Litmus Test

Jan 15, 2014 by

Ron Isaac – If the mountain of allegations about the appalling state of affairs at PS106 in Far Rockaway is even half-true, there are several lessons to be learned. Not the least is that the skeletons in the closet were deliberately overlooked and the dirty laundry left unaired.

Teachers should be heard when they complain, with factual evidence, about lack of support and potential corruption. Especially when they’re given no access to resources necessary for classroom success and are allowed no control over their professional environment. And particularly because the follies of their superiors may put teachers’ careers in peril.

Teachers will be evaluated, for instance, and their job security hinge largely upon, how their students perform on tests based on the new Common Core curriculum. Even though teachers at many schools have not yet even received the entire curriculum!

Principals have been given the degree of power over educators that kings and queens wielded over their subjects 500 years ago and this has often had the effect of quashing whistle-blowing that could and should have brought scandal to light and thereby protect the public.

The Department of Education has, by its failure to reign in and its refusal to even monitor the shenanigans of abusive principals, in effect condoned disrespect for children, their parents and taxpayers. The Department of Education has given principals a morbid excess of independence to the point that they sometimes make up their own rules.

If the shocking claims about the PS106 principal prove true, consider her a reflection, although an extreme case, of the late Bloomberg administration’s philosophy of school management and leadership. Certainly there are many splendid principals among the 1700 public schools, but that doesn’t negate the indictment against the DOE for at least passively giving some principals the green light to mutilate the law.

If the observations about the PS106 principal have merit, she will be a good example of a school “CEO” who never would have got to first base prior to mayoral control.

Carmen Farina, the new chancellor, is quickly following up on the reports about PS106 and promises to take action if an investigation determines it is appropriate. That is more than her predecessors did year after year after year in place after place after place. If the allegations are borne out, and they sound plausible, then the new chancellor must remove the principal immediately. If she does not do that, if it is merited, then her credibility will be lost beyond redemption. If she does the right thing, it will be no guarantee of a triumphant return to sense in the establishment, but it will vindicate our caution optimism, at least. This is her first “litmus test.”

Perhaps the truth will cut the delinquents loose and set the rest of us free. At last.

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