Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Randi Weingarten added to 4/23 Grading NYC Schools Panel

Subject: Event Reminder: Randi Weingarten added to 4/23 Grading NYC Schools Panel, Refreshments at 6PM

Grading NYC Public Schools: Do New Accountability Measures Help Our Kids?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Refreshments 6:00 - 6:30 pm
Panel promptly at 6:30 to 8:30 pm

Additional Panelist:
Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers

Please note that the street address was wrong in an earlier email invitation.
The correct address is: Hunter College of Social Work, CUNY
129 East 79th Street at Lexington Avenue

Pedro Noguera,
NYU School of Education and
Co-Chair of the City Council’s Middle School Task Force
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at
NYU and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education
Esmeralda Simmons, Executive Director, Center for
Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College,
former member of the NYC Board of Education
Philip Vaccaro, Progress Report Project Manager,
New York City Department of Education
Moderated by Jennifer Medina,
Education Report, The New York Times

Open to the Public
Please RSVP to 212.227.0342 x22 or info@citizensunionfoundation.org
Civic Conversations foster public dialogue about important issues
facing the citizens of New York.

Coalition against Privatization

Friday April 25th 6:30pm
339 Lafayette Street Buzzer #7
(718) 869-2279 or noprivatization@yahoo.com

In December 2007 GHI & HIP filed an application with the NY State Superintendent of
Insurance to "convert" itself into a for-profit company. Conversion is a different way to
say privatization. If approved, this privatization would expose 4 million GHI/HIP policy
holders to the hazards of for-profit healthcare (premiums have increased more than 80%
in the last seven years). Included in this pool are more than 500,000 city workers (retirees
included) who will face a mega-corporation that is able to raise premiums at will, restrict
access to care, increase CEO salaries and favor the accumulation of profits over

To date, mainstream politicians have provided little resistance. Democrats from New York
City to Albany have lined up with Republicans. They hope to cash in on the billion-dollar
liquidation of GHI & HIP assets as part of privatization. The leaders of the city's trade
unions have also spoken in favor of the privatization thereby placing a short-term payout
ahead of the long-term interests of members.

Oddly enough, only Mayor Mike Bloomberg, normally a reliable friend of big business, has
dissented. Bloomberg's budget office calculated that 93% of the city workforce is covered
by GHI & HIP. This means that a 1% increase in premiums would cost the city $27.5
million dollars. This would, in turn, set off a struggle between city hall and the unions as
the mayor attempts to pass along the pain.

Several healthcare rights groups including NY Healthcare for All, Healthcare Now, the
Private Health Insurance Must Go! Coalition (PHIMG) and Physicians for a National Health
Program have also publicly dissented. PHIMG, the Independent Community of Educators (a
caucus of educators in the UFT) and the Socialist Party USA have passed resolutions
condemning the privatization and calling for public actions.

The potential of building a movement against privatization was displayed on January 29th
as more than 300 people flooded into a hearing organized by the Superintendent of
Insurance. The vast majority of speakers, mostly retired teachers, administrators and
transit workers, spoke against the privatization. However, little activity has taken place
since then.

It is now time to take the next step. The Coalition against Privatization will act as an
umbrella group to develop a grassroots campaign against GHI/HIP privatization.
Participation in the coalition will be based on two points:
1) No privatization of GHI/HIP
2) Healthcare is a Human Right

Time is of the essence. The chaos caused by the Spitzer resignation has given us some
time to organize. However, in one of his final acts as governor, Spitzer approved the
"conversion." Thus, the Superintendent of Insurance has final approval and the application
sits on his desk.

The first act of the Coalition was proposed at the April membership meeting of PHIMG. On
May 9th at 4:30 pm we will organize a march from the Manhattan office of the
Superintendent of Insurance to HIP headquarters. The first meeting to organize this
march, and further actions, will take place on Friday April 25th at 6:30 at 339 Lafayette
Street buzzer #7. All groups and individuals are welcome.

An organizer can be contacted at (718) 869-2279 or by email at

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Vote's for Obama (if I could vote) ...by Michael Moore

My Vote's for Obama (if I could vote) ...by Michael Moore

April 21st, 2008


I don't get to vote for President this primary season. I live in Michigan. The party leaders (both here and in D.C.) couldn't get their act together, and thus our votes will not be counted.

So, if you live in Pennsylvania, can you do me a favor? Will you please cast my vote -- and yours -- on Tuesday for Senator Barack Obama?

I haven't spoken publicly 'til now as to who I would vote for, primarily for two reasons: 1) Who cares?; and 2) I (and most people I know) don't give a rat's ass whose name is on the ballot in November, as long as there's a picture of JFK and FDR riding a donkey at the top of the ballot, and the word "Democratic" next to the candidate's name.

Seriously, I know so many people who don't care if the name under the Big "D" is Dancer, Prancer, Clinton or Blitzen. It can be Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Barry Obama or the Dalai Lama.

Well, that sounded good last year, but over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!

This sleazy attempt to smear Obama was brilliantly explained the following night by Stephen Colbert. He pointed out that if Ob ama is supported by Ted Kennedy, who is Catholic, and the Catholic Church is led by a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, that can mean only one thing: OBAMA LOVES HITLER!

Yes, Senator Clinton, that's how you sounded. Like you were nuts. Like you were a bigot stoking the fires of stupidity. How sad that I would ever have to write those words about you. You have devoted your life to good causes and good deeds. And now to throw it all away for an office you can't win unless you smear the black man so much that the superdelegates cry "Uncle (Tom)" and give it all to you.

But that can't happen. You cast your die when you voted to start this bloody war. When you did that you were like Moses who lost it for a moment and, because of that, was prohibited from entering the Promised Land.

How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come -- but it won't be you. We'll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).

There are those who say Obama isn't ready, or he's voted wrong on this or that. But that's looking at the trees and not the forest. What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement than it is for Obama the candidate.

That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what's going on is bigger than him at this point, and that's a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so. President Obama is going to need a nation of millions to stand behind him.

I know some of you will say, 'Mike, what have the Democrats done to deserve our vote?' That's a damn good question. In November of '06, the country loudly sent a message that we wanted the war to end. Yet the Democrats have done nothing. S o why should we be so eager to line up happily behind them?

I'll tell you why. Because I can't stand one more friggin' minute of this administration and the permanent, irreversible damage it has done to our people and to this world. I'm almost at the point where I don't care if the Democrats don't have a backbone or a kneebone or a thought in their dizzy little heads. Just as long as their name ain't "Bush" and the word "Republican" is not beside theirs on the ballot, then that's good enough for me.

I, like the majority of Americans, have been pummeled senseless for 8 long years. That's why I will join millions of citizens and stagger into the voting booth come November, like a boxer in the 12th round, all bloodied and bruised with one eye swollen shut, looking for the only thing that matters -- that big "D" on the ballot.

Don't get me wrong. I lost my rose-colored glasses a long time ago.

It's foolish to see the Democrats as anything but a nicer version of a party that exists to do the bidding of the corporate elite in this country. Any endorsement of a Democrat must be done with this acknowledgement and a hope that one day we will have a party that'll represent the people first, and laws that allow that party an equal voice.

Finally, I want to say a word about the basic decency I have seen in Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton continues to throw the Rev. Wright up in his face as part of her mission to keep stoking the fears of White America. Every time she does this I shout at the TV, "Say it, Obama! Say that when she and her husband were having marital difficulties regarding Monica Lewinsky, who did she and Bill bring to the White House for 'spiritual counseling?' THE REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT!"

But no, Obama won't throw that at her. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be decent. She's been through enough hurt. And so he remains silent and takes the mud she throws in his face.

That's why the crowds who come to see him are so large. That's why he'll take us down a more decent path. That's why I would vote for him if Michigan were allowed to have an election.

But the question I keep hearing is... 'can he win? Can he win in November?' In the distance we hear the siren of the death train called the Straight Talk Express. We know it's possible to hear the words "President McCain" on January 20th. We know there are still many Americans who will never vote for a black man. Hillary knows it, too. She's counting on it.

Pennsylvania, the state that gave birth to this great country, has a chance to set things right. It has not had a moment to shine like this since 1787 when our Constitution was written there. In that Constitution, they wrote that a black man or woman was only "three fifths" human. On Tuesday, the good people of Pennsylvania have a chance for redemption.

Michael Moore

George Schmidt on Obama


You can second Paul [Moore's - at the end of George's piece] words from me.
Below is what I just sent to him. Watching the ugliness in Pennsylvania (and I lived in Latrobe for a time) plus the endorsement of Hillary by Scaife has me ready to get violent. Anyway...

I wrote the following to Paul Moore when he offered his comments on Barack Obama to us as a letter for May Substance:


I'm hoping that Barack Obama gets elected, so that I can finally run my photograph of Obama, Sharon Schmidt, and Sam Schmidt. Sharon's refused to allow me to publish that photograph until Barack is elected President of the USA. (You know, during the years I was working at CTU and Barack Obama would come by -- which was often -- we all called him "Barack" so it's going to be funny adjusting). Anyway, we have that photograph for Substance, if I can finally help elect Chicago's Native Daughter (Michelle Obama, see below) First Lady.

Remember, it was the Chicago Teachers Union -- while Debbie Lynch was CTU President and I was working there -- that put Obama in for the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. The US Senate seat put him into the convention, and the rest is history. One of the most dramatic confrontations over the Obama prospects came, ironically, at a Christmas party for union members the year before Barack won the Senate seat from Illinois. Debbie Lynch and the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union went out on a limb endorsing him (against the majority of the Chicago Federation of Labor) for the Democratic Party nomination. I remember at a party, having a friend, a regular Democrat, half drunk and screaming at me that we were throwing away a chance to win the Senate seat (it had been held by a millionaire Republican) by even considering Barack Obama. The smart (organizational) money was on a guy named Dan Hynes, who had paid his dues through the Regular Democratic Organization and had the majority support of both the Committeemen from Chicago and the unions.

"Nobody outside of Chicago will vote for a black guy with a last name that sounds like Osama..." I was told, over sloshing beers.

All you had to do was listen to one of Barack Obama's early speeches and you knew how wrong that was. And it became more and more clear that the closer you got to the man, the more impressed you were. He went downstate to campaign and could woo all white audiences in southern Illinois (which until only about 30 years ago was Klan country) with his combination of charm, intelligence, and wit. Long before he went to Springfield to announce his candidacy for the Presidency echoing Abraham Lincoln, people were comparing his gifts -- and grit -- to the most famous President ever to emerge from Illinois.

I remember the numerous times he'd come by the union offices (before he was an intergalactic star) and thank us or just talk. He was also at just about every union event. After he was elected to the Senate, he came by the CTU to thank everyone on the staff. Sharon and the boys were at his speech agains the Iraq War, too. The last big set of photographs I have of him are from a "Labor for Stroger" rally the night before election day 2006. Obama was a Democrat, and making sure his party won.

Of course, that cuts both ways. He's also a Democrat with relatively conservative views on a number of issues, from health care "reform" to public education. Don't get all of your hopes up, however. In many ways, his policies are going to be a continuation of neoliberalism. He's University of Chicago, maybe not as hard core as some, but pretty mainstream there. Economically, his policies are not nearly as good for the working class (or public schools) as John Edwards's were.

But he certainly will bring to the White House roots in the working class that are uncommon in Washington, let alone in the Presidency. Bill Clinton was a long long way from Hope by the time he entered the White House (and Hillary was never a girl from the coal fields outside Scranton, despite that strange spin we've had to giggle about lately). Putting the Obamas in the White House will be as close as we're likely to see in our lifetime of putting some working class people into the White House. And that, in my opinion, is a pretty important thing, White Blindspots and all.

Another significant Obama thing is just beginning to come into full perspective. Michelle Obama graduated from Chicago's public schools, high school from Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago. That's where my son Danny graduated last June. Small worlds. Both Obamas became Ivy League, but it was far from the "birthright" (like the Bush family) of either of them.

By the way, and you can share this. Michelle Obama (and to a lesser but real extent, her husband) is truly working class.

There is something about the White Blindspot in the USA that doesn't allow successful working class African Americans to be "working class" -- while someone as phony as Hillary Clinton (and on this, she is completely phony) can be allowed to jump back over two generations to give herself "working class cred." In the Chicago area,everyone knows that her suburb (Park Ridge, which is a few miles from here) and her background are very privileged. Reaching back to Scranton, her campaign has really stretched things, and, I sincerely believe now that I've followed it, in a more and more ugly and racist way.

Hillary, when she was the Republican high school kid from "Chicago" was really from one of Chicago's wealthier suburbs. All of the suburban kids like to tell everyone they're from "Chicago" when they are far from here. But most wouldn't walk down the street Michelle Obama's was raised on (it was all-black, in the heart of the South Side segregated Black Ghetto of Chicago) except maybe on a tour I used to joke we should call "Inward Bound" (check out the ghetto, boys and girls; the middle class people here -- black working class people actually -- mow their lawns just like your daddies do...).

Hillary had little or nothing to do with the working class, or with Chicago's South Side, when she was beginning her adulthood from here. The worlds were completely different. Hillary always had backups and options (which every child should have). Michelle Obama would have been lucky to have a half a second chance, and she was no Conolessa Rice. Whatever other luck the Obamas have had, they actually know those streets on the South Side, and don't need escorts to walk into a "working class" bar.

My feelings on this at this point have a thousand threads for me and my family here, and for all of us in Chicago's working class movement.

The way in which the Clinton campaign has handled Pennsylvania ended any second thoughts I might have had. The only word I can think of for the past four weeks (even before the "bitter" nonsense) has been "racist." So racist, as a matter of fact, that as it emerged I was first in disbelief that a group as smart as the Clintons' innner circle could allow their White Blindspots to spin co completely out of control, revealing so much...

I'm amazed that Hillary Clinton can get away with so much insulting "working class" nonsense. These rangs from her "Scranton" roots to trying to throw back shooters at a bar in Indiana. The Clinton wannabe stuff should be simply drawing laughs. Only in the USA would that Scranton nonsense go anywhere.

... while Barack Obama has to spend a week cleaning up after one (very minor) gaff in San Francisco. But that's the kind of double standard we've come to know and love about white America.

No matter what happens tomorrow in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama can win the nomination and then really turn it on to beat McCain handily. All of the ammunition that the Clintons have supposedly provided to John McCain will backfire.

Even with the right wing scream machine aimed at everything about Barack, he can handle the job.

And since "race" will be central to the growing pains of American politics as we move to put another guy from Illinois into the White House, let's take a look at the McCain "roots".

The officer corps of the United States Navy since the dawning days of U.S. Empire after Mahan's "Role of Sea Power..." and the reach across the Pacific.

Can anybody spin the McCain roots in a diverse world that needs less of all that atavistic nonsense.

I really want to see how a guy who grew up in one of the last vestiges of complete white supremacist almost aristocratic privilege (the officer corps of the United States Navy, which had decades of racial servants available to the various generations of McCains) is going to spin that one. Generations of McCains had black and brown people as servants, courtesy of one of the few places where white guys could have the power of God (the captains of warships at sea during war time are about that powerful). The first women to achieve serious rank in the Navy have only been able to do so during the lifetime of our generation. Tailbook (McCain's part of the Navy: Naval Air) is still a recent memory. Long after black men and women were integrating the ranks in the Army and Marines, the Navy was, shall we say, upholding different "standards..."

My real curiosity is how the conservative media can spin this one. Only the White Blindspots could possibly even try.

I know. I know.

They've done it before.

But John McCain -- and his Daddy, and his Granddaddy -- were waited on by the (colored) orderlies and valets provided to them, both on ships and at the bases, by the privileges of the officer corps of the most racist of all the branches of the U.S. military -- the officer corps of the U.S. Navy. And I can't believe that the McCains were anything out of the mainstream of that very very powerful and enormously white and privileged male clubs during all those generations. But we'll see what spin can bring out.

By the way: the first black man to command a U.S. nuclear submarine was also from Chicago, a graduate of Lane Technical High School. Chicago has long been America's most segregated city, with, as I've noted dozens of times to you and in Substance, more than 300 all-black public schools (including the ones attended by the future First Lady of the USA until she went to high school).

Racism has had a funny history here.

Intense, and with intense resistance....

Producing some amazing people, from Harold Washington to Barack and Michelle Obama.

More later...

Gosh this is going to be interesting.

Let's stay in touch after Pennsylvania gives more grist to all these mills tomorrow.

George Schmidt
Editor, Substance


Paul Moore's article:
This week Miami-Dade public school employees were able to exult in a temporary stay of execution for our health care benefits. The credit for that goes to the 13,600 plus who voted down any such concession and declared their readiness to fight. That was the political message that the elected members of the School Board heard loud and clear. Because frankly, and I hope I don't hurt anyone with delusions of grandeur, people in power are not afraid of any one of us. They've handled the greatest of the great among us and flatly stated they will allow the rise of no "messiahs" from our ranks.

But they are afraid of all of us together!

So the question becomes how to build greater unity, how to protect the gains we have made and build on them. In that vane, the single most important thing we can do with the rest of this year for the public schools and for ourselves is work to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. And this has nothing to do with his or anyone's party affiliation but rather with striking a blow at the most divisive force in our society--racism.

Allow me the briefest of history lessons. Racism exists and will continue to exist as long as its economic underpinnings remain in place. The reason that chattel slavery came into existence in the semi-feudal agrarian US economy of the time was that it was very profitable for the masters of that economy. Everybody knows that slavery existed because it was so profitable for a small group of merchants and plantation owners, right? Well the reason that racism remains so pervasive in the United States today with its developed industrial economy is that it is very profitable for the masters of that economy. It helps Wal-Mart keep unions out of all of its stores for instance. It allows the FCAT to punish students Edison, Northwestern, Central and Carol City while the students at Ransom-Everglades and Gulliver Prep are nurtured in their test free zones.

Now it took the bloodiest war in US history and hundreds of thousands of white workers willing to fight to the death to end chattel slavery. So have no illusions about Barack Obama, no election and no candidate for office will end racism in this country.

Barack Obama is not under racist attack right now for fear of his empty rhetoric about change. The ruling class chuckles over such nonsense. But something that does scare them must happen before Obama can be elected. In all future primaries and in the general election, if he gets that far, Obama will win 90-plus% of the Black vote. Those voters will turn out in record numbers. But he will win the nomination and then the presidency only with a substantial number of white working class votes. Obama's candidacy holds out the possibility that working-class whites might make their first halting steps toward an effective political relationship with their brothers and sisters of color. The masters of our economy know their history. They know that was the dynamic that brought down their ancestor's slave economy. They know that would be the beginning of the end of their gravy train.

Oh, the unity it would take to elect Barack Obama! Such unity would bring this country’s anti-public school and anti-democratic forces to their knees. Our struggles for a decent wage, health care, and adequate funding of public education is all wrapped up in this campaign. For our own sakes, let's help make Barack Obama President of a truly "United" States of America.

Paul A. Moore
Miami Carol City High School

Friday, April 18, 2008

L.A. teachers union targets pact on charters

By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer

Launching a pitched battle against Los Angeles Unified over plans to dole out more space for the growing charter-school movement, the teachers union said Wednesday that it will aggressively campaign against traditional schools sharing sites with the popular independent schools.

Demonstrations by parents and teachers and community meetings have already begun, just days after the district offered space to more than three dozen charter schools - the most so far - as part of a settlement of a lawsuit challenging the LAUSD's lagging efforts to share its facilities under Proposition 39.
But some schools and teachers said the plans are too disruptive because they include mixing some elementary and secondary students and allocating classrooms that already are in use.

"This has to do with a bad law, and instead of the district fighting this they chose to make a settlement that will impact the educational programs at the host schools by taking away precious space," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

"And having a high school or middle school on an elementary campus is total madness and a very serious potential security and safety situation for students."

Changing the law

In addition to rallying parents, teachers and community-based organizations, Duffy said, the union will begin talking with legislators about changing the charter law.

And he said he has already received dozens of complaints from parents concerned that the decision will lead to overcrowded classrooms and cuts in key services and programs.

"Anything that impacts the already existing programs at the school is unacceptable because that's not good for our students," Duffy said.

But Caprice Young, head of the state's Charter Schools Association, said the union's campaign is motivated by fear and not concern for students' welfare.

"Duffy is just frightened that the teachers on those campuses are going to realize that they don't have to be confined to the rule-bound system that they're currently working under," Young said.

"When they're teaching side by side next to charter schools, they're going to see that they can be treated like professionals, that they can have control over the curriculum, that they can be engaged with the students in ways they've always desired, and they're going to want that freedom."

For now, the LAUSD finds itself caught in the middle of trying to comply with a legal settlement while also grappling with scarce space.

Greg McNair, the LAUSD associate general counsel who oversees the district's Proposition 39 program, said the district does not believe the law benefits either charter or noncharter students.

But McNair said the offers of space for charter schools will not be revoked unless it is determined that space calculations have been inaccurate.

While he acknowledged that sharing campuses might not be the answer, a dialogue is needed to find a better solution.

"It's a law forcing something to happen that just can't happen at LAUSD, and we feel badly for charter and noncharter parents," he said.

"We'd like to use this as an opportunity to bring everyone to the table to have a dialogue to have a solution to this issue: How do we get seats for charter-school students who need seats?"

Young said part of the problem is the district's unwillingness to open a handful of closed campuses.

While district officials say they've offered to use bond money earmarked for charter schools to bring closed campuses up to code, charter officials said they never received such an offer.

Currently, there is about $60 million in facilities bond money for charter schools. Each school would cost about $15 million to prepare for student occupancy and could accommodate up to three charter schools, McNair said.

While encouraged by the district's efforts to give more space to charters, charter leader Jacqueline Elliot said the discontent on both sides indicates alternatives are needed.

"We don't want the public-school campuses to feel like charters are being forced onto them and we don't want to go into situations where schools don't want us," said Elliot, founder and co-CEO of PUC Schools.

"LAUSD can help charters find better facilities and give fiscal support. It doesn't have to be this."

A parent's concern

Jennifer deSpain, parent of a Taft High student, said the offer of space at Taft to charter schools will compromise services.

The district has offered CHAMPS charter 15 classrooms at Taft.

And deSpain said she also is concerned about security as well as the loss of students - and state money - by eliminating an open-enrollment option that allowed Taft to offer leftover seats to students districtwide.

"This school has worked so hard in improving test scores ... so another school can come in and use our facilities? It isn't fair," she said.

"Why should our students and our school lose this space? It's a detriment to the success of Taft to provide space to a charter school."

Still, some charters that have long struggled under difficult circumstances are looking forward to finally having a school to call their own.

The 140-student Synergy Charter Academy of South Los Angeles has been operating out of a church facility for four years.

While the learning environment has been less than ideal, in a community where nearby schools are underperforming, Synergy students have gotten high scores on statewide standardized tests.

The district now has offered the charter six classrooms at nearby Hobart Boulevard Elementary - space it will use to start up a middle school, said Meg Palisoc, co-founder and co-director of the school.

"We're a nomadic school ... and we are grateful and excited to be able to get some space," Palisoc said. "What will be helpful is if we don't have to pack up all the time.

"We really believe that the achievement gap is too big a problem for any one group to solve and we really want to work together - and we're going in hoping LAUSD will have the same attitude."

For the latest school news, go to www.insidesocal.com/education.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ross Charter Letter to Parents

Expansion of charter school is ”necessary to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the school.”


52 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007 Phone: 212.374.3884 FAX: 212.233.8758

March 17, 2008

Dear Parent/Guardian:

As the Board of Trustees of the Ross Global Academy Charter School, we would like to take this opportunity to explain some recent programming decisions. The Board and Administration have been working on the program and budget for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2008. This exercise involves examining all aspects of educational programming, curriculum development, facility planning, regulatory compliance, expansion of grades and the impact these changes will have in the upcoming year on the human and fiscal resources of Ross Global Academy.

It is clear that the focus of our faculty and administration this summer needs to be on middle school, planning for the expansion of grades for next year and on the continued development of the curriculum and professional development of our faculty. Additionally, this expansion is necessary to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the school.

As a result of our analysis of the combination of financial, facility and human resources available to the school, we have concluded that we can no longer offer a Summer Program. This means that no summer program will be offered in 2008. The Board and Administration believe this decision least affects the educational programming that takes place during the school year.

At the meeting of March 13, the Board also decided to continue the Saturday program for the remainder of this academic year, but no longer will require attendance of the students. Dr. Clagnaz has been asked by the Board to conduct a series of focus group meetings that include parents, faculty and students to examine the structure and educational value of a Saturday program for next year and beyond.

We want to ensure the Ross Global Academy Charter School remains financially sound while providing the best programming for our students. While budget and programmatic decisions are always difficult, we believe we have made decisions that least likely affect the educational success of our students as compared to alternative options.

We look forward to a long future where the continued success of the School and its students is the focus.

Stephanie Clagnaz, Ed.D., Principal

Julie Johnson, Assistant Principal

Erin Brown, Director of Operations

Christina Franz, Special Education Coordinator


Nicolas W. Combemale


On behalf of The Board of Trustees

Ross Global Academy Charter School

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MBP Stringer Report: Manhattan Boom Without Schools

From: Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer [mailto:bp@manhattanbp.org]
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 3:18 PM
To: Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer

Please follow the link to Borough President Stringer's report entitled "Crowded Out: School Construction Fails to Keep Up with Manhattan Building Boom." In addition, see press release below announcing the release of the report.



Report from Borough President Stringer shows school planning fails to match development boom

New York, NY (April 14, 2008) - Manhattan's development boom, which has led to at least 40,000 new apartments approved for construction over the past eight years, has not been matched by an increase in seats in neighborhood elementary and middle schools, according to a neighborhood-by-neighborhood study released today by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

In fact, in four neighborhoods at highest risk for neighborhood-wide school overcrowding - Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village/SoHo, the Upper East Side and Madison Square/Flatiron - the city approved enough new buildings to add up to 2,300 new students to K-8 schools while increasing total school capacity in these areas by only 143 seats.

Borough President Stringer said, "This is a story of simple math. Building thousands of new apartments that flood our schools with new students - while creating hardly any new school seats - just doesn't add up. Manhattan's residential building boom - which is creating new homes for future generations of New Yorkers - hasn't been matched by a realistic school planning program. New units are going up - and stroller brigades are filling the streets -- in neighborhoods where the schools are already at capacity or seriously overcrowded."

Among the report's key findings:

Four areas of Manhattan are at especially high risk of neighborhood-wide school overcrowding, according to DOE's own data:

  • Lower Manhattan, where every single elementary and middle school was close to or over capacity in the last school year;
  • The Upper East Side, where 5 of 6 elementary schools were over capacity in the last school year;
  • The Greenwich Village-Soho area, where every elementary school was over capacity in the last school year, and where not a single middle school exists; and
  • The Flatiron-Madison Square midtown neighborhoods, which have no elementary schools and just one middle school.

From 2000 to 2007 the city approved enough new buildings to add up to 2300 new students to these four neighborhoods alone. During the same time period, the Department of Education added only 143 seats to just one of these four neighborhoods - lower Manhattan - and no new seats at all to the other three.

Nor has the rapid growth taking place in Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, the Upper West Side, or Harlem been met with new school construction over the past eight years.

"The lack of planning for additional seats in our public schools against the backdrop of our dramatic residential construction boom has been a concern for Manhattan residents and, indeed, for New Yorkers across the five boroughs. As the Borough President has noted, planning from the neighborhood level is imperative, as is more forward-thinking and responsive capital planning." said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

"Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's report confirms what parents and communities have been telling me up and down the East Side: our schools are overcrowded now and are getting worse every year. That's why Comptroller Bill Thompson and I recently initiated a joint letter from elected officials to Chancellor Klein asking him about the growing shortfall in classroom seats in School District 2, and that's why the Borough President's report offers a timely and badly needed wake-up call," said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney," said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

"It shouldn't take a crystal ball to plan new schools to accommodate the obvious rapid growth in the construction of residential units in Manhattan. Many city agencies that must approve building permits and other measures for new apartments, condominiums and co-ops are aware of the boom, so why are the folks at the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority not in the loop? Perhaps school overcrowding has become so pervasive in the city that complaints about it are falling on deaf ears at those agencies. They better start listening and doing a better job of planning because middle class families will not want to stay in any neighborhood that cannot provide good schools with adequate space for their children," said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

"Over the next four years, more seats in sports stadiums are projected to be built than seats in our public schools. If NYC children are going to have the opportunity to have a quality education, I hope this report will spark a wider recognition that the current system of planning - or non-planning - must be fundamentally reformed," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters.

The study found that Manhattan's overcrowded elementary and middle schools are already 3,900 students over capacity overall. That means that the Department of Education's current plan for new seats - 4,300 over the next five years -- will barely be enough to relieve existing overcrowding, without any significant provision for future growth or class size reduction.

"By the time the City spends five years plugging the existing hole in the dam, another one will have opened up. We need to start planning for new development as it happens, rather than waiting for it to overtake us."

The Borough President has proposed a three-point plan for DOE to overhaul is school construction and planning processes so that it is adequate to serve New York's growing population:

  • The DOE and SCA must plan for growth, by developing a clear, transparent procedure for projecting and estimating the amount and location of expected new housing development.
  • The DOE and SCA must plan at the neighborhood level, rather than solely through the lens of Community School Districts.
  • Finally, this Fall, the DOE and SCA must propose a much more aggressive five-year capital plan for fiscal years 2010-2014 than was adopted for the previous five years, with enough seats to relieve existing overcrowding, plan for future growth, and reduce class size.

"New Yorkers have a reasonable expectation that they won't have to send their elementary-age children miles away to find space in a school - but the current planning and building process isn't getting the job done. With children under five the fastest growing group in Manhattan - increasing 32 percent over the past seven years -- the Department of Education has to come up with an accurate process for tracking where growth is happening, and to plan for it on neighborhood level. We also need a much more aggressive capital program that will add seats in the neighborhoods that need it most and give us the ability to lower class size for all children."

Borough President Stringer added, "With the growth we see around us - and the city's projections that we will have a million new residents in the coming decades - this is a problem that can't wait for a solution."

SEIU staffers crash Labor Notes Conference

For Immediate Release
April 12, 2008

RNs Condemn Violent Service Union Attack at Michigan Event - Hundreds of SEIU Staff Bused in to Smash Into Meeting to Attack RNs and Break Up Conference on Union Democracy
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee tonight condemned a brutal assault by busloads of purple cloaked staff of the Service Employees International Union who smashed into a conference of union members Saturday night in Dearborn, Mi. and physically assaulted women and union members who stood in their path.
"I am deeply concerned about this heightened attack on women and nurses, directed by SEIU President Andrew Stern," said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, who was scheduled to speak about the campaign for genuine healthcare reform at the banquet.
DeMoro cancelled her appearance at the event to coordinate support for CNA/NNOC leaders in California after Stern and SEIU began sending roving bands of staff to the homes of CNA/NNOC RN board members in California Thursday and Friday, stalking and harassing them.
"There is an ugly pattern here of physical abuse and tactics of intimidation that have no place in either our labor movement or a civilized society," DeMoro said.

SEIU staff attacking union members in Dearborn Saturday night.
(Jim West photo)
In Dearborn Saturday night, at least seven busloads, carrying up to 500 SEIU staff in purple jackets and T-shirts drove up to the Hyatt Regency Hotel where the banquet was being hosted by the magazine Labor Notes culminating a weekend conference on topics including union democracy, health care reform, and encouraging the resurgent growth of labor.
Upon unloading from the buses, the hundreds of picket-sign wielding staff stormed the hotel and pushed their way through doors to break into the ballroom where the event was being held.
While breaking in the building, the SEIU staff, now joined by SEIU staff inside the building, physically assaulted a group of union members and activists at the door.
(Jim West photo)
At least one woman, a retired auto worker and former business manager for Labor Notes, was injured and went to the hospital after being pushed to the floor and hitting her head on a table.
As the SEIU staff broke into the hall, some three dozen CNA/NNOC nurses and leaders, there to attend the conference, including Malinda Markowitz, RN, a member of CNA/NNOC's Council of Presidents, who was scheduled to speak in DeMoro's place, were whisked out the back of the hall for their safety, leaving in vans. The atmosphere was so tense that hotel cooks tried to climb into the vans to join them for fear of their own safety.
The evening assault at Labor Notes followed a day of disruption by SEIU staff at workshops throughout the day at which various CNA/NNOC members were on panels or participants.
"I am disgusted with the tactics of SEIU and their total disrespect for what was going on here -- members from multiple unions who were discussing an agenda to fight the increased corporate attacks on working people," said Markowitz. "It's clear their only agenda here was to disrupt and try to divide labor and workers. Physical violence is absolutely unacceptable."
"I am absolutely appalled, to have a union coming in here with tons of people ramming down doors. If they have these kind of resources, why aren't they using them to help people in the trenches rather than attacking nurses and other working people," said Danielle Magana, RN, an NNOC member from San Antonio, Tex.
"If I were a nurse here I would not join such an aggressive union," said Prudencia Mweemba, an RN from Zambia who is a PhD candidate at Kent State who was attending the conference. "What they did today showed me they are irresponsible. I don't see how they can represent people with such an attitude."
"Had I not seen this with my own eyes I would not have believed it," said Kimberly Helmick, an Ohio RN. "SEIU did a big injustice to all the labor movement people who were here."
DeMoro noted that irony of the attack on a conference, in which union democracy was a major topic, coinciding with growing efforts by Stern and SEIU International to suppress dissent in his own union and signing contracts with employers that limit the voice of SEIU members at the workplace.
SEIU contracts with nursing home chains, for example, have limited the ability of caregivers to protest and report unsafe conditions. Within SEIU, Stern has been engaged in targeting dissenters and seeking to limit participation at his international convention in June.
Another example, she noted, was SEIU's pact with a Catholic hospital chain in Ohio where SEIU had the employer file for an election to impose SEIU as its handpicked union for RNs and other staff. The deal also barred employees from discussing the election or the union. Ultimately, Stern and the employer cancelled the election when the deal was exposed in part because of CNA/NNOC criticism of the deal, the pretext of the Michigan attack Saturday night.
For more information about SEIU's efforts on behalf of employers, see www.ServingEmployersInsteadofUs.org.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Teacher to NY Post on Francis Lewis HS

This is the second time I am writing to you. Your story was unconscionable. You mentioned nothing about the horrific conditions we work under and did not use any of the more outrageous pictures you took.

I understand that you spoke to a colleague of mine and said that all your information was from teachers. It's funny that although I spoke to you at length, none of my comments appeared.

This piece was nothing but a piece of fluff intended to stroke the ego of the principal. This article was not a news report and not worthy of someone who calls themselves a journalist.

(also sent to the editor of the Post)

I am a teacher at Francis Lewis HS, one that Yoav Gonen spoke to when he came to the school to write his story. Although everything he said was true, he failed to point out the problems in the school, problems that were pointed out to him as he surveyed the situation.

There is no benefit to children eating lunch at 9:00 AM. By 2:00 they are hungry and sometimes need to eat. Classes in split rooms hear all the noise from the room next door as some of the rooms have not been split with soundproof material. Some of these rooms have no windows. The rooms are long and narrow and it is impossible for kids at the ends to see the board. The gym classes in the hallways make it hard to move in the hall and the noise from these classes is often disruptive to other classes. Kids go outside in freezing cold weather and often have no advance notice so they don't have sweats. As for the trailers, they are falling apart. Some have no loudspeaker or fire alarm systems. Some have leaky roofs. There is no drainage by some and every time it rains, hip boots are needed to get in and out.

Our school is a great school. It is a great school because of the kids that go here and the teachers that work here. We are good in spite of these issues. A school as good as our should not have to function in these conditions. I once showed pictures of the trailer to a man from Japan and he thought I was showing him pictures from a third world nation.

I was hoping your reporter would point out our physical problems instead of writing a fluff piece shouting praises that are evident to everyone who knows us.

Linda Silverman

Dear Ms. Silverman,
Thanks for your feedback. I'm a bit surprised by your second email - you went from writing that everything I wrote was true to saying that my story was unconscionable.
My story was not intended to focus on the physical condition of the building, but on the academic and social environment. I spoke to as many people as I had time to speak with and heard few if any voices of dissent - even from randomly polled students outside of the school building. I also spoke to teachers outside of school hours when one would expect them to be more frank, and again, heard few complaints.
I took note of the poor conditions of your trailer classroom - but in the context of the fact that they are outdoor trailers and also that you said you preferred to be out there rather than in the school. To me, that doesn't sound like someone who's unhappy with their situation.
In any case, I appreciate your feedback and if I do a story on the poor physical condition of schools I will certainly keep Francis Lewis in mind.

Thank you for your answer but I still dispute your facts.
First off, you led me to believe you were doing a story on school conditions. And, while I said that I preferred being outside, that comment did not mean that I did not mind the conditions I was working under. In any situation one would always take the lesser of two evils.
Secondly, you did not ask me anything about the school and quite frankly, I do not trust you enough to share my real feelings about the place with you.
By writing that story, you make our school sound like a school with no problems. As far as I am concerned, that is not jouralism.
Linda Silverman

A Schools Veteran Girds for a Broader Battlefield



Randi Weingarten has clashed with city officials in her pursuit of “sustainable and incremental change” for schools.

Randi Weingarten has spent more than a decade cultivating a reputation as the archetypal union leader: a combative dealmaker and consummate political street fighter for city teachers. Yet at a recent education conference in Nashville, there was a fellow from the conservative Hoover Institute, Eric A. Hanushek, gushing with praise for Ms. Weingarten, and promising to do all he could to support her bid to become the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the national union.

Just one thing, he added with a laugh: “I don’t know if that’s good for your image.”

Later this month, Ms. Weingarten is expected to announce her candidacy to run the national teachers’ union, with her election widely considered virtually assured. The position would put her in place to be one of the most important people in shaping the national debate on education policy in the next few years.

As head of the city teachers’ union, Ms. Weingarten, 50, has battled with Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein through three contract negotiations. Over and over, she has objected to many of the changes he and the mayor have made in the schools — from their broad reorganization of the system to the use of metal detectors at schools. And yet she has embraced other of their ideas, like charter schools and bonus pay programs, that unions, and some of her own members, have long opposed.

“The basic questions are: Is it fair for members, and is it good for kids?” she said in an interview in her office, where blown-up newspaper articles about her union, the United Federation of Teachers, line the walls. “Nobody wants to be in an environment where the teachers are scapegoats for every failure in education. If it’s a good idea, it should be tried regardless of who is raising it.”

Andrew J. Rotherham, a former member of the Clinton administration and a director of Education Sector, an independent policy group, said Ms. Weingarten would be “the most articulate and attractive spokesperson for teachers’ unions that they have had in quite some time.”

“You just look at Randi, and it’s pretty difficult to caricature her as some cigar-smoking union boss,” he said. “These unions don’t exist for unconventional thinking or radical change; they exist to protect their members. Most of the things that the teachers’ unions want are in the interest of kids, but there are certain things they want that are good for them.”

He predicted that Ms. Weingarten would “put the union in a direction to start moving and influencing things.”

If she is chosen to lead the national union, Ms. Weingarten would be succeeding Edward J. McElroy, who announced in February that he would step down this summer. As other leaders of the national union have done, she would be likely to hold on to her role leading city teachers for some time. She has only hinted at what her plans for the national union would be, but she would probably focus first on the debate over reauthorizing the federal No Child Left Behind law to amend its weaknesses.

“You have a law right now that basically shifts a lot of responsibility to the schools and teachers themselves and leaves nothing up to the people that run them,” Ms. Weingarten said in an interview. “You have very few voices who talk about the kinds of things teachers need to help students succeed.”

In New York, Ms. Weingarten, who has led the teachers’ union for a decade, has succeeded emphatically at the most fundamental job of a union leader: She has raised her members’ salaries by 43 percent in the last five years. But she has angered some constituents with other efforts, like the two union-run charter schools she has opened, and a third she is helping to organize with a Los Angeles-based charter school operator.

She has also agreed to allow teachers to earn bonuses based on student performance, and to reward math and science teachers with lucrative housing subsidies — both union anathemas.

Her critics outside labor say Ms. Weingarten has not eased the numerous strict contract provisions that mandate matters like the number of hours teachers must spend in the classroom, prohibit lunchroom duty and limit the number of staff meetings teachers are required to attend.

“At times she is much more of a trade unionist than she wants to admit and wants to spell out everything in the contract in enormous detail, rather than see teachers as a truly professional group,” said Eva S. Moskowitz, who as the former chairwoman of the City Council’s Education Committee frequently argued with Ms. Weingarten. “I think fundamentally the labor contracts make it extremely difficult to deliver high-quality education.”

Something of a workaholic, Ms. Weingarten is known for driving her staff members hard: calling frequently to remind them of this or that task, checking on the status of this bill or another, and constantly finding more work to be done or strategy to discuss.

At the peak of contract negotiations with the city, Ms. Weingarten has made a habit of calling James F. Hanley, the city’s labor commissioner, before 7:30 every morning.

“She can see my office window from her apartment, and every day, the moment I walked in and turned on the light, a few minutes later the phone would ring,” Mr. Hanley said, laughing. “It was as if she was waiting there for me.”

Mr. Klein and Ms. Weingarten have had a tumultuous relationship since they first met nearly six years ago.

Her reactions to some of Mr. Klein’s initiatives have been nothing short of frantic. When the news broke that the city’s Education Department was considering using student improvement on standardized tests as a factor in teacher tenure decisions, Ms. Weingarten said such a move would be “one of the worst decisions of my professional life.”

Ms. Weingarten is fond of retelling her version of the first time the two met for lunch in 2002, just as Mr. Klein had taken charge of the city’s school system, the nation’s largest.

When Mr. Klein asked Ms. Weingarten for her vision of the pace and strategy schools should use to improve, she said, she replied without pause, “Sustainable and incremental change.”

At that, she recounted, Mr. Klein cringed. No, no, no, he replied, it must be “radical reform.”

“I knew then we would have problems,” Ms. Weingarten said. “He wants a broad sweeping change that will change the system in a way that cannot be changed back.”

“Joel views himself as this total revolutionary, but he fails to take into account those who toil in the field every day,” she added. “The tragedy is that the changes he produced turned out to be just that: incremental.”

Through his spokesman, Mr. Klein confirmed the substance of the meeting with Ms. Weingarten and defended his leadership of the city schools, calling the union part of “a system that has put the needs of adults ahead of the needs of kids.”

After graduating from the Benjamin F. Cardozo School of Law, Ms. Weingarten, who grew up in Nyack, N.Y., worked as a lawyer at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, where she was a labor negotiator for unions. In 1986, she joined the city teachers’ union as a top adviser to its president, Sandra Feldman. She also took a part-time job teaching history and government at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a position she held for six years and refers to often, and proudly. In 1997, when Ms. Feldman took over the national union, Ms. Weingarten stepped up to lead the city union.

Ms. Weingarten is widely regarded as one of the most influential people in Albany. For example, both the Senate and the Assembly introduced legislation this year prohibiting the use of student test scores to help decide whether to grant teachers tenure. Though the bill is something of a gift to the union, Ms. Weingarten denied asking for it. And she has taken her organizing skills to the global stage: Last week she spent several days in Hong Kong working with teachers there.

Even Ms. Weingarten’s detractors speak in somewhat awed tones of her deft political skills and particular knack for navigating public debate. In interviews with reporters and in intimate meetings, she will frequently lower her voice, as if to soften people’s view of her, and also to get them to listen. At press conferences, though, she routinely rises to the balls of her feet and sounds as if she is shouting into the microphone, very much the image of a furious activist.

Rod Paige, a former federal secretary of education, said in an interview that he viewed teachers’ unions as the “biggest obstruction to school reform anywhere.” But in his recent book, “The End of Hope,” which roundly criticizes unions, he singled out Ms. Weingarten for praise.

“If we’ve got to have union leaders, I would rather have one like Randi,” Mr. Paige said in the interview. “I would come down on the chancellor’s side on probably every argument they’ve had, and I know she’s blocked many things that are absolutely critical. But there is a sense of reasonableness to her. I think deep down she has a goal for proper balance.”