Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canarsie HS Teacher to NYC City Council

A copy of the letter Ms. Liebowitz sent to the City Council as written testimony. Doug

---------- Forwarded Message ----------
My name is Adele Leibowitz. I have been teaching for almost 31 years. I started my career at Tilden High School in 1973 , then Lafayette High School and now have been teaching at Canarsie High School since 1984. I started the Nurse Assistant Program at Canarsie High School in 1989. I feel that Mayor Bloomberg should not run for a third term and should not have total control of the NYC School System.

Mayoral control of the New York City School system has not allowed any teacher or parent input into the school system. This total control demonstrates that the teachers educational training and experience has no value or importance.As a teacher for so many years I find this unacceptable. The veteran teacher now is not respected by the school system. This manner of running the school system must be changed. There are no checks and balances to counter act any decisions made by the DOE.

I am teaching at Canarsie High School which has been directed by the DOE to phase out and close by 2011. Due to the mismanagement of the DOE the school has been under the leadership of many Principals sent to us by the DOE. Presently we have just been assigned a ninth principal. We the teachers have no say who will be the principal of the school. We have also been sent students who are ill prepared to enter because they are below level in reading , writing and mathematics. Yet the teachers are blamed for the poor regents grades and low graduation rates. We the teachers are also blamed for the poor school environment which is out of our control since we have no say in security agents assigned and the discipline code that is set up by the DOE.

I see a double edged sword that we the teachers have been given to deal with. The DOE takes no responsibility for students and principals sent to the school. Yet the teachers are blamed for all. The faculty of the school has no way to address these problems regarding how the school is run or receiving low level students. The principals we are sent just follow the directives of TWEED because they know if they do not to they will be removed form running the school.

There is no way the teachers can go through a chain of command through the DOE because since mayoral control there is no CHAIN OF COMMAND. What ever is deemed by Joel Klein that is what is expected to be done by principals and teachers. Superintendents today have not power any more. Superintendents cannot make any changes regarding student placement or staff. Even the parents have no one to go and complain if they are not satisfied with what is going on in a school when they feel the principal cannot resolve an issue at hand.

Joel Klein was chosen by the mayor to run this vast educational system in New York City. Joel Klein does not have the educational credentials/certification in education. He really does not have any classroom teaching experience yet he was given the job.It is as if an intern was sent in to perform brain surgery without any training or experience.

Joel Klein under the approval of the mayor has hired many high salaried consultants from other countries to evaluate our school. These consultants come in and spend a few days to determine if we the teachers are doing our jobs. They make decisions without even talking to the faculty or parents of the students. They do not understand the type of students that enter by evaluating their past academic performance before entering high school and how they progressed since attending high school. They do not evaluate the many problems the students have while attending high school. We have many students who do not live with their parents but relatives , or they live in group home or shelters.The quality review teams are not interested in what the faculty feels is needed to improve student performance. Instead of trying to help improve the school they are there to help dismantle the school.

The way the school is evaluated by a Report Card is vague at most. It stated in the Report Card that the following were used to grade the school: parents(who are these parents?), Learning Support Organizations( teachers never met any of the members or spoke to them in the school so how can they evaluate us?)and student parent questionnaire( few parents answered the questionnaire ) Yet under the leadership of Joel Klein and condoned by Mayor Bloomberg the school is given a Report Card grade. If this method was used to evaluate city hall I think they would fail also.

Yet all the money spent by the DOE and approved by Mayor Bloomberg continues and no one is allowed to say anything against the way the DOE is administered. To me this does not demonstrate accountability of one person, it displays tyrannical control by one person. One is not allowed to question orders in fear of retaliation or removal.

Now that Canarsie High School is phasing out many teachers have put into ATR status. These teachers have been excessed from their positions at Canarsie High School. Many of the teachers and guidance counselors who are in ATR status(Absent Teacher in Reserve) have not been able to find jobs in the open market hiring systems due to the fact that they are veteran teachers. Budgets issued principals cannot afford to hire a veteran teacher/guidance counselor. Now many of these teachers/guidance counselors with satisfactory records are now deemed unfit by Joel Klein. He feels if they are not hired no one wants to hire them. This is a set up by the DOE to force out veteran teachers/guidance counselors. The DOE prefers to hire new teachers who cost the city so much less on the salary scale. How does this leadership by the mayor help our students?

We at Canarsie High School have already experienced the unfairness of the mini schools versus the phasing out school. The mini schools at the Canarsie High School Campus have been given more money to set up their schools than Canarsie High School has seen in the last 15 years. The disparity of this has made not only the faculty upset but the students upset at Canarsie High School. We the students and teachers have no one to complain to, since the DOE has made its decision.

I will be in ATR status once Canarsie High School Closes. I am NYS Certified to Teach Nurse Assistant and have a NYC License to teach Nursing. I have been teaching and coordinating the Nurse Assistant Program at Canarsie High School since 1989. Due to the phasing out of schools the only schools that have a Nurse Assistant Program in Brooklyn are Clara Barton High School , Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn. None of the mini schools now in NYC have a current active Nurse Assistant Program. The mini schools are theme schools and do not follow the CTE(Career and Technical Education Curriculum set by the NYS/SED. Now will I be considered to be an unfit teacher by Joel Klein if the principals of those schools with Nurse Assistant Programs cannot afford to hire a veteran teacher such as myself? I have an excellent record as a teacher and NYS Registered Professional Nurse that I am proud of.

Term limits was put into place to prevent one person from obtaining to much power. I am a citizen of NYC and feel that two terms are more than enough time for a person to be in office. Let the democratic process work and give other well qualified individuals a chance to campaign and be elected by the citizens of NYC. One person should not be continuously in power because then a democracy is replaced by tyranny and anarchy. Michael Bloomberg has had his time in the spot light, give others a chance to lead with fresher and better ideas.

Adele Leibowitz RN
Nurse Assistant Teacher
Canarsie High School


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, everything posted by this courageous woman is absolutely true. The Department of Education as it exists now no longer puts the needs of "children first" as they so adamantly say, what they are doing is quietly dismantling public education to make way for privatization. One major component of that plan is to break the unions, which they have done effectively. "Veteran" is a term that applies to any pedagogue who has more than five years in the system. The schools that are being reorganized/phased out through the use of private educational organizations such as the Institute for Student Achievement, are engaging in daily warfare against "veteran" teachers and guidance counselors. The objective is to end tenure and remove all those who have been in the system long enough to voice their objections to the travesty that is the DOE. Many good, hard-working teachers, guidance counselors and other staff are being harrassed on a daily basis, threatened with the loss of their livelihood through a host of different ways such as the Medical Bureau, reassignment to the Rubber Room on false or trumped up charges and just plain old humiliation to ensure a hostile working environment. These employees, who have given years of service to some of the cities poorest children are facing the very real prospect of losing homes, being unable to care for children/families and being ultimately blacklisted and unemployable. Those who dare to fight back are continually attacked by letters to file we cannot grieve, which lead to U ratings, which lead to reassignment and charges of incompetence. Some teachers have even been brought up on bogus charges of sexual misconduct and have been arrested and jailed. The UFT, while diligent in collecting member dues, has not been as militant in helping their members. Instead, we have a leader who is just willing to compromise, instead of one who should be calling for city-wide sick-outs in solidarity of the ATR's and those currently in Rubber Rooms all over the city. All the major High Schools in the city have been targeted for closure in favor of the "small school model". I am in one of those schools and after four years of being in the "small school model" our attendance is the worst its ever been and our Regents scores have nosedived. We are expected to work with minimal support, yet judged with the same standards used when this was a large High School with resources and staff. Staff members that have not been able to flee due to being "veteran" teachers or because of the many, many unjust U ratings given by former Principal John Angelet are now fighting for their jobs. The new Principal, Nancy Amling, whom we all hoped would indeed put "children first" and bring this school back from the dead has instead opted to continue the Angelet agenda. Under the guidance of Elaine Gorman Superintendant of what used to be Region 9 and a staunch advocate of the Institute for Student Achievement, Ms. Amling has come in ready to throw those of us unlucky enough to remain this school to the wolves using every dirty trick in the book. Student complaints are taken as gospel, letters are placed in files, cases for U ratings are beginning to be made. Each day the staff looks over their collective shoulder unsure of who to trust. In the meantime we are supposed to do our jobs, under the incredible strain of not knowing if in the next hour one will be removed and sent to the Rubber Room, or the Medical Office or receive a bogus derogatory letter to file designed to ensure a second or third U rating. What is happening is despicable and insidious to the extreme. Like Rent Stablized tenants in a building about to go co-op, we are harrassed and threatened daily, although it all comes with a smile. This school is set to receive an F on its report card and from where I'm standing it certainly deserves it due to the actions of Elaine Gorman, John Angelet and now Nancy Amling. Ms. Amling has no experience as a Principal, having only two years as an administrator. She is another believer in the ISA doctrine and that means she is here to weed out those of us deemed unfit by the ISA and the school budget, by any means necessary. She has closed the Progam Office and hired a "consultant" paid $45,000 per year to come in after 4pm and "program". The Program Chair was removed from his position and this new "consultant" was so effective that none of the students had programs on the first day of school. She has also eliminated the job of Pupil Personnel Secretary, instead forcing those duties on overworked guidance counselors. None of our students are in their correct grades and official classes. The college office has been closed for three years. Staff are overworked, overwhelmed and like slaves on a plantation unable to fight back because of sheer fear of losing one's ability to survive. With the current economic climate, no one wants to lose their job. So working at Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, formerly known as the High School for Humanities, is a daily hell as it is for this woman who is teaching in a school being phased out. It is a sad story all over the city. It will be interesting to see if the Mayor is elected to a third term. You can bet that our next contract will include a lay-off clause and the end of tenure. But remember, this is all in the name of "Children First".

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