[ProgressiveEd] Today's rally

Jane Bedell [email protected]
Thu, 27 Mar 2003 00:22:42 -0500

I second Carol's comments, and thank her for presenting a summary of what 
A few additions:  The adminstrator was Helen Santiago, Superintendent of 
District 1.  One other school represented was CPE-2 (me, with a son who 
just lost his tooth and was just way-excited over that and then had to go 
to the bathroom, so I was in and out of the room).  Also, I spoke to a 
reporter from the Daily News and someone from a Chinese language paper (the 
guy did not give me the name).  Hope I represented things well, but not 
sure of this.
In terms of Michelle Cahill -- I was at the last PENNY meeting where the 
person who was the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer HS (sorry, can't recall 
his name) spoke about Michelle Cahill and stated that she is indeed very 
familiar with our schools, and to look on her as a real ally.  I plan to 
e-mail her and Helen Santiago as a follow-up and I suggest that others do 
so as well --- we can use this as an opportunity to hammer home our 
messages about PENNY and about our schools.  It might not result in 
anything, but it couldn't hurt......
It was quite nice to be with PENNY folks and their associated children and 
NOT be in a meeting, but instead be chanting and moving and talking and 
hanging out.  (Plus I got to see the Tweed building, which is really quite 
- Jane
(parent of a 1st grader at CPE-2)
--On Wednesday, March 26, 2003 11:01 PM -0500 Carol Barton 
<[email protected]> wrote:
> Congratulations to all to came to the lively, successful rally at Tweed
> today.  A special thanks to River East, who came in big numbers, with
> parents, kids, and colorful signs.  We had some 40 people there.  We took
> to the stairs, were asked by security to move to the sidewalk, were
> reinvited to the stairs....  They immediately came out and invited
> parents and kids in to meet with Michelle Cahill.  DOE is very eager to
> appear very receptive to parents!  After getting a crowd of 15 or so
> through metal detectors, we were escorted to the board room for a 15-20
> min. meeting with Ms. Cahill and her chief of staff, plus an
> administrator from District 1.
> We had a good representation of schools at the table:  I counted River
> East, Crossroads, Computer, Muscota, East Village, Earth School and
> Central Park East 1 (sorry if I missed someone).  We had about 8
> children.  Everyone had the opportunity to introduce themselves.  The
> kids were lucid and articulate!
> What we said:
> --we want to keep our schools the way they are; curriculum emerges from
> teachers and students in the classroom
> --we want waivers
> --we want school status for schools within schools
> --we want to be part of a network of like-minded schools
> --our kids learn to love learning
> --we want autonomy that allows us to continue with small class sizes,
> bridge classes, parental and child involvement in all aspects of the
> school.  This can't be boiled down to a single curriculum.
> --our alternative schools are dynamic and special
> --testimonies by kids and parents about the impact the schools have had on
> their lives
> --Students presented DOE with a box of materials about our schools
> Ms. Cahill said she knows the PENNY network, and knows we have an
> appointment with the Chancellor.  She said she has started small schools
> including "el puente", she's familiar with many of our schools, she knows
> that many have requested waivers.  "I appreciate what your schools are
> about."  However, citywide only 7/10 kids can read at grade level by 8th
> grade.  The 200 schools are those, in their estimation, that are getting
> results.  She said that DOE would not grant blanket waivers to a whole
> network of schools.  They will consider them one by one, as some are not
> up to par.  Overall, she said that many of our schools don't have strong
> curriculum in math and literacy.  That this is not about closing our
> schools or changing our cultures or threatening small schools, "but we
> still want to work with you on math and literacy."  "We want to move
> everybody to higher levels."
> Some parents referred to "alternative schools" and she said they had held
> several meetings with "alternative" schools.  It took a few minutes to
> clarify that we spoke of the PENNY schools, and she referred to the formal
> district of alternative schools.  A reminder that words mean different
> things to different people.  Some parents feared their schools would be
> closed, lumped with other schools, or forced to grow.  Ms. Cahill assured
> them that this was not part of the plan.
> She did not address our concerns about tests as a primary measure of
> success, or our request for creating networks of like-minded schools.  The
> District 1 administrator (I didn't get her name) said they had 5
> progressive schools and they are "looking at a small learning community
> for our schools. We want to preserve that."  I'm unclear what this meant.
> When asked about gaining school status, Ms. Cahill said that Academies
> that want to become schools can go to the new office of school
> development-- there is a process for that.  She said she had just become
> aware that some schools had trouble filing for waivers, because they are
> not official schools.  The waiver process is under Diana Lamm.  There is
> criteria ("I can't speak to that now") and we'll be hearing from them.
> Evaluation:
> 1.  It was worth doing, and successful.  Important that we were able to
> have a parent/kid conversation with Ms. Cahill before the PENNY meeting.
> It was open, calm, not confrontational, and drove home how concerned
> parents are about preserving PENNY schools.  It was more about testimony,
> less about getting commitments. That will be the task of those who meet
> with Klein and Cahill on April 10.
> 2.  In the future, any rally organized by PENNY needs to be organized.
> That is, we need a permit, a designated spokesperson, and some
> coordination. Some schools did not participate, and some sent only one
> representative, in part, because they were wary of the lack of
> organization and clarity.  While this action worked, we should not be
> doing things in an ad hoc way. (We had some copies of Bruce's letter, but
> not enough to hand out to passers-by). 3.  This gets to another point--
> given the urgency, we're trying to act when there still isn't a cohesive
> network, and there isn't really consensus on strategies.  Many schools
> have decided to put their energies into an insider track (waivers, DOE
> contacts, etc.) and are wary of outsider tracks, like this demonstration.
> These two tracks are not mutually exclusive, but it's clear from this
> action that many were ambivalent about the idea.  We are still a
> coalition more in name than reality, where we share ideas and strategies,
> but pursue independent efforts on many fronts.  That's fine and
> necessary, but we are unlikely to build a stronger presence and base as
> PENNY if there isn't more coordination and agreement on common efforts,
> and clear, decisive leadership.
> Thanks to those who put great energy into pulling out the troops, and to
> all who came.
> Carol Barton
> Muscota New School, Computer School parent
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