Tag Archives | Klein


DOEUFTDOEUFTDOEUFT isn’t some strange Dutch word or the name of a South African soccer player.

It’s a nonsense word that I think perfectly sums up the state of public school education in NYC:  an indecipherable log-jammed system.

Here’s the latest WTF moment from the annals of New York education:

The first day of school for the 2010 school year is set for Wednesday, Sept 8.  But because Labor Day is late this year (and how does that happen, anyway, that holidays just sort of float around the calendar? ) the school start date bumps up against Rosh Hashanah, which means that the schools will be closed Sept 9 & 10. 

That means that kids have exactly one day of school that week, smack in the middle of the week. How’s that for convenient?  Let’s not even think about the nightmare of arranging childcare that week or the difficulty of trying to help kids who are starting kindergarten. Let’s just think about the zoo-like quality of the classrooms, filled with kids who are still bouncy from summer and even bouncier at the prospect of a long weekend. Would you want to be the teacher in that room? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Parent groups have petitioned Joel Klein to change the calendar, pleading with him to make this starting schedule slightly more sane and yesterday, we got  our response: a letter from our pal Joel, putting the blame for his inability to change the calendar squarely on…the teachers’ union, that always handy scapegoat. Klein’s letter reads, in part, “the UFT refused our proposal and therefore we are left with no choice but to keep the calendar unchanged.”

Does anyone else find it surprising that the Chancellor of Schools doesn’t have it in his power to change the school calendar? Given that he can close schools pretty much at the drop of a hat, you’d think something like moving the start date on the calendar would be a finger snap.

In response to Klein, UFT President Michael Mulgrew blamed the calendar problem on… Joel Klein (I know, you’re shocked, shocked that he’d do such a thing).  Mulgrew noted that the teacher contracts allow for different schools to choose different start dates, and suggested that different boroughs might start on different days, which Klein said would be “chaotic.”

I’m sure Mulgrew is indulging in some spin of his own, obviously; no one likes to be a scapegoat (and he laid out an interesting pattern of Kleinian blame: when things go wrong, it’s the fault of the teachers and principals, and when things go right, it’s because of Klein’s masterful handling of the system).  But the teachers I know think this starting calendar is ridiculous and all of them voted to change the date–and in fact, none of them know any teachers who voted to keep the calendar as it is. So then you have to wonder: who, exactly, voted to keep the calendar?

For any of us who have encountered the implacable force that is the DOE (thou shalt not get a variance; thou shalt not take anything other than scores into account for gifted-and-talented programs; thou shalt not get special services for your kid unless you sue the shit out of us first, and so on), Klein’s letter, which claims powerlessness in the face of the almighty union, strikes a patently false note.

But Klein blames the union and the union blames Klein, and round we go, swing your partner and do-si-do.  The only people not enjoying this blame dance, with its intervals of finger-pointing and chin-wagging, are the thousands of families who have to deal with this idiotic schedule. And of course, we will deal with it, just as we deal with all the other DOEUFT nonsense, but what a waste of time and energy when there’s such a simple solution available (no, not firing Joel Klein, although it’s a lovely thought).  Just move the start of school to Sept. 13.  Easy-peasy.

But in the world of UFTDOE, easy-peasy doesn’t work.

And they wonder why people move to the ‘burbs.

Continue Reading · on July 1, 2010 in Education, NYC

Seriously, He Banned Bake Sales. No, Really, He Did.

nocupcake.jpgThe other day on the playground, a mommy friend said, “did you hear? Bloomberg banned bake sales in the schools.” 

I thought she was kidding–we’d beeen the PTA Co-Presidents last year, and bake sales had been an ongoing aggravation: when to schedule them, how to staff them, how to scan every donation for potentially lethal ingredients (nuts! sesame seeds! wheat!), how to make sure that all the kids got a chance to exchange their sweaty quarters for a chocolate chip cookie.

But despite the aggravation, we staged those bake sales, yes we did. And there are four thousand, five hundred and twenty-two reasons why we did so: the four or five bake sales we held last year brought in 4,522 dollars.

That’s a lot of sweaty quarters.

That much money allows our PTA to foot the bill for 5th graders whose families can’t afford the price of the 5th grade class camping trip; to pay for kids who might not otherwise be able to join the track team; to fund instrument rental for kids who REALLY want to play the trombone, but whose parents don’t have any extra money in their budgets.

The joke is that this is no joke: the DOE really and truly has put a policy in place that bans bake sales.

Bake sales sell unhealthy food, according to Mayor Mike and his sidekick, Joyless Joe, and so they are going to save our tubby children from further expansion.

Banning monthly or bi-monthly bake sales seems a tad…um…bass-ackward, frankly, if your goal is healthy kids with healthly habits.  What about…having gym class more than once a week? Or a post-lunch recess period that lasts longer than 20 minutes? Oh–right–I forgot. Those activities would take time away from Very Important Test Prep.

So okay, clearly more exercise is out of the question because Data Collection and Accountability matter more.

Let us then consider the school lunch menu for elementary schools in Manhattan, shall we?  Today’s choices are Sweet & Sour Roasted Chicken, Golden Fish and Cheese, White Rice, and if you’re at a SchoolPlus cafeteria you can get collards with sweet tomato.  Anyone want to place bets on how many fourth graders are getting the collards? And could someone define “golden fish” for me? If you drop your kid off for the free breakfast, she could have had a turkey patty with cheese on a biscuit, or pancakes with syrup. Tomorrow’s lunch is something called Southwest Style Beef that comes with something called “Baked Scoops.” Not sure baked scoops of what, exactly, but I’ll bet it’s…healthy. 

And as we peruse our school lunch menus, let’s not even THINK about what all my friends are calling the “scary hamburger article” in Sunday’s Times.  I mean, given the choice, wouldn’t you rather your kid eat a sugar-bomb cupcake than hamburger meat that’s potentially riddled with E. coli or god knows what else?  Can the DOE can guaran-damn-tee me that the burger patties, taco beef, and “baked scoops” on their lunch menus come from utterly safe sources? Given that the USDA is pretty much in cahoots with the beef-packing industry, I’m thinking that’s a promise that will be a long time coming.  

So yeah, let’s ban bake sales instead of equipping school kitchens so that they can actually cook. Right now, most school kitchens simply assemble food from a list of DOE approved ingredients: frozen pre-roasted commodity chickens, for example. Would anyone like to think about the source of something called a “commodity chicken”?

Notice that I’m not even talking about how school organizations and PTAs are supposed to make up the shortfall in their budgets if they can’t hold bake sales. The Times article quotes a school official as saying that maybe schools could hold walk-a-thons to raise money, instead of bake sales. Hmm… let’s see. Collecting money from donors, finding a route, organizing the participants, hoping it doesn’t rain…versus a table in the cafeteria stocked with treats brought in by parents.

Okay, now maybe smokers felt the same way when smoking was banned in bars, but no one yet has said that a cupcake a month causes cancer. Banning bake sales brings to mind the word “draconian” – also ridiculous, farcical, and you’ve-got-to-be-fucking-kidding (if I hyphenate it’s one word, right?)  It’s like cutting off your hand because you’ve got a hangnail.

I’m fighting back, dammit. I’m going to send Liam and Caleb to school EVERY SINGLE DAY with lunchboxes filled with cupcakes, cookies, brownies, maybe even the occasional gummy worm–and I’m telling them to share with all their friends.

Let Bloomberg send the Sugar Stasi after me. They can have my cupcake when they wrestle it out of my fat sticky fingers.


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Continue Reading · on October 7, 2009 in Education, food, NYC

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