Category Archives: politics

Cuomo: failing to understand the problem

image: NYdailynews.com

Governor Cuomo  has released a report which concludes that many of New York State’s public schools are failing.  As I skimmed the lengthy document online, I noticed a consistency which, to me, was critical in understanding why these schools are struggling.  With only two exceptions (Amsterdam and Buffalo’s South Park),  the schools which have been deemed failing are attempting to educate populations in which the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and the percentage of minority students both exceed 50% of the total enrollment.  In most cases, those two figures both reside firmly in the 90th + percentile.

In my mind, this failure lies not at the hands of educators, but instead with the lack of services and support that New York State’s poor residents receive.  I’ve worked in an urban school district and witnessed the lack of resources provided to poor children by parents who are unable to do much more than get by as they contend with meeting their family’s most essential needs.  Of course, education is an essential need but try telling that to someone who never attained a diploma and is struggling to feed, clothe and shelter their family.

Why doesn’t this report include charter schools?  Since  the Governor wants to add an additional 100 charter schools to our state shouldn’t we be privy to how they’re performing?

This governor’s attack on public education and teachers must stop.  His focus on rigorous standardized testing  for elementary age children is developmentally inappropriate and my child will not be participating any longer.  Will yours?

I think it’s interesting that his report was published on Scribd, yet I couldn’t locate it on the state education department’s website.  Speaking of publications, if you’re not one of the few people who purchased a copy of Cuomo’s recent autobiography, you can purchase it online as an eBook.  I’m sure it is just coincidental that Cuomo’s administration backed a “bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions,” like Scribd and for eBook publications.

Yep, New York State – the State of Opportunity.

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Filed under Education, News, politics

The State of our State makes me angry

  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver was given the courtesy of sitting in a position of prestige at this week’s State of the State address when the state’s teachers are not invited to sit at the table and truly participate in education reform and improvement.
  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver, along with the governor and other elected officials, is responsible for the educational, social and financial policies of NYS, a task with which he doesn’t deserve to be trusted.
  • I’m angry that for the last 5 years or so my profession has been under constant attack while Speaker Silver has been profiting from illegal business deals for decades.
  • I’m angry that Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly maligned the teachers of this state while protecting those he promised to prosecute.
  • I’m angry that dedicated and experienced educators have been made to feel like criminals when, in fact, the real felons are drafting absurd policies to evaluate how we are doing our jobs.  I’ve been a librarian for nearly twenty years and the measure of how well I do job is going to be based upon a test that I give students who want to check out a book or need research help?  How about that facility I manage?
  • I’m angry that 7 of the 12 charter schools in my district have closed, yet the governor has tied an increase in educational state aid to an increase in the number of charter schools permitted, along with the removal of limitations regarding how many such schools can be placed in a particular region.
  • I’m angry that other sitting New York State Democrats have not expressed their commitment to eliminating corruption and ridding our government of politicians who think that holding public office means that they are somehow above the law.
  • I’m angry that more people don’t vote.

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Filed under Albany, Education, News, Observations, politics, Rant

12/13/14

Image: nydailynews.com

Yesterday’s date was remarkable because it was the last time in our lifetime, barring some crazy medical advances, that we will see a consecutive numbers date. What begin with 1/2/3 is now over for the current century. Pretty momentous, don’t you think?

I’ve learned there are occasions which demand recognition for various reasons – holidays, anniversaries, cool calendar dates, while others only reveal their importance retrospectively.

Two years ago today, on 12/14/12, Adam Lanza entered an elementary school and executed 26 people. Twenty of the victims were children who were essentially the same age as my own youngest son. Two years ago, 12/13/12, was the last night all of those families were intact.

I cant help but imagine the children on the final night of their lives.   I picture them talking excitedly about their Christmas lists and other holiday traditions. Maybe they did some homework, played a game or two, or attended a sports practice or other activity. Along with their teachers, they were probably looking forward to the weekend to have some time with family and friends. There was nothing to suggest that they would never again sleep in their beds.

On 12/14/12 the residents of Newtown, CT, and the world, learned what a violent and mentally ill individual was capable of destroying. We’ll never know what the future held for those twenty children – what they would have grown to achieve and accomplish, how they might have changed the world with their presence rather than with the void of their absence.  My own heart will always be missing a piece which was taken on that day.

In the next century, when those cool consecutive number dates roll around again, I hope that thought of an individual possessing and using weapons such as the Bushmaster rifle used to execute 20 elementary school children, is considered even more insane than Adam Lanza.

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Filed under Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, Schools

The Neighborhood That Disappeared

image: blog.timesunion.com

It takes a lot to get me out of the house on a Monday, especially when it is cold and dark. Last night though, thanks to the thoughtfulness of Louise McNeilly, I made my way to Page Hall (for the first time in decades) to attend the premiere of a local movie, The Neighborhood That Disappeared. This film tells the story of the residents and neighbors whose homes were seized under the guise of Eminent Domain by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his ambitious project, The Empire State Plaza.

I’ve considered Albany to be my home for many years, yet I truly knew nothing about the building of, and controversy surrounding, the South Mall. After last night’s showing, I am belatedly incensed about the arrogant treatment of the residents of what appeared to have been a vital community in our city. Seven thousand citizens or 9% of the total city population were forced to vacate their homes and relocate. Established businesses such as Cardona’s Market and Roma Importers were able to successfully make the leap into new areas of the city, but one is left to wonder how many families were forever impacted by the loss of their homes and livelihoods.

Filmmaker Mary Paley, according to this article, was inspired by photographs taken by her late father, a photographer for the now defunct Knickerbocker News. Using these images as a foundation, she tells the story, or “a collection of family stories,” about the families who previously resided in Albany’s South End, an “ethnic mosaic” of  Italians, Germans, Irish, Jews, Blacks, and Greeks.

Despite Rockefeller’s perception of this area as “mundane, dirty and ugly,” it was a true community with stoops and the neighborhood’s St. Anthony’s church as “their piazza.”  It was wonderful to “meet” through the film, some of the families who called downtown Albany home and I appreciated that they shared their stories with an audience who may have previously been as ignorant as me.  Many of the folks featured in the film were also in the audience and there was still a discernible warmth among them.  Some notable local faves of mine such as Mayor Kathy Sheehan, city advocate Susan Holland of the Historic Albany Foundation and writer Paul Grondahl also appeared in the film.

See it yourself when it airs both Friday and Saturday on WMHT.  I don’t think you’ll ever look at the Empire State Plaza the same.

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Filed under Albany, Local, Movies, politics, television

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

imageI’m afraid of the impression we’re making, we Americans, as I browse my favorite dirty little secret website, the Daily Mail UK, and read the post titles about America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Titles with words like shopping and bargains and outrage. Sigh.

This is what we’re telling the world that we’re about? This is how we celebrate a holiday based upon giving, upon sharing?

We don’t vote. Our nation essentially provides a potential voice to every person in the land. Why don’t more Americans use it? We’re apathetic about important things but we talk obsessively about women’s asses – Beyoncé, Kardashian, Lopez, Minaj…

The violence in this country is often unbearable. Young black men seem to die with far too great frequency. Violence begets violence. The more methods of communication we create the less likely we are to communicate effectively. Connecting feels harder than in the past.

And, it’s Thanksgiving. The tree branches are piled high with heavy, wet snow, some still with leaves. The lighting is striking, a sky made of cotton. It’s beautiful.

And my son was accepted into one of his chosen schools.

He can’t wait to register to vote.

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Filed under family, holidays, musings, News, Observations, politics, snow

Red light, green light, one-two-three

Did you play that game when you were a kid?  We usually alternated between Red Light and Mother, May I? on autumn evenings which grew more quickly dark as each day passed.  They were fun games to play during times, which I recall as, much more simple than today.  No batteries or cords necessary.

These days, I run for fun.  Unfortunately, negotiating my way around the streets of Albany isn’t always fun.  I play a different game now – Green light, red light, one-two-three.  Are you familiar with it?  It’s where you watch the light cycle through from green to yellow to red and then count “1, 2, 3″ before approaching the intersection.  If you fail to follow the rules, like the scofflaw driver blowing through the red light, you’re likely to get run over.  Really.

There isn’t a single time I’ve been out getting some miles in, when I haven’t observed drivers running red lights.  It is no joke.  I can appreciate the frustration with Albany’s lights which sometimes seemed timed expressly for making me late for my destination.  I get it.  But, seriously?  Is it really going to be worth running a person or animal over?  Drivers in Albany really need to drink a big old mug of slow the f*ck down.

Red light cameras are controversial and considered by some to be invasive, but I truly believe their value in potentially protecting lives exceeds their threat to privacy. Folks are concerned that the company which will be monitoring the cameras will be aggressively doling out tickets because they are a for-profit entity. So? Don’t run red lights and it will cost you nothing.

Albany is a fine place to live.  We have invested in schools and libraries and crosswalks.  There are cool new places to shop and eat and our mayor is committed to the arts.  Wouldn’t it be great if families felt comfortable moving into our city because they knew that public safety was a genuine priority?  I’m all for quality of life tickets a la Giuliani, jaywalking, bike riding in the wrong direction on the streets, drivers failing to respect pedestrians in crosswalks and red light runners.  Give them a warning then give them a ticket.  If the ticket comes from a camera monitored traffic light, give them the picture, too.  It’ll last longer, right?

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Filed under Albany, Local, News, Observations, politics, running, upstate New York

My primary problem

I’m a teacher and a member of NYSUT.  I’m not always a fan of my union or some of the marketing with which they provide me.  Things like solicitations for rental car companies and insurance opportunities don’t seem like benefits as much as they feel like invasions of my privacy and personal information.  I don’t like it.

My union, however,  provides support to me and my peers when we are threatened with disciplinary action or termination.  Neither NYSUT or my local union guarantee me retention of my professional position in the case of an issue, but they do ensure my right to a formal process thanks to tenure.  On some primary level, they are working for me and I am appreciative of that benefit.

Our current governor, Andrew Cuomo, began his “tenure” with great promise.  The vote to pass gay marriage in the NYS senate was a thrill to witness and I have a number of friends who finally share the same right to wed that I’ve had my entire adult life.  An unequal situation has been rectified and all residents of New York now enjoy the same fundamental right.  Unfortunately, that’s the only example I can provide as an instance of when our governor worked to ensure that all New Yorkers shared the same opportunities.

Since that auspicious beginning, I have grown completely disenchanted with our arrogant and bullying governor.  Maybe it wasn’t completely his initiative, but during his administration, education was “improved” by instituting a new professional evaluation rubric, a new comprehensive curriculum was adopted and layers upon layers of new testing mandates were created. Along with a new tax cap, of course. We all know how easy it is to do more with less, right? His mishandling of the findings of the Moreland Commission was the “adult” equivalent of taking his ball home and quitting the game when the rules (or more accurately, findings) failed to go his way.  His recent behavior when approached by the politically unconnected professor who is challenging him in today’s primary, revealed his true colors to me in a manner which I find despicable.

Far from being the man who can clean up Albany, Governor Cuomo has instead contributed his own smear of dirt and mud on the political process and government of my state. Tuesday, 9/9, is the day when registered Democrats can send him the message that they don’t like what he’s doing to our state.  We can vote for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu and enjoy the sensation of bubbling in the circle(s) on today’s ballot next to those fresh new names. Even if they don’t win today because of their lack of experience and membership in the good ol’ boys’ club, it will be a pleasure to vote for someone, instead of against someone else.  I’ll never vote for Cuomo again.

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Filed under Albany, Education, politics