Category Archives: politics

April Fool me

If I had known 25 years ago that choosing a career as a public school teacher would mean fighting for survival against a megalomaniac governor, I might have elected to simply stay full-time in the hospitality industry. During my college days, I imagined my biggest challenge would be landing a job in what is a fairly specialized field after graduation, particularly in an area with a university which was churning out qualified applicants. Ha.

I no have education. I have inspiration. If I was educated, I would be a damn fool. Bob Marley

My first job, landed within months of graduation, was a long-term sub position in a small urban district. I was racing between three buildings and loving it. Even though the job was only temporary, I poured my heart into it and felt completely gratified that I had made a great decision and had indeed found the perfect career for my skills and strengths.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.  William Shakespeare

Since that time I’ve been tenured in three different school districts, in three different counties. Each time I changed jobs I did so with tremendous consideration – how would my new position impact my family, my day-to-day life, my career, my salary? Without exception, I embraced the new opportunity and have been satisfied with my decision to start over again in a new district.

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.  Charlie Chaplin

I’ve been a public school teacher for nearly 20 years and I have never been more discouraged about the future of my profession. In the last few years, I have seen quality educators leaving the field in alarming numbers. They’re tired of being beaten down by elected officials and bureaucrats who wouldn’t last a day in their shoes. Positions go unfilled because of lack of qualified applicants. A person would have to be crazy to go into education now.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln

Our governor has sold out the children of NYS to for-profit companies who will subject students to tests which are age-inappropriate and rigged for failure. He will continue his efforts to break organized labor unions and privatize education. The legislature had fewer than 12 hours to read and vote on Cuomo’s final bill – less time than the average NYS 9-year-old will seated to take their assessment exams.

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. Benjamin Franklin

I didn’t vote for Cuomo last year and I will never again support politicians who supported his education bill.  Unlike the elected representatives who provided lip service to educators and parents across the state, that’s a promise I’m going to keep.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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Filed under Education, politics, Schools

New St. Patrick’s Day parade rules

I couldn’t be happier about the new rules announced this morning regarding Albany’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. In years past this event has been an absolute sh*t show and I haven’t felt comfortable taking my kids there in many years. If you know me, you know I’m all about having fun and a couple of drinks, but this annual event has repeatedly proven that far too many people have no capacity for moderation – or alcohol.

I think the comments posted under the TU article are representative of a smallminded percent of the population, but maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?  How do you feel about these new policies?  The response I would provide to the commenters is below.

I assume you all live in the city of Albany, right? You probably own property and pay taxes, too, don’t you? And vote, also. Maybe you have children you would like to bring to the parade but haven’t in years past because of the drunken and disorderly crowd in attendance? Well, I meet all of the preceding criteria and I am thrilled by the crackdown on public intoxication and the promised enforcement of appropriate public behavior. I love this mayor – she represents me and thousands of Albany citizens who want our city to be a place for families and residents who understand and appreciate that quality of life for citizens is an important factor in the place we have chosen to call home.  

I’m seriously considering going to the parade this year, my youngest child has never been and I’d like for him to experience festivities relating to his heritage.  The weather forecast isn’t great, but as long as it is only the sky pissing on me, I think we might just get there.  Erin Go Bragh!

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Events, family, Irish, Local, politics

Feeling testy about NYS assessments

imageHow much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?

As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*

That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.

I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.

This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.

*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).

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Filed under Education, Events, politics, Schools, Uncategorized

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