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He may be working the education mayor angle but Michael Bloomberg has created a school system that is disrespectful to administrators and dismissive of parents, the six main mayoral candidates asserted. At an education forum hosted by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) at St. Francis College, the candidates former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Steven Shaw, an investment banker, former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene, and Rep. Anthony Weiner blamed Bloomberg for creating a school system that keeps educators and parents in the dark. You dont see Mike Bloomberg at forums like this with parents. You know why? Because he really doesnt care all that much about what parents, what supervisors, what teachers have to say, Weiner said of the mayor who, according to CSA President Jill Levy, offered to send a representative to the forum but the administrators union declined. Any opinion is not welcome at Tweed, Miller said. We have to build a school system in which parents are welcome, parents are embraced, and parents are given positive opportunities to affect their childs education. Citing the city Department of Educations (DOE) $75 million Leadership Academy to train principals and its $40 million initiative to hire a parent coordinator for each of the citys schools, Weiner said these programs would be unnecessary if the city agency opened communication lines with administrators and parents. That $75 million has gone into this Leadership Academy when we have a wealth of qualified assistant principals throughout the system, he said. You wouldnt be wasting that money on leadership academies if you spoke to the true leaders in our community. You wouldnt be wasting the money on parent coordinators if you spoke to the actual parents in our community. If [Bloomberg] thinks hes not going to be criticized for those things, he has another thing coming. A complaint voiced by many teachers and administrators, candidates criticized Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein for failing to provide adequate support to educators. When they cant do their job because they get no support from district offices or regional offices, theyre spending too much of their time leaving voicemails that are never answered, answering emails that are unnecessary, Ferrer said, that is a waste of enormous talent in our system. Its an enormous diversion of resources. Its an enormous perversion of what we should be doing to educate every child in every community in every borough in this city. Shaw said the DOE should place more power in the hands of principals. In terms of accountability, its very difficult if you are the CEO of a school but you dont have hiring or firing authority. Thats one thing I would seek to address. I would put that in the hands of principals because they are the ones who are responsible and thats where the decision needs to be made. It cant be made through all sorts of appeals processes. It cant be made by the Department of Education. It needs to be in the principals hands. Implemented under the Klein administration, the DOEs standard curriculum for all city schools has angered many teachers who insist that the strict rules regarding speedy progression from one subject to another are too cumbersome. Theyve mandated that education has to take place according to a certain pace and schedule, Ognibene said. If he is elected, Weiner said he will work to restore a sense in the school system among all of our participants that we understand that not every cookie fits the same cutter. There are going to be times when you are going to have teachers look out at that classroom and not rely on tests, but look out at that classroom in the first grade and say you know what, this child is going to need more help, this child is going to need more of a challenge, this child is going to need to be strapped into a seat every day. With the stringent curriculum, Weiner continued, They take the creativity away and theyre driving the best teachers and supervisors out of the system. Many of the mayoral hopefuls said, if elected, they would replace Klein. I certainly would not continue with Chancellor Klein. I believe that it is important to have an educator leading the largest urban public schools system in the country, Fields said of the former trial and appellate lawyer. Just because the chancellor is a lawyer doesnt mean he wasnt going to succeed but in my opinion, he hasnt succeeded, Miller said. Absolutely I would replace the chancellor because hes the person whose been putting in place the wrong kinds of programs and the wrong sort of focus, he continued. Id look for somebody who has some sort of proven track record in the area of either educating or managing or both, which are required to be the chancellor of the school system [but] neither of which this chancellor had any experience with. Unfortunately, it was a big gamble but it hasnt played out. Weiner agreed that its time for a change at the DOE. Chancellor Klein, I think, has too much of the mindset of his boss that the way that you govern is top down, closed door decision making, not bringing in the stakeholders, he said. I dont believe that when Chancellor Klein looks out to the school system he sees the individual relationship between the teacher and the student. He doesnt see the complex relationship between the supervisors and the teachers. He sees 1.1 million kids in thousands of buildings. Frankly, he doesnt grasp the subtleties of the job.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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