who should rule the schools

In recruiting parents, mayoral control supporters hit snags

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
Brooklyn mom blogger Louise Crawford posted Learn NY's statement ##http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/only_the_blog_knows_brook/2009/01/learn-new-york-educational-advocacy.html##on her web site##, but other parents are refusing.

Learn NY is ramping up its dogged campaign to bring public school parents on board its effort to preserve mayoral control of the city schools. Its latest technique: asking parent-bloggers to post a canned introductory letter directly to their web sites.

The group, which includes a set of four high-profile board members, some anonymous rich donors, and one seasoned political hand, was formed last year as the premier campaign to lobby for mayoral control when it comes up for renewal this spring. (The law could be scrapped, bringing back the old school board, revised, or kept intact.) Part of Learn NY’s argument for keeping mayoral control is that, though some very vocal parents loudly criticize the system, a silent majority of non-loud parents support it — or would, if they properly understood what mayoral control is.

The blogosphere campaign is part of its effort to find those parents and educate them. An earlier effort involved shooting off an arsenal of e-mails to parent e-mail lists.

The campaign is hitting some snags. After e-mails went out to parent list-serves, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, denounced the group on the public school parents list serve she runs. Another blogger, David Quintana of Queens, who received an inquiry from Learn NY today, declined the offer and passed it on to press contacts. Quintana’s blog includes a clock excitedly counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds left in the Bloomberg administration.

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Learn NY, said the organization is deliberately reaching out to diverse groups because it wants to start a dialogue. “It’s similar to what we’ve been doing all along, going to forums where there are lots of people against us, people who have lots of disagreements with mayoral control and the mayor,” she said.

She said Learn NY also wants to transform the conversation about mayoral control from a shouting match about Mayor Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Learn NY’s own behind-the-scenes happenings into a substantive debate on the merits of mayoral control as a way to govern the public schools. “If this is a referendum on Joel Klein, that doesn’t serve the interests of the school system,” she said. “We think that it’s about more than that.”

The group is waging campaigns off the Internet, too. Community organizers employed by Learn NY have held meetings in the outer boroughs with groups of 20 or 30 parents, Wood says, and the group right now is marshaling a set of nonprofit allies who could come with Learn NY spokesmen to testify at Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan’s hearing on mayoral control in Queens Wednesday (the first of a set of hearings in every borough).

The letter Learn NY asked Quintana to post is below:

Hello New York City Parents,

My name is Robin Warren and I work with an education advocacy coalition called Learn NY based here in New York City.

Some background on our organization: Learn NY is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that each of New York City’s students receives a high-quality education. We believe in an education governance system that provides our schools with accountability and efficiency, so that our children have a chance at a brighter future.

I am reaching out to online New York City parent communities across all five boroughs to introduce our organization and to hopefully begin a real dialogue with you all.

In this community and other New York neighborhoods, concerned parents are discussing how we can improve the education system in New York City; one of the issues that we are trying to raise more awareness about is the renewal of the important Mayoral Control Law, as well as how we can work to improve it.

With the law coming up for renewal, now is the time for discussion and improvements, particularly when it comes to increasing transparency and ensuring more parental engagement in the New York City school system.
That is why parents from across the city are getting involved with Learn NY. By coming together to share our stories <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14378/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1> , our experiences, and our ideas for the future, we will ensure that parent voices are well-represented as state legislators debate renewing mayoral control this spring.
To that end, the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Education wants to hear from you about the Governance of the New York City School System, and they are holding hearings all over the city to give you that opportunity. The first of the hearings is taking place this Thursday at 10 A.M in Kew Gardens. Please click here for more details <http://www.learn-ny.org/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=cmpContent&htmlKey=parentsSchedule&s=learnNY> .
Already, concerned parents in your community have signed up to attend the hearing. Click here to join them <http://www.learn-ny.org/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=userNewsletterSpecial&s=learnNY>  and to make sure that your voice is heard.
Additionally on the site, you will find resources specifically for parents <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14376/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1>  like links to school progress reports, grade-by-grade guides and a parent’s bill of rights, as well as other ways for you to get involved <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14377/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1> .
In the coming weeks, I hope to come back here to give you some more background on Learn NY and on this issue for those who might be less familiar with the law.
I look forward to working with you all. Please email me if you have any questions.
Robin Warren
[email protected]
Learn NY
Better Schools, Brighter Futures

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.