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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Paymon Who?

I had the great pleasure of talking for while today with a teacher from Newark. This is someone who is very up on education policy and politics, so I thought he was the perfect person to ask about the new state superintendent of Camden, Paymon Rouhanifard. After all, according to Chris Christie, the governor who installed Rouhanifard:
Paymon has a proven track record of improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of students in Newark and New York City, and brings innovative leadership that Camden needs moving forward. He has shown a deep commitment to working with parents and teachers to put students at the center of all decisions.
"A proven track record" -- OK, what about asking someone who actually worked under him? What did this Newark teacher have to say about the "innovative leadership" of Paymon Rouhanifard? Do the people who should know Rouhanifard best -- the teachers of Newark -- agree that he has a "deep commitment to working with parents and teachers"?

What follows is this Newark teacher's response, verbatim:

"Paymon who?"

Small wonder: Rouhanifard was in Newark for less than a year as the "Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer," which means, according to more than one teacher I spoke to in Newark, that he had no meaningful contact with the district's teachers. He wasn't an instructional leader, didn't write curriculum, didn't conduct evaluations, didn't work in professional development. But honestly, how could he? Paymon Rouhanifard has no meaningful experience running a school, let alone a district.

And it seems that Rouhanifard's work in New York City put him more in touch with the city's charter industry than with the NYC teacher corps:
In a marathon hearing that was as spirited as it was chaotic, the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close M.S. 571 last night, approving a [sic] to replace the ailing middle school with a charter school. 
The decision elicited a chorus of jeers from assembled parents, whose school currently shares space with M.S. 571 at 80 Underhill Avenue. 
For the next two years, P.S. 9 will share the building with two other schools as M.S. 571 phases out and Brooklyn East, an Uncommon Schools member, moves in. Parents argue that housing an additional school in the building will place undue strain on shared facilities — like the gymnasium and library — and prevent the P.S. 9 from expanding to meet a growing need. 
“It is very disappointing to see a school that has made such wonderful strides and attracted the community to be treated like this,” said Rebecca Shulman Herz, a parent of two P.S. 9 students. 
At full population, Brooklyn East will take over 13 classrooms on the second floor of the building, teaching nearly double the amount of students in the same space currently occupied by the smaller M.S. 571. 
P.S. 9 will remain on the ground and first floors of the building, occupying 36 classrooms and growing to serve some 700 students, according to the department plan. 
“They will more effectively use the same space that M.S. 571 is currently using,” said Paymon Rouhanifard, an official in the department’s portfolio department. “We believe Uncommon Schools is one of the most successful models in the city.” [emphasis mine]
Well, sure: it's easy to be "Uncommon" when the chances of a black boy making it through to graduation at Uncommon's Newark school, North Star, are only one-in-four: that's worse than a recruit's chances of making it through elite Navy SEALs training.

Here's another instance of Rouhanifard acting as a shill for the attrition-loving NYC charter cartel:
Please check out the videos of Thursday night’s contentious hearing on the proposed co-location of yet another branch of the Success Academy charter school, this one in IS 50 in South Williamsburg, a proposal that the entire community has risen up in opposition to,  because of the discriminatory recruitment and enrollment policies of the hedge-fund backed Success Academy charters, their policy of pushing out high needs students, and the fact that there are four under-enrolled public elementary schools in this mostly Latino neighborhood within three blocks of the proposed charter. 

Nearly 500 parents, teachers, students, and community leaders filled the large auditorium, with more than 80 of them speaking out against this co-location proposal, and fewer than five parents from Brooklyn spoke out in support.  The rest of the audience consisted of parents bused in from the various Success charter schools in Harlem.   

I berate the two DOE officials presiding over the hearings, Gregg Betheil and Paymon Rouhanifard.  I say they should be ashamed of themselves and ask if they went into education to provoke the kind of division, anger and resentment seen tonight; I urge them to tell whoever who is making this decision to say no to this charter school; as there has to be someone in the city with the balls or guts to say no to Eva.  I add that if there was one thing good that came out of this evening, it is that it is clear that NYC parents love their public schools and want them protected and supported, no matter how hard the DOE has tried to destroy them  through budget cuts, test prep and rising class sizes.  Lastly, I recount how at the recent City Council hearings on college readiness, the only thing the Council and the DOE agreed upon was that El Puente is a great school and should be replicated; with DOE officials repeating this several times.  So why don’t they replicate El Puente here and create a great 6-12 school, instead of bringing in a charter school that no one in the community wants or needs?
It's a heck of a video. Leonie Haimson, an NYC parent activist who wrote the post, confronts Rouhanifard over the co-location of Success Academy with IS 50, the neighborhood public school. At 1:30, the camera zooms on on Rouhanifard, who sits stone-faced, calmly ignoring all the opprobrium hurled his way.

I get the feeling that's why this young man rose so quickly in NYC and Newark, and why he is now getting the Camden job: Rouhanifard has been trained to close local public schools over the objections of local parents to make way for charters, which, unlike public schools, do not serve every child in their neighborhoods. And if that angers parents, it doesn't seem to phase him in the slightest. 

I don't know what's worse: that Rouhanifard hasn't interacted with teachers, or that he holds parents in such contempt. Either way, his background bodes very poorly for the public schools of Camden.

Chris Christie: "Paymon has a proven track record..."


Unknown said...

He seems excellent at ignoring the wishes of parents and teachers.

Isn't that what he was hired to do in Camden, for $210,000 a year of our tax dollars?

Lisa said...

Sounds exactly like what happened in Philadelphia at our school closure meetings with Dr. Hite. This is a well thought out plan with billionaire Eli Broad pulling the strings and calling the shots.