I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Generally speaking that is. I try to hear both sides of an argument before I make any judgments and I always try to see things from other people’s perspective. Try as I might, I can’t understand why mayor Bloomberg would appoint Cathie Black as chancellor of NYC public schools. Except that there really is an oligarchy and they are trying to influence our kiddies and bust up the teachers’ and principals’ unions. I know how that sounds, but I stand by that statement.
When I heard that Bloomberg wanted to appoint Cathie Black my reaction was the same as most NYC residents, “who the fuck is Cathie Black?” The first thing I heard was that she had no experience in education. She was an executive at Hearst Magazines for a number years. And polls suggest the people of NYC don’t think Black is qualified to be Chancellor. CB needed to be granted a waiver by David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner, to take the appointment because state law requires all school chiefs to hold a professional certificate in educational leadership and to have at least three years’ experience in schools. According to the Village Voice, no one likes her. Despite all the opposition, CB was granted the waiver. This waiver is now being challenged in the courts.
What really started to make me nervous was when I saw this interview. The way she spoke about teachers, the union, and principals made me want to dig a little deeper. If you read this blog with any regularity you’ll know how I feel about unions. I don’t blindly support the UFT and I do think there needs to be some reform as far as tenure goes, but for the most part I think the teachers have a right to strong union representation. So when CB says (in the second video @ about 3.01) “well, we have to make sure that the union is in agreement that it’s really children first,” it makes me apprehensive. That seems to me like “arguing in a vacuum”, but I could be wrong about that.
When we use the Googles and do a little digging, we find that Ms. Black has for the last 17 years sat on the board of directors of Coca-Cola.
Last year alone, the soft drink giant paid her $195,000 compensation in cash and stock for attending 10 board meetings.
Alright, we shouldn’t judge her based on how much she makes. I mean, we don’t like it when people do it to us, right? Let’s judge her based on her actions, or lack thereof, instead.
During much of that time, Coke’s human rights record and its marketing tactics to children in Latin America have generated major controversy.
In 2005 and 2006, they forced votes on shareholder resolutions calling for an independent investigation of allegations that Coca-Cola colluded in anti-union violence in Colombia.
After several murders of union members at Coke bottling affiliates in Colombia, union leaders there filed a $500 million civil suit against the company in Miami Federal Court.
They claimed plant managers routinely called in death squads to terrorize their members. A PBS “Frontline” report later found attacks had occurred inside the plants with the knowledge of local supervisors.
Well, maybe she didn’t know about it…
As a member of the company’s public issues and diversity committee, Black was well aware of the allegations.
She and her fellow board members fought off the shareholder resolutions by assuring investors that Coke’s own internal review had shown that “allegations the bottlers engaged paramilitaries to intimidate trade unionists are false.”
Wow…you know what’s really funny? In that interview I mentioned earlier, she says something similar about people who protest outside of schools that are either closing or allowing charter schools to share building space with public schools (@about 8.20 in the second video). So, I guess in CB’s world, protests = staged shouting? Yeah, it couldn’t possibly be that there actually was a problem in the Latin American bottling plants. Nope, people are just being whiny bitches. It couldn’t possibly be that here in NYC parents and educators are actually concerned about the educational needs of our kids. Nope, we’re just afraid of change. In case you couldn’t tell, that was a steaming pile of sarcasm right there.
Maybe you don’t care about that sort of thing. Maybe the union stuff in Latin America doesn’t interest you. OK. Let’s look at stuff a little closer to home then. When I first started looking for info on CB, this is the first article I read.
Until now, her most direct connection to New York schools was her role on the advisory board of Harlem Village Academies, a network of charter schools. Black signaled Tuesday that she supported Bloomberg’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in New York City.
Alright! Now we’re getting somewhere! Again, to the Googles! And what do we find? This article shows us what the real deal is with Harlem Village Academies.
And yet this wonderful, creative and supportive culture for teachers has some of the highest teacher turnover rates in the city, according to the NY State report cards. One of her charters had annual attrition rates of 60% and 53%, for the two most recent years for which data is available; the other had teacher attrition rates of 71% and 42%
This data does not suggest a great working environment for teachers, or an administration which has their “back.”
In her Wall Street Journal article, Ms. Kenny also wrote: “When an observer commented that he had never seen middle-school students showing so much kindness to each other… The reason our kids are nice to each other is because their teachers set a tone of kindness and respect. ”
But according to the latest data available, the student suspension rates at one of her schools was at the strikingly high rate of 62%.
(You can check out the school’s report card here WARNING: PDF)
And and AND!! When we click one more little linkedy-link, we find out that Ms. Black and the rest of this advisory board HAS NEVER HAD A GODDAMN MEETING!
Officials at the Harlem Village Academies admit the school’s National Leadership Board, which Black joined just five months ago, has never met.
That board “has no operational or governing authority” over the school and exists for “support purposes only,” the school said in response to Daily News questions.
I also just found this article which talks about test scores for Harlem Village Academies.
The school has been lauded nationally for its high test scores, including for pushing 100% of its eighth-graders to pass state math tests.
A look at the overall scores tells a different tale. In the last round of tests, like schools across New York, numbers dropped precipitously after the state made the tests tougher.
School-wide English test scores fell from 81% passing to 41%, while math dropped from 91% to 71%. And by eighth grade, the number of students taking the tests is a small fraction of the earlier grades.
The eighth grade with the 100% passing rate in math had 19 students.
I don’t like this “teach to the test” bullshit. I’m not an educator, so this is just my opinion. I’m not saying don’t do testing. It’s a necessary tool. I just don’t think it’s the be all and end all of education. If you’re only teaching kids so that they’ll pass this test, the kid will retain less information, I think. I also think teaching in this way doesn’t help kids learn how to learn. And it stresses everyone the fuck out. My kid is in the 3rd grade. This year he has to take tests that will determine whether or not he can go to the 4th grade. Regardless of how well he does throughout the entire year, how he does on this test is all that matters to anyone. This is a major issue here in NYC. (I don’t know how it’s done in the rest of the country, so feel free to chime in in the comments section) So, what does CB do to improve this situation? She hires a number 2 who is all about the testing.
The thing that has me doing the most smirking about Cathie Black is the fact that she wrote a book called Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) that is hocked as “offering advice for women balancing the workplace with home life”…
…her kids went to motherfucking boarding school in motherfucking Connecticut while she lived and worked in motherfucking NYC(the upper east side, TYVM)!!