Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

First Amendment Rights in Jeopardy

‎This kid held a march with 50 people ( mostly high school students) and the Floral Park Police Commissioner in the Village Floral Park, NY just did this.

The march went off without a hitch and the participants walked on the sidewalks from one high school to another one in the same village. Disclaimer:This used to be my home town. Please spread the news of this unjustifiable bullying tactic to shut down First Amendment Rights.

This is Dylan’s post as copied off Facebook…

Dylan Slavin‎ toOpen Floral Park17h

On July 2nd, I contacted the Floral Park Police department about organizing a protest march in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the course of a week, through emails and phone calls, SGT. Mayo, the Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister, and I agreed to terms for the march. I felt confident that I had the support of the police department. I posted the details of the march on social media and almost immediately I received a phone call from the Commissioner asking me to meet with him at the police station.

On July 6th we had concerns over weather and safety of the protest. I was unable to reach the Police Commissioner through phone, so I had emailed SGT. Dean Mayo with a new flyer, updated route, and time/date of where we would be having the protest. I got confirmation from SGT Mayo who had said, “Thanks. I did alert the Commissioner to the change. It is likely that you will hear from him tomorrow.”. We took this as confirmation that the Commissioner understood the information provided to him and was okay with it since there was no indication from SGT Mayo that there was a problem, so we had posted the new info on social media.

It was not until the next day that the Commissioner’s tone towards me had changed. I was reprimanded for posting the event on social media without “directly talking to him” and suddenly the terms of the march had changed. So, with this I had told the Commissioner that this would be organized through Nassau County Police instead. Subsequently, I also contacted the Nassau County Police Department for guidance and the plans were well received. The police chief informed me that he had already spoken with the Floral Park Police Commissioner and was aware of the day’s sequence of events. Again, with no contest from the Commissioner.

The Black Lives Matter march was a success! We had tremendous support from the community. Our voices were heard and amplified in unison, rallying a need for change for our friends, family and neighbors of color. It was a proud day to know that our community can and will effect change. It was a peaceful and respectful exercise in our First Amendment rights.

Immediately after the protest, my friends were notifying me that summonses were being issued. Within a day, a Floral Park police officer delivered the summons pictured below to appear in Village court in September for violating code 32-2: “§ 32-2 Disorderly and noisy conduct. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to indulge in disorderly, noisy or riotous conduct at any place in the Village tending to disturb the peace and quiet in the Village or tending to disrupt or disturb any meeting or lawful assemblage therein.”

Not at any time during my conversations with the Police Commissioner or the Sergeant was I told that I, or any activity of the march, would be in violation of village code. I have spoken with the organizers of the two BLM marches in the Village that occurred on June 4th(at Veterans Memorial Park), and June 14th titled “Fists Up for BLM”, and they were not required to apply for permits nor did they receive any village code violations.

I truly believe that I was “punished” for organizing our right to protest. I believe that this summons is supposed to discourage future plans for BLM marches and protests in the Village. I believe the Police Commissioner exhibited abuse of power simply out of spite. We will continue to raise our voices. We will continue to speak up. We will cooperate with law enforcement to practice our right to protest, but we will not be intimidated.

Now is not the time.

Now is not the time to open schools!

Yes, I know we need to get the economy open. I know parents need to get back to work. I know children are losing important time in school. I know all the reasons why we need to open schools. Unfortunately, now is not the time.

We keep hearing that we need more testing, more contact tracing, social distancing, and masks. Even if we had 100% compliance ( which we are nowhere near), is it worth the risk?

We don’t know the long term effects of Covid. We are not pouring money and assets into school buildings to upgrade their ventilation systems, expanding to accommodate 6′ social distance spacing, or the proper training of teachers and other staff members that will need to work in a potentially high infectious environment.

When the policy makers are meeting in virtual meeting rooms from their respective “bunkers” to decide whether children and teachers should be together in a classroom, we should all be able to see through their smoke and mirrors to know something is wrong.

Governor Cuomo today told us all that as long as the infection rate stays below 5% of those tested schools may open. That rate then can go up to 9% after the decision has been made to open. Really? 5% then 9%?? How about 0% Governor?

Are we really willing to gamble with the lives of children and school staff members when we could possible see and end to this nightmare when a vaccine is developed, hopefully soon. Are we unwilling to sacrifice from September to January to protect all children and school personnel?

Our scientists still admit that they do not have a handle on this. They are seeing spikes, they are seeing younger people and children getting infected at higher rates than in April. They are seeing terrible long term issues for those infected. They are also seeing some getting reinfected.

The Trump administration has no plan to open schools. The CDC is about to issue revised guidance for schools because Trump and Pence say the original guidance is too hard to comply with. The US Education Department has no plan to monitor or give guidance to schools.

We already know the federal and some state governments take no issue with kids getting gunned down in their classrooms. We already know states have been underfunding schools for years (especially Cuomo). We already know that teachers have been made the national scapegoats by those looking to takeover public schools for financial gain. So what makes us believe anything they say?

Yes, some parents need to get back to work, especially essential workers. Some children with special needs or other issues need essential educational services. Come up with a plan to help them and stop bailing out corporate big wigs and those politically connected but rather financially support those that really need the help.

We are at war. A war against a virus. If we were invaded and fighting a ground war in the US would we be discussing putting children in classrooms?

My question to all of you is this.. how many deaths due to schools opening are acceptable to you? And while I am ranting, what about all those kids Trump still has locked up in cages?

Covid and school ventilation

Ventilation systems in most schools are outdated and barely work as designed. Even before Covid teachers often felt the effect of poor ventilation in their rooms. Research shows that when room air is not adequately vented out and replace with fresh air CO2 levels rise sharply in s short period of time and as those levels increase cognitive abilities decline by 50% or more.

Now add Covid to this toxic environment. If school ventilation system fail to provide fresh air before Covid, what do you think will happen with Covid? So my question is really this, why haven’t school districts, and states remediated while school buildings were closed?

This is not rocket science! Clean those univents and filters in classrooms, install new ones where needed, and add exhaust fans.

Spacing desks 6′ apart is not enough, cleaning surfaces is not enough! If the air quality is poor all of that will not matter.

The Feds and states must pour money into our school infrastructure if they want to open the economy. Forget the corporate bailouts, for once in my lifetime I would love our nation to put schools at the top of a national priority and support them with the funding needed.

Keep schools closed ( for now)

I am concerned with the latest “semi push” to open schools. Yes, there are emotional and economic concerns that should be part of this discussion. However, the ultimate safety of children, teachers, and other staff members must trump ( sorry about how that word has been ruined) all others.

Until there is a vaccine, an effective treatment, or even instantaneous testing, there will always be a risk. The question that seems to be morphing is, just what percentage of casualties to this virus are we willing to accept? I say 0%.

It is looking like we may have a vaccine or other treatment by the beginning of next year. Until then, keep schools closed. Look for alternative ways to meet the emotional needs of students, financially assist those who must stay home to care for their children, provide broadband and equipment to those who need it.

Look, I am no lover of remote instruction. I hate it, it does not work. What it does do though, is let us continue to tread water until we can swim.

As this pandemic continues to worsen, let’s not lose sight that this discussion has turned into yet another distraction to our national crisis.

Our Fork in the Road

We all know that we have “red” and “blue” states. We also have states competing with each other for needed supplies. We have armed protesters trying to intimidate their state’s legislators. We have Nazi , Confederate, and KKK flags flying side by side with Trump 2020 banners. We have immigrant kids taken from the mothers and fathers and locked up. We have almost 70,000 dead in the last 2 months. We have some saying it’s ok for some to die but we need to open up our economy. Thousands are dying in nursing homes every week.


We have states saying they now need federal financial help in amounts we have never experienced in our nation’s history. We now have a president who has said he will block any financial assistance to individual states unless they agree with his immigration policies.


Last night we had Trump doing a “Town Hall” on Fox news inside the Lincoln Memorial. With the statue of Lincoln as a backdrop he said that he is being treated worse that Lincoln ever was.


This series of events should send shivers up your spine. Think about history, think what went on during the time of Lincoln.


MAGA my ass, this is an attempt to drive an ideological disease that the Trump family has carried with them for several generations. Do your homework understand what history mandates we learn or else we will repeat the same mistakes of the past.


Folks we have reached that fork in the road. Which one will you take?

It’s been a heck of a year

It has been a while since my last post. I have retired from teaching at the close of this school year and I have relocated to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Unfortunately, my last year teaching was one of the most difficult years of my teaching career.

As our local president I was in the middle of tense contract negotiations as well as dealing with new principals in every building. Our District hired a new superintendent who promptly moved me to a different building, knowing full well that I was retiring. Needless to say, my relationship with our new superintendent was strained to say the least. Unfortunately I had a school board that was blind to the damaging changes she wrought.

When we first met, I explained that I agreed that some change is positive and needed. However, change should be done with staff, not at staff. Unfortunately that advice fell on deaf ears.

My former district now has lost their science lab, SS texts, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar programs, and a viable reading program. Special ed teachers have their numbers increasing, reading teachers are overloaded and morale across the district is at an all time low. Yet, a ton of money was spent on Chrome books so that students now spend a good part of their day staring at a computer screen.

Testing was increased under this new administration, Fountas and Pinell (3 times a year),STARS ( 3 times a year-unless you get AIS services then it is even more) , and of course our state tests.

We were able to work out a new contract, only after an intense showing by by members at a school board meeting that woke up the community. Solidarity is powerful and my members learned that this year.

Now I move towards a new phase of my life. I intend to continue to advocate for public education and sensible pedagogy. I will begin posting more often but will also include a myriad of topics that I will be opining on.

Stay tuned.

RR

An insult towards experience

Why is it that these so call “change agents” that pop up every year as administrators, consultants, book sellers, publishers, and wannabes lack skills needed to embrace the gains of the past?  They often seek change for that sake of showing that they can affect change. Often these so called self proclaimed change agents have no regard for those who often have much more experience than them. They pretend they know more because they went to a conference, read an article, or most often than not they feel they know a better way.

I happened to be in our district’s conference room this week and I saw this comment taped to the wall.

playing school

 

I immediately commented on it as an insult to all the teachers in the district with many years of  experience.  I was then told, “The conversation was about children “playing school”, not teachers.”

My response, “So. my students were “playing school” because I was not on the  cutting edge? Past instruction practices caused our students to play school?  Really?”

Don’t get me wrong, change can be good, very good. Provided that change builds on the past’s best practices and that it is supported by real research, not opinion. Cutting edge can cut both ways. We need speak up and defend our own  professional experiences when these change agents declare they have a better way. We have witnessed their failures too many times.

Let’s make sure there is water in that pool before we have our students jump in .

emptypool2

We are all at risk

I never thought that I would say that am worried about are nation’s future, but I am. I’m deeply worried that a schism is about to rip the fabric of our great experiment to a point that it will not be able to be mended. There are forces pulling us apart in ways that at one time seemed unimaginable.

Could anyone have predicted our nation’s two political Parties would ever be as polarizing as they now are? We have two major Parties that are themselves divided in ways that may seal their own demise.  Republicans have the extreme Neocons on the Right who have pulled their Party to the brink and old school conservatives who now lack the power to  regain their real base to save themselves from extinction. The Democrats have a huge tent that pushes and pulls their platform in ways that prevents the Party from tracking in any direction.

The result, we have a President who is ripping us apart at the seams and  a Nation that has not been this polarized since the early 1800’s. The public is taking sides in a cult like way. Ignoring the facts laid before them they have chosen sides and refuse to buck the cult that they subscribe to. In addition, we have a growing number of ‘so called citizens’ whose heads are in the sand and refuse to act like true citizens and take a stand. They spend too much of their ignoring the world around them as they go about the merry way.

It’s all about to end. Our nation is about to descend into the abyss. We are about to be isolated from the world, appeasement will destroy the world order, our civil discourse will become uglier and uglier as we turn against each other. The Neocons will thrive in a new world order that will benefit a select few.

I wish I had an answer….

 

There is No Dignity in Teaching

I rarely reblog others, but this is a story that must be retold over and over again.

Administrators have forgotten that teachers (and the kids they work with) are in fact human beings and not numbers. Instead of standing up to government officials and defending their teachers, they uphold unfair—and frankly discriminatory— evaluation practices.

Read this…  https://urbanesl.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/there-is-no-dignity-in-teaching/comment-page-1/#comment-77

 

Change or Power Play?

Today the administration decided to shuffle the personnel in our very successful district. Our small K-6 district (New Hyde Park- Garden City Park) has 4 buildings and 145 teachers. I am the local President ( full disclosure).

Take a look at our NYS report card. Even though I am totally against this type of data, the data shows that we are extremely successful.  With this success, one would think that our new Superintendent and our 4 brand new building principals would look towards our successes, collaborate with staff and look to build on them.

Unfortunately, they have chosen to do the exact opposite. They announced a major shake up of most of the teachers here. They changed our grades we will teach, changed rooms and have us even changing buildings They are taking teachers who have spent many years in lower grades and assigning them to upper grades and vice a versa. They have refused to share the rationale for this upheaval.

I am well aware that every year there needs to be some changes, due to enrollment and other needs. Those changes are often rational decisions with some teacher input. Not this year! We have been told nothing except this is your new assignment.

As our Local President, I believe my new assignment in another building is due to my position as President. That will not stand. I have has a successful 19 year career  and I will be damned if they will get away with this.

To make matters worse our new Superintendent  comes to us from a district where she was the director of curriculum. I have been told, by those in charge, that it is unfair to compare her old district’s report card with ours. I disagree,  the truth must be exposed.

When we look at her report card we discover that our scores are 50% higher! When we take a close read of the data and look at the demographic we also discover that our population has many more immigrants and more ELL students.

So what does this show?  It shows that we are successful and we have a right, a duty and a need to sound the alarm! It shows that we need to be wary of change for the sake of change or change because that’s the way she has done it in her old district.

As President of our local. I requested that our local participate in the selection process for a superintendent. We were told no!  So this is the result. We are heading blindly into an abyss.  I feel sorry for the children our hands have been tied.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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