DOE- Let the Truth Slip Away, not Out!

Oct 19, 2020 by

The DOE faces many challenges, the least of which is fitting the elongated titles of its senior executives on their office suite doors.  But Adrienne Austin, the DOE’s deputy chancellor for community empowerment, partnerships and communications, will have to stare that problem down another time.

Not long after she memorized her business card, she got into hot water last week for committing a managerial “no-no” She’s in hot water with parents for telling the truth rather than dodging it with the verbal circuitry that are the stock-in-trade of the DOE.  The chancellor may scald her for her forthrightness.

Frank and contrite public admissions of DOE failure are strictly forbidden in their playbook.  She called a spade a spade and now has hell to pay.

At a Zoom meeting of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee, a powerless panel of 38 parent representatives, she came clean with a humility that does not befit her rank.  She avowed that she had no information on grading policy, Gifted and Talented testing, entry exams to specialized high schools, or middle school and high school admission rules.
The DOE doesn’t like being divulged as clueless.  They’d rather present a tablet of lies than proof of being a blank slate.

“Anything that’s as high stakes and important as–and political, to be honest–as admissions policy, is going to have to be something that’s cleared by the city”, she said.

It was both an amateurish confession and a breath of fresh air. Parents were indignant.

They lashed out at the messenger, not realizing that she was inadvertently bucking her bosses by being candid.  A DOE spokesperson is trained like a service dog. They are required to be glib and elusive when fielding hot-button issues raised by parents and educators at community assemblies.

By DOE standards, Austin was having a bad day by letting her rectitude show.

One parent, quoted by the New York Post, said “I don’t think issues like these should be political. Parents are caught in the crossfire…if politics are delaying the process, it’s disconcerting”. Another parent called Austin’s remarks “despicable”, adding “For a top DOE leader to say that these decisions are political, tells you that our educators have become politicians”.

The parent is right that the DOE is driven by politics. But they are wrong that these administrators are educators.  The bureaucracy is political, not the classroom teacher.

I know nothing about Ms. Austin’s other contributions to public education, but she splendidly misspoke at this meeting.  For linking politics to policy, she violated a solemn precept of an Agency that as often as not is hostile to it.

Is the public really so childishly innocent or are they naive by choice?  All decisions made by those authorities on the highest levels of government or any organizational entity, is finalized only after fastidious political considerations. Even saints and philanthropists are politicians as they calculate their behaviors.

Politics turns the world.  The DOE turns our stomachs.

Ron Isaac

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