Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Open Letter to Our Next Mayor: Hurry Up Already!!

Dear Mayor-elect de Blasio,

Congratulations on your victory last month! You may be interested to know that I was rooting for you since before you were a front-runner. After twelve years of rule by a one-percenter, your campaign of liberal populism inspired me into hoping that New York could have mayor that actually understood the people he governed. Seeing your victory was like a breath of fresh air and I hope you govern as you promised; bearing the other half (or 46%) in mind.
Why? well, because I think you know that New York's poverty problem won't go without New Yorkers coming together to address it! I think you get -really get- that forging one city out of the two we currently have will take an 'all-in' approach from its residents, and I sort of think you're the guy who can convince those residents to go all-in. You look like a uniter and that's just what NYC needs.
And I know you know that our city's problems won't go away until its schools become a place of support for children and until those schools are seen as only one part of the problem of addressing poverty. As you know, those schools have become obsessed with accountability over the past twelve years. That obsession has led our whole system into dissaray. And whenever the public discussion turns to the topic of education, the conversation becomes so polarized that it actually has damaging effects on those who depend on public education the most.

I'm sure you're aware that teachers across the city are demoralized. We are not the problem. And I'm sure you're aware that charter schools have been given too much leeway -for political (as opposed to pedagogical) reasons. They are not the solution. And I'm very sure  you're aware that children are the only reason any of us have a job. Yet, nine times out of ten, they are not the topic of discussion! Can you believe that?
Common sense tells us that there are bad teachers just as there are good (even great) charters and that students needs to be involved in every discussion we have. Applying still more common sense, one could easily see that focusing only on teachers or only on charters -or only on standardized tests- will not bring the discussion back to students.

It will also not bring order to a chaotic school system and the most cantankerous group of stakeholders the country has ever seen. We need to get to a place where we can all talk about the child again. We need to talk about the child -the whole child- and nothing but the child.  But while we need to do that while considering respect for teacher, school leaders, support staff and parents, we also need to be honest and we all need to solutions-driven as we have that discussion.
And yet we can't do that if we don't know who the next school leader is! We need a uniter, so guys like me can feel safe enough to stop being a partisan and start being a participant again. But we need one with sharp elbows. We need a recognized leader, so everyone can accept that the person who is united us actually has their bona fides. But we need one who will listen. We need someone who can challenge the system, so that it can move toward a supportive structure while maintaining its commitment to accountability. But we need one who will make this system's hard working employees feel the reward that civil service's greatest endeavor brings.

But if any of that is going to happen, we need to hit the ground running on 1/1/14!! It's been almost a month and a half since you've won. I'm writing to ask if you would please hurry  and pick a chancellor. That person, whoever he or she is, will need as much time as possible to put a leadership team together and right the ship down there at the Tweed Courthouse.

Do you want a system of support? The person who gets the job will need enough time to get ready. Do you want a teaching core -the finest in the nation- who is treated with respect? The person who gets the job will need enough time to get ready. Do you want to end the polarized atmosphere from among the stakeholders (like me) and give us all a chance to get back on the same page? The person who gets the job will need enough time to get ready. Do you want a local government that will stop thinking about different ways of telling the world we have great schools and start thinking about what those great schools do? The person who gets the job will need enough time to get ready.
In short, Mr. Mayor-elect: Tick-tock! We're all waiting to see exactly what the next page in NYC's history is with regard to its schools. Time is getting short and we'd all like you to hurry it up.
Thanks for reading,

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