chris Christie and NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf - the district has moved backwards from its goal of regaining local control.

These kids should be applauded for standing up for themselves and their younger brothers and sisters, who have no choice but to either attend disgusting, unsafe schools like Barringer, or enroll in autocratic, stifled, segregated charter schools that will kick counsel them out if they have special needs.
On several Facebook pages about the protest — one had more than 300 members who said they would attend the event — students said they need to see a dramatic change.
Tyree Thomas, also a 17-year-old senior, said he created a Facebook page about the protest because he feels like Barringer lacks structure. Thomas said he did not have a class schedule until the third week of school.
Merritt said some of Barringer’s students did not have their class schedules at the start of the school year, however the district worked with the school to ensure each student had a schedule and the "matter has been rectified."
That is simply inexcusable - but eerily familiar when it comes to superintendents who have the blessing of the current regime in Trenton. No one would put up with this in the suburbs: the white people living there would immediately vote out their board of education and demand competent administration of their children's schools.

Too bad the good people of Newark have no similar recourse. One might think that was actually by design...
I can save your freezing dog! But keeping your kid's school clean and safe? Yeah, not really my thing...


Mrs. King's music students said...

OK Duke, I'll bite. A funny story on the roach problem in Camden followed by a horror story from Trenton. While searching for a recorder one of my urchins slid behind a radiator in the music room, I found an interesting grouping of items including the recorder and 2 giant cockroaches stuck to a sticky pad laid out by the district vendor to catch mice. Naturally I snapped a photo and showed it to a friend who is NOT an untenured teacher in her 13th year in Jersey. She forwarded the photo to the Gov as is her custom, who answered her letter as is his custom. He said, I have forwarded your photo and letter to the Camden County Supt and urged her to contact you. The letter from the CCS responded with 'this is the responsibility of the district vendors (the guys who laid out the sticky pad for the mouse). Problem solved.' (Not her exact words.)

Should we get mad at Christie because he didn't do anything about the roaches and the mice or because he's getting positive press by identifying the very real problems thrust upon teachers by lacklustre admins and a negligent union?

I'll save the horror stories from Trenton involving admins putting teachers they didn't like into dangerous classrooms, maintaining separate sign-in sheets for them, and calling in leaves of absence w/out pay for them in the full knowledge of union reps, Assemblyman Joe Malone, and the Mercer County Supt of Schools who said "the only way to fix the corruption in Trenton would be to burn it to the ground and start over." Again, Mr. Christie is merely pointing out the obvious here. The only people in a position to reform education in Jersey is us, and it has to start with cleaning up the NJEA.

This is a fun and interesting forum Mr. Duke. Congratulations.

giuseppe said...

How is the NJEA to blame for all these problems? How should the NJEA be cleaned up, assuming that is even necessary? So what is the problem with the NJEA?

Mrs. King's music students said...

My problem with the NJEA is that they're spending the troops (throwing us under the bus) and that they won't be held accountable. I've mentioned the 47% new teacher attrition (NJEA Reporter) - affecting untenured teachers for the most part. While paying union dues is mandatory for this group, the union shamelessly declares "we have no obligation to you", and routinely blames this long standing disaster on politicians, BOEs and others. I'm asking, if they know these groups are attacking 47% percent of the membership, why won't they stand up? To add insult to injury, to deflect the bullet aimed at tenure, they used the baby for a human shield and said "make the tenure process longer, harder, and costlier for THEM!". Is it any wonder new recruits despise this union?

To deflect the bullet aimed at pensions again, it's entirely the fault of the 2% cap. In a meeting with county reps last month, one poor soul worried that he'd been on the same step for 9 years and not getting any younger. The implications for his pension were clear - was there a plan for getting steps for scads of teachers in the middle like him? "Yes" said the rep. This group is also part of the human shield protecting HER full pension benefits.

I am no fan of Christie's. He has no solutions for education. But he's temporary and this union has had YEARS to plan for the next generation, as their predecessors planned for them.