Thursday, March 2, 2017


On Tuesday I attended my first Panel on Education Policy (PEP). Here I saw the illusion of democracy in action. It was a glaringly familiar practice: allow the public a short window to speak on the issues then a small body appointed by the people in power makes all the decisions. I watched confused as 11 people consistently voted unanimously to close school after school, co-locate schools, and create more space for charters while the audience looked around at each other quietly saying, "Wait. What is happening? Should we do something?" and then we all stayed quiet.

It was one of those moments where you realize how important local politics really are and how little you understand the rules of bureaucracy.

Despite the mayor and the schools chancellor claiming to have moved past the policies of Bloomberg, we know it's all semantics. They can give it a new name, but they are following in Bloomberg's footsteps. Maybe they're closing fewer schools and opening fewer charters, but they are clearly on the same path: blaming public schools for failing, but never going far enough to provide them with the resources needed to succeed.

I listened to voices of parents, teachers, and students try to save their school communities. One student brought the auditorium to tears as he begged the panel not to split up his school community between two buildings just to make room for another charter school.

It was simultaneously disheartening and inspiring.

As I looked around the room, I was left wondering two questions:
Why aren't more people here?
Where is the UFT? Where were our union leaders speaking out against this? Where are all our colleagues? These decisions affect students and affect our union members, yet no one from the UFT Leadership was there to save these schools.


You can find the vote results here if you'd like to know what decisions were made by the panel.

This experience made me want to share the proposals for the upcoming PEP on March 22nd. If you're in NYC, I hope you'll be there to witness the madness and maybe even speak up.

The following items will be posted for the public review period. Oral and written comments will be accepted from February 1, 2017 through March 21, 2017 at 6:00pm. The Panel will vote on the items at the March 22, 2017 Panel meeting which will take place at 6:00pm at the High School for Fashion Industries (225 W 24th St, Manhattan, NY 10011).


Public Notice and Educational Impact Statement
Hearing Date, Time and Location
The Proposed Consolidation of Pablo Neruda Academy (08X305) with Bronx Guild (08X452) in Building X450 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Max Applebaum

Phone: 212-374-5159

March 6, 2017 at 6:00 PM at
Building X450
1980 Lafayette Avenue
Bronx, NY 10473
The Proposed Closure of J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini (09X145) in Building X145 at the End of the 2016-2017 School Year
Contact: Jyoti Folch

Phone: 212-374-5159

March 6, 2017 at 6:00 PM at
Building X145
1000 Teller Avenue
Bronx, NY 10456
The Proposed Closure of Leadership Institute (09X276) in Building X004 at the End of the 2016-2017 School Year
Contact: Jyoti Folch

Phone: 212-374-5159

March 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM at
Building X004
1701 Fulton Avenue
Bronx, NY 10457 
The Proposed Consolidation of the Young Scholars Academy of the Bronx (11X289) with the North Bronx School of Empowerment (11X287) in Building X113 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Max Applebaum

Phone: 212-374-5159


March 8, 2017 at 6:00 PM at
Building X113
3710 Barnes Avenue
Bronx, NY 10467
The Proposed Closure of Monroe Academy for Visual Arts & Design (12X692) in Building X420 at the End of the 2016-2017 School Year
Contact: Jyoti Folch

Phone: 212-374-5159

March 15, 2017 at 6:00 PM at
Building X420
1300 Boynton Avenue
Bronx, NY 10472


Public Notice and Educational Impact Statement
Hearing Date, Time and Location
The Proposed Consolidation of Francis Perkins Academy (14K632) with Automotive High School (14K610) in Building K610 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Max Familian

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 7, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K610
50 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222 
The Proposed Closure of M.S. 584 (16K584) in Building K335 at the end of the 2016-2017 School Year
Contact: Kelly Krag-Arnold

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 6, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K335
130 Rochester Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213 
The Proposed Grade Truncation of P.S. 262 El Hajj Malik El Shabazz School (16K262) from a K-8 School to a K-5 School in the 2017-2018 School Year

Contact: Kelly Krag-Arnold

Phone: 212-374-0208


March 9, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K262
500 Macon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11233
The Proposed Consolidation of Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School (16K393) with the Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance (16K688) in Building K057 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Tyeshia Smith

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 13, 2017 at 6:00 PM.
Building K057
125 Stuyvesant Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11221
The Proposed Opening and Co-Location of Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy with J.H.S. 57 Whitelaw Reid (16K057) and the consolidated Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance (16K688) in Building K057 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Tyeshia Smith

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 13, 2017 at 6:00 PM.
Building K057
125 Stuyvesant Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11221
The Proposed Grade Truncation of P.S. 306 Ethan Allen (19K306) in Building K306 from a K-8 School to a K-5 School Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Max Familian

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K306
970 Vermont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11207
The Proposed Closure of Essence School (19K311) in Building K190 at the End of the 2016-2017 School Year
Contact: Max Familian

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 8, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K190
590 Sheffield
Brooklyn, NY 11207 
The Proposed Grade Truncation of P.S. 165 Ida Posner (23K165) in Building K165 from a K-8 School to a K-5 School beginning in the 2017-18 School Year
Contact: Kelly Krag-Arnold

Phone: 212-374-0208

March 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building K165
76 Lott Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11212 


Public Notice and Educational Impact Statement
Hearing Date, Time and Location
The Proposed Opening and Co-Location of New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV (84QTBD) with Channel View School for Research (27Q262), Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability (27Q324), Rockaway Collegiate High School (27Q351), P.S. Q256 (75Q256), and Alternate Learning Center - Beach Channel Educational Complex (88Q996), in Building Q410 Beginning in the 2017-2018 School Year
Contact: Rasheida Alston

Phone: 212-374-7621


March 8, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Building Q410
100-00 Beach Channel Drive
Queens, NY 11694
  • Contacts
  • Panel for Educational Policy
    52 Chambers Street
    New York NY 10007
    212-374-5038 (Phone)
    212-374-5588 (Fax)
Contracts Committee Meeting March 21, 2017 - 5:30 P.M.
Tweed Courthouse - Second Floor Conference Room
52 Chambers St.
New York, NY 10007

Panel MeetingMarch 22, 2017 - 6:00 P.M.
High School for Fashion Industries
225 W 24th St.
Manhattan, NY 10011

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

RE: The Senate Confirmation Hearing for Betsy DeVos (a letter to our senators)

Tonight I watched the senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education. It left me feeling enraged and empowered. I took notes during the 3+ hours of every person who spoke and what they said. I plan to write letters to all the senators on the committee with my thoughts. Here is my first draft of a letter to all the committee members present at the hearing. Please feel free to use this as a start to your own letters of opposition or share with others who may want to speak out.

I'm ready to mobilize now.

RE: The Senate Confirmation Hearing for Betsy DeVos

Dear members of the Senate Education & Health Committee,

I watched all of the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos this evening and took detailed notes on each of your questions and your responses to Ms. DeVos' answers. I was left feeling that I must write a letter to all of you. I'm a high school special education teacher working in a public school in New York City. Many of the issues discussed tonight are deeply important to me, my colleagues, my family, and my students.

Senator Lamar Alexander, you ruled this hearing with an iron fist, creating precedents that don't exist to silence those who might oppose Ms. DeVos. You refused to allow for further questions because of what appeared to be your own fear that she might be publicly scrutinized and we'd all realize what a terrible choice this woman is for Secretary of Education. You made me question your commitment to the issues and the fairness of these hearings. It is clear you have strong opinions about who the next Secretary of Education should be and tried to shut down any chance of the American public seeing her flaws.

Senator Patty Murray, early on you stated your commitment to scrutinizing every nominee and noting how important the Secretary of education position is and how important our children are. You raised questions about Ms. DeVos' missing government ethics paperwork, her tax returns and potential conflicts of interest. You raised questions about her alliance to Trump and the comments he's made about groping women and asked important questions about her commitment to protecting young women from sexual assault in schools. You helped to keep Senator Alexander accountable for his refusal to allow the members to ask follow up questions. Most importantly, you questioned Ms. DeVos' commitment to public education, an issue very close to my heart. Thank you.

Tim Scott, Mike Enzi,  Pat Roberts, Johnny Isakson, Orrin Hatch, Bill Cassidy, Todd YoungRand Paul, and Richard Burr you all commended Ms. DeVos on her accomplishments and ignored the obvious flaws to her resume and her character. You avoided asking difficult questions. You turned a blind eye to this woman's inexperience and clear bias towards the privatization of public schools and the expansion of charters. You ignore the evidence that charter schools do not solve the problems within our education system. You ignore the fact that sending a kid to a charter does not guarantee their success. These policies do not "save" children. She is not a white savior. As a public school special education teacher in New York City I am horrified and offended that you would consider Ms. DeVos as a serious candidate for this position. What this really tells me is you do not have a clue about education or our children. If you really cared about improving education, you would oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary. I hope you will take my comments to heart and consider the moral and ethical implications of appointing Ms. DeVos.

Thank you Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, Bob Casey, Al Franken, Michael Bennett, Christopher Murphy, Elizabeth Warren, Maggie HassanTim Kaine, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski for your commitment to ask tough questions and hold Betsy DeVos accountable for her answers. I appreciate the energy, time and commitment you made for our schools, our students and teachers like me. Thank you to those of you who continually asked for a second round of follow up questions, for pointing out the questions that went unanswered and for clearly stating the concerns many of us share about the possibility of Betsy DeVos becoming our Secretary of Education. You confirmed for me what I already knew, that Betsy DeVos does not have the knowledge or experience necessary to be an effective Secretary of Education.

Among the myriad of issues I had with Betsy DeVos' comments during the hearing,  there were two things that stuck out to me most this evening.

1. Ms. DeVos said she would defer to state and local governments about whether guns have a place in schools. This was horrifying to hear. Many of our jaws dropped and we may have even laughed thinking this was another SNL skit when she cited grizzly bears as one reason schools may need guns inside. The issue of school shootings, violence, and authoritarians abusing their power cannot be stated enough. Guns have no place in schools and I am shocked that this would even be a serious suggestion.

2. Ms. DeVos admitted to being confused about the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and not realizing that it is a Federal law created to allow ALL students, particularly those with disabilities, equal access to resources. This is truly problematic. This is one of the most basic and important laws in education history and she didn't know it. How can we appoint someone who has such limited knowledge of students with disabilities and their rights to education?

I hope you will consider my comments when you vote on Tuesday.

Thank you again for your time and commitment to these very important issues.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Pursuit of Happiness

Yesterday we were given two options. They could not have given us worst options. It was the illusion of choice and freedom.

When I started at this school I was told I could teach anything I wanted and I did. And I was happy. For the last three years, I have been told what to teach and when I advocated for myself, I was given some flexibility some of the time, but it was seen as a flaw in my character. And with these most recent options I'm moving towards another decision. It's time to start looking for a new school. I can teach SETSS and test prep anywhere.

The thing I loved most about this school has faded away. I miss creating classes that I loved teaching and that kids loved taking. I miss waking up in the morning excited to go to work. I miss the empathy students used to have, when expectations were clear, and students were accountable for their behavior. I miss having time to go out to lunch with my colleagues and talking about something other than how miserable we are at work.

It breaks my heart to feel like I can't be happy in a place that used to make me so happy, that felt like a second home. I don't want to leave, but I don't want to feel this unhappy anymore. I'm not sure what else I can do to be happy teaching again. So I have to try and start looking elsewhere.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Problem We All Live With

I've been listening to a This American Life podcast on my way to work the last two days and trying not to cry in public. The episode is called "The Problem We All Live With" and it's about the present-day segregation of schools and how we all seem to be ignoring the problem with segregation despite evidence that integration works.

What was most upsetting was hearing white parents speak publicly about integration like it was the worst idea ever, making blatantly racist comments then denying their own racism and bias. Some of the parents were demanding metal detectors and claiming that test scores would drop, that violence and drugs would erupt in the school. No matter how often I hear comments like that, it never ceases to amaze me that people still think that way. What makes someone think like that? Is it how they were raised? Is it just the result of media bias and sensationalized news? Is it politicians who have influenced their beliefs? Is it because of housing segregation and their own segregated schooling that never allowed them the opportunity to befriend a black person? The problem of segregation is so big, so ignored, and so ingrained in our society. How do we even begin to tackle it?

What inspired me most about this story was hearing about the first day of school. The black students were bused over from their failing school district 30 miles away. Some of the parents followed the bus because they feared for their children's safety. When the children pulled up to the school in fear they were surprised to find themselves greeted by cheerleaders welcoming them to their new school. Teachers and students were so horrified by the way the white parents had behaved that they decided to do something positive.

And then, of course, I had to hold back more tears on the train.

Friday, September 30, 2016

When Principals Become Dictators...

On the train ride in I thought about E--. I taught him my first two years of teaching. It made me sad and angry to remember how the school failed him. He was growing and the school couldn't see it, stifling his growth. And that's how it was there and still is. A principal so insecure of herself that she takes it out on everyone around her. All her actions, her decisions ultimately impact the students, ultimately hurt the students.

I ran into one of my former co-teachers, who is still at the school, and she told me that there's now a shout-out box at school. A student wrote that the principal "would make a great dictator." And the principal was so proud that she read it aloud to the entire school. And people were uncomfortable and surprised and thinking, "uh that's not a good thing." And I wonder if she knew that and was just using it as a way to flaunt her dominance, celebrate her dictatorship. Hearing stories like these just remind me how lucky I am to be somewhere else and make me sad that I was powerless to impact change at my first school.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September Toast

Before I check my email I'm going to read and then I'm going to write. Then I get to work and almost immediately check my email, but I catch myself as the icon bounces open and minimize the browser before I can see any of the new, unread messages and quickly turn my swivel chair to the right. I listen to the complaints, another meeting. Three hours of useless meetings a week for some of us. That's too many. M--- says he can't sleep at night and I'm surprised. So chill most of the time. This is alarming. But we keep on. A sigh of defeat. No solutions to the systematic problems that never get solved, rarely get addressed. I think maybe it's time to move on, go somewhere else, but what's out there might be worse. And maybe I'm too comfortable, the luxury of being lazy when I want to, or maybe that's a sign of being overwhelmed and depressed. I can't stop the worry. Two years in a row I'm hearing, I'm saying, "I'm burnt out and it's only September."

Friday, July 29, 2016

Brief Moments in Time

“We are only bodies of energy
Our lives are but brief moments in time”
We hope our lives are worth living
that we’ve made some small impact on humanity
before we die
Alone, our actions are miniature
small figurines fighting against
an armored tank
protecting a history of oppression
a system that thrives on injustice
where our duty i to muster up the energy
to make the tiniest waves
to speak up for those
who have lost their voices
“We are only bodies of energy
Our lives are but brief moments in time”
We hope our lives were worth living
that we’ve lived a comfortable life
afraid to speak up for others
and lose all that comfort provides
We close our eyes,
shut our mouths,
cover our ears
ignore what’s going on outside
“We are only bodies of energy
Our lives are but brief moments in time”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lessons from the Schoolyard

Elementary school was
me always in trouble
doing and saying the wrong things
getting blamed for some other kid’s discretions
3rd grade
in line at recess
waiting for the gymnast bars
next to the jungle gym
Raymond, the only boy
struggling to lift himself up
as the other girls
laughed, pointed, and mocked
and maybe it’s a false memory
but I’m pretty sure
I stood by silently
and when Raymond finished with those bars
he bolted towards me
and I took off
dashing across the grassy field
the sound of his grunts and footsteps
close behind me
so I gave up
covered my head in defense
and stopped
but Raymond kept running
smacked his head right into me
collapsed on the ground
his thick brown plastic glasses
lay by his side
in two pieces

When I was pulled into the Principal's’ office
I knew before I even spoke
my sentence had been determined
“Now Jamie, Raymond is going to speak first, while you listen.”
insulted by the directions
as if I didn’t know how to have a conversation
And when it was my turn to speak
no one listened
it was like my side of the story was never spoken
assumed guilty
but I knew I was innocent
“Now you’ll want to tell your parents before we call them”
“two days in the planning room for you to reflect on your actions”
And no one ever called my house
because they called the wrong parents
my aunt and uncle got the message
and when my uncle told my dad
he laughed and said,
“I bet that boy’s dad is real upset,
he got beat up by a girl,
how pathetic”

And in the planning room when I described what happened
I was told I couldn’t leave until I admitted
to punching that boy on purpose
so I erased my original statement
a plea of innocence
and fear and accidental violence
was rescinded
and I falsely submitted
guilty words
composed in lies
because I was too young
for adults to think this little 10 year old
was capable of being honest.
Elementary school
This young girl’s first exposure
To the unjust system
Of guilty until proven innocent.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

No Teacher Left Behind

Passed two CLEP exams yesterday. They were hard and exhausting. I went to a baby shower after and was too tired to carry on a conversation. Hopefully I now have enough credits for my plus 30 pay increase. It's hard to know for sure because the DOE and the college board are so cryptic in their explanations or lack thereof. No one seems to know how many credits any of the exams are worth. Just another layer of bureaucracy in an already complicated, inefficient system.

The greater philosophical problem I have with the CLEPs is the same problem I have with all standardized high-stakes testing. You take a test, you get your score, you know you answered some questions wrong, but you have no idea which ones so you never learn the "correct" answers. You don't know for sure what you know and you don't learn anything from the test itself.

And so I wonder: how is a test educational if the person taking it never sees the breakdown of the results and therefore never learns from their mistakes?