Thursday, May 31, 2007

Now What?

OK, I hope people are finding their way to my new site. I have now done 1 1/2 days at my new school. It is certainly a different place from my last school. Teachers are not all totally happy, they sometimes tell me teacher complaints. But, they are generally happy to be where they are. They all believe that kids should have input into what happens in the school. The kids are allowed out for lunch and the administration put limits on how far they could go. This was done mostly out of a concern for the kids safety. The problem was that a favorite Chinese restaurant was past the boundary the kids put petitions on the wall and kids signed them. The kids felt that they would actually be listened to. This sure beats the get out the dogs and water canons approach of my old school.

The ridiculous thing is that I signed the agreement that got me out of the rubber room three weeks ago. There needed to be two signatures on the document at the DoE, my LIS and the head of legal. Why should this take thee weeks. At the end of week two I sent an email to my lawyer and told her we must have a big problem, I could not believe that the DoE was that inefficient. Last Saturday, May 26, I received a letter from the DoE saying that they had dropped the charges and that my supervisor would tell me where to go. The letter was dated May 22. There was no mention of who my supervisor was or when they would tell me where to go. They had sent this letter regular snail mail. So it took four days, who cares. Of course it cost the DoE 41 cents in postage, you would think an email would save them money. Of course then I would have know right away.

I knew where I was going, because I had negotiated this. The old Ed would have gotten the letter and just gone to my new school. The new Ed went back to the rubber room and waited for the DoE to figure out how to give me a letter assigning me to my new school. The old Ed would have done what was sensible. The new Ed plays by the DoE rules and doesn't do anything until someone tells him.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

The DoE wanted me to close down my other blog. This was a ridiculous request but I have to say that the title of my old blog is no longer accurate. It is time for a new start. I have included an archive of my old blog as well as the last few entries I wrote. It is possible that when I start working I will not write as often. I will try for a while.


The DoE reported its new statistics the other day. They apparently went down in the early grades. They then spoke about why this was true. I actually agree and don't agree with them. The truth is that No Child Left Behind has created a bizarre testing program that penalizes NYC and other cities with large immigrant populations. It seems as though the NCLB people are attempting to keep cities from cheating and have created an even worse situation.

The DoE and in particular the principals of elementary schools are notorious cheaters. They have been guilty of classifying large numbers of kids as ESL kids and then keeping them out of the tests. The NCLB decided that every student had to take the test after one year in this country. The existence of a rule is a good idea. The problem is that one year is not enough time. Three years is a much better number. As I wrote about a long time ago when I was placing kids in the Bronx smart ambitious principals fight to keep ESL kids out of their schools. What the feds need to do is create a clear and fair rule.

One of the rules the feds want to use is the one about graduation rates. The feds want to count who graduates and divide this against who starts the ninth grade. The DoE doesn't like this one either. They want to add in those who graduate in August. This is not a terrible thing to do. I actually think the DoE is correct in this. August doesn't stop a kid from going to college in the fall. Lots of kids screw up something and need that final summer school push to get out. This should not be held against the schools. I also think we need to have a 5 year graduation rate statistic available to us. In NYC this may be the most important statistic.

I understand that the Newsweek choice of 100 best schools is flawed. It uses AP tests and IB tests as a benchmark. Principals find they can cheat the system by putting lots of kids in AP classes. Still, this may not be so bad. In my ex-school the last principal had pushed to create AP and IB courses. On one level it would seem that we did not have enough students to fill these courses. This was true. We did not have enough students working on a high level. The reality was that putting kids in classes that were beyond them on paper motivated kids to work to a higher level. This is a great thing.

Hello Kitty

Yesterday I was coming home on the subway. Sitting in the seat next to where I was standing was a cute woman with blond hair and blue eyes. She was using a hello kitty calculator to correct tests on "Julius Caesar". Of course I started talking to her. She said that she was a teacher at a small school in the Bronx. We started talking about what she was teaching. She was not in love with the books she was teaching. I asked her how much input she had in the choice. She said none. That seems strange. Why would someone who had been teaching high school for eight years not have any input into what she taught. I said she was blond, not dumb.

Recently there have been people writing about what is wrong with the military. One of the things they write about is a system that does not encourage people to innovate. Eventually you end up with leaders who aren't innovative. I think this starts at the bottom. I think that the DoE starts out dealing with teachers as if they are not capable of making decisions. They do not dialog with teachers. Eventually they end up with leaders who don't know how to make decisions. The DoE also ends up with leaders who treat teachers like idiots because they were treated that way when they were young.

Newsweek has a list of the top 100 high schools in the country. Their conclusion is that these schools got that way because they had strong committed principals. This is probably true. The DoE seems to recognize this on one level. The problem is that they interpret strong as anti-teacher. When my daughter was in fourth grade she had the best teacher I have ever met. She was truly awe inspiring. I later saw her as a principal. She was a tough principal who had lots of grievances filed against her. She also had an incredibly loyal staff who adored her. This seems like a contradiction but I don't think so. I think she respected teachers who did good work and had little tolerance for the coasters. She eventually became a much loved district superintendent and then the head of curriculum for the DoE. Her name is Carmen Farina and she only lasted a short time. She retired and was replaced by a guy with a law degree who had only taught for a few years. I guess Joel is more comfortably surrounding himself with lawyers than educators. Particularly those who love education.

Saint Edward

I actually never did this, but someone said I shouldn't consider myself a saint, so I decided to look up Saint Edward. For you Jew folks, or others who don't know how it works, all us Catholic babies have to be named after a saint. Anyway there are apparently two saint Edwards. One was called Edward the Confessor and the other was Edward the Martyr. The confessor was a nice guy who gave money to poor people and and eventually in his 40's was asked to marry a woman called the virtuous Edith by his subjects. He agreed but only if he could live with her as if she was his sister because he had made a vow of chastity.

The second was Edward the martyr. He was sitting on his horse drinking mead when an assassin hired by his step mother stabbed him. He was a defender of the faith and so a light shone on him when he died and he became a saint. Obviously this is the Edward I was named after. I'll take mead over chastity any day, though I do seem to have problems with evil step mothers.

Of course I am not a saint. The person that keeps pointing this out to me is correct. This person also thinks I didn't do all my observations last year and that is a total lie.

I do feel that their are rational ways to deal with bad teachers. There are certainly ways to deal with them when they are just starting. The hardest thing I have ever done is to fire someone. Particularly when I liked them. But some people should not teach, or they should not teach at that point in their lives. I have also been guilty of pushing bad teachers out to a different place instead of working to get them to stop teaching. This is not something I am necessarily proud of.

To get back to management. The problem with the formal observation is that it quickly becomes formalistic. It does not serve anyone. When I was a young Catholic boy I would go to confession. I was really too little to have sinned, but you had to say something to the priest. So you made up some little kid sins. I disobeyed my mother 3 times, I said bad words. Stuff like that. This happens in observations all the time. Not just mine, because I have read other observations and I have sat in on post-ops with the principal. You have to say something, so you do. You sit there and act like the expert. This is absurd. This is education. Some of us know more than others, but almost none of us can be called experts. The principal thinks she is an expert, the AP security thinks he is an expert, but the truth is that they are just two voices among many. We need to stop dealing with experienced teacher as if we are "the" expert. We need to start having a dialog.


The new DoE seems to be begging for new ways to run schools. It is possible that there are many sincere people involved in this. The DoE has created a school to teach people how to manage schools. I then hear from people who work for these new principals and they are often very disappointed with the level of management. I wonder why.

My masters program emphasized management. We read books about how the best organizations were managed. It was an interesting program. It did not emphasize managing schools. It emphasized managing people. Klein seems to have fallen in love with Jack Welch. Welch talks about getting rid of the bottom 10% of your workers to make things efficient. This would seem to be a sensible approach to management. The problem is that we are dealing with public employees. These employees are more about politics than management. If you look around the rubber room you will see that people here are not the bottom 10% they are the people who the principal has a political agenda against.

There are teachers in my school who are spectacularly bad. AP's are after some of them but most of them are not attacked. If they pass the kids the AP is happy. The AP's grumble but they are not motivated to go after these poor teachers. The system is not designed to do this. Everyone complains about how hard it is to do. But it is really a matter of the will of the higher ups. They need to stop complaining about the contract and learn how to work within it. This is the same as the DA's office complaining about the constitution. If they wanted to eliminate the bottom 10% it would mean that there would be 5000 people in the rubber room, not 600+.

The first year that I was an AP I went to a meeting at the superintendent's. There was a power point presentation. They were sketching out how we were going to increase the math scores. They had a 5 year plan. At that point only 20% of the kids were on or above grade in math. They said that the next year we would increase the number to 23%. This seemed like a good increase and doable. The year after we would go to 25%. This seemed like it would be much harder to do. I was starting to wonder how we were going to pull this off. Then we would go to 35% then 50% then 80%. I thought to myself, these guys are crazy. They did this with a straight face.

The point of the above story is that the way you manage in the DoE is to promise something modest for next year and then something amazing for 5 years later. This makes you look like you are going to achieve great things. The institutional memory of the DoE is so short that you never get caught. Meanwhile everyone sees you as a visionary.

I have added another blog to my list of links. It is called Education Notes Online. It seems to be written by someone who is active in anti-unity UFT politics. My kind of guy.

Stupid in America - Call me John

I was watching the 20/20 show by John Stossel called Stupid in America. I was watching it on Youtube. If you are reading this in a DoE school you can't watch it because Youtube is blocked. It is also blocked to US troops in Iraq. I was watching it because he apparently mentioned the rubber room. Stossel started off by saying how it was impossible to get into a New York City public school to film, he then spoke about how in Washington DC the schools would only let him see the best classes. This is not a surprise. I remembered when I was in advertising that if we wanted to shoot an ad in a school we always went to the Catholic schools because the city would take so long to give you permission that you could never schedule an ad.

News shows such as 20/20 always have an agenda. The agenda in this particular show seemed to be that competition in education will make education better. That all students should have a dollar amount attached to them and be able to take this money any place they want to. In other words, vouchers. I have certain reservations about vouchers. I do not want to see a school system become segregated. I believe that public education is an important element in democracy. Having said that, I probably work in one of the most segregated school systems in the country.

Toward the end of the show, past the 30 minute mark, Stossel starts talking about the rubber room and what a waste of money it is. He says that the DoE will not let him go into one of the rubber rooms. He then turns around and interviews Joel Klein. Klein tells the story of a teacher accused of sexually inappropriate emails to a students who spends two years in the rubber room and is eventually sent back to his school. Stossel listens intently and shake his head in disbelief at how the UFT has corrupted education. Come on John. You said that Klein wouldn't let you into the rubber room and now you are willing to sit and believe everything he is telling you. Why didn't you ask him why he wouldn't let you into the rubber room. Why didn't you insist that he let you in before you would air his views. I like you John, but this is very sloppy reporting and you know it.

One of Stossel's points was that schools waste a lot of money on unnecessary things. The rubber room is considered a waste of money. John, everyone here agrees with you. If you want to talk to me I'll talk to you. I'll even get a bunch of other people in this room to talk to you provided you disguise us the same way you would disguise a Mafia informer. The DoE is probably more vindictive than the Mafia.

My name is Ed, this is different than Ed. with a period at the end. I seemed to have made this mistake on a previous blog. I was quoting from a blog called Ed. Blog. I think I forgot the period.

My wife accused me of ranting in my last blog. I may have been. I do feel passionately that the DoE has created a system that makes it difficult to be a good manager. The observation rules are just the beginning of this. There are a million things that the DoE asks us to do that leave us little time or energy to do what we should be doing. I believe that the really good managers in the system ignore many of these requirements.

What's wrong with Ed

Ed does stupid things that get him in trouble. But I am not sure that these really are as stupid as some people make them out to be. One of the major issues in my incompetence hearing revolves around my inability to do observations. Last year this was not true, because last year the observations were designed to evaluate my staff. Last year we were supposed to observe tenured teachers one time and un-tenured three times. My understanding is that the principal is proud that this "nightmare" is over and that they are back to five observations for un-tenured and two for tenured.

I believe that we have created a system that does a bad job of allowing us to manage people. Observations are part of this system. The first time I was observed I was an over 40 year old new teacher. My science chair came in to watch me and afterward I sat down with him. I thought that we were sitting down to discuss what I had taught and that I would speak about what I was trying to do and that he would help me achieve my ends. Not true. What I got was a standard observation spouting some NYC teacher wisdom. It was filled with words such as "aim" and "do now" that only exist in NYC. It did not take into account my contribution to the teaching process. It was designed to tell me how to teach as if there was one way to teach. It was not a dialog. This was over 16 years ago and I remember thinking that it was a joke. I was really disappointed. I never read another observation he gave me. If it said satisfactory, and it always did, I signed it.

Last year one of my science teachers who I have known for years admitted she never read my observations. At first I felt hurt, then I thought to myself that this really spoke to the fact that the format of these observations are sort of useless. What I say to these teachers, or how we plan together is very important. The observations are usually useless.

There is an exception to observations being useless. If you have a really bad teacher you can use observations to build the type of evidence you need to get rid of this teacher. This is the only reason for observations. Instead of observations we should be in young teacher's classes trying to help them figure out how to teach, not telling them. With older teachers the observation is even more useless. If I go into my English teacher's class room on the second week of school I have technically fulfilled my obligation. What I should be doing is talking to him about what he wants to do this year and then doing a year end review. The point of the year end review should not be to punish someone or tell them what they are doing wrong, but to formally state your opinion of what is happening. There is a value to doing this formally because it forces you to be more honest about your opinion than you might be in a less formal setting.

At my pre-trial with my lawyer she pointed out that this type of attitude should probably not be stated out loud. I am sure that she was correct in this because it would hurt me. I can be accused of breaking an absurd regulation and I must defend myself by accepting this regulation, showing why I didn't break it in some cases and being contrite about breaking it when I did. At no point was I to talk about the absurdity of the approach to management.

New York City really is a strange place to teach. The students are the same as other places but the bureaucracy has developed a view of education that almost no one else in the US has. The weird thing is that they seem to think that everyone else does things this way. I think we should create a fund to send a bureaucrat to another city to see how other people teach.

The innocence project

Someone sent me a great article. It is at The article is in ed news. My blog has seemed to have sparked a nice debate about who is responsible for what happens to us.

I was a chapter chair and have always considered myself a good union person. I went to CSA demonstrations and was the CSA rep at my school. (I wonder if there is a CSA rep now?) I do think however that there is a complicity between the UFT and the DoE when it comes to the rubber rooms. The DoE thinks it is saving the schools and the UFT thinks it is saving jobs. Both sides are doing this on the backs of the over 600 teachers and administrators stuck in this system. At no point does either side think about these people as human beings.

The question that must be constantly asked is, who benefits from the existence of the rubber rooms? I have tried to figure this out and have not been very successful. I would like to throw out some possibilities.

It could be just a bureaucracy run amok. Someone was given a mandate to deal with teachers accused of things and developed a system that is a joke, but because no one really cares or because the top people in this system have power, the system just continues. It does provide employment for a lot of people.

It is possible that Joel Klein likes having these big numbers. This allows him to go to parents and tell them that if it was easier to fire bad teachers than the DoE would not be forced to waste all of this money and the money would be available for their kids.

It is possible that the UFT likes being able to go to its members and show them how they protect them from the evils of the administrators. The UFT can say how they fought for these teachers for years and kept them from being fired. The fail to mention that the years happened because they didn't work very hard to help the teachers in the rubber room solve their problems. Even the UFT benefits from the assumption that we are all guilty. If we are all guilty and so few of us get convicted it must be because of the genius of the UFT representatives and lawyers. If we are seen as really innocent than this argument doesn't work.

The ACLU has been running a major campaign to restore Habeus Corpus rights. If the UFT were to insist that teachers have the same types or rights the rubber room would not be the kind of place it is. The number of people sitting in this room who have never been charged is only surpassed by the people in Guantanamo. Unfortunately we are treated the same way. The concept that seems to have permeated America is that guilty people need to be kept away from the general population. The fact that no one can prover they are guilty is of no concern to the majority of Americans. We seemed to be fine with the appearance of guilt being enough.

If you did not read the comment to my last blog regarding Kathy Blythe you should. The comment brings out the best and worse of the system. Kathy got caught in a dispute with what seemed like a lunatic parent. Lunatic parents want to blame everyone. Good principals learn how to deal with them without capitulating or without antagonizing them. Good principals keep their teachers from taking all of the heat from these people. That is what supporting teachers means. It does not mean sacrificing teachers to preserve your job and avoid conflict. This is what the principal institute should be teaching new principals.

The second guy spent 7 1/2 years out of 10 years in the rubber rooms. This is the bad side. This teacher probably did not deserve to be teaching. He seemed to have had multiple supervisors who thought this and pushed him from school to school. The problem here is that the supervisors have not learned how to create a good case for removing these teachers. Anyone who has supervised knows about these teachers. They can be removed if you work hard enough and if you have the support of the principal and superintendent. At first other teachers are upset when you go after these guys. When they see that attacking incompetent teachers is not a threat to them then they get over their fear. Other teachers know who is bad and know that their life is better when there are fewer bad teachers.

We are all Innocent part 2

I have been speaking to a lot of people in the room lately about why they are here. There are the older people who seem to be here primarily because their principal didn't like them and figured out how to get them. My school had the famous case of the teacher who allegedly told a student that if they needed to go to the bathroom they should pee in the wastebasket. This women was no more guilty then any other teacher. She was guilty of being old and annoying, so the principal waited and then pounced. I don't know every ones story but a lot of them sound like this.

The young people are here because they do young things. They get caught with dope, they drive with suspended licenses or they get caught with someone who has drugs. These are the kids that fall into the category I call, "there but for the grace of god go I". If any teacher thinks that they have never done anything illegal then they have probably forgotten.

Then there are the sex cases. Mostly these are young male teachers who are accused of having inappropriate contact with female students. They are almost never accused by the student they are supposed to have been with. They are accused by other students or by a parent.

We work in a world where kids, particularly girls, get into fights for almost no reason. Barbara Walters came to my school to do a special on girls and violence. I think one of the biggest surprises she had was how much violence seemed to be random. It was not based on long standing disputes. Violence often happened just because one girl decided that they didn't like another girl's sneakers or t-shirt.

Given what happens between teenage girls in our schools it is no surprise that young male teachers get accused of all kinds of things. If they are good looking they become objects of all kinds of rumors. Students who have it in for the teacher or another student make accusations. This is not a surprise. What is, is the reaction of the DoE. One teacher told me that the investigator on his case told him that it did not seem to be a big deal, and that he would be exonerated in a few weeks. This was 4 months ago. Why does it take so long. Is it a lack of investigators or is it a lack of DoE lawyers. From the DoE's point of view it is easier to throw someone into the rubber room and forget about them. Rather than figure out a rational way to deal with these cases the DoE and the UFT has let them fester and has let good teachers get destroyed.

I think that one of the ways to make the rubber room really a place to hold people who have seriously done something wrong is to somehow penalize people for making false accusations, particularly Principals and AP's. It is not good that these people can make accusations with almost no downside. The UFT needs to go after students who make false accusations and Principals who do a poor job of investigating these accusations. The DoE takes the position that as long as you are being paid than you can not complain. The truth is that we have moved to a situation where you are guilty until proven innocent. This is not right.

One of my comments about my blog about the Las Vegas culinary unions disputed my facts. My facts came from Hal Rothman's book. The strike at the Frontier hotel was certainly the countries longest strike. It happened because the individuals who controlled the Frontier chose what they felt was a "moral" position against the union. This is what happens when people do that instead of making business decisions. The UFT and the DoE keep making these types of decisions.

If one of the goals of the DoE and the UFT was to create an environment in which teachers liked what they did then the whole system would change. You do not create teachers who like what they do by making less work, you do it by making it more rewarding. You do it by respecting good teachers. I was trying to make the point that the UFT has to think about more than just salary and job protections. The UFT needs to think in terms of job satisfaction. I would like to point out that it was an ex chancellor who unilateral got rid of teachers punching a time clock. Somehow it never dawned on the UFT that punching a time clock was a bad idea.

End Game 2

I am reading a book entitled the Neon Metropolis. It is about the development of Las Vegas. Las Vegas is now the most unionized city in America. This is amazing considering that Nevada is a right to work state. How the culinary union became so large is an interesting story. What the union was able to do is create a situation in which unionized hotels made more money than non-union hotels. In Las Vegas money is how you keep score.

The culinary union created a blue collar work force that had a possibility to enter the middle class and create a better life for their kids. This is what the coal miners union and the auto workers did in the last century. This is what America has been missing for the past few years. The fact that the culinary union fought for high wages is not surprising. This is what unions do. The fact that these workers made hotels profitable is what is really amazing.

The culinary union realized early on that it needed to act as a hiring hall. It had a vested interest in providing high quality workers and screening out psychotics and drug addicts. It also convinced hotels that happy workers who were treated well were better employees. The union worked with and sometimes fought with hotels over working conditions. The end result is that hotels who think about bottom lines loved the union. Hotels such as the Venetian who took a "moral stand" lost money without union workers.

Today a bunch of people were late because there seemed to be a problem on the subway. The secretary who acts as our jailer came into the room and announced that if we were late because of a train delay that we needed to call 311 and get a letter from the transit authority. We then needed to attach the letter to our time sheets. This is so we can be excused from the essential work we do here.

What is wrong with the DoE. It treats employees like children and it wonders why they act like children. What is wrong with the UFT. It treats all teachers as paychecks and then it wonders why they act so self centered. If we looked at Las Vegas and started feeling as if we were all in this together we might find that the whole system worked better.

Most teachers I speak to want to live a comfortable middle class existence. Beyond that they are crying out for good working conditions. They want to be able to do their job well. They want to be respected. If they can't find a working copier, a working elevator, a bathroom with toilet paper they feel bad. Teachers who feel bad are not good teachers the same way that hotel employees who feel bad are not nice to the clients. When I first became a science AP I told everyone all I had to do was support teachers and I could raise scores 10% and I did.

Monday, May 14, 2007


back life in

A journal of life as a teacher accused

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

End Game 2

I am reading a book entitled the Neon Metropolis. It is about the development of Las Vegas. Las Vegas is now the most unionized city in America. This is amazing considering that Nevada is a right to work state. How the culinary union became so large is an interesting story. What the union was able to do is create a situation in which unionized hotels made more money than non-union hotels. In Las Vegas money is how you keep score. The culinary union created a blue collar work force that had a possibility to enter the middle class and create a better life for their kids. This is what the coal miners union and the auto workers did in the last century. This is what America has been missing for the past few years. The fact that the culinary union fought for high wages is not surprising. This is what unions do. The fact that these workers made hotels profitable is what is really amazing. The culinary union realized early on that it needed to act as a hiring hall. It had a vested interest in providing high quality workers and screening out psychotics and drug addicts. It also convinced hotels that happy workers who were treated well were better employees. The union worked with and sometimes fought with hotels over working conditions. The end result is that hotels who think about bottom lines loved the union. Hotels such as the Venetian who took a "moral stand" lost money without union workers. Today a bunch of people were late because there seemed to be a problem on the subway. The secretary who acts as our jailer came into the room and announced that if we were late because of a train delay that we needed to call 311 and get a letter from the transit authority. We then needed to attach the letter to our time sheets. This is so we can be excused from the essential work we do here. What is wrong with the DoE. It treats employees like children and it wonders why they act like children. What is wrong with the UFT. It treats all teachers as paychecks and then it wonders why they act so self centered. If we looked at Las Vegas and started feeling as if we were all in this together we might find that the whole system worked better. Most teachers I speak to want to live a comfortable middle class existence. Beyond that they are crying out for good working conditions. They want to be able to do their job well. They want to be respected. If they can't find a working copier, a working elevator, a bathroom with toilet paper they feel bad. Teachers who feel bad are not good teachers the same way that hotel employees who feel bad are not nice to the clients. When I first became a science AP I told everyone all I had to do was support teachers and I could raise scores 10% and I did.

Monday, May 07, 2007

End Game

To all of you living in the rubber room and to all of you working in toxic schools I would like to refer you to the following web site. This site is an illustration of an Alan Watts lecture. is interesting which posts get me the most comments. My blog on we are all innocent was one of the big ones. I think I will try to figure out how to do the kind of open blog that people can contribute to. I think my fellow rubber room victims need a place to post their stories. Maybe if there is a central repository for these stories someone will notice us. Even though I talk a lot about the amount of wasted money in this room it probably doesn't amount to a big percentage of the DoE labor budget. The numbers are not that large in this gigantic system. This is why both my union and the UFT don't really care about us. They offer us counsel but they are not interested in fighting to reform the system. A friend sent me an article about John Landis. This is the guy who won the Tour de France and then had his victory disputed because of allegations of doping. He has protested this and he has used the Internet to work on his defense. One of the lessons from his story is that we are a country that seems to be increasingly controlled by quasi public judicial agencies. Most of us interpreted movies such as "Brazil" as cautionary tales of big government gone wrong. I think that I would interpret this movie as a case of the ascendancy quasi judicial agencies that do not need to follow laws in the same way that our judiciary system does. When you think about it the United State is becoming filled with these types of agencies. They are created to solve a problem but they ultimately become secretive. When you read about Landis the similarities between his case and mine are eerie. Not only does the drug commission refuse to give him documents but they complain because he keeps publishing what they give him on the internet. I think that we as a country need to look at these commissions if we want to continue to live in a democratic society. If you look at the stipulation they have given me it states:

Respondent agrees to immediately cease and desist from posting, causing to be posted, and/or to remove any and all references to and/or concerning New York City Department of Education employees, documents and the instant disciplinary proceedings on his Internet diary, or more commonly known as a blog site, located at

The way I read this, the DoE is not happy that I am telling the world about my disciplinary proceedings. This is interesting, because according to State law I am allowed an open hearing. I have always assumed that an open hearing meant that all proceedings were public knowledge. Of course there is public and then there is "Public". I had a great 25th anniversary party. It is wonderful when you can be surrounded by really good friends. It's also great to be able to drink as much as you want and not have to drive home.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

We are all Inocent

The group of people that sit in this room universally feel that they are innocent. The newer members are waiting for their innocence to come to the surface so they can be released. The older members have given up hope of anyone even looking at the evidence. Generally I have not spoken to people about why they are here, nor have I discussed why I am here. I have been open and honest on my blog. I do speak to people and you do start getting a sense of what people have been charged with. Of course there are the group of people who are just crazy and really belong here. As I have said in the past most people are not crazy. The saddest group of people are the ones who are here for being nice people. I don't feel comfortable talking about other peoples cases, but I will talk about a case that was in the newspaper recently. A custodian at PS 91 was accused of sexual abuse by an 8 year old girl. The principal who had received the complaint felt that something was wrong and did not call the complaint into ACS or the DoE. I remember speaking to my lawyer about this guy and she felt that he had done something dumb. Lawyers always feel this way. He was certainly required to call this in. All claims of sexual abuse should be called in. If this principal had followed the law here is what would have happened. The custodian would have been taken out of the school and placed somewhere while he was being investigated. ACS would have sent an investigator to the girls house and the special investigator would have started an investigation of the custodian. The problem with ACS is that it is such a hard job that if you really care you can't survive very long. Therefore most ACS people are good at following the letter of the law. This means that the ACS worker would have written a good report and done nothing for the kid. They are not very good at solving problems. The special investigators office takes the attitude that anyone accused of anything is probably scum. They operate like all detectives. They go about trying to prove that there was inappropriate contact. Usually sexual. This custodian would be suspended and he would probably spend a minimum of one year suspended, maybe more. In the DoE the assumption is that if you are accused of something then you are unworthy of being around kids. If the principal had done the correct thing according to the DoE he would have returned to his job and the custodian would have been suspended. This is what any lawyer would have advised him to do. Instead he chose to look closer at the case before suspending the custodian. The custodian had worked for 20 years and the girl had previously accused another student of sexually abusing her. The principal made a decision that was good for the kid and the custodian. The ultimate result was that the custodian and the principal were suspended. They were saved by the fact that the newspapers picked up the story and that the custodian was arrested so the courts became involved. The ordeal for the custodian lasted less than a week. The principal was kept out of his school for 4 weeks but with the parents support and the newspaper keeping track he was lucky. These are the type of situations that exist here in the rubber room. If someone decides to claim that a teacher molested them or that they saw a teacher dating another student what the cautious by the book principal does is to call this into the investigators. The teacher is then removed from the school and spends over a year in the rubber room. No one talks to him or her, the department of investigation finds every kind act that he or she ever did for a student and turns it into a dirty act. If I take a kid out for a cup of coffee than I must have a sexual relationship with him or her. This is the end result of a system run by lawyers. The interesting thing is that when you interview students at the end of high school and you ask them what they remember the most they always talk about things such as having coffee with a teacher or doing something like that. In other words it is connecting with teachers as human beings that most impress kids. If the DoE won't let me relate to kids as human beings I can't do this job.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Some one sent me a great web site. Try it out. It only takes 10 seconds. I saw an article about how schools all over the country are thinking about banning cell phones and IPods because kids are programming answers to tests into them and are using them to cheat. This is a bad thing to do if you see the goal of schools to pass tests. What if you see the goal of schools to learn something. Is it possible that in the process of programming their notes into their IPods students might actually learn something. I hate students looking at someone else's paper or passing answers such as the answer to number 3 is A. There is no learning in this process. But programming your answers into an IPod can be seen as actually a review process. I would love a kid spending the time to cheat that way. I personally have serious doubts about tests that rely primarily on memory. Joe Bruno said that Governor Spitzer should give up pushing gay marriage and concentrate on something that really matters like bringing back the death penalty. Wow what a juxtaposition. The congestion pricing thing is kind of interesting. What if you set it up so it didn't cost anything but you could only bring your car in once per week. This way you wouldn't have the situation where you are clearing the traffic from the city so that it will be easier for rich people to get around. Today is my 25th Anniversary, both my wife and I went to "work". I'm not sure why we did that.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Speak

As happens to anyone who sits in this horrible room you tend to learn to hate the complete DoE. This is a natural reaction given the way most of us are treated. There are however some good things happening. The other day there was a report that the graduation rate increased. If we believe this, then it is a terrific thing. The problem most of us in this room and I would guess most people in the schools have is that they don't believe this number. I attended a meeting last week in which Klein made this announcement and it was greeted with mild applause. I think that people in general do not trust the DoE. I am sure that this is a healthy thing. It is too easy to use statistics to prove anything. Particularly statistics that have to do with kids. Make a small change in how you measure something and you can see a miraculous change in your numbers. While the 3 point rise in graduation rates was terrific it was not nearly as impressive as the over 90% rates for many of the new small schools. A lot of people here tend to feel that this number is achieved by throwing bad kids out of the schools before they hit their senior year. The federal government has proposed an interesting way to measure graduation. They propose that a system counts the number of students graduating and dividing this number by the number of students entering ninth grade. What you are saying is that even though some kids move away they are replaced by kids who move in and that the net effect cancel each other. The feds propose that there are some adjustments made for cities such as Las Vegas that are increasing population quickly or Detroit that is loosing population. If you look at my school and you see 1200 kids in ninth grade and 400 graduating after four years than you would have a graduation rate of 33%. This may not be perfectly accurate for an individual school, but it is better than all the other methods. I was talking about Iraq with someone at my table. Both of us more or less agreed that all of the money and more important all of the lives lost in Iraq were wasted. Any politician who says this will be crucified by the press and other politicians. No one wants to hear the truth so we call these poor kids heroes. They are tragic but not heroes. Honest is not really a quality we treasure in our leaders. There are over 58 thousand names on the Vietnam memorial wall. These people died in this war and anyone would have a hard time explaining why. Yet no one wants to call these wasted lives. That is sort of a strange detour from my point. It does speak to the fact that new speak has left most of us with a distrust of statements made by officials. Polls tell politicians what to say and they work up to a point. But it does become harder every year. Eventually people start hoping for someone to speak honestly. Some smart pollster figures this out and then the politician is coached on how to speak honestly. Sincerity is everything, once you learn how to fake it you have it made. I didn't write yesterday because on Saturday I had a brilliant idea on what to write about. By Monday morning I had forgotten what I wanted to write about and I spent all day trying to remember what it was. Thanks for all the comments, particularly on Democracy in America. I will try to answer some of them soon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Toxic Dump

I went to a meeting yesterday about opening new schools. I was surrounded by a group of people who were enthusiastic about education. It was the first time in a long time I had been around this type of group. It made my juices flow. It made me more acutely aware of what I have been missing. When I was working in my school I was surrounded by a group of teachers I respected a great deal. I think that we collectively did some great things. I know that we helped a group of kids. We met socially and we talked about education, but I felt that we were loosing our enthusiasm. We had a retreat last year. I decided on Friday night to ask people to speak about why they became involved in education. I was feeling at that point that people were doing a good job, but loosing the reason why they were there. I wanted them to reconnect and I wanted other people to see that they were not alone in really caring about teaching. Last year I feel that I was realizing that there was something happening. I was trying to rescue a bad situation but I could not really change it. I realized that there was something toxic about working in this school. If I did anything good in my house I kept some of the toxicity away from my teachers. Every day I was becoming more infected with it and it was becoming more and more difficult to resist it. I could completely blame the Principal but I'm not sure that would be honest. Her attitude toward teachers and students certainly set a tone for the building. I blame myself for not trying harder to get rid of some of my not great teachers. I blame myself for not fighting more with the programmers to create a program that would have worked for my students. If I had done all of the above things I could have made things better. I could not have made things good. The truth is that there are a lot of good people working within a toxic school, and this will not change. When you visit other schools or you hang around people who care you can see this clearly. The AP's should spend a week at a well functioning school so they can see how bad it is. They need to be out of it for awhile. Sitting here in the rubber room has gotten to me in ways that have surprised me. The people here are smarter and know more about education than the people in the Bronx. I have had a few interesting conversations. And yet sitting here has left me depressed in strange ways. Part of my depression is caused by the fact that in the Bronx I could count on one or two hours of helping someone. This made me feel good about myself. In the Bronx I had a window, here there are no windows and to even look out one you have to go down the hall and peek through an office. If you wanted to create an environment leading to depression you couldn't do better.

I love the little curl.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The room has been surprisingly noisy today. A couple of people mentioned this to me and I was wondering why. I think that what happened today was that a little bit of hope crept into our room. To start two days ago one of our members left to go back to his school. He had been here over a year and had never been charged. We gave him an ovation. Then today the Village Voice came out. The Voice had an article called "Teachers in Detention". (,altman,76433,15.html) This article was an accurate description of what goes on in these rooms. It clearly lays the blame for the amount of time people spend in here on the DoE. We all hope that someone else will pick up on this and will start asking Klein why this has to be. The UFT keeps saying that they think it takes too long and would like things to happen faster. Everyone here feels the same way. Of course people with hope talk to each other more. I'm not saying that we are giddy but it feels good to be validated by part of the media. The CSA has just negotiated a new contract. One of the things it calls for is immediate removal for convictions of sex offenses and felony convictions. This seems to make sense. No one here feels that this is a bad idea. The contract also gets rid of the step two grievance. If you remember this is the step where I presented my case to an "impartial lawyer" at the region only to discover that she prosecuted me in step three. I've been going through my old wedding pictures. It has put me in kind of a funny mood. My wedding was 25 years ago. A lot of things have happened in those 25 years. There have been times in my life when I felt despair much worse than I do today. There have been great times in my marriage and tough times. It is my history. I try to learn from it, but I try to never apologize for it. I think I led an interesting life. I think that I am generally happy. Of course all of this looking back has made me more acutely aware of the fact that I am at some time of transition. Transitions make everyone nervous. Some people are better with them than others. I'm not. There are a number of exercise groups in the room. One of them involves walking up the fire stairs to the top. This involves walking down 8 flights and then walking up 22 flights. I have noticed that people make a real point to walk down to the very bottom step and touch the bottom door before they start up. No one would think of turning before the bottom step. It's a strange type of honesty.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Administrative Duty

I heard a story on the news this morning about a school that had banned a show the students were going to put on. The show had students in it pretending to be dead. The administration thought this was not a good idea. The teacher in charge was reassigned to administrative duties. I am assigned to administrative duties. My duties are to sign in in the morning out for lunch and out at the end of the day. This provides employment for two secretaries who are in charge of making sure I am being honest. The DoE is no slouch in the use of euphemisms. Language is of course a powerful tool, particularly when you are trying to win a point. We live with No Child Left Behind. This is a euphemism for a series of legislative mandates that provides a way to funnel large amounts of money from schools to private Texas based education companies. We have zero tolerance which means what ever the deans and school security says is law. I would like for someone in the DoE to someday say we are taking this person out of the classroom and paying him/her for doing nothing. Until then we are collateral damage in the great school wars.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Legal Friday

I spent Friday talking to my lawyer. I actually kept getting put off by her and had to come back and forth a few times. This one didn't bother me because according to the papers it seems as thought the CSA may be close to a settlement on the contract and I suppose they need all the lawyers they have. When we finally met we went over the stipulation and I told her the parts I found most objectionable. It would be easier if she read my blog. Anyway she is calling the boards lawyer to negotiate. I find it hard to think this will succeed. I thought we were going to get new dates. I certainly got a lot of comments on the last post. The DoE is used to things being done in secret. I think they find it hard to have things so open. I do find it hard to believe that they really care about my modest little blog. I know a few people told me they forwarded it to lawyer friends of theirs. The lawyers seem universally horrified by the settlement. The only people not horrifies are the DoE lawyer and my lawyer. I think that they are both used to seeing these kinds of settlements. This may be regular NYC labor law, but I think it is bad law. I would love to see other settlements that have been made with teachers. If any of my readers would like to share settlements they have received I would be happy to publish them. I wonder how private these settlements are. Are they subject to freedom of information laws. It is great seeing the mayor become green. I did notice that some of the money would be spent to increase the energy efficiency of city buildings. Schools are a good place to start. My custodian spent money in trying to fix the thermostat system in our building. Of course the repairs were badly managed by the building department and the thermostats never worked, but it was a good try. The seventh and eighth floor still reached temperatures of close to 100 degrees F on cold winter days. This forced the seventh and eighth floor teachers into opening the windows. There was one upgrade that happened efficiently. All of the lights in the building were switched to electronic ballast lights and all the rooms had motion detectors installed to turn off the lights. I spoke to the project manager and he told me the money came from the state power authority and the project was run by them. He said the payback was less than four years. I have to believe that updating thermostats would have a similarly quick payback. I've been meaning to write about Catholic high schools for a long time. The cardinal keeps making noise about their amazing graduation rate and is working on getting the city to help fund his schools. I think that there are people who buy this thinking. It is total nonsense. When I was in the Bronx I dealt with the fallout of Rice High School. Rice is an all boys Catholic High School in upper Manhattan. They actually get money from the public sector. They get Title 1 money and they have a 21st Century grant and a bunch of other public money. I imagine that their graduation rate is pretty good. Let me tell you a few ways they do it. The first person I ran into could not pay the tuition. Her kid was a junior and she wanted to transfer him to a public school. His grades were not great so Rice did not seem to disturbed. The problem we were having was that Rice would not give us a transcript because the mother owed money. They didn't really want the kid but still money is money. The second two kids were seniors. They got in a fight with each other. Again there grades were not terrific and so the school decided that the fight was reason to not let them come back. They were being thrown out of the school. I doubt that would happen if they were doing well. The third was the worst. Rice is a basketball power house. A mother came in to the office in March. She had a note from a counselor saying that the kid was a nice kid and that he tried hard. His transcript showed lots of 65's and some 55's. The kid was a sophomore. The school was strongly suggesting that the mother was wasting her money and that she should put him in public school. I spoke to the mother about the boy and I discovered that he lived for basketball but that he had not made the Rice team. I finally realized that the kid had been recruited by Rice out of junior high but that he had ultimately been not good enough for their team. They gave him until the end of the season in his second year and then gave up on him. He didn't have good enough academics to keep their numbers up and even though he seemed to try hard he did not have what Rice wanted. He wasn't that smart and he couldn't play basketball. If he had been good in either area he would still be there. But he wasn't so they wanted him gone. If you want a school with great numbers this is how you do it. I think it is a cruel and self serving way to run a school. But maybe this is the ex-Catholic in me speaking. It is certainly not the model that the city should be looking at for success. I passed a restaurant called Pizza and Penne. This one seemed to make sense until I got near the door and saw the printed sign that said, "If you are looking for Zitti, go away." I took that as an anti-Sicilian slur. Can't we all just get along.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Democracy in America

I took down yesterdays post because it is causing my site to be blocked for language. I will try to figure out exactly what words I can use before putting it back. Wednesday I received a new offer for settlement. I have posted the complete text of this stipulation with parenthetical comments by me. Pursuant to Education Law §3020-a and the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and the New York City Board of Education _______________________________________________X WHEREAS, the Superintendent has preferred disciplinary charges against EDWARD ** (hereinafter “Respondent”), under File**, SS3**, a tenured Assistant Principal employed by the New York City Department of Education (hereinafter “Department”), and formerly assigned to **** **** High School, in Region 9, pursuant to Education Law §3020-a and the collective bargaining agreement between the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and the Department; and WHEREAS, the parties desire to eliminate the need for a formal hearing, have held discussions, have had an opportunity to seek the advice of counsel in order to have all terms and conditions of this Stipulation thoroughly explained to them, and now freely consent to enter into this Stipulation; such consent not having been induced by fraud, duress, or any other undue influence; and WHEREAS, no other person not a party to this proceeding has an interest in its outcome, and no party to this proceeding is an infant or incompetent person for whom a committee has been appointed; and WHEREAS, the parties have reached an agreement as to the complete and final resolution of this matter; NOW IT IS HEREBY AGREED AND STIPULATED by and between said parties that this matter shall be fully resolved as follows: 1. Respondent hereby acknowledges that Education Law §3020-a charges were brought against him as a result of allegations involving incompetence, inefficient service and insubordination during the 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years while assigned to **** ***** High School in Manhattan. In light of this Post-Charge Stipulation of Settlement, those charges are withdrawn. A copy of the charges are attached hereto as Exhibit A. (Wow they are withdrawing the charges that sounds great) 2. Respondent agrees that the terms of his continued employment as an Assistant Principal with the Department, as outlined in Paragraph 3 of this Stipulation, will remain in full force and effect from the date of this Stipulation through the 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years. (OK, whatever I agree to will be in affect for the next three years, I can live with this.) 3. Respondent agrees that a violation of any of the following terms will result in his automatic termination, thereby waiving his rights under Education Law Section 3020-a: (In other words if I am accused of anything in this agreement I can be fired on the spot. I am not allowed to defend myself or offer any explanation, the accusal is enough, pretty scary position to be in.) A. an unsatisfactory end-of-year rating based on incompetence for the 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. (Incompetence is a funny term, how do you define this.) B. The term “incompetence” in Paragraph 3(A) of this agreement relates to and includes the following conduct based on a determination by Respondent’s supervisor: (Good, lets hear the definition. I am a little nervous about the includes without the word limited to added.) 1) the failure to complete the required number of teacher observations, including but not limited to informal, quality and inter-visitation observations; and/or 2) the failure to indicate dates of pre and/or post observation conferences on teacher observations; and/or (this is fine) 3) the failure to return observation reports to teachers in a timely manner; and/or 4) allowing students to work without adult supervision; and/or (wait, they claimed I did that but they never even got close to proving it.) 5) the failure to obtain proper authorizations for school trip(s) in a timely manner; and/or 6) the failure to arrange a school related meeting in a timely manner; and/or (What does this even mean. Seems kind of open ended and easy to fire me.) 7) the failure to render a satisfactory lesson; and/or (You mean that someone could walk into my room, say my lesson was unsatisfactory and I will be immediately fired with no appeal. Wow I think I am going to get screwed.) 8) the failure to follow through with students who do not attend counseling sessions and thereby allowing student detentions to become suspensions; and/or 9) the failure to provide guidance intervention and/or teacher motivation which results in a lower student graduation rate; and/or (What are they talking about lower than what, this is becoming a joke.) 10) the failure to fulfill his responsibilities as an Assistant Principal which result in unnecessary pressure on other school personnel. (So now any of my colleagues could say I put pressure on them and therefore I will be fired on the spot, this includes AP's, teachers, secretaries, aids, janitors, school security, elevator operators etc. I don't think I like this.) C. the failure to pay a fine as outlined in Paragraph 4, below. D. the failure to comply with the terms of Paragraph 5, below. (If paragraph 5 has anything about cleaning the principals office or always making sure my head is below hers I think I'm going to quit.) 4. Respondent agrees to pay a fine in the amount of seven thousand five hundred ($7,500.00) dollars. This fine will be deducted from Respondent’s paycheck in equal installments for eighteen (18) months, commencing with the issuance of Respondent’s next paycheck for the 2006-2007 school year until full payment is made. Respondent hereby acknowledges that he is personally liable for the full payment of said fine. Should the Respondent leave the Department (and we would love to have this happen) prior to completing full payment of such fine by way of payroll deductions, the final balance will be deducted from his final entitlement payment. Should Respondent’s final entitlement payment fail to cover the remaining balance, Respondent agrees to make payment for the remaining balance within fifteen (15) days of the date on which his final entitlement payment is issued. (For those of you who did not see yesterdays post I equated this to the DoE attaching electrodes to my genitals and then charging me for the electricity. Someone responded that it is actually the DoE's way to make sure you get the point that you have been punished. I am sure that is more correct.) 5. Respondent agrees to immediately cease and desist from posting, causing to be posted, and/or to remove any and all references to and/or concerning New York City Department of Education employees, documents and the instant disciplinary proceedings on his internet diary, or more commonly known as a blog site, located at (So this is paragraph 5. Do you think that the DoE is not comfortable with people knowing what happens. They do seem to be closer to the Bush White House than to Madison's idea of democracy. I noticed that the Daily News had to sue to get information about buses and even then the DoE kept not giving them all the relevant information. Maybe this is what really needs reforming. Maybe the schools would be more trusted if they were more honest with the public.) 6. Respondent agrees that he will be returned to his assignment as an Assistant Principal. He further agrees that the assignment will not be at **** **** High School in Region 9. (Not only do we want to punish you but we want you to not go back to the program you built and the people you love. Seems kind of mean.) 7. Respondent agrees that if he is brought up on Education Law Section 3020-a charges in the future and if Respondent is subsequently found guilty of those charges, this Stipulation of Settlement will be considered for the purpose of assessing an appropriate penalty. 8. The parties to this Stipulation knowingly waive their rights to make any legal or equitable claims, or to initiate legal or administrative proceedings of any kind against each other, and agree to withdraw any pending legal or administrative proceedings, relating to or arising out of the facts and circumstances of this case, or based upon or arising out of terms and conditions of this Stipulation, except to enforce compliance with this Stipulation. Respondent further agrees to withdraw any such claims or actions that may have been commenced in any forum whatsoever arising out of the facts and circumstances of this case. 9. An executed copy of this Stipulation shall be maintained in the Respondent’s personnel file, the files maintained by the Office of Legal Services, and in the files maintained by the Regional Office. (That's an interesting term, do you think anyone even knows what the term Regional Office will mean next year. One great thing about reorganization is that the chance of all my files becoming lost is really good.) 10. Respondent affirms that he has entered into this agreement freely, knowingly and openly, without coercion or duress, (Yea, no duress, no one actually attached electrodes to my genitals, nor did anyone physically threaten me, but no duress...I'm not so sure about that.) and that he has voluntarily waived all statutory, contractual, constitutional or other rights he may have held in this matter, (I guess the constitution doesn't apply to me any more, wave goodbye constitution.)(This last line is an homage to Kurt Vonnegut, goodbye Kurt) including his right to a hearing in accordance with Education Law §3020-a. 11. Respondent affirms that he has consulted with counsel in reaching this agreement and has reviewed the terms of this Stipulation of Settlement and voluntarily enters into this agreement with the advice and consent of counsel. 12. Nothing in this Stipulation shall be deemed to be a practice or policy of the Department or Region 9. 13. This written agreement contains all the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties hereto and no other agreement, oral or otherwise, regarding said allegations and charges shall be deemed to exist or to bind the parties hereto or to vary any of the terms contained herein. Nothing in this stipulation shall be construed as a waiver by Respondent of his right to challenge any existing grievances or appeals relating to the unsatisfactory ratings given to him for the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 school years or grievances relating to letters in his file. Furthermore, the parties agree that the term “existing grievances” shall apply to those grievances in existence as of the date of this agreement. If you think I should sign, please comment with a post.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Joel Klein and I went to the theater Friday

On Friday I went to see a play entitled "The Accomplices". I thought that it was a terrific play. The play was the true story about a guy named Peter Bergson. Bergson came to the United States from Palestine in the early 1940's. He came on a tourist visa. He came to work with an organization dedicated to opening up the US to Jewish refugees. The point of the play is that the US had a policy of keeping Jew out and that the Jew in the US, particularly Rabbi Wise kept quiet because they were afraid that if they made noise than the US would become more outwardly antisemitic. Bergson was not a quiet person. He made a lot of noise, even leading a march of orthodox rabbis on the White House. Weiss kept trying to undermine his movement. Of course I am a Bergson person. I have always believed in making noise. Bergson talked Ben Hecht into publishing ads in the New York newspapers. One of the ads read, "FOR SALE: 70,000 JEWS AT $50 APIECE GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS". This was pleading for the US government to ransom Romanian Jews. The important people were afraid of setting a precedent. If we paid the Romanians maybe everyone would want to sell us their Jews. During intermission I walked out and there was Joel Klein sitting in a chair working on his Blackberry. I am not sure when he left the play because I was up front and he was conveniently sitting in the back on the aisle. Joel spent the intermission Blackberrying (is this a verb?). When I went back for act two he was in a corner on his Blackberry. I tried to keep track of him during the second act but he was behind me and I did want to watch the play. I know he left during act 2 because when the play was over he was standing in the back of the auditorium. One of the things about the play is that all the important people, Wise, FDR, Morgenthau spent a lot of time playing realpolitik and very little time stepping back and looking at what was happening to people. It is hard to imagine how these people could allow this many people die without trying to do something. It is hard to imagine how they justified it and how they slept at night. Bergson and Emanuel Cellars wanted the US to bomb rail links to Auschwitz and to open the doors to hundreds of thousand of Jewish refugees. But it didn't happen in 1940 because the country wasn't "ready". This is what important men say. Noisy men say "if not now when". Joel Klein is a serious man. You can tell because he works at 9:00 on Friday night even though he is at the theater. If you told Joel about the lives being destroyed in the rubber room by the slow random movement of their cases through the system he would not really get it. Important people see policy not people. I am not trying to equate us with holocaust victims. I am trying to say that public policy without humanity is always bad policy. People in the rubber room don't understand the economics of what is happening. Does Joel have a spread sheet that shows it is cheaper to keep us here than to hire more investigators. If he doesn't someone has done the numbers. It is possible that we are not here because of a grand plot to show how many bad New York City teachers there are. It is possible that we are here because it is cheaper to keep us here than to hire more investigators. Either way, only important men think this way. The rest of us worry about our families. The picture is Ben Hecht.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Microwave Friday

On Thursday one of the members of the rubber room got sent back to his school. (This is the end result of most cases) This guy was in charge of the microwave and the coffee pot. These two items seemed to function very well. People threw money in for coffee and there did not seem to be any problems with not having enough money. On Friday the guy that had been sitting across from him took over his seat. I have previously written about these two guys. The guy that moved into his seat decided the microwave posed a potential radiation hazard so he moved it to where the garbage pails had been and moved the garbage pails out of the room. When people arrived they were upset they he had done this, particularly because there was no outlet to plug the microwave into. These people moved the microwave back. What followed was a huge fight with people yelling for security, the microwave being thrown in the garbage and this guy almost coming to blows with another woman. A number of people said that I should write about this. I spent Saturday thinking about how to make it seem funny. I spend a lot of time stepping back from things like this and trying to see the absurdity in them. This was certainly an absurd situation. By Sunday morning I had changed my mind. Really there was nothing funny about what had happened. What happened was that a lot of people who have had their emotions and mental health stretched to the breaking point finally broke. Admittedly some of the people in the rubber room should probably not be teaching. There are people who have serious mental problems. For most of the people this is not true. Most of the people are depressed, bored, desperate and feeling out of control of their lives and their situation. The fact that there was a fight on Friday is not a surprise. The fact that this group has stayed together as well as it has is actually inspiring. If the Chancellor would let me I think that I could create a school of rubber room teachers that would be as good as the best schools in the DoE. I would be proud to be the principal of such a school. The rubber room is a great place to recruit. Not everyone. But the majority of people are good teachers who care. Some seem like great teachers. There are a couple of math teachers who I would kill to have working for me. I'm sorry I was not funnier. But funny is not always the truth.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I was watching the NBC nightly news the other day. The first story on the news was about the firing of Don Imus from MSNBC. This story was reported by a young African-American woman. Do you think it was just her turn to be on air or do you think she was chosen for her race. The next story was about all the charges being dropped against the Duke lacrosse players. The interesting thing about this story is that it started to publicly unravel when Ed Bradley reported about it on "60 Minutes". Today I was watching the Today Show and they had the reverend who was at the meeting with Imus and the Rutger's kids. He said that the big difference between Duke and Rutgers is that the Rutgers girls were being threatened and that made it worse. I seem to recall that the Duke kids had "wanted for rape" posters posted all over the campus with their photos on them. I suppose that was not threatening Then came Cornell West and Tavis Smiley. Cornell West has been a professor at both Harvard and Princeton. He wrote an interesting book called "Race Matters". Tavis has a radio show on NPR that I listen to. I have always thought that it was weird that whenever Cornell was on Tavis's show he would say "Hi, brother". Could you imagine a black man coming up to Dick Parson (CEO of Time Warner and black) and saying hi brother. Parson would probably not hit him but I think he might never meet with this guy again. What makes Cornell West and Tavis Smiley brothers. If you look at Cornell West he now has an 8 inch afro and a huge bushy beard. What is he trying to do. He certainly does not want anyone to mistake him for a college professor. The next guy was a black columnist from Kansas City named Jason Whitlock who felt that Sharpton and Jessie Jackson were basically crooks who made a lot of noise and then figured out how to make money from it. He felt that it was a bad week for race relationships. I think Jason got it right. It was a bad week because it fed into the feeling that it is the white mans fault for the lack of self esteem many black people feel. It was a bad week because it offered no way out of this loop. Firing Don Imus will not help any ones self esteem. My wife works in a school filled with kids who believe in no snitching. I worked in a school where the Chinese kids were assumed to be good in math. When the conversation revolves around "nappy headed hos" it misses the point of what is wrong with race relationships in America. My experience is that a lot of black kids come to me with low self esteem. They don't really see themselves as succeeding. When you ask them about what they are going to do in the future many will tell you they are going to become doctors or lawyers. This is wishful thinking but not something that most of them really believe. If you ask them how they are going to become doctors if they can't pass Living Environment they tell you that you are hurting their dreams. People with high self esteem do no react this way. This has become a major problem in the black community. Sharpton is not helping this at all. I have seen some interesting research lately about speaking honestly with 7th graders about expectations. Bringing out how they perceive themselves and how it is tied into racial and ethnic stereotypes. When you do this at the beginning of the 7th grade black kids do better. It is the dialog that works, not suppression. I am having a great deal of difficulty with the term African-American. My kids from the Caribbean think the term sucks. Rather than write Caribbean-American, Panamanian-American, Guyanian-American etc. I think black works better. I usually don't write on the weekend but today was so strange in the rubber room that I am thinking of trying to write about it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Rubber Room Redux

I felt that I should describe what the rubber room looks like now. People have made themselves at home. I have chosen a seat in the corner where almost no one talks to me. On the wall to my left is the cat laminated onto wood that I originally used to build a table. The DoE has finally provided enough tables for everyone to have a table without having to build one. The room does seem more crowded. The wall on the left also has a picture of Tyra banks and a sign that says art show '06. There is an interesting 5 gallon water bottle that has been collaged and has artificial flowers coming out of it. People have put up various poster including one for Les Miseables ( how appropriate) and a lot of paper mache flowers that someone put up all over the walls. There are also three hearts that I suppose are left over from valentines day. The last time I was here there was only one garbage pail that was always full, now there are two. One of the teachers took a little table and put a table cloth on it and a milk carton that she turned into a book shelf. It is very cute. She is one of our resident artists. Most people spend their day reading playing games or working on their computers. It seems to be noisier in the morning than in the afternoon. A number of people seem to fall asleep while reading. The best guy wears dark glasses so you don't know if he is asleep or not. The hallways now have more people in them and some people find little corners and sit on the floor to read. The whole place has a sense of what I imagine an Okie camp was like during the depression. The room has acquired a shared microwave and a coffee machine. The Thursday before the break most of the room had chipped in to have a hot catered meal delivered. This was their party to celebrate the up coming 10 days away from this mind numbing place. I could not blame them. A group of people do exercises each day, one guy does push ups, another group walks up and down the stairways just to keep themselves healthy. This place has become a family. It is a great survival mechanism. A friend emailed me and said that I sounded more angry than I had in a long time. This is probably true. I read an article about what happens in Guantánamo when you take away prisoners rights. Prisoners eventually just don't care about what they do because they know they have no control over their lives. This makes them very difficult to manage. This is the downside of taking away peoples civil rights. At this point I feel as if I have no civil rights and no control over my life. The DoE will talk to my lawyer, but not to me. They are apparently unwilling to negotiate so therefore I am very quickly losing what ever restraint I felt in what I say. Someone should investigate the ridiculous waste of energy and addition to greenhouse gases caused by the DoE. In a time of global warming the 8th floor in my school would consistently have temperatures above 90 degrees F every winter morning. I kept a computerized thermometer in one of the rooms and there were times where it actually got to 100 degrees. The answer to this was to open the window and allow the excess energy out. It is bad for our students and our environment simultaneously. The DoE is a great organization.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Everyone dreams. The feeling among neurologists is that dreams are necessary in order to process things that happened that day from short term into long term memory. This does not really explain why we dream in narrative stories. There have been lots of psychological explanations for why people dream and what dreams mean. Usually I don't remember my dreams so psychologists have nothing to work with. Last week I managed to remember some of my dreams. R and I went to Philadelphia just to get away and to see the King Tut exhibit. The first night I had a vivid dream. I was in the rubber room except that it was a steeply inclined lecture hall with wooden seats. People were seated in random groups around this room. The room was a surplus DoE school room. It was obviously a very uncomfortable place to sit. That day a new person came into the room. This was not unusual, but there was something not right about this guy. I felt that he was not a legitimate rubber room member but a plant. I arranged to sit next to him and to tell him every one's story and to tell him the psychological damage that the room was doing to the people who were members. After a few days we were leaving together and he said he had to go in a different direction. I knew something was up. The next day he showed up and sat in the first row and announced that he wanted to talk to everyone. He started speaking about how shocked he was about the conditions in the room he said he planed on changing how things were done. His boss then walked into the room and started to whisper to him and he suddenly started backing away from everything he had just said. I stood up and started telling him how awful the place was and that he should not back down from his original feelings. He couldn't really hear me so I raised my voice and spoke louder. At this point I woke my wife up and then I woke myself up. I was obviously yelling in my sleep. My wife said I was eloquent and used big words even though she could not understand what I was talking about. It took a long time to get back to sleep, so much for getting away. Last night I dreamed that I was involved in correcting Regents exams. I was having some problem with the scanners. I then remember having something to do with my Principal and then I was feeling angry and frustrated. It was like the bad old days. My dream then switched to a stone creature who was alive. This creature need to be fed all the time. If you got to close to it it would start trying to eat you. The only part that seemed to move was the mouth. For some reason, keeping this creature alive was very important. It would eat its own ear, but that did not keep it full for very long. Not much seemed to satisfy this creature except human flesh. To solve this problem some people with terminal cancer agreed to help. They would sit in a chair and someone would come along and rip off part of their arm and feed it to the creature. I wonder what Jung would think of that dream? The stone creature actually makes some sense because I had been looking on line at a statue called the Kiss by Brancusi. I printed it above. People here are reading my blog. One woman came up to me and said that I am too easy on the process. I do try to give the light side of what is happening to me. I am trying to see the absurdity of my situation and my environment. The truth is that things are absurd and they are tragic. People are accused of saying something bad to a kid and then spend a year in this room. This woman went to court and was told that she could plead guilty and get three days of community service. She said she didn't want to plead guilty and was told that all the DA's were at training sessions and so she would have to come back in June. I should be angry. Klein and the boys at the DoE keep yelling about how the UFT is stopping them from firing all of these people. They want reform. I believe that in order to prove his point Klein has slowed down how long it takes to investigate incidents. This has the effect of increasing the number of people in the rubber room. Klein can than use that number to justify blaming the union. It is not the union. It is Klein that has caused this. One guy has been here six months and has not been charged. I spend 3 months before I was charged. I think that people should be mad. I can understand this woman's frustration with the system. There seems no end. We are pawns in a political game of chicken between Klein and the UFT and to a smaller extent the CSA. My case is once again falling apart. The DoE does not want to change the wording of my settlement. They want me to serve for the next three years with the provision that if anyone in the DoE wants to fire me they will be able to do it just by accusing me of anything. I will have no appeal, they will be just able to say I did something wrong and fire me. This is what the DoE wants to do to all APs. I suppose Klein wishes that he had the power to just fire people if he wants to. Klein wants principals to have this power. In my case it seems as though the stars have lined up against me. The LIS may be showing that she can be tough with me and deserves to belong in Klein's inner circle. It does not appear to disturb this woman that most of the AP's in the building do not support the principal. It does not disturb her that she has never spoken to me. If does not seem as if she has read any of the trial transcript. The politics are such that principals are to be considered CEOs with absolute power to hire and fire APs and anyone supporting this policy is looked on kindly. Justice is not part of any ones vocabulary. Klein would rather sacrifice schools than back down. At lunch today I passed a restaurant that was Korean Mexican. Wonder how many of those there are. I am not sure being angry is better than being funny. I saw an interview with Naomi Campbell Monday. Apparently the PR guy from the city setting up her community service would not let her be driven into the garage. She had to get out and walk through all of the cameras. A perp walk. Instead of covering her head with a coat she chose to dress beautifully every day. In the process she made fun of the whole thing and she sold a lot of clothes. She said the boots she wore on the first day were not going to be made commercially except the company had 1800 orders the next day. I hope Naomi got a cut.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Day 132 One of the fun things about living in NYC is the number of food options you have. I usually try to take out of town guests to a place in little Italy that only serves rice pudding. You can't find a place like that in Buffalo. Today I had lunch in a place called Supermac that only serves Macaroni and Cheese. The line was out the door. Actually they also have desert. They have rice pudding. The weather was nice today so I took a long walk. At one point I walked across 23rd Street and passed three restaurants next to each other. One was called Trailer Park and served NYC's version of trailer park food, pulled pork, beer, french fries. The second one was a German fast food restaurant that served healthy food in a stainless steel and white restaurant. The third was a place called Burger and Cupcake. That's what they served. Who would have come up with this concept? In order to open a restaurant you need a lot of money. That means you have to go and pitch your idea to some type of backer. I can imagine the pitch. Sean and Brenda enter the office of JB. Brenda is holding their beautifully bound business plan in her arm. They sit around a polished table and start. Sean starts speaking. "Our research has shown that people are stressed out in New York. What they want to eat is comfort food and what is more comforting than a hamburger and a cupcake for desert." Brenda shows JB the spread sheets with all of their projections. JB leans back and thinks about what he has seen. He then leans forward and says, "I think you are correct in feeling that New Yorkers need comfort food. The problem I am having is that when I think of comfort food I usually think of macaroni and cheese and maybe rice pudding as desert." Sean immediately gets to his feet and says, "That's it! What a brilliant idea JB. We'll do it. We'll call it Supermac." Of course if my wife was designing a restaurant like this she would have spaghetti and ketchup and gray beef with canned string beans. The DoE is giving me trouble about the changes I want in my settlement. I figure that there are three possible reasons for this. One, the principal is so pissed off that she has called her protectors and made a lot of noise. Two, the LIS is annoyed that they settled because she signed off on this and it collapsed so quickly that she doesn't look good. The third and I think most likely reason is that with the reorganization of the DoE everyone is afraid for their job. Anyone who can show they are tough on APs will be a hero and will be a hero in the eyes of Klein.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

We Wish to Inform You

Day 131 I just finished reading this amazing book entitled "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda" by Philip Gourevitch. I bought the book because I had heard the author speak at my wife's synagogue. I thought he had an interesting take on the Holocaust. He seemed to not like the museum in Washington because he felt that it created this sort of Holocaust mythology that did not help. I think Gourevitch went to Rwanda because he was trying to understand how it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening. What is clear is that in a period of about three weeks about 1 million Tutsis were killed by the Hutus in Rwanda. This is an extremely difficult thing to do. It can only be done if many people participate and if bodies are just left in the road. The Germans never could have done it because they were too neat. Eventually the war ended because the Tutsis came from Uganda and took over the country. The book is partially about the killings and partly about the attempt to put the country back together. I am not sure that Gourevitch ever really explains how people get to the point of attempting to ever murder a whole group. He rejects one of the explanations I have heard. He rejects the idea that this happened because the country was suffering from famine. I almost think that he comes down on the side of any group of people, with the right leadership, can be led into genocide. Particularly if they feel powerless. Gourevitch has an interesting take on how to solve this problem. He feels that all this international compassion and talk, such as we see today with Dafur is useless. He feels that the international community is not willing to protect these people so the answer is to arm them and let them fight back. This is an interesting take for a Jew. I think what disturbs Gourevitch so much about how we teach the Holocaust is that we teach about the martyrdom of the Jews instead of emphasizing the times they fought back. We do not talk about why they didn't fight back more. I am still sitting hear in the rubber room. Apparently no one is willing to sign off on the changes in my settlement. At least I get to still write my blog. If you look at the center of the photo you will see what looks like hand prints. These are petroglyphs and were made but the native Americans that originally lived outside Las Vegas.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back in Manhattan

Day 130 Every time they want me to sign papers they transfer me back to Manhattan. This is really the rubber room. The one that will eventually make you crazy. I got their at 8:00 AM signed in and then asked around to see if there was an empty seat. I know my rubber room protocol. I found a seat and drank my coffee. At 8:30 a woman came in and sat down two tables from my table. Apparently the tables had gotten moved a little bit and she didn't have enough room. She asked the next table if they would mind moving their table a little. One guy said fine, the guy across from him said that if she moved a chair she would have enough room and he wasn't going to move the table. The first guy starts yelling that he is being unreasonable. These two guys start yelling at each other. I thought they were kidding but apparently they were not and apparently they do this all the time. You have to realize that they sit across from each other by choice. One of them could move. I suppose that that would cause the mover to lose face. Eventually the situation sort of got solved and then the woman who originally asked stood up and asked everyone for silence. 98% of the room became silent, one or two people were still quietly talking. She once again asked for silence. So like a teacher. I'm not going to start until everyone is quiet. She then started talking and immediately started crying. She said that she came in that day feeling good. That the fight had destroyed her mood. That it was her 60th birthday and she had brought cookies for everyone. The guy who was harassing her the most then announced to the group that we should all sing happy birthday, so we did. When I first started teaching I would always have one disruptive kid in the class. This kid would eventually stand up in front of the class and tell everyone to be quiet so that the teacher can teach. You learn that you can not allow this kid to become the enforcer because then you have lost the class. This guy leading happy birthday was this kid grown up. Someone commented that I should shut up because I have won. I don't think that this was ever a win lose situation. The only person that could every have won was the principal. She could only have won if I had gone quietly away. I was never in a position to win. I spoke to some other people in the rubber room today and one of the interesting things is that every settlement that anyone has received has included a clause that you will not sue the DoE. In other words we can falsely accuse you, manufacture evidence, and do anything else we want to and if you want your job back we will only give it to you if you agree to not sue us. I do want my job back so I will probably sign this. I have no real stomach for suing anyone and extending this ordeal any longer. Being happy and satisfied is much more important to me than revenge. It does seem though that this clause should not be legal. I am also signing that I have not been coerced into signing the document. This clause would seem to be prima facia coercion. I would love to be a part of a law suit to permanently ban this clause. No word from my lawyer today so I am still writing. The photo on the top is not meant as a comment on the rubber room. These are wild burro's at Red Rock Canyon Park.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The End is Near

Day 129 Today's blog may be a little bit long. One of the items in the settlement I am negotiating is that I shut down my blog. I guess free speech is threatening to the DOE. I don't think I really understand why this rambling journal is such an issue that it would become part of my settlement, but it is. As a card carrying ACLU member I am disturbed by this. I am obviously on the student's side of the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Supreme Court case. The decision to give up my right to free speech is difficult. Though I feel that I am a highly principled person, I am not sure I am willing to be a martyr. I'm only 75% Catholic. I've been thinking about how lies get created. For instance, there is this teacher on the first floor of my building who gave the DOE's lawyer a memo he supposedly wrote in March of 2005 about a trip I took. The memo was another piece of evidence that I had done a bad job of setting up the trip. The memo is not like a new copy of the bible. No one is going to do carbon 14 dating on it or analyze when the paper or ink were manufactured to prove it was written when it was dated. Luckily the memo refers to something that did not happen until September of 2006. It is obviously a lie. How does a lie like this happen. Did the principal go to this guy and tell him to write a memo supporting her? I don't actually think that is how it happened. I think those kinds of lies happen, but not that often. More likely the principal went to this teacher and asked him to check his records for anything that could be used against me. The teacher is close to retirement and he has two main goals in the time he has left. Work as many overtime hours as possible to up his pension and teach as little as possible so that his last few years will be easy. When the principal asked him to check his files he felt that it was important to stay on her side. He may even have remembered being upset about something in March. It therefore became easy to write a memo, back date it and give it to the principal. The principal was happy, he kept himself in her good graces, and a lie was created. It is my guess that a lot of lies happen this way. When I first moved to Brooklyn the neighborhood was basically Italian working class. The stores sold candy, pizza, and Capadomonte pottery. There were 4 shoe makers and 6 tailors. You could not buy the Sunday Times on Saturday night, you could buy the racing final of the Daily News at 9:00 every night. Things eventually started to change. Teachers, journalists, lawyers and other educated people started moving in. One of the first places to reflect this was a store that sold acoustic guitars, sheet music, and other musical things. It was mostly aimed at classical music people, kids taking music lessons, and guitar players. To me it symbolized the changes in the neighborhood even though I am not musical. A few years later a book store moved in a few blocks away and I started feeling more a part of the neighborhood. Eventually the neighborhood became hot and the houses started selling for ridiculous amounts of money. We became a big restaurant destination and there are clothing shops where you can buy a simple dress for $400. Today I rode my bike past the music store. It had closed down and there was a sign saying a fitness center would soon open there. This is the 4th fitness center in 6 blocks. As my neighborhood became "in" and expensive we have become a neighborhood of narcissistic jerks. Ah! progress.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Alberto Gonzales

I have been following the Alberto Gonzales case the past few weeks. It started with Gonzales claiming that the firing of the 6 (actually 8) US attorneys was done for cause. These 6 people just were not performing up to par. Then a bunch of emails came out in which administration officials seemed to discuss firing these guys for political reasons. On March 13 Gonzales held a new conference stating that he had not participate in the discussion on their firing. This weekend it came out that he had a one hour meeting in which the issue of firing the attorneys was discussed. One aid said that Alberto did not remember the meeting. Another aid said that the meeting didn't really talk about who was being fired, just when. Gonzales didn't even sign off on who was being fired. Gonzalez claims that there are 1100 people working at Justice and this was only 6. Of course it was 6 out of 94 regional heads. These were not secretaries. This is like the regional superintendent firing a principal. I would hope he would know who that principal was. Apparently there are two possibilities. Either Gonzales is out and out lying about everything or he is so unaware of what is happening in his office that he can go to a meeting and totally miss what it is about. The weird thing is people may be more willing to accept that he was lying than that he didn't know what was going on. In the world of politics lying seems to be okay. The bad thing is not the lie but that he wasn't smart enough to know what he could lie about. If he did not know what was happening in his office than he will be condemned because he should know what is going on. If he did a bad job of crafting his lie he will be condemned for the lie, but really what will bother most politicians is that he was too dumb to do a better job of lying. Either way it is not the lie that is doing him in, it is that he is not smart. It is interesting that technology keeps doing these guys in. Nixon with his tapes, Clinton with DNA and now Gonzales with e-mails. The US Government, unlike the DOE, actually archives all email. All these lawyer type guys who have an uncomfortably relationship with technology better learn how to deal with it. If they don't they will keep getting indicted. America is a great country and I have total faith in politicians. Eventually they will develop a back channel email system that will be beyond the snooping eyes of investigators. The other lesson of course is to always use a condom and take it with you.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


This is a picture taken inside at the Venetian shopping mall. Being Las Vegas, everything is fake except the statue. The statue is a real person. There are at least 5 people around Las Vegas who do this standing totally still performance. It is an amazing sight because it takes a huge amount of skill dedicated to something with almost no artistic merit. One of the reasons Vegas appeals to me is that I used to design and build sets. I loved the idea of being able to create whatever world I wanted. I often try to do this in my life. If I'm in Tennessee I want to eat catfish and drink moonshine. If I am in Florida I need to wear my Tommy Bahama shirts, San Francisco is sandals and crabs for dinner. Life is one big photography set. I've been following Al Gore's testimony. He is actually saying many of the things that need to be said. If global warming is really important then there are some things that can be done immediately. California is in the process of banning incandescent bulbs. This needs to be done nationally. If you are talking about global warming and you are still using incandescent bulbs it is the same as being against killing animals for human consumption except if they are being used to make cool leather pants. We need to drastically change building codes to make it imperative that new construction and commercial retrofits live up to a very high level of energy efficiency. We need to up the mileage standards in such a way that SUV's become impossible to build. We need to create coal plants that do not produce carbon dioxide. This will cost a lot of money. That means that it will lower our standards of living right now. We need to believe that an investment today will pay off in the future. This is what Gore is saying and so few want to hear. One senator asked Mr. Gore how come people keep talking about global warming and they never mention that it gets cold. This senator is an idiot if he doesn't understand the difference between global warming and a cold week in February. There are many people like him. My problem with Gore has always been that he has talked about changes in life style that did not have a large impact on the environment. Not letting my car idle for 5 minutes is not going to solve our problems. In New York there has been a very large movement to super energy efficient office buildings. This has happened partially out of altruism, but also because of some hard nosed cost analysis. This can happen with commercial buildings for corporate clients who will ultimately pay their own utility bills. This does not happen in apartment buildings because fuel is a pass through. It does not happen in private construction because it ups the price and makes it harder to sell the property. The only solution to these situations is to change the law and force builders to build green houses. The same is true about automobiles. Fuel does not cost enough to make people by more efficient cars. The only solution is to change the laws. I have now been hear through three seasons. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wasting Time

I know many of you want to hear more about my trial and not read my rants. My trial is at a strange place and so I am refraining from talking about it. Mostly I am sitting in the Bronx waiting for something to happen. (Brooklyn is never refereed to as the Brooklyn. The Bronx is always refereed to with the "the". Does this mean that "the" should be capitalized.) I printed out the ACLU report. You can find it at What they described was not dissimilar than my experience. They have a quote from Pedro Noguera about over-policing may create an environment no longer conducive to learning. This is interesting in that Pedro was working at my school. He never really seemed to want to explore this issue. I think the LIS probably wouldn't want him to. He does have a great reputation in education research and I think he should probably look at the effect of scanners and zero tolerance. Of course no one would pay any attention to him because people already have ideas on what is right. Someone commented on chasing kids to class who were talking to SSA's. This did not surprise me. SSA's are not paid much. Many of them were kids who walked around the hallways when they were in school. Chatting with students in the stairwells is what they do. Education is not what they do. They may not even understand how education works. One of the things the article pointed out was the 99% of the things confiscated by scanners are cell phones and ipods. Only .7% were classified as weapons. These include box cutters and knives. Not one gun was found. The speed at which my school received a million dollar camera system was staggering. The inability of the DOE to find a few hundred thousand to redo science labs is also staggering. The two times I had thefts and tried to use the cameras to find out who had done it I discovered that I could see someone committing the theft but that the resolution was not good enough to identify them. Other than being used to keep track of teachers and AP's the video system in my school is essentially useless. The UFT supports these types of installations. They do not seem to get that they are only good enough watch teachers. Impact schools receive $180 per pupil for textbooks, library books and librarians. Non impact schools receive $198 per pupil for these items. Don't think that police presence doesn't change how many teachers work in a school, class size and materials. When my school was flooded with police I discovered that they would all end up on the eighth floor. Nothing bad ever happened on the eighth floor. Mostly the police spent their time talking on their cell phones. One last story. When I was supervising night school I felt that students should be allowed cell phones and that they should be allowed to take the elevator to the 6th floor. I felt that if it was my kid I would like him to be treated this way. A few security guards felt that this was a bad idea. As a result they acted out in strange ways. They would show up late to open the doors or they would tell kids that the elevator was closed. It was a constant battle for one semester. I never understood why they needed to punish kids in this way. I was able to get my way, but it was not easy. Another HDR photo. The people in Vegas get that Chinese people like to gamble so they have played up Chinese New Year. This is the lobby of the Venetian

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Card Carrying Member

Day 122 Actually the title is not true. If you donate money to the ACLU using their web site they don't send you a card. This pisses me off, because I want a card. If anyone is connected to the higher ups you need to let them know that they should send out cards. That said I do contribute to the ACLU even though my father felt they were fellow travelers. (If you don't know that term look it up on Wikipedia.) The reason I belong to the ACLU is that they seem to support the rights of people over the rights of the state. I have always felt that if you are going to make a mistake in government you should always err on the sides of human rights. The ACLU seemed to make a lot of noise in the South when the FBI didn't investigate murders and bombings with enough vigor. The ACLU helped defend the Chicago Seven and many other people who were important to me. That said, yesterday the ACLU released a report entitled Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools. Much of what they said is similar to what I have said on a number of occasions in this blog. I have reprinted part of the press release below. NEW YORK - The massive and aggressive police presence in public schools has transformed New York City classrooms into hostile and dysfunctional environments that are damaging to students and disempower educators, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released today. "Children have the right to learn in a safe environment, but making schools feel like jails promotes neither learning nor safety," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "In New York City schools today, police personnel routinely curse at children, threaten them with arrest for minor infractions of school rules, confiscate their school supplies and lunches, and ignore and disrespect the authority of educators. The problem starts at the top. It's time for the Department of Education to take back responsibility for school safety and create a mechanism to hold police personnel accountable for misconduct directed at our children." There are two points that are important. First, students have a right to be safe. This means that there are situations in schools that require a police like presence. Students are beat up and robbed. Teachers are sometimes attacked. These need to be addressed in the same way that they are addressed in our society. However, democratic societies can not survive in the adult world if the police start to arrest people for insubordination. Democratic societies can not survive if police show no restraint in randomly stopping and searching citizens. This is what happens in zero tolerance schools every day. These schools are primarily made up of minority students. This type of police presence does not make students safer. It does make them feel as if it is them against society. It is easier to go after good kids than to investigate criminals but it does not make schools safer. The second point is that police should not be expected to be guidance counselors. It is not their duty. This means that using security guards to remove kids for talking is generally counter productive. Teachers are supposed to know how to deal with kids. School support personal should be used to deal with disruptive students. The function of a school is to change counter productive behavior, not punish it. Sometimes I seem to be too cynical about what is happening in the schools. The truth is that even though things go up and down the trend for the past 200 years has always been toward more freedom. Schools are better designed to deal with students as human beings than they were in 1900 or even when I went to elementary school. I do feel that we are just in a down period and that schools will become more democratic in the future. I have always asked myself if I would like my kids to be treated the way students in my old school are treated. I would not like them to be treated that way and so I made sure they both attended schools that had more respect for kids. These schools worked on the basis of not confronting students. They had less criminal behavior than my old school. I would argue that treating kids with respect caused less criminal behavior. There are many who would argue that less criminal behavior at these schools caused kids to be treated with respect, but I do not believe that this is true.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Feed the Elephant

Day 121 I saw this great quote today. "In India, when we want the elephant to grow, we feed the elephant. We don't weigh the elephant." This was spoken about our test driven curriculum. I spent Monday and Wednesday at my trial and I spent Tuesday with my lawyer so this week so far has been all about me. Someone in a comment criticized me for being too self involved. I am not sure what they expected of me but my self involvement has been necessary. Monday was direct testimony from the principal and Wednesday was the beginning of our cross examination. Unfortunately at this point I can not speak about any of this. One of the unusual things about my trial is my desire to have it public. This means I have had various people there watching what was going on. Everyone is amazed at how calm I seem. This is a combination of knowing I did nothing very wrong and drugs. I asked an old friend to write what he had seen during the trial. He is a country guy who is not used to working his way through the public transportation system. We have met many times in the city but he always drives and it is always on a weekend. I am publishing his impressions in full. The rabbit woke up and took the train into NYC. A beautiful ride down the Hudson River. He left the train and fell into the rabbit hole that is NYC. No one in the token booth. Only machines. The rabbit figures out how to get a paper token. Recalls paying $.15 for something with a little Y in the center about 100 years ago. Deciding to save some time later on he buys a paper and a token to use at the end of the day, not knowing that it expires in 2 hours. Why is that? And later that day leaves 2 rabbit testicles on the turnstile as he plunges into it because he has very smartly purchased an extra ticket in the morning. After passing through the metal detector and almost losing his pants because he has to remove his belt he finds himself at the next part of this now standard gauntlet. Sign a book and gain entrance to some corridors. You cannot get into the bathroom without the combination. How likely is it that people have struck into the building through 2 levels of security just to use a bathroom. At least the paper does not yet require a fingerprint. The courtroom is a conference room. There is a hearing officer, two lawyers, the principal, S, R, and the rabbit. Visitors must sit behind whoever is giving testimony so that their facial expressions are not seen by that person. The rabbit sits there watching. He has read the blog. Never knew that a rubber room existed. Is aghast at how long S had to wait until he found out what he was charged with. It appears that the Principal was compiling a file on S for a long time. Years. Waiting for the right moment. The rabbit knows what kind of person S is and recalls when they were little rabbits that he exhibited a strong sense of moral outrage at injustices. S would never do anything that he felt was not in the children's best interest. He would always be professional even if somewhat idiosyncratic. The room is piled high with evidence. Everyone has brought enough minced up trees to compost the rabbit's garden. In fact that would probably be a good use for most of the paper. Documents are put into evidence. Many of these are observations that S made. It is said he did not do all his required observations. There seems to be a discrepancy between a log of observations and observations on file. The evidence seems inconsistent to the rabbit. Some is signed, some not signed, some signed by 2 people, some by one. Some papers have made their way in twice. Some of this gets thrown out as evidence or withdrawn. Sometimes the principal seems to have a hard time adhering to the question. She drifts. To the rabbit, sometimes it seems like those blue regents books, where you just put in anything you could think of and maybe you would get credit for the question. The hearing officer must ask her to answer only the question. Nothing else. This happens a few times. There is almost as much scurrying as in the rabbit warren. The lawyers go out and confer, S and his lawyer leave the room, the board's lawyer and the Principal go out to confer, S and both lawyers go out. The hearing officer, R and the rabbit are always left behind. There is a spigot in the room. It is constantly turned on and off. When it is on; the hearing is on the record. Then two people have to scurry out to talk, and the spigot is turned the other way and the people left behind make idle conversation. The others return and we are back on the record. The rabbit can't help but wonder. Would any of this be happening if the Principal had liked S? The picture at the top is my exit from the Bronx.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another Day

A long uphill road Monday was the final day of the principal's direct testimony. It took all day to finish it. As usual the testimony was often confused and involved a lot of dissembling. There is a document that she gave me and that I signed, after I signed it she filled in additional things. When she was asked about this she gave a very round about answer, finding it hard to admit that she had done this. In another case we were going over observation logs and she stated that she had given us a complete and accurate package of observations. She was asked how come there were 35 observations listed and she only gave us 30. She had no answer. Today we get to cross exam her. I am nervous about this. I gave blood on Saturday. I do this mostly for altruistic reasons. Giving blood is a good thing for society and I have large veins that bleed easily. So it is not a big deal. I can't deny that the cookies afterward are nice. I have also gotten some premiums like a t-shirt, a cd case whose cover looked like a bag of blood and my favorite a coupon for some free gasoline. This was my favorite because it was blood for oil. I also give blood because there is some evidence that you lower the clotting factor in your blood and therefore have less likelihood of stroke. You may also lower cholesterol levels. The other day on the Daily Show there was a guy who wrote a book about inherited diseases and evolution. One of the points he made was that having too much iron in your blood causes diseases to grow. He said that in some cases blood letting may not have been a bad idea. Maybe this altruistic act has some personal good attached to it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Meanderings

Day 117 Friday Night is Chicken Night at My House Next week I have trial dates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so I should be busy. I will try and write as much as possible. Tuesday's trial was cut short because the DOE attorney became sick and did not come back after lunch. This was disappointing because a colleague who now lives in Texas was coming to watch. She showed up after lunch to watch the afternoon and did not get to see anything. This was too bad because I like others to testify to what they see. I think it adds to what I am saying. This woman is a good writer. When you show up at 47 Chamber Street you are confronted by the usual DOE security apparatus, metal detectors and x-ray machines. If you show a DOE ID they let you skip by. This is funny because the only person who would want to bomb this non-descript building is probably a DOE employee. Luckily teachers are not postal workers. We are more likely to have a nervous breakdown or drink ourselves into oblivion. I can't let this week finish without commenting on the Mayor's announcement that he is spending $60 million dollars in an attempt to improve the science skills of elementary school students. The mayor said he was still negotiating with publishers. In other words the city will soon give $60 million to publishers and they will give the city very colorful science books, beautiful boxes filled with CD's, workbooks, black line masters, and test writing software. These boxes will mostly sit in a corner unused except the black line masters. The books will be given to the students even though the teachers will generally not know what is in them or how to teach what is in them. The mayor will not understand why this didn't help. Text book companies in the United States have created this myth that if you buy a program you will solve your problems. This does not happen in other countries. I met with my wife and an elementary school principal and they talked about reading programs. The language they used was filled with publisher names: Houghton Miffling, Harcourt Trophy, Voyager etc. In other words curriculum is all about money. Education today finds itself in the same position as health care. There is a lot of money to be made and the clients (patients, students) are the last ones to be considered. One of the things I disagree with the principal about is why you don't tell teachers the exact date you are coming in to observe them. Actually I almost never tell teachers when I am coming in but I almost always don't stay if they ask if I can do it another day. The principal said in her testimony that she tells teachers what week she is coming in but not what day or period. She says she does this to avoid dog and pony shows (a good idea) and to avoid teachers only teaching that one period and then not working hard the rest of the time. (It is this attitude that teachers are all looking to get away with something that I find disturbing.) I think teachers mostly work hard and we should not be playing "got you". No one gets better with that approach. Great companies set high standards and respect employees.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I've got letters

Day 116 For some reason I received a lot of comments on yesterday's blog. I think I need to answer some of them. I did write that if people tell the truth I will be OK. I do not think I am here because people lied. I think that I am here because Of things that I have said. I sent a series of emails to the AP's last year called "The Death of Math". These emails were about the fact that my ninth grade math classes were messed up by splitting the double period room into two separate rooms on opposite sides of the building and the teacher's room was taken away for most of the day. This was a teacher that had decorated her room with all kinds of cool math stuff. This room assignment was destroyed to accommodate one period of art. I though that this was a bad thing to do and said so publicly. I am here because as CSA rep I complained about AP's being forced to spend a period a day in the lunch room. The CSA backed me up. This was against our contract. I am here because I did not always do all the observations I should have. I am here because I thought the fascist "no tolerance" approach to education is mean and does not work, and I said so constantly. I am not here because people other than the principal have lied. I never said I was the hardest working AP. I quoted a comment made on one of my blogs. I do not feel I am the hardest working AP. I think many of the AP's work harder than I do. I do work hard though. I said the principal received a print out of my blog. I do hope she sees the comments. If you know who prints them than help her figure out how to print the comments. The tech savvy person who advised me to clear my cache is properly paranoid. You are correct that the DOE probably has software to track us. They do not seem to have software to find my email. Actually I don't really believe that. I do believe that the DOE consciously erased my saved emails. My cracks about fashion are nothing more than an obvious caricature. It is one of the principals quirks. I have no objection to quirks. I do feel that making fun of them is fine. I don't really mind if people make fun of my quirks. It comes with being a public figure. I just felt that making jokes about fashion were too easy. Blaming teachers for the failings of my high school is not the right thing to do. It is important to realize that much of the problems with our school do come from the administration including me. We have designed a structure that does not well serve our students and does not attract good students. I assume the person who wrote about losing respect for me is the same one that has said that in the past. Of course I have been put into a position where I have nothing to do except deal with my own issues. I have been consulted on program and student issues unofficially. I have been officially suspended so I am not clear what I could do. I will not abandon any of my students who need anything of me. Did this person really see me as a consensus builder. This is not my self perception. I try not to be too snide. I try to find humor in what is happening around me. I think that is different. I may not be good at it but snide is not my goal. Of course I need to be selfish enough to get my job back, otherwise how can I be unselfish. Unless someone can convince me that by losing my job I will make my high school a better place. Is this my Catholic upbringing coming into play? I have not seen Heather in years, but I think she is a better political thinker than I am. If anyone is in touch with her and would like to send her my blog address I would welcome her comments. Heather is a better student of Machiavelli than I have ever been. I am fine with not knowing who comments on my blog. Anyone feeling they want to say something not public needs to email me directly. Blogs are funny things because they are public and the DOE has even less regard for the rights of teachers than George Bush has for the rights of Americans. Oh, my god, am I being snide? My Personal Rubber Room

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Still Media Savy

Day 115 Even the worst gang member will dress nicely when they go to trial. I am no different. I debate every trial day whether I should wear a red tie or a blue tie. Will the red tie make me look confidant or make me seem to cocky. Is blue too unsure. I wear a suit everyday so that I will look respectable. On the first day the principal testified I choose to wear the suit I bought for my daughters wedding. This was a while ago and the suit is getting kind of worn out and is a little tight but I thought it was important to wear it. Her wedding was a special day. We started Tuesday's hearings with a request that the principal had something personal to say and could we ask the spectators to leave. This seemed like a strange request. I though maybe her fibroids were acting up or some such embarrassing medical condition. The arbitrator said that I had asked for an open hearing and he could not ask the spectators to leave. The arbitrator and the two lawyers and the principal than went outside to talk. I then met privately with my lawyer who told me that the principal was upset about my blog. I said that I would not agree to the spectators leaving. I was amazed that this was presented as a personal issue. We all went back into the room and the issue was presented on the record. The principal testified that someone prints out my blog for her and that I said I would discuss her testimony after she was done. The principal's lawyer argued that the witnesses were asked not to talk to others about their testimony but I was allowed to do exactly that with my blog. My lawyer argued that it was a free speech issue. The arbitrator said that I could always be brought up on charges of "Off duty misconduct" or privately on slander charges but that I did have a First Amendment right to my blog. The principal was then asked if she talked about the trial in school and she made the comment, "I don't have time to talk about this, I have a building to run." This was an interesting comment because when I checked my notes I discovered she made the same identical comment when I was fighting her over moving my math teachers all over the building. She promised to make the move work out for the good of the teacher and the students but could not do it. When the teacher filed a grievance she made the same comment. It was more or less a desire to have difficult problems go away. There was an article about a guy in Russia who wrote critical things about Putin. Yesterday he committed "suicide" by jumping out a fifth floor window in the hallway of his apartment building. Maybe that's why so many of the stairwell windows are not screwed shut. The truth is that I have tried to be careful not to get into to many specifics about this case. I have not wanted to be accused of polluting the testimony of someone. I strongly believe that if people tell the truth than I am fine. The worst thing that could happen is for someone to say they are saying something because I told them to or influenced them in some way. As I said in the past, when I started writing this I imagined maybe 4 or 5 people reading it. When I got to 100 people a day I realized that I should be careful of what I say. This does not mean I shouldn't say what I feel, it is just that I should restrain how I say things. There was a very nice comment on Monday's blog. One part struck me particularly: "a unanimous consensus that despite all of your quirks (and inability to think before you speak sometimes), YOU ARE the HARDEST working AP in the building. ... Anyone who knows you, knows that you first priority is always the kids." It was nice that some people think my first priority is the kids. It is perceptive that these same people think I have an inability to think before I speak. It is actually not as bad as some people think. I have always worked on the basis that saying something outrageous or judgmental will get people thinking. In other words I do think before I speak, it's my thinking that is screwed up. My wife thinks I should not do as much of this red flag waving type of thing. She is probably right. I want to start discussions, not make people mad but I probably make people mad. The nice thing about writing is you can read something over before you send it into the world. Every angry email I composed to the principal I put aside overnight. This was a good thing to do. I still sent them, I just was more controlled in what I said. I don't use the same time frame with the blog but I do put it aside for an hour and reread it. Most of the corrections I make involve trying to word something so it makes sense. I am getting better at not writing something to cutting. After all of the fashion discussions last week I started the day but making note of my principal's wardrobe and then decided that this was not a good thing to write about. Maybe I really am becoming "Media Savy". Tell me if I should wear a red or blue tie.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Day Before

Day 114 After my foray into male fashion on Thursday I though I would publish a couple of female fashion photographs. There are stores such as this all over the South Bronx. The sign that spring may actually finally arrive is the windows in the children's clothing stores full of first communion dresses. The idea of all of these 6 and 7 year old girls dressing as brides of Jesus is a little strange. Tomorrow my trial starts again. I would think we would finish the Principal's testimony and possibly some of the cross examination. But things always take longer than expected. Thursday I went to my lawyer's to discuss the case. I am amazed at how weak it is. My lawyer is bored by the case because it all this nit picking stuff. I have a tendency to think that it is obviously absurd and we should just say this. My lawyer luckily realizes that she has to rebut everything. Years ago when I was a photo assistant I sued a photographer for back pay. To me it was an open and shut case. I worked the hours so I should get paid. The mediator looked at my calendar and saw that I wrote down that I worked on Labor Day. He assumed that was a lie and found against me. I was doing a very screwed up photo shoot and had worked on Labor Day but this guy couldn't see that. The point of course is that good lawyers are prepared for anything. I feel hesitant to speak about the Principal's testimony until it is finished. If it does finish on Tuesday maybe I can speak more freely. I will say that I am feeling pretty good about what is going on. The nice thing about what is happening is that when the principal says that I called people emotional distress than she has to get someone to come in and speak about the emotional distress they went through. I suppose some AP's husband or wife could sue me for loss of services because of the emotional distress I have caused them. That would be fun.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Bronx

Day 112 I am meeting with my lawyer today so this will be short. Tomorrow I am taking a day off to judge a contest at Channel Thirteen so I may not write again until Monday. Yesterday I brought my camera and did some pictures around the neighborhood. Every morning I walk into this diner and this man gets me my coffee and donut without either one of us exchanging a word. He has known what I want since my 3rd day. He is the wife I've always wanted. I assume this young lady is Mexican. This is her job warm or cold. I wonder how much schooling she has had. 149th Street and 3rd Avenue. The center of my new neighborhood. Checking out the latest in South Bronx fashion.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on Justice

Day 111 As promised I have attached a photograph of Red Rock Canyon. These photos are processed with a software called high dynamic range. I haven't decided which one I want to buy so I downloaded the trials. The trials print words on the pictures so you can't print them. When I finally decide which one to buy I won't have the words any more. I am also printing out a copy of what my ex student wrote about the trial. Do not feel that if you come I will make you write an essay, but if you want to I will be happy to put it in my blog unedited except for identities. I still have this other investigation that no one will tell me what it is about. I do suspect that it has something to do with my blog. While sitting in on the trial, I could not help but realize that S was being crucified for not crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s during the course of his work at ----- ----- high school. The impression made by his accuser completely dehumanized and ignored all the effort and hard work that S had put into helping the school which the Principal was running. As a person who has a deep respect for S, I can not deny that this impression is biased, yet I do believe that someone should state the truth on his part, in that most of the evidence against him deals with the filing of paperwork. So I ask; When it comes to the education and success of the students in NYC public high schools, is the DOE more concerned with paperwork or in making sure that the students’ emotional and mental well being is kept so that they may become better members of society? I can almost be certain that if S failed to hand in something on time, it was because he was helping students with a bake sale to fundraise for educational resources or community service projects. If he failed to hand in his attendance records on time, it was because he had just finished coming from a meeting with a troubled kid, to figure out why he/she was not attending or acting disruptive during class. If he failed to supervise a certain students’ misconduct, it was because he is not omnipresent and there should have been more security throughout the building. One can see that these accusations made against S do nothing but push away all teachers and supervisors who truly care for students. These teachers just like S, are inspired solely by the dreams and ideas of their students as well as helping others in need. As a former student, I can say that our dreams and inspiration also run on the opinion and support of our caring teachers. Should the dreams of a thousand students in the NYC public school system be ruined because of a few missing papers? I have included a post entitled "Stuff you don't have to read". It is an article from the Times about the environmental movement that I thought was interesting. Al Gore has served an important purpose in our society even if his science is not correct. It is now time to move beyond Gore. R and I were at the Paris Casino waiting to get into a restaurant for dinner. We were sitting at a chair at a Wheel of Fortune game. The way the game worked is you spun an electronic slot machine and if you hit in a certain way then the big wheel above you would spin and multiply your winnings by whatever it landed on. Eight people could play simultaneously. The reason we could sit where we did was because the machine had an out of order sign on it. The other seven spots were functioning. While we were waiting for dinner these two women came up to us and said that this was there machine. Apparently they were having dinner and they asked someone to turn off this station so that it would be untouched and available to them after dinner. This was their lucky station. Slot machines in Vegas are now almost all electronic. The electronics involve random number generators. The operative word is random. The belief that one station is lucky is faith based on no factual evidence. Vegas casinos are willing to serve this faith because it makes them money. Vegas casinos know they will make money because they have science on their side. I always gamble when I am in Las Vegas or Atlantic City but I know that it is only random chance. I think that many people feel that I have lost some of the mystery of life. They feel that it is important to believe in luck and mystery. Here's a mystery from the Copenhagen view of reality. This story was told by Erwin Schrodinger a Nobel prize winning physicist. If you shut a cat into a box with a killing mechanism triggered by a quantum-mechanical event. Before you open the lid of the box you don't know if the cat is dead. You would assume that there are only two states, the cat can be either dead or alive. In the quantum world this is not true. The only thing that exists is the probability of the cat being dead. As soon as we open the box, the wave function collapses and we are left with the single event: the cat is dead, or the cat is alive. Until we opened the box, it was neither dead or alive. This is quantum mechanics. This is science. Who needs a lucky random number slot machine.

Things yor don't need to read

AHEAD OF THE CURVE Stewart Brand, who helped found the environmentalist movement. He predicts that all this will happen in the next decade, which sounds rather improbable — or at least it would if anyone else had made the prediction. But when it comes to anticipating the zeitgeist, never underestimate Stewart Brand. He divides environmentalists into romantics and scientists, the two cultures he’s been straddling and blending since the 1960s. He was with the Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead at their famous Trips Festival in San Francisco, directing a multimedia show called “America Needs Indians.” That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of romantic. But he created the shows drawing on the cybernetic theories of Norbert Wiener, the M.I.T. mathematician who applied principles of machines and electrical networks to social institutions. Mr. Brand imagined replacing the old technocratic hierarchies with horizontal information networks — a scientific vision that seemed quaintly abstract until the Internet came along. Mr. Brand, who is now 68 and lives on a tugboat in Sausalito, Calif., has stayed ahead of the curve for so long — as a publisher, writer, techno-guru, enviro-philosopher, supreme networker — that he’s become a cottage industry in academia. Last year, Fred Turner of Stanford published “From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism.” This fall Andy Kirk of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is putting out “Counterculture Green: The Environmentalism of Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog.” By next year we should be due for a revisionist historian’s discovery of a modern social movement that Mr. Brand did not orchestrate. In addition to publishing the Whole Earth Catalog, he organized the first Hackers Conference, in 1984, and helped found The WELL, the early electronic community that was a sort of prototype of the Web. In Professor Turner’s history, he was the impresario who knew everyone and brought the counterculture and the cyberculture together, from the Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s to Wired magazine in the 1990s. He is now promoting environmental heresies, as he called them in Technology Review. He sees genetic engineering as a tool for environmental protection: crops designed to grow on less land with less pesticide; new microbes that protect ecosystems against invasive species, produce new fuels and maybe sequester carbon. He thinks the fears of genetically engineered bugs causing disaster are as overstated as the counterculture’s fears of computers turning into Big Brother. “Starting in the 1960s, hackers turned computers from organizational control machines into individual freedom machines,” he told Conservation magazine last year. “Where are the green biotech hackers?” He’s also looking for green nuclear engineers, and says he feels guilty that he and his fellow environmentalists created so much fear of nuclear power. Alternative energy and conservation are fine steps to reduce carbon emissions, he says, but now nuclear power is a proven technology working on a scale to make a serious difference. “There were legitimate reasons to worry about nuclear power, but now that we know about the threat of climate change, we have to put the risks in perspective,” he says. “Sure, nuclear waste is a problem, but the great thing about it is you know where it is and you can guard it. The bad thing about coal waste is that you don’t know where it is and you don’t know what it’s doing. The carbon dioxide is in everybody’s atmosphere.” Mr. Brand predicts that his heresies will become accepted in the next decade as the scientific minority in the environmental movement persuades the romantic majority. He still considers himself a member of both factions, just as in the days of the Merry Pranksters, but he’s been shifting toward the minority. “My trend has been toward more rational and less romantic as the decades go by,” he says. “I keep seeing the harm done by religious romanticism, the terrible conservatism of romanticism, the ingrained pessimism of romanticism. It builds in a certain immunity to the scientific frame of mind.” Mr. Brand got his first look at the big picture one afternoon in 1966 while sitting on a roof in San Francisco at what he calls an “altitude of three stories and 100 mikes,” meaning micrograms of LSD. He contemplated the skyline and decided the buildings weren’t parallel because he was seeing the curvature of the Earth. This reminded him of Buckminster Fuller’s theory that people abused the environment because they thought of the Earth as flat and infinite, not as a finite globe. The next day the Earth looked flat again, but the 28-year-old Mr. Brand had a new cause. He printed up buttons asking, “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” Two years later, when Earth’s portrait from space was finally released, he used it on the cover of his new project, the Whole Earth Catalog. The catalog became the bible for the counterculture and the back-to-the-land movement, but Mr. Brand was not into the simple self-sufficient life on the farm. He was into new tools and new ways of sharing information. As he famously explained in the introduction to the catalog: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” Along with the potter’s wheels and organic-farming tips, the catalog featured a state-of-the-art offering from Hewlett Packard: a desktop calculator that cost $4,900. In 1968, which was 16 years before the Apple Macintosh, Mr. Brand helped arrange the first demonstration of a computer mouse. In a 1972 article, he contrasted “hackers” (a novel term then) with old-fashioned “planners,” hailing the experimental, collaborative culture that was taking shape in cyberspace. At the first Hackers Conference, he uttered another of his enduring aphorisms, “Information wants to be free.” Mr. Brand’s latest project, undertaken with fellow digerati, is to build the world’s slowest computer, a giant clock designed to run for 10,000 years inside a mountain in the Nevada desert, powered by changes in temperature. The clock is an effort to promote long-term thinking — what Mr. Brand calls the Long Now, a term he borrowed from the musician Brian Eno. Mr. Brand is the first to admit his own futurism isn’t always prescient. In 1969, he was so worried by population growth that he organized the Hunger Show, a weeklong fast in a parking lot to dramatize the coming global famine predicted by Paul Ehrlich, one of his mentors at Stanford. The famine never arrived, and Professor Ehrlich’s theories of the coming “age of scarcity” were subsequently challenged by the economist Julian Simon, who bet Mr. Ehrlich that the prices of natural resources would fall during the 1980s despite the growth in population. The prices fell, just as predicted by Professor Simon’s cornucopian theories. Professor Ehrlich dismissed Professor Simon’s victory as a fluke, but Mr. Brand saw something his mentor didn’t. He considered the bet a useful lesson about the adaptability of humans — and the dangers of apocalyptic thinking. “It is one of the great revelatory bets,” he now says. “Any time that people are forced to acknowledge publicly that they’re wrong, it’s really good for the commonweal. I love to be busted for apocalyptic proclamations that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. In 1973 I thought the energy crisis was so intolerable that we’d have police on the streets by Christmas. The times I’ve been wrong is when I assume there’s a brittleness in a complex system that turns out to be way more resilient than I thought.” He now looks at the rapidly growing megacities of the third world not as a crisis but as good news: as villagers move to town, they find new opportunities and leave behind farms that can revert to forests and nature preserves. Instead of worrying about population growth, he’s afraid birth rates are declining too quickly, leaving future societies with a shortage of young people. Old-fashioned rural simplicity still has great appeal for romantic environmentalists. But when the romantics who disdain frankenfoods choose locally grown heirloom plants and livestock, they’re benefiting from technological advances made by past plant and animal breeders. Are the risks of genetically engineered breeds of wheat or cloned animals so great, or do they just ruin the romance? Mr. Brand would rather take a few risks. “I get bored easily — on purpose,” he said, recalling advice from the co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix. “Jim Watson said he looks for young scientists with low thresholds of boredom, because otherwise you get researchers who just keep on gilding their own lilies. You have to keep on trying new things.” That’s a good strategy, whether you’re trying to build a sustainable career or a sustainable civilization. Ultimately, there’s no safety in clinging to a romanticized past or trying to plan a risk-free future. You have to keep looking for better tools and learning from mistakes. You have to keep on hacking.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Las Vegas 2

Before I go into more trial stuff, I wanted to spend a little more time on Vegas. One of the great things about casinos is the bathrooms. Casinos always have well designed large bathrooms that are kept clean. In Las Vegas the men's rooms usually have double cup holders next to the urinal. You can carry two drinks and still pee. What a town. The casino I was staying in also had vending machines in the men's room that sold aspirin and both regular and strawberry flavored condoms. Is that great or what. On Saturday R and I went to a synagogue. We met a bunch of people that we felt more comfortable with than most Las Vegans. I asked the question I asked a lot, what do you do for fun. These people did what I would probably do. They had dinner with friends and they were on lists that gave them access to discount show tickets. There are also lots of movie theaters in Las Vegas. Of course people gamble a lot. I don't really gamble that much. People also find that they can drive to many different kinds of places in a short time. They can get to Red Rock Canyon in 30 minutes. It is a beautiful place to hike. They also can drive to the Grand Canyon in a few hours or Zion or Los Angeles. When I get time to work on the pictures I will show you some of Red Rock Canyon. Our trip home was filled with adventure. We were flying form Las Vegas to St. Louis to LaGuardia on Sunday. We got to St. Louis and discovered that our flight to LaGuardia was cancelled as were most other flights to NY, Washington, Chicago. The whole system was a mess and it was obvious we would never get out of St. Louis. Our bags were supposed to be taken off the plane, but they were not. So we ended up in a hotel room in St. Louis with no clean underwear and no toothbrushes. The hotel gift shop sold underwear and the hotel gave us free toothbrushes and a razor. We survived. No one knew where are bags were and eventually we managed to get on a flight to LaGuadia hoping that our bags would be there. If you have ever seen "Gone with the Wind" there is a scene at the end of the first act in which the camera pulls back to reveal the plaza outside the rail road station in Atlanta filled with dead or wounded confederate soldiers. This is what LaGuadia baggage looked like. There were thousands of abandoned bags all over the baggage claim. We spent awhile walking through the bags and surprisingly found our three bags. If you look at statistics on where people want to live, particularly young educated people, some interesting trends start to develop. I consider myself a young educated person. You see that education levels are critical in where people choose to live. Seattle is number one with over 52% of the population having a college degree. New York is not that high until you look at Manhattan. Manhattan has over 57% with college degrees and almost 27% with advanced degrees. This means that there is more culture. Manhattan also has a large number of gays and artists. This adds to it's hipness. Real estate people have finally realized that attracting gays and artists can help sell a neighborhood. Las Vegas is not in the top 25. It does not even seem to care. My impression of the high schools is that they are designed to produce workers not college students. Certainly there is a huge need for workers in Vegas. Not just dealers but people who are good craftspeople. The level of wood working and other crafts is pretty high in the casinos. There is also the feeling that you don't need an education because you can make $80,000/ year doing valet parking. The guy I talked to said that that wasn't true but he did admit that they did pretty good. If you are a girl with a good waist, long legs and substantial mammaries you can do well serving free drinks in a casino. It looked like people did these jobs into there forties. This actually doesn't bother me that much. What does bother me is that even in this type of economy you should be pushing intellect and higher education. The valet parkers and free drink maids are the Vegas equivalent of the automobile worker or truck driver. They work hard and make solid middle class money. There is nothing wrong with this. Schools systems however should not be designed to only produce these types of workers. If the United States has taught us anything in the last 40 years it should be that children should be pushed to the highest educational level possible. They will gain the flexibility to change with the economy. They will also be more in control of their lives and therefore happier. Right now Las Vegas is a boom town. It is growing quickly while Lansing Michigan is shrinking. The question then becomes, 'is there a difference between Las Vegas and Lansing?' The difference seems to be mostly the existence of tourists and the restaurants and shows they attract. There are also more gays in Vegas so that helps. The city ranks 47 out of 49 on a creativity index. Underneath all of this the population is not that different than blue collar Lansing. Just warmer and with less benefits. I asked one of the students who observed my trial to write what she/he thought of it. I will publish this tomorrow.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's Vegas Baby

Here I am in Las Vegas. This is part vacation and part exploratory trip. R and I visited an elementary school on Tuesday. The school seemed to have all of the same problems as NYC only it was fully carpeted and only 10 years old. It also had lots of working computers and copier machines. It also had only 17 kids in grades 1 to 3. After leaving this school we went out for lunch. I started asking all the kids I ran into if they had been to high school in Las Vegas. One girl had dropped out in the 10th grade and one boy had only gone for the last two years. They both hated the high schools. It seems as though Las Vegas has developed a system of high schools that are designed to teach kids occupations. I think that this is usually a bad idea. For one thing high schools are always teaching kids how to do occupations that no longer exist or only have a short time to survive. When I first started in my school the typing teacher was trying to convince the principal to buy new typewriters. She felt that people in industry still used typewriters. She also taught the idea of double spaces at the end of a sentence, a useless practice with proportional spaced type used on computers. At the same time the high school for printing technology was still going strong. Preparing kids for an industry that had left New York and in many cases the United States. I am sticking in a piece that was written by an ex teacher now in grad school. The piece is written about my conversations on evolution. As a preface I had a conversation with a research biologist last week about how uncomfortable I was with the idea of junk DNA. She agreed that it should probably be called unknown DNA. Anyway, here is the email this ex teacher and friend sent me: just read your mon blog. what you were saying bout evolution and efficiency really doesnt hold true on the molecular level. actually that has been most fascinating to me in my studies. the cell goes through so much effort, and some of it is highly inefficient. of course, we constantly theorize the purpose of the futility or the inefficiency because we automatically assume we have evolved with efficiency. but some of our chemical makeup is worthless, overly complicated, and leads me to believe we wont last nearly as long as people may assume. of course i get what you were referring to, and it is nothing to take for granted, and very cool to think about. i am actually really glad i had so much experience teaching evolution prior to grad school. it definitely helped to further develop my thought process and strengthened my foundation for grad school. It is interesting that teaching high school can develop your thinking. I am providing this intellectual discussion so that my comment person who keeps criticizing me doesn't think that I am too self absorbed. I hope that she will be able to follow the evolution discussion. Here is the one comment I thought was the most silly one I have yet seen. Ed and most of the people who make comments here are the worst spellers! What can you teach your students when you are so utterly lacking in the most fundamental skills? I have assumed that this was done by a woman, because I find that most men are not so hung up on things like spelling. If I have misspelled anything I am sorry. I usually do about four spell checks before I post but my wife says that I sometimes use the wrong version of "there". I will be more careful. Not because I think that spelling is the most important thing in the world but because I feel that when you post for public consumption you should have enough pride in your work to make sure it is as perfect as it can be. It is ideas and pride in what you do that are probably the most important thing I give to kids. I yell at kids for misspelling words only because I feel that they need enough pride in what they give me to do a spell check. I never yell at kids for things they hand write on a test. My wife feels that I don't see words the same way she does. I don't. I do see number in a very graphic way. When I add something such as 12 and 18 I will see the 2 leaving the 12 and swimming to the 18 leaving me with the easy job of adding 10 and 20. People who are good at math often see numbers as visual things. My wife doesn't see things that way. She does see words that way. It is an interesting thing. Luckily calculators and spell check have allowed both of us to overcome what may be genetic shortcomings. I think my spelling comment person needs to figure out what is really important for kids to learn. It is sad she hasn't gotten there.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Break Time

Day 108 There use to be this great series on PBS called "Connections" hosted by James Burke. Burke is a science historian. The trick on the show was that he would start with some ancient item and then connect it to some modern marvel. One of the shows I remember started with a Persian coin with Burke saying 'how is this coin connected to...'and then the camera pulled back to reveal the space shuttle taking off. Burke would then spend an hour connecting step by step how the invention of coins in 643 BCE led to building the space shuttle. Burke did a wonderful job and it was great fun to watch these shows. Of course they were intellectual not true. They were not true because you could probably start with almost any object from Persia and connect it to the space shuttle. It is the 6 degrees of separation puzzle. There is a new movie out called "The Number 23". The idea of the movie is that the number 23 is connected to this guys life in sinister ways. If you read Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco there is this great monologue in which one of the characters points out that you could use the proportions of the newsstand at the corner to prove a conspiracy. You just have to divide them and multiply them by the correct numbers and you could probably get a product of 23 or anything else you wanted to. It is this type of connection that conspiracy theorists use all of the time to prove there points no matter how crazy. My principals birthday is August one or 8/1. August one has nine letters and 8/1 adds up to nine. Coincidence! The Japanese consider 9 to be unlucky because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for "pain" or "distress" ( kunrei ku). This of course explains why I am going through what I am going through. No it doesn't but it does make a fun conspiracy. This is what makes me often nervous about evolution. It seems great at drawing connections to explain why things happen. I think that good science should also be able to predict what will happen or what science will find in the spaces. When the periodic table was developed not all of the elements were known. Scientists using the periodic table were able to say something had to be in the blank box. They were than able to find the missing elements. Is this how evolution works. Has the science of evolution developed to such a level that scientists can predict what links they will find. E squared is very sure that black skin is related to vitamin C production. I am sure it is. But does it explain the original distribution of skin color in the world. I still think if this was the determining factor than all of the rainforest people would have white skin. I have heard the argument that being more invisible to predators is the issue. Black skin in a rain forest will be more difficult to spot than white skin. If I was a lion in the rain forest the first person I would see is someone like my son, very white very tasty very slow. I do admit that some genetic traits may be just accidental but I am wary of saying which ones. It does seem as though someone could come to my trial after school and there would still be some time left. You could come and share my kunrei ku.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Trial

The Light at the End of The Forest Day 107 I know from some private emails that many people want to know how the last two days went. Tuesday started with the investigator returning and being cross examined by my lawyer then the DOE called one witness at 3:00 and then was supposed to call an AP, but the AP was sick so we started with the principal. We didn't do much on Tuesday. Wednesday of course the weather was really crappy but we started early and the whole day was devoted to direct testimony from the principal. My wife was there and so was one ex student. It was great to have some support. The arbitrator made my observers sit in such a position that the witness, in this case the principal, could not see their faces. This prevented her from seeing my wife wince, frown or laugh. My ex student came late and they wouldn't let her in because it seems to be rare that these things are open. The law clearly says they can be open. We straightened this out with the reception and so I do not anticipate any more problems. The location is 47-51 Chambers Street on the 6th floor. Reception will know where I am. My next date is March 6 and I would anticipate the principal will finish with direct and we will start cross examining. If you want to come feel free to come for an hour or two. It is mostly boring but support is great. We are supposed to go from 9:30 to 5:00PM My wife asked me how I could stand sitting there listening to all of this for as long as I did. I am not allowed to talk on pain of death from my lawyer. I told my wife that in terms of duration and level of focus it was not much different from most of the cabinet meetings I had sat through. I probably should not go into much detail on what is going on because I would probably get into trouble. Of course if someone bought me a drink I would probably be much more loquacious. I will occasionally mention lines that struck me as funny. At one point the principal said she was walking down the hall and she heard something that did not belong in a school and became immediately suspicious. She heard laughter.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More on Evolution

Day 105 Wow, I didn't expect all this reaction to my last post. It seems my comments on black genetics caused a big stir. First of all I think that there has been a bunch of bad genetic information given to school kids on why there are differences in skin color. The differences genetically are so small that many scientists refuse to even consider them. A few years ago there was a flurry of activity over the issue of researching different drug reactions depending on race. There were some arguments made that certain heart medicines might react differently on black people than on white people. The issue was if researchers should look at race as a factor. If you work in NYC you have a real hard time with this. I was once asked to fill out a form on the racial make up of my class. I found it very difficult to do because it was hard to just look at some kids and figure out what race they were. I am not sure how you do race based studies considering the difficulty of finding that dividing line between black and white. The physics of color says that dark objects absorb more light than light objects. The argument for the origins of blacks in tropical areas is hard to base on color alone. For every argument that dark is better near the equator there is one that light is better. Additionally if you live your life in a rainforest you are probably exposed to less direct sunlight than someone in Sweden. It may be that the only argument for a difference in skin color that actually works is the sexual argument. If skin color offers no direct genetic advantage in terms of life expectancy or survival rate it may be that the only advantage is that it turns on females. If the most important thing that males do is to pass on their DNA than you can argue that if they turn on females they are more likely to pass on their DNA. (I do know people who feel that passing on DNA and opening stuck jars are the only reason for males) One of the questions facing geneticists is the issue of why an isolated population develops along a different path. The lab we do in Living Environment called "Beaks of Finches" postulates that the Finches developed different beaks to accommodate different food sources. This is the physics answer to that genetic problem. Some beaks were better for breaking big seeds and some were better for little seeds. But you always have to allow for the possibility that the lady Finches on one side of the island were turned on by big beaks and the ones on the other side were turned on by little pointy beaks. This would explain why there was a difference. The point of all of this is that when adults decide they have the answer to a complex problem they may not. The answer that seems to make rational sense may on further investigation not make as much sense. This is the conundrum of education. We sit on the outside of the teenage mind trying to make sense of it and we are often as wrong as we are right. This does not mean we should give up trying to figure it out. It does mean that we should be wary of easy answers. To the person who commented that I was an Idiot, that is really hard to argue with. If you want to tell me why than I can use your comments to improve myself. Wednesday I will be on trial from 9:30 to 3:00

Monday, February 12, 2007

Preparing For This Week

Day 104 If you are interested in visiting me during the trial I am at 52 Chambers Street on the 6th floor. When you get there you will have to ask where I am because I won't know until that day. Someone commented on what my trial is like. My experience as a juror and now as a defendant is that lawyers work like surgeons. One of the things about surgery is that everything is a routine and is impersonal. This allows surgeons to cut people open without being disturbed by it. Lawyers do the same thing. The woman trying me may or may not like me, but this does not matter to her. The system gives everyone this detached state. I am not sure that you can prove one way or another if detached is the right way to arrive at the truth. I have been in the situation of listening to different sides of a story and I have gotten it wrong. I am aware that the system is not perfect. It is however better than all of the other things I have been through. I actually feel that evidence may matter. One of the interesting things about evolution is that most scientists feel that evolution is efficient. The working theory is that anything that has evolved must be useful to the organism. People have ten fingers because ten is better than eight or twelve. Oxytocin is a great example of this. I know oxytocin because it is one of the drugs they give to women when their delivery is not progressing quickly enough. It causes vaginal contractions. It also can apparently lower pain. It also has a bunch of other uses. It is related to milk production and after the milk is produced oxytocin is secreted when the baby nurses or anything stimulates the breasts. This again causes the vaginal wall to contract and promotes healing after birth. Oxytocin is also produced in both men and women during orgasm. It can cause arousal but the interesting part is that it causes bonding and maternal instincts. Virgin sheep will take care of unrelated lambs if they have been given oxytocin. To think that all of this bonding and maternal behavior can be caused by chemicals produced during sex. What a great system. Evolution takes care of things in ways that are really very cool. Oxytocin seems to be very connected to love. I know I am all over the place today, but I keep reading interesting things. I feel this is all a continuation of why we act the way we do. I said that I thought that sometimes evolution doesn't work the way we think it does. Take black people for instance. Why are peoples' skin color darker the closer they live to the equator? Why is their hair kinkier? It has been cold in New York the past few weeks. If I was designing the perfect cold weather person I would make him with dark skin and kinky hair. Dark skin will absorb more sunlight than white skin and blacks have hair that seems designed to keep their head warm. If they grow it the right way they wouldn't need a hat. Of course you have to think that dark skin actually has some meaning to it. It is just that no one seems to be able to figure out what that meaning is.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Day 102 One of the things adults do that is dishonest is telling kids that drugs don't work. Drugs of course do exactly what they are advertised to do. Marijuana lowers inhibitions, cocaine allows you to party all night, heroin calms you and LSD gives you visions. The problems with drugs is how do you stop, what does it do to your overall health, and what do you subject yourself to when you are on them. These are the dangerous things. Drugs are usually a poor imitation of something that happens chemically in your body naturally. Marijuana is a great example. Women giving birth produce a chemical very similar to Marijuana in their brain. Apparently this drug helps relax the women, helps lower the pain and most important makes them forget how much it hurt. This of course is an important evolutionary adaptation. It is possible that if women remembered they might not ever get pregnant again. Not a good reproductive strategy. I have now been in limbo over 100 days. When it started I had huge amounts of stress. The stress gets produced because it allows my mind to focus, my reflexes to get sharper and my body to protect itself from injury. This is again a great evolutionary advance. Stressed animals are more likely to survive an attack. Nonchalant Zebras are dinner for lions. The nonchalant Zebra genetic code is likely to become extinct. The homo sapien being chased by a tiger did well if they were stressed. Of course I am not being chased by a tiger. I am being stalked by a bureaucrat. All of these wonderful stress chemicals in my brain and body are having a bad affect on me because they stay around too long. Again genetics comes into play and so my body produces some chemicals that will calm me down. I have always wondered how you live in a war zone. The way you survive is to become used to your environment. That takes chemistry. There are two ways you can get used to it. You can calm down and start focusing on your future and how to defend yourself or you can become numb. I think I have been in both places but right now I think I am in the good place where I am focused. My shrink thinks so. Yesterday I stopped by Barnes and Noble. I was browsing through the photography books. I usually try to find something that is exciting. There were a number of books that were interesting. I did notice an interesting trend. When I was in photography school I took a bunch of nudes. These were primarily of women. This was not out of the main stream of art. Art has always done female nudes. If men were painted nude they usually had great strong bodies and were usually turned in such a way that you could not see there male parts. (I am afraid to use the real word because I don't want to get blocked.) The feeling was that this was what was esthetically pleasing. It has been going on for centuries. The new photographers don't seem constrained this way. Women and men come in all types of body shapes, and they are both undressed and not hiding anything. It is shocking when you first see it but I expect it will become normal in a few years. I think this is actually a healthy development. It only took 2000 years to get there.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Day 102 My next two trial dates are February 13 and 14 so I probably won't get to write on Valentine's day. If you want to come to my trial the 14th would be the better of the two days. I'm reading a book by Richard Dawkins. He is a very famous biologist. He has mostly studied the issues of evolutionary biology. If you are asking yourself why a humming bird has a long beak you figure out what evolutionary advantage having a long beak gave the humming bird. The advantage doesn't have to be large because even a small advantage exerted over a long time will eventually win. Craps has a house advantage of about 1% but the casino doesn't care because if you play long enough they will win. All of this is pretty established when it comes to physical attributes of animals and people. This is how evolution works. It rewards the most efficient system that solves a particular problem. There is so much evidence to support this that to deny evolution is equal to denying gravity. The problem with working in the field is discovering how the mechanism works and what advantage it gives. One of the things Dawkins has dealt with in his research is why a virus such as aids would exist when it kills its host. It doesn't seem to make sense but it must make sense. Our lack of understanding why this might be does not mean there is no meaning it means we haven't discovered the meaning. In this book Dawkins writes about why our brain might work in certain ways. Most people tend to think of their brain as a duel organ. They can accept that it is biological but they also tend to think of themselves as existing outside of the pure biology. It is very difficult for a scientist to think this way. If scientists allow themselves to believe this than it means something outside the natural order exists. It also means anything is possible. Water can run up hill, the sun can rise in the west. Love presents the same problems. Do we look at love as a purely biological phenomena. If so, what advantage does love give to us. Love would not exist unless there was an evolutionary advantage attached to it. I always felt that love is biological in its basis. If this is true than we need to figure out what evolutionary advantage love provides. If there were two groups of humans a million years ago, one group fell in love and one didn't why did the ones who fell in love do better? Anyone who works in a high school knows that love and reproduction do not necessarily go together. Love is not needed for procreation. We need to discover another way to look at love. If you think of love as forming a very strong bond with someone you could argue that love is necessary because it takes so long to raise a child to a point where they can be independent. The independence argument is real interesting. Statistically the concept of the seven year itch may have to do with the fact that you don't need to bond any longer because the kid is old enough to survive on its own. Not in the modern world but probably in a hunter gatherer world. The average number of years people who get divorces stay together before getting a divorce is 7.2 years. There is much evidence that there are biological reasons for this. Love is also important for infants. It is important that kids bond with their parents for more reasons than just needing nourishment. In hard times kids need to trust that their parents love them. If they did not they would be forced to make decisions they were incapable of making.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Day 100

Day 100 Forgive me for being a little philosophical today. It has been 100 days since this new adventure in my life started. I have been thinking about choices. There are a few choices in my life that had large influences on who I am and where I am. Some of the biggies are obvious. Having kids, getting married, buying a house, moving to New York. Some of them are less obvious and even the obvious decisions have effects that are not always obvious. In 1966 I started teaching. I was tier 1. I was making $6200 per year. If I had stayed in teaching I would have retired probably in 1996 with a large pension and if I had put money in a TDA I would be much richer than I am today. But I did not. I left teaching and went into commercial photography. It is hard to actually remember what that was like. I did run my own business and I did become used to making decisions. It is possible that I am here because I did become used to making my own decisions. Office politics are not a part of running a single person business. Having kids, getting married, buying a house are all big decisions. At this point in time they are significant in not obvious ways. My house is worth over a million dollars and gives me the out I need if I want to take it. It would probably mean leaving NYC, but it is always there. It means than my downside risk is a change in lifestyle, but it is not poverty and working in Wal-Mart while living in a trailer. Getting married has given me the ability to survive this year. I am not sure how well I would have survived without it. R and I fall asleep intertwined and we do a lot of touching when we are together. I think this is very important to my psyche. We don't talk as much as I would have supposed, but I think we are just not ready to. Kids are more complicated. They are such a part of me that I can't quite figure out how they affect me. They define me in a very basic way and it is hard to conceive of how my life would have been without them. A number of years ago someone offered me a job in the central board working on technology. It was probably my one great chance to move up the corporate ladder that is the DOE. I had only been an AP for a few years and I felt good about building a really interesting science department. I also really liked being around kids. I said no. If I had said yes I would never have know Christina and Jasmine and Adrianne and Monica and Omnia and David and Elfida and Bobby and all of the other kids who have filled my life for the last few years. The job downtown would have been interesting but what would I have done without all of these wonderful kids. I wonder if my accusers feel the same. I have always led my life without regrets. I have made some good decisions and some bad decisions. I have not always known which is which until much later. It would be nice to have more money but not at the expensive of the experiences that I have had. The only thing I regret is not winning the lottery.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wenesday Afternoon

Day 98 On Wednesday afternoon the first witness was called. His name was Ronald C. and he was the investigator from the Special Commission. This guy had been a detective in the NYPD for 25 years investigating burglaries and murders, now he was trying to determine if my paperwork had been filled out correctly. The guy looked like an Irish Cop. He had a ruddy face and surprisingly he seemed nervous. Idelcy took him through all of his qualifications and then asked him about this case. He basically had discovered what had happened on this trip. The kids said they had permission slips the parents said they knew about the trip. The only person who seems not to have known about this trip is the principal. Ronald C. says he asked me if I was familiar with Chancellor's regulation A-670. I probably answered huh. He took that as a no. Of course I knew the rules on going on trips, I just did not know the number of the regulation. I think I have only memorized up to 523 so far. Just my luck. Ronald C. seemed to have difficulty remembering some of the details of the case. But I suppose it was a long time ago and it was not that major. No one asked him if he thought it was silly. One of the powers of complex bureaucracies is that there is so much paperwork that someone can always get you. I remember that there was a time when one person at the superintendent's office used to have to sign all of the OTPS expenditures in the school and every Manhattan High School. This numbered in the hundreds each week. This guy had two choices. Sign everything without looking or look and never get most papers signed and therefore stop schools from spending any money for things such as paper and pencils. The guy choose to just sign. This meant that he could be fired for signing something that wasn't correct. A job with a sword hanging over it. Eventually Ronald C. had to leave for another appointment. My lawyer did not have any time to cross exam him. This will happen on February 13. Yesterday's picture was of Franz Kafka if you didn't get that. My daughter pointed out that things did not end up well for Josef K. Of course that is always the danger with bureaucracies. They may not end up well no matter how wonderful I am. Tuesday is day 100. I think everyone should send me a comment saying hang in there or maybe drop dead. 100 days deserves some sort of celebration. I feel I am disappointing one of my english teachers by using number and not writing them out. I feel bad about this.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Day 97 and my Trial starts. My Trial finally got started on Wednesday. Present at the Trial was Bob the arbitrator, Barbara my lawyer, Idelcy the boards lawyer and yours truly Ed S. I guess at this point it is the DOE vs. Ed S. The principal is no longer the one charging me. This of course gives her the opportunity to say that it wasn't her fault. Of course denying responsibility is one of her strong suits. The Trial started with a bunch of procedural things. The biggest one is that all of my emails disappeared a few months ago. I asked the DOE to restore them. Idelcy said it would take 120 man hours (she should have said staff hours) and that it would cost $13,000. That's $108 per hours. I guess there are people in the DOE making more than per session rates. Barbara told her that we didn't care. Idelcy's reasoning if carried out to the extreme would have me paying for the arbitrator and for the rent on the room. It turns out that the reason it will take so long is because the DOE does not posses the journal software it would need to retrieve the emails. Adelsi than made a big deal about how it was my fault because I did not save the emails locally. At this point I ran into the general ignorance of everyone in the room about how computer networks function. Idelcy is on the mainframe and even though she thinks her outlook is identical to mine, it is not. My web based outlook is a different program and does not appear to have any way to archive things. In addition saving things solely on your local drive is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later the drive will fail or you will spill coffee on it. One of the things I considered doing is saying that I had found my archived files. I could than write any emails I felt like writing and apparently the DOE could not prove that the emails were forged because they could not find the originals. Of course that would be illegal but how could you catch me. I will not do this because I don't do illegal things. I don't backdate documents or do anything else illegal. I am angry but I will not lie. It turns out that the email issue has never before come up. Discovery laws allow me to see paper files but no one has dealt with the email situation. I feel like Jane Doe. Actually I feel more like one of the kids in "My Cousin Vinny". This conversation went on for a long time and then finally after lunch Bob asked for opening arguments. All of this is being done in front of a high end speaker phone that is connected to a company in Messina New York that tapes all of the conversations. They then send the tapes to Canada to be typed. For all any of us know Canada sends the tapes to India. Idelcy gave her opening arguments. Idelcy said I had not served as a role model and had not insured that the curriculum had been taught. It ended with the statement that for this reason we asked that his license be revoked and he be terminated. This was difficult to hear though not surprising. Following this was the testimony of the investigator who investigated my trip to California. More on that tomorrow. A few notes on grammar. I am totally confused by the rules on quotes and underlining when you give titles of things like movies, books etc. If anyone knows a good web site that explains this that would be great. As many of you know I am a big fan of German literature. I have always loved Kafka. I decided that even though I am technically having a hearing I will call it a Trial and I will capitalize the word Trial to indicate the parallels between me and Josef K. the main character in Kafka's book.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Day 96 I spent yesterday at my lawyers reviewing documents. There are no smoking guns in them and there are a few that prove exactly how ridiculous some of the charges are. I wonder if anyone has actually read any of them. The trial is not canceled. I have no idea what the call I received on Friday was about. I start tomorrow (Wednesday January 31). I have not asked anyone to come on the first day because I want to get a sense of what it is. The next day is February 14th. I am just waiting for it to start. I will probably not write anything tomorrow, but I will write on Thursday.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Day 91 I live in fear that I will make spelling or grammar mistakes. I always think about what I am doing and I always spell check. Yesterday I wrote about a course taught in high school. The course was not chemistry, it was not social studies, it was not math, it was English. What is wrong with this list. The subject matter English is capitalized. Why is this the only subject that is capitalized. I'll tell you why. Because English teachers invented and enforce the rules. Those of us who are science teachers are too intimidated to complain. I have fallen in love with a type of software called extended range software. It is a plug in for Photoshop. The software allows you to take three photographs of the same subject with three different exposures. You can then merge the three together and produce a photo with detail in both the shadow and the highlights. Today's picture would have been more interesting if I had known about this software. The result of using this software does not quite look like a photograph. Because of this many people are disturbed by it and claim it is not real photography. What bothers people is that they can see more in the photo than they are used too. But the truth is that photos are not capable of seeing as much as the human eye and the human eye is not capable of seeing all the colors in the spectrum. So what we think of as real is totally subjective. Scientists understand this better than english teachers. There used to be a group of photographers call the f64 group. They believed you should take pictures and make sure the camera was adjusted so that everything was in focus. They also believed that you should photograph what is in front of you and not change it. If you are taking a picture of beach and there is a plastic bag on it then you should not move it. Somehow or other this accidental piece of garbage represents reality. I don't buy it. I see that my school was in the news Wednesday on channel 7. Apparently this kid was upset because she came for music and she wasn't given any. You can't admit kids with promises you can't keep. It's amazing how much good honesty can do. My trial was just postponed. I have become very Zen about all of this.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It's the Denominator Dummy!

Day 90 Yesterday I had a girl and her father come into my site. She had just arrived from the Dominican Republic. She spoke a little English but not enough. She asked to be place into a bilingual 7th grade class. I looked at her report card and she had been receiving 90's in her previous school. I could have just sent her to the school she was zoned for, but I chose to call the principal and tell her she was coming. The principal flipped out and started yelling at me. She was upset because next year this child will be taking the state wide English test and because she doesn't know English that well the scores will be counted against her. I would love to have a kid like this in a school but I can understand where this principal was coming from. In the K-8 world all test scores seem to be counted equally. I think schools are categorized by the size of there ELL population, but only in a general way. Schools with high ELL populations are not expected to receive as high scores as English dominant schools. A "smart" principal knowing that her category is already set will try to minimize her number of ELL students and therefore maximize her scores. The fact that I would make a decision based on what is good for the child doesn't change the fact that our data driven system does not function well if the data they collect is unfair. People who create tax policy are aware of how changing tax policy changes how people and corporations think. The same thing is true for school data policies. At one time my school was giving Regents to many more students than other schools. The superintendent's office called us all in to yell at us for hurting the regions statistics. We were hurting the statistics only if you measured the number of children passing a Regents versus the number taking the test. As soon as the state decided to measure the number passing versus the cohort (how many kids should have taken the test) we suddenly looked better than other schools. The way of measuring caused other schools to convince students not to take the Regents. These schools only wanted to let students they felt could pass take the test. Data was driving educationally policy but in a bad way. No administrator should every create data benchmarks to make decisions without thinking about how people will use how the data is collected to manipulate the system. It is rarely the numerator that is in question. To change a numerator you would have to cheat in some way. Changing scores or giving kids answers. Only dumb principals do this. It is the way the denominator is defined that is such a big deal. A smart administrator knows how to manipulate the denominator. This is usually not illegal. The mayor and the chancellor want to change how schools are funded. This acts like data in that it affects how principals make decisions. One of the most disturbing parts that I saw was the idea that schools would move away from current policy where all teachers cost the same. Currently NYC charges each school the same amount of money for each teacher. New teachers cost the same as 20 year veterans. Now the mayor is saying he wants to charge schools what teachers actually cost. The implication of this is that schools with lots of young teachers can have smaller class sizes. It becomes economical to push older teachers out of your school. Could you do more with two $50,000 teachers or than you could with one $100,000 teacher.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Day 89 It was suggested that it made sense to call today's blog "dance" so I did. I don't dance because I can't really hear beats. I do like ballet. Other than this today's blog has nothing to do with dance. I spend a lot of time surrounded by people. When I am home I often disappear with a book and go to a coffee shop and just read for an hour. The idea of riding my bike around and stopping some place by myself is also very appealing. I think a lot of this comes from feeling I have to be on too much when I am around people. Right now I am just sitting and waiting for my trial. My mind is not outraged or even working very fast. It is just waiting.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Day 88 I wanted to buy the new Nora Jones CD today. I am working at 149th st. and 3rd avenue in the Bronx. This area is a major Bronx shopping district. The neighborhood is not rich. There are all of the major New York banks represented as well as the usual collection of inexpensive clothing stores, 99 cent stores and fast food restaurants. I went out to look for my CD thinking that because she was such a big artist I might be able to find it. I walked for over 10 blocks. I passed 8 cell phone stores, 5 gold jewelry stores, 3 video game stores 4 cheap electronic stores as well as 3 major drug store chains. I found one store that had music CDs and it only had about 50 artists. No Nora Jones. I don't actually know what this means, it is just an observation. I suppose you can tell a lot about a population by looking at the stores. When you walk down Smith Street in Brooklyn you see stores selling designer home accessories and $300 dresses mixed into the large number of upscale restaurants. This is certainly not a mix you would expect in the South Bronx. I think mannequins are another great way to follow cultural trends. I noticed a few years ago that female underwear mannequins suddenly started developing strong stomach muscles and toned arms. You can also tell how expensive a women's clothing store is by the size of the breasts on the mannequins. The larger the breasts the cheaper the clothes. I should bring my camera to the South Bronx, but I walk around and I am not sure I see any images that excite me. But I should try. I know people who have moved out of New York City and seem happy. When I exam the life styles of the young people who have left I see that they spent their leisure time at bars. They will never find NY bars outside of NY. I remember my daughter saying how there was a bar in North Hampton that tried to be NY but it didn't make it because the people didn't look right. I have also noticed that restaurants outside New York, even good ones, are quieter than in the City and are more brightly lit. Of course outside New York you will find good restaurants and good bars. Even if they are not New York Style. This weekend I went to see Cynthia Hopkins last weekend and last night I bought tickets to see "The Taming of the Shrew" done by this great all male Shakespeare group that comes from the Old Vic in England. What is my chance of seeing any of this outside New York. Cynthia Hopkins does play in Minneapolis but still, how much stuff exists outside NYC. This is a big part of who I am.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Day 87 The book I'm reading is over 600 pages. When I read long books like this I start getting sad as I approach the end. I feel that I have become part of the characters lives and that I am about to loose them forever. I felt that way at the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Buddenbrooks. Tieta has a very Latin approach to men and women. Whores with hearts of gold, men who think of women as pure and innocent. One thing it also has is the idea of men trying to achieve things to impress women. The poet writes love poems and the politician wants to become successful to impress the women they love. When I was in junior high and starting to think of girls in a different way I would fantasize about scoring the winning touchdown so that the girl I loved would be impressed with me. This was a very powerful drive. Not something I knew how to talk about or act on, but very powerful. The times today had an article about junior high. It talked about one trend of creating K to 8 schools. The idea was that junior high kids would stay in their comfort zone. The article talked about kids going to their third grade teacher for comfort. Junior high is certainly a difficult time for kids. The question is do they need comforting from their third grade teacher or do they need mentoring from an 11th grade student. I think that maybe what many of these kids need to to see upper classmen functioning in healthy ways to model themselves after. This modeling only works when the upperclassmen have healthy ideas about life. If the upper classmen are a mess they will not be good for 6th or 7th graders. My experience in running a mixed program is that you need some magical number of good kids versus challenged kids. The result will be everyone becoming better. Fall below this number and the result is everyone being pulled down. I don't have any statistics to say what this number should be, but I think at least 25 percent. Men have a great desire to model themselves after someone they think is successful in some way. I think they often do this to impress woman. Was it important that Picasso had all these women around him? Could Diego Rivera have done as good a job in Detroit if nubile young women didn't make and deliver lunch to him each day on his scaffolding? I went to see Cynthia Hopkins with R this weekend. Ms Hopkins has a rock band and wrote all the lyrics to the music and all of the dialogue for the show. The show was a strange sort of fantasy about a lost mother who disappeared in Morocco. It reminded me in some ways of The Sheltering Sky which was one of the stranger books I have ever read. It was strange because it proposed a view of women that seemed plausible and very disturbing. If men are artists, or athletes or builders or entrepreneurs to impress women. Why do women do any of these things? I have no idea. Certainly there is as much ego involved in successful women as in men. I just don't think women do things to impress men. I installed this great utility from If you right click on a word it will give you the definition and spelling. It also works for book titles and proper names. I checked all of today's titles to make sure they were spelled correctly and they were written by the author I was thinking of. I know too many smart people who will find things I did wrong and point them out to me. This said, I must admit I did not check out everything on Friday. The native Americans I visited were the Hopi not Hoppi. If I had checked I would have caught it. Thanks to R for pointing this out to me. A native American Sweat Lodge

Friday, January 19, 2007

Random Friday Thoughts

Day 86 Some times you have to get wet to understand a stream.For the people who commented on books. I will admit I am a bit of a collector. In my defense, when you have kids you save books hoping that they will read them as they grow up. Both my kids have read some of my library. I also occasionally reread a book. I think I've read The Floating Opera by John Barth 3 or 4 times. There is also the issue of kids books. My daughter probably has a few hundred books for her kids, and I have a similar number, so when they come we have books to read to them. Many of the Condos have kid toys, but not kid books. As I have mentioned, I am reading this book about Brazil. The basic plot revolves around building a titanium dioxide plant. I actually know what you use this for. Anyway, the issue is will the plant pollute. This is the 1960's. People debate if it will, but no one Googles it. Of course not. There was no internet. The 60's do not seem like ancient history to me. They weren't really. Much of what exists today started exploration, color television, jet planes, birth control pills. But the internet did not exist. Factual knowledge was not so easy to come by. I would guess that if someone proposed building a titanium dioxide plant near you that most people would go on the internet and try to figure out if it was going to be a bad thing. I am not sure how this will change all of us, but it will. When I visited the Hoppi reservation I was struck by the fact that many houses had satellite dishes. This ancient civilization, this group of people who 20 years ago had little contact with the outside world can now watch America Idol. Goodbye Hoppi culture. This is not just an American phenomena. I see where there is now an Arabic YouTube. Will people discover they are not alone in their thinking. I think in many ways the internet has allowed us to discover that others felt as we did. No matter how off beat your political beliefs are or how weird your sexual fantasies might be, you can quickly discover a web site devoted to your thoughts. There is an Asimov story in which people react to each other on television or holographs but they never meet in person. Does this sound like social networking sites? Is this a problem? It certainly is not my world, but it is today's world. I see some Bush people are talking about how I and my fellow boomers are going to bankrupt the United States when we retire. This is nonsense. Some how or other this country has figured out how to spend 8 billion dollars a month in Iraq. I'll tell you how to pay for my retirement. Get out of Iraq. Titanium dioxide is the main coloring agent in all white things, not white people but white paint and white ipods.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A different world

Day 85 One of the things I do every day is check out the new listings for Condos in Las Vegas (actually Henderson). Often the listings include pictures of the condo. And most of the time they are furnished. The furnishing is not usually my taste. The furniture tends to be white upholstered couches, chrome tables and often one of these mirror things that are made of multiple layers of mirrors. There is usually no art or if there is it is a poster framed in a chrome frame or a starving artist. Mostly the walls are painted and bare. About half have large flat panel televisions. I know I sound like the typical snobby New Yorker. I shouldn't because my furniture is not that great. My walls have original art because my wife is a great painter and I have worked with some great photographers. It does seem kind of sad to see bare walls. The reason I started this is not to talk about others decorating skills. The reason I started this is because of the over one two hundred condo photos I have looked at I have never ever seen a book shelf. It seems like I have spent a good part of my life building bookshelves. I have bookshelves in every room of my house except the dining room. Yes I have bookshelves in the kitchen and bathroom. I keep building them because I keep increasing the number of books I have. My sister used to have these really deep bookshelves that she put two rows of books in and then she piled some on top. All of my friends have bookshelves filled with books. Is Las Vegas this weird place where no one reads. There is a Barnes and Noble and a Borders in Henderson. Someone must buy books. I think that the truth is that the majority of the people in the world don't own more than a handful of books. This is not just in Las Vegas, but it is probably true here in New York. One of the first thing I always did when I was dating was to check out her books. Too much poetry and too much Sylvia Plath and I was out of there. Unless the poetry was by Ginsburg or Elliot. I wonder if kids look at each others video game collections to decide if they are compatible. I don't think I am being an old fogey about this. I think that I am seeing one of the big gaps that exist among people. When I walk around my neighborhood and look in windows I see lots of bookshelves filed with books. Gus Van Sant may not read, but I think this is a great limitation he has. It is a cultural phenomena that needs to be changed. A quick funny story. I went to see Inland Empire, David Lynch's new movie. The movie is almost 3 hours long. This means that somewhere along the line I had to pee. In most movies when this happens you can get a sense of whether or not you are near the end and make a decision. But David Lynch never really lets on where the end is. I suffered and then stood in the line in the men's room hearing others pee for incredibly long times.


First the answer to yesterdays quiz. I am sure at least one of you got it but if you didn't the photo is of the cemetery in New Orleans that was the scene for the LSD scene in Easy Rider. Of course we teach kids not to behave this way, and of course they often do. I read this in the paper the other day: According to research done by Jeffery DeSimone of the University of South Florida along with Pinka Chatterji of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, there is a positive correlation between binge drinking as a teenager and higher earnings as an adult. The Oracle, USF’s daily student newspaper, reports that the study “took other factors into account, such as achievement, prior income and adult drinking, which could possibly explain the correlation”, but doesn’t attempt to show that there is a causative relationship between the two phenomena. Maybe adults do not always have the answers. Of course I would never advocate binge drinking. I personally think it is the ability to defy adults that is important, not the drinking. I have often talked about feeling that we badly serve the best and brightest. In New York City we have schools such as City as School that serves a population that often has more problems with schools than they do with learning. City as School was developed many years ago when the city allowed for truly innovative schools. It had a mission to serve students no one else wanted. It exists today because it serves these students. It would seem that these students should be able to find a place in a traditional school. If you want to build a paramilitary group in a school you start by using language. In my school people who were once know as John Smith or Jane Washington became Dean Smith or Dean Washington. They were always addressed that way. This of course establishes them as different than every other teacher. The next thing you need to do is to establish a clear hierarchy. You need a head dean and you need a supreme leader who I will call the comandante (aka AP of security). Finally you have to clearly establish the fact that no one except the comandante is allowed to make final decisions. There are no exceptions to this rule. In my school the AP's had no input into the comandante's decisions except to complain. Complaints were often responded to with condescending derision. The amazing thing is that most of the deans are not people who would normally join this type of group. But they do and they eventually feel that they are doing more good than harm. They feel that they are necessary for the functioning of the school and that the rest of us do not understand them. All paramilitary groups feel this way. Today's picture is of a building in room that is very large, very grand, very dominant and almost universally hated by Romans. It was built by Mussolini to glorify the new empire he was building. One of many reasons to love the Italians is that they hung Mussolini like a prosciutto by his feet off of a meat hook after he had been executed. All Italians have a little bit of Fellini in them.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Walkling a Tightrope

Day 83

I did an on line IQ test and it said my IQ was 138. This is pretty much what it usually comes out to be. I have been in the top 1 or 2% or the country since 11th grade. Of course as I discovered in college there is a big difference between being in the top 1% and being in the top 1/10 %. If you are interested in taking the test it is on a site called Tickle. The test was actually hard.

Besides convincing my readers how smart I am I actually bring this up because it speaks to some of the problems I sometimes have dealing with people. I make the mistake of thinking that everyone is as smart as I am. I rarely feel superior to other people. What happens is that I sometimes see something that other people don't. Things that are easy for me I assume are easy for everyone else. I am ready to move on when others are lost. This can make other people angry with me.

I had a math teacher friend who loved the fact that he and I did not need to complete our sentences when we spoke to each other. We would cut each other off when we got what the other was saying. We found this a great way to deal with each other. Most people get really mad at me when I do this. I have tried to learn to not do this. It is sometime hard.

I once made a programming mistake because I assumed that anyone who passed a language (something I always had trouble with) was probably also passing math. Of course this was far from the truth.

Today the list of schools in trouble with the state came out. If you are interested in seeing the list it is at the NY State Site. When I read the list it said that my school was planning for restructuring. My school is on page 19 if anyone is interested. I wonder what planning for restructuring means. I was certainly never a part of any planning.

Today's quiz is to name the movie made famous by the site in this picture.

I am reading a great book by Joge Amado entitled Tieta. He wrote Donna Flor and Her Two Husbands and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. One of the great things about having a 1 hour subway ride with no work things on my mind is that I get to read. I have discovered that if I stand up on my way home I don't fall asleep. A real problem if I sit. If you have not read any of his stuff you should start with Gabriela.

The book I'm reading is written like a 17th century novel. It is contemporary but it reminds me of Tom Jones. It has these long chapter headings and a narrator that every once in a while will say something such as, 'lets stop the story for awhile while I fill you in on some things from the past you should know.' I love stuff like that. The book takes place in 1960's Bahia. Bahia is in Brazil. I had a teacher who spent time there. When I read this book I often cast her in one of the roles. I think the Brazilians must have loved her. I actually think it may be possible for men and women to treat each other like they do in this book and yet still be respected professionally.

The title of today's blog comes from the fact that I often feel that I am walking a tightrope when I write. I am trying not to do anything that will get me in trouble with the DOE. This is not always easy for me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A day in My Life

Day 82

We are not very busy at my site. I read in someone else's blog a discussion of someone who was in a rubber room for three years. He was exonerated, but he had a hard time finding a job because his physical appearance had deteriorated over the three years. If the DOE would think of rubber room people as prisoner's of war than when they were exonerated they should give them counseling to help them reintegrate into real society.

The reason I bring this up is that I feel that I am losing my intellectual edge. I still read the education sites I subscribe to but it no longer seems to create thoughts in my head. Ideas do not excite me as much as they used to.

Every day I stop in and buy coffee on my way to my site. I come in take off my coat, sign in, sit down, turn on my computer and read the Daily News while waiting for a customer. I also simultaneously read the online times and check my email. This takes up about 3 hours. Some days I have a bunch of parents and so I can keep myself busy until 1 or 2, other days I am out of things to do before noon.

The rest of the day is spent trying to find anything to do.

At home I watch TV and sometimes do things around the house. In general it is a very bad pattern because it is not as stimulating as I am used to. I need just enough difficult things around me to keep me semi-angry. It is the only way I can think straight.

Yesterday I had a lawyer appointment so I left early. I spent most of the day wondering what it was about so I didn't write a blog entry.

The kids in the picture don't make me angry, though sometimes their life makes me angry.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Morning

Day 80

It is the 80th day, and I no longer even keep track of these momentous days. I just made an appointment to interview for Las Vegas. They will be in NYC January 20. I will have to tell them all of the bad things about me, even though I suspect that most of these things will be negotiated away. I am just sitting in limbo right now. I spend a few hours every weekend trying to organize papers.

One of the reasons I would never make a good lawyer is that I find it difficult to organize things ahead of time. Good lawyers are prepared for anything. I would wait to hear the case against me and then react. This is not a good way to defend myself.

It is interesting to go through this process, because you discover things you are good at and things you are not. Of course this is the technique that all job people use. Look at what type of skills you have and match those to the job. Don't look at the name of the job just the skill set. The teacher problem is the skill set that makes a good teacher does not match what administrators think is the skill set for a good teacher. A boring teacher with an aim on the board and everyone taking useless notes is valued.

One of the things I have not thought about is the possibility of doing something other than teaching. I really like being around high school kids but it is possible that I would have more fun doing something else. Las Vegas is the home of a 3-D company. One of the things I love.

I have the new copy of What Color is my Parachute . The thing about parachutes is they either work or they don't. My one time sky diving was interesting because it really only involves taking one step. After that it all just happens. This is my favorite way of living. I don't like things that involve lots of little steps.

What can I say about today's picture. It makes me feel great.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happyness 101

Day 79

I have been thinking about the guy in the picture. We were driving into the rainforest in Puerto Rico and we passed a roadside lunch stand half way up the two lane road that goes up the mountain into the rain forest. We stopped and had a lunch of coconut milk from the shell, plantains, rice, beans and chicken. We were the only customers. The stand was run by a girl who appeared to be about 17 or 18. She was the only one working there.

I remember wondering what it must be like to be working and living in this deserted part of Puerto Rico. Particularly when you were a 17 or 18 year old girl. It certainly seemed like a very limited life. I found it hard to imagine that this kid was happy.

While we were eating lunch the guy in this picture showed up. He weaved hats and made parrots out of palm leaves. We bought a couple of hats and a parrot.

I did not feel sorry for this guy the same way I did for the girl. If I wanted to imagine what this guys life was like I would see him living in a small cottage in a small village in the interior of Puerto Rico. He earns a few bucks selling things to tourists and spends the rest of his time in a cafe drinking rum or beer and playing dominoes with guys he's know for years. The question is, is this the true path to happiness. I have no answer to this question.

In a Friday mode: R is going to Weight Watchers, she gets weighed in every week. On Thursday she said to me, "I have to wear something light for the weigh in." Of course the problem with this approach is that next week you need to wear something even lighter and eventual you have to show up naked. An interesting image, but probably rather embarrassing. Kind of like cheating on school statistics... it just leads to more cheating until your naked.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Random Thoughts on Education

Day 78

I was thinking today about what we had done in my school. Any good teacher or administrator should be doing what works. Every once in awhile you need to and see if it all connects together. The picture in today's blog speaks to what I have always believed in. Every year we take a bunch of kids to the woods. We do a bunch of science. We also do a lot of bonding things. The photo is of a confidence building course. The idea in this exercise is that everyone needs to get over the wall. Some kids find it easy and some find it difficult. It takes someone who is willing to take charge of organizing the group. It also is important that the kids having trouble are not embarrassed by it and that everyone figures out how to get them over the wall.

If you can teach kids these lessons you have it made. Kids that feel that they can be themselves in a class and that others will take care of them do well. My classes have always exhibited this type of concern for each other.

In the research that was done on our house we discovered that most of the kids felt very close to the teachers but the kids having the most trouble did not feel close to any teacher. I think that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. I sometimes push kids hard into participating in these types of events. It is so important for their development.

Too often schools refuse to allow the kids who most need it to participate in these types of activities. This is a mistake. I have been on trips with tough high school kids and we had a great time. Trips often give you an opportunity to related to kids in a more natural way. Some teachers have difficulty with this. Good teachers can be human beings and teachers.

Classes are of course totally unnatural. I would guess that if you took almost any adult and placed them in a high school program that by the end of the day they would be acting out. The classroom is such a strange and unnatural environment. Classes that I have taken as an adult were more give and take than what we see in high school. They were also usually much smaller and did not extend for 7 hours. How did we get to a point where we expect teenagers to tolerate something that adults could not tolerate.

I suppose if I was designing my perfect small school it would be a longer day for the kids but not a longer amount of time in class. I would build in more hanging out time into the day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Day 77

Apparently there are more people in NYC that feel as I do. I just ran across the site pissed off teacher that seems to mirror many of the things I have said though I seem to have some differences about curriculum issues. Still the feeling that the corporate model is hurting the sense of collegiality that many of us once experienced is unmistakable. The truth is that there is always a tension between "suits" and creatives. Most industries recognize this and try to deal with it. Education sees teachers as factory workers, not creatives and therefore pays no attention to this issue.

I suppose I have sympathy for both sides, because I have been on both sides. I think that creatives will always complain about suits, but they need suits to be suits to some extent. Someone needs to define the work that needs to be done. I know that personally I feel lost if I don't have some type of goal.

I was talking to someone about the rubber room the other day. This came up because the people upstairs at my site in the rubber room bought an electric organ and had it delivered to the room. This caused a huge controversy and brought in the LIS and the DOE to decide what to do with it. I thought it was funny and typical of the type of behavior in a real rubber room. When you have no goals and are just waiting you manufacture excitement. Like true educrats everyone wants these people to just wait quietly. There is almost no reason to do this.

Because I am at a real site I have avoided the craziness that almost everyone else exhibits in the rubber room. I am thankful for this. It is hard to figure out why the DOE would want to keep these rooms in existence. The payroll is large. The emotional damage is huge. Why not hire more investigators and solve these issues quickly.

Today's picture is from California. When I was in photo school I used to drive my VW bug around and take pictures like this all the time. I am not sure how to capture what this is really like. It has to do with the miles of grass with almost no activity. It is a good place to center yourself. It is interesting from a technical point of view how I naturally set the photo with the skyline 2/3 of the way up. Textbook composition, but not consciously.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Day 76

This is my first blog since the holiday break. I was going to do one last week but I rather enjoyed not thinking about school. I did spend some time organizing old files, but not a huge amount of time.

During the break I discovered that some other people have linked to my site from their sites. This means a bunch of people who don't really know me are reading this blog. This is kind of cool and so I have linked back to their sites. If I tell two friends and they tell two friends than you have millions in 30 days. This is of course not likely. It is the fatal flaw in the pyramid scheme promoters reasoning.

Last night was strange. The fact that we had to go back to work was a little disturbing. Actually not as bad as it was for R, and not as bad as it has been for me some years going back to my school when I was really angry about something. I know I have a bunch of things to do to get ready for my trial. I think it is never easy to come back from a vacation. When it really hurts to do it you have to figure out why you are so unhappy.

It was nice having family and friends around. I spent a week before xmas making lists of all the things I needed to buy and then I spend days cooking. Cooking is a lot of fun. It is one of those things you think about when you think about retiring. Of course I remember visiting my parents. My mother would cook like crazy. She was not alone. All the women in the retirement community they lived in use to do similar things. They were begging for an excuse to cook or bake. Their problem was a lack of an audience.

The really bad thing about retirement is exactly this lack of an audience. Even if people are yelling at you or throwing tomatoes it is better to have an audience than to be ignored. It may be that not every one feels that way, but I do.

The tree in todays photo is amazing as a purely beautiful object. It can however be seen as a metaphor. The amazing thing about teaching is the resiliancy of so many kids. They grow in environments that would stop most of us. Of course the truth is that the rocky hill of Sequoia National Park are not good places for trees to grow. Most of them die before they can become as big as this tree.

I am not a big New Years Eve person, so I spent it quietly with some friends. I do think that for all of my desire to perform, I sometimes enjoy not doing this. I had tentative plans to meet with some ex-students but it did not happen. I hope it happens soon.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Media Savvy

Day 74

I love the theater, and one of my favorite forms of theater is farce and comedy of manners. I was raised, intellectually, on authors such as Sheridan, Congreve, Molière and Harold Pinter. Even though I have seen too many bad productions of it, I still like "The Importance of Being Ernest". I have always found people being serious while everything around them is absurd to be funny. Writing this way would seem easy to do, but it is not. I would certainly love to write as well as Sheridan. If the English teachers out there want to take offense at my categories I say to you pffff!

Even though I can not write that well, I have discovered that at times my life resembles a comedy. I don't have to make it up.

Yesterday I had my Step 3 on my end year evaluation. This takes place in an office building on Chambers Street. I entered the hearing room and I sat on one side of the table with my Union Rep. At the head of the table was the hearing officer. Across from me was the lawyer from my region and at the other end of the table was a telephone with the disembodied voice of the principal, a slightly disturbing image.

We started the meeting with everyone being a little confused because someone had written that we would hear two different grievances, but one had already been heard. Once we figured this out the region's lawyer asked if anyone had a recording device. We all answered that we did not. Then the judge commented that no one had ever asked that question before. When the lawyer was asked why she had brought that up she said that I was a very media savy person and she thought I might be recording the conversation. She then went on to mention my blog. I was dumbfounded.

If you're reading my new site, you can read my little paragraph about why I do this. It really is about trying to keep myself sane. I have never seen this as a media savvy act. Actually blogs are so old school I don't know how media savvy they could possibly be. My son does video and flash, I just do words and lately pictures.

In 1967 Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were subpoenaed to appear before the House Unamercian Activities Committee. Hoffman showed up wearing a Santa Claus outfit one day and most famously an american flag shirt another day(A similar shirt was worn on stage by Roy Rogers). Hoffman and Rubin turned what was supposed to be serious theater into farce in an instant. I am not trying to do that. I wish I could be that creative. I am just reporting what happens.

The really important thing that Hoffman and Rubin did is to read into the record their political beliefs and the beliefs of many of their followers. Instead of hiding and being embarrassed that they were called by the committee they used the opportunity to publicize their beliefs. This drove the HUAC members crazy. I feel that not being embarrassed and publicizing what is happening to me and the documents given to me is what ultimately drives some people crazy. I think it is not so much Media Savvy as it is a generation thing.

Back to the grievance meeting. The protocol is that I get to present then the Principal or her lawyer gets to present then I get to rebut. I made my usual presentation, I don't think I said anything different than I have always said. We talked about attendance and the boxes of books I did not open. The hearing officer than started to ask about previous U's I may have gotten. The issue of whether or not I was tenured came up. The principal's voice then came out of the phone and she said that I "had hidden the fact that I was tenured" from her.

Is this amazing. To say that an AP who has nothing to do with granting tenure could hide this from a principal is amazing. I wonder if this is the real reason that she keeps talking about the unopened boxes of books. Maybe she feels that I hid my tenure in one of the book boxes.

This may be my last blog before the New Year, though I may do one over the break. I am glad that I could end the year with a little comedy.

The little kid standing is me. I would guess I am two and one half , which would make it 1946. The girl with the dark hair who is holding me is my sister. I have no idea who any of the other people are. This is my Christmas card to all of my loyal readers. Merry Christmas. Love is the answer

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Day 72

I thought I should sort of recap how I see things.

The way I see it sometime in May or June of last year the decision was made to remove me. The first clue was when people refused to return my calls regarding working summer school. I did come in to the school a few times during the summer. I saw the principal and she was pleasant and smiled at me. We then went into the week that APs needed to show up and not teachers. Nothing was said to me then. Finally on the Friday before labor day I was called and told to come to the office at the end of the day. I went down earlier and was given my removal letter. The principal said she did not understand what it was about and commented that she liked me. Both of these statements were most likely lies.

I then moved to the rubber room with the idea that I could speak directly to the district. The district received many letter in support of me. They even emailed people to tell them that they had received the letters and to assure people that they were reading them, but could not comment. What they failed to tell my supporters, was that sending letters was a meaningless activity because the decision had already been made.

During open school night the principal told the parents who were upset about my removal that she felt I would be back. Of course she did not tell them that she hoped that I would never be back and that it was her desire that I have my license revoked and be removed.

Around this time she started leaning on my supporters to calm down and not make noise. She basically threatened them. Of course there was no point in supporting me at this point because there was no hope of stopping them from coming after my license.

The one true thread is the desire of the principal to take away my license and the support of the district in this goal. Any other statement to the contrary is not true.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Things are Heating Up

Day 71

Things are stating to get busy. Wednesday I have my step 3 on my end year. Probably a futile exercise, but it is a change in the routine. Then Thursday the principal has arranged for me to meet with her secretary at a neutral site. I can look at my file and make copies. I will try to keep my blog up on these days. We are in a strange time of the year.

When I come back in January we start the season of the 3020a. This will stretch from the end of January to the middle of April. This is the real hearing with real evidence. Here are the dates:

January 31

February 14

March 5, 6,12,16, 27, 28 and

April 12

This trial is open, and I would love to have as many of you who can make it come. I am not sure where it is but I will let you know. My understanding is that the first 3 days are usually used to present the principal's case. I wonder if she is going to bring the boxes I didn't open into the hearing room.

I have some power of subpoena and so some of you may be getting one from me. I have also gone through all of the wonderful letters of support you sent to the region. If you did not send a copy to me and you can find your letter and forward it to me I would appreciate that. I was planning on putting together a small book of the letters.

A totally random thought on something political

I was thinking that Wal-Mart has come into communities and often lowered the overall wage scale of the community. Now Wal-Mart is finding that their sales are down compared to other retailers. Is it possible that they have forced the wages of their customers down so much that they can not afford to shop at Wal-Mart. Henry Ford started paying his workers $5 a day so that he could create a class of people who could afford his cars. Maybe Wal-Mart needs to think this way.

I am starting to put together my defense. Of course I have no defense against my latest corporal punishment charge, because the DOE will not tell us what it is about.

More Italy today.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I am still getting used to this new site. I think I can do more things on it than the old one. I will continue to use both.

In switching to the new site I started wondering if the title was still accurate. The place I am working is not really a rubber room. I have a small amount of meaningful work and a desk. I am not surrounded by the yentas and lunatics who existed at the old place. All in all it is not as depressing as where I was.

Another picture of Puerto Rico today. I am playing with how they look in the site. I am a little worried that if I don't get out of here soon I will run out of pictures.

When I was 22 and first living in New York, I had a comparatively large apartment. My apartment was always filled with people drinking cheap wine and eating spaghetti. I rarely invited them more than 5 minutes ahead of time. I am reminded of this because tonight is the first night of Hanukah. I am actually throwing a dinner party. I decided that I would invite some friends over and that my son should invite some of his friends over. I got a call from another friend yesterday and I said come over for latkes. Very spontaneous. It has always been the kind of place that I wanted to have. Lately I have not done this nearly enough. I meet people at restaurants. This is fun, but sometimes a dinner party is what you want. I think R and I always secretly wanted to be hosts of a salon, like Virginia Wolf in Paris.

My lawyer tried to find out what the new charges are but the Office of Special Investigations wont tell her. I find it amazing that you can be investigated and not even told the topic. I wonder if this one is not my blog.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I missed a day

Day 69 I am working on creating a mirror site that is not blocked. I think I may have gotten it to work. I will pass the site address on to some people I trust and if you need it ask them or email me. Yesterday I received a notice that the Office of Special Investigations "is conducting an investigation into an allegation of corporal punishment/inappropriate behavior". Apparently my ghost is wandering the halls of my high school beating up kids. Actually I am totally mystified by this latest charge, but I suppose I have pissed off some people. It goes to show that the DOE is no different from any other government bureaucracy. They have many ways to go after you short of actually firing you. Mulder did end up in a sub basement office eventually. I was talking to someone at my exile site about how principals would rather have nice kids with level 1's than kids who cause trouble that have 2's and 3's. Of course this is a generally good assessment of how the system works. The topic came up because I was trying to place a kid from an honors school who was being pushed out for not behaving. Research has almost always shown that teachers are bad judges of who are the brightest kids in their class. This is because these "bad" kids are often the brightest and often overlooked. I actually like these bad kids. I think they are more interesting than good kids. I say this even though I was a good kid at school. I was mostly an outcast but I did not cause anyone any trouble. I think I usually did my homework, and I got good grades, even though the school people yelled at me for underachieving when they saw my SATs. One of the things I need to do is get copies of things in my personnel file. I emailed the local instructional superintendent. This is the response I received: From: **** Elaine (Region ) Sent: Tue 12/12/2006 5:47 PM To: Susse Edward Cc: **** Denise Subject: RE: My files


Please contact Eileen **** later this week. She will let you know where and when you can examine your personnel file and make copies. This will take place at a site other than [your high school].


You would think they would want me to come into the school so I can hit some more kids. Todays picture was taken outside Ponce. My favorite part of Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday day 67

Day 67 It appears as though my blog may be blocked. I suspect that all of blog spot is blocked not just me. I have tried to avoid any words that my be considered out of bounds, but considering how many words are banned by the DOE I probably did not succeed. I may also be being investigated for writing the blog. I have been trying to think of what I might have done wrong. I have always tried to make sure that I only wrote during my lunch hour. I did however have a tendency not to publish until right before I left my exile site. I tried to follow the rule that you shouldn't send things without thinking about them first, so I would write the blog then put it aside, read it over and publish in the late afternoon. I think some of the time when people say I am a good writer they are comparing me to how I usually write. I usually write fast and publish without reading over. This is efficient but for someone like me it is not a good way to write. My wife, ex-wife and APO could all naturally write good sentences on the first try. This is not one of my talents. The point of writing this blog was never to prove what a good writer I was. The point was to keep myself from going crazy. While I do not consider myself a saint I do not feel ashamed of what I did at my high school. Some people may feel that publishing my charges and all my other tribulations is embarrassing. The DOE wants me to feel ashamed. I do not. When I went to Italy someone told me to make sure I had at least one gelato every day. I ate this one while sitting at a cafe outside the Pantheon. I was watching nuns and tourists walk by and chatting with a guy from New Zealand who was sitting at the next table. Maybe schools would work better if we all stopped and had a gelato each day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Back Again

Day 66 I seemed to have had my blog blocked for awhile. I may have use some words that the filter found objectionable. I actually find it interesting that the DOE filter has not been more criticized in the media. It goes to show how far right the whole debate has shifted. I made a point of calling the board and getting certain sites unblocked so that students could get information on things such as STD's. It did seem apparent that I was the only one who thought that it was so absurd to keep high school student from these sites that the filter needed to be fixed. I remember when the supreme court made a decision on a controversial subject involving some free speech issues. This decision was blocked. (I am being careful not to mention the decision so my site doesn't get blocked) By Sunday night I generally start feeling bad. It is not that I am going to anything bad, it is that I am not going to anything good that gets to me. R and I had dinner out on Saturday. It is the only time we get a chance to really talk. We talked a little about why we are unhappy, but I think we really need to figure out a way to really concentrate on what will make us happy. R reminded me about an incident in a cabinet meeting a while ago that seems to define my separation from my own school's management. The principal said that she felt that it was no concern of hers if a child was raped on her way to school. The point she was making was that teachers were supposed to teach and not get involved in the other parts of their kids lives. Of course as a human being she would care, but as a teacher it was not supposed to be a factor. Young teachers sometimes go charging into situations with students lives. They feel that they can help a kid solve something that may not be solvable. Sometimes they keep things private that they shouldn't. Supervisors need to help these young teachers figure out how to be trustworthy to kids and still not take on too much responsibility. If I had a choose between a teacher who tried to do too much and one that felt they should never be involved with their students I would always choose the one who was involved. Teachers are sometimes the only adults that kids can trust. It is very difficult to become a sane adult if you have no one to trust. Our job is not to teach kids a subject. Our job is to produce human beings who are good people. I am a big fan of making kids smart, because I think smart people are happier. Even kids who lead bad lives need to be kids. I think that the woods are a great place to do this. It takes kids out of their environment. It is so strange to them that they do shed their city selves.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Day 65

Day 65 My step 3 grievance was canceled. Apparently the principal could not make it. Meanwhile I have still not heard anything on my step 2 even though the lawyer said she had finished writing it. I had my step 2 on 10/31 and was told on 11/2 that it was written and was just waiting for the LIS's signature. One of the things I am being accused of is not returning observations quickly enough. I guess I am not alone. It is Friday, time for something light. The picture above is of my nephews kids running on a beach in Florida. I will leave you to guess which coast it is on. I take pictures like this on and off. I know exactly what I am doing when I take this kind of picture. Technically it is not that difficult, but I sometimes lose respect for Ed the photographer when I see something like this. It is pure kitsch. It is interesting dealing with photography as a language. We are probably exposed to more photography than any other graphic media. Most people have taken photos. Certainly many more people take photos than paint. And of course if you take enough pictures some of them are really good. I get really annoyed when I am watching a movie or TV show and it is obvious that something was thrown in just to fill time. We have all seen these types of things. The two minute shot of a car driving along a beautiful road. The helicopter shot of the city, the lovers walking along the beach for five minutes etc. The point is that most people are not artists and many people who work in the arts don't put that much energy into it once they have learned the tricks of the trade. I used to tell R that my photography goal was to come up with 1 picture that perfectly encompassed the whole year in our life. She laughed and thought I was nuts. Of course I am but the goal still has some value. Not for reaching it, but for striving toward it. When you work in photography a long time you start rejecting all of this language that you find easy and boring. When I was in SF in the 70's all of the Art Center kids were doing abandoned warehouses with broken dolls and girls. The first one was good but then it was enough. (Annie Leibovitz went there in the 70's I wonder if she did any of these photos.) If you only saw photography exhibits occasionally then you would be impressed by this work. The language and images would be new to you. But it wasn't to me. So I started developing a language that was beyond this. The problem is that you can end up in a place so abstract or so out of the mainstream that no one will understand you. I don't think that this is a good thing. I don't think that it is great art to do this. I don't think you need to just take pictures of kids running on the beach with a sunset. I think if you can appeal to 10% of the population than you have done a good job. When I read Howl again this year I was aware that most people couldn't really get it when it was written 50 years ago. But a very important group of people did get it and they changed the culture enough that 50 years later it is pretty easy to read. I have spent too much of my life doing kitsch because I was afraid to do art. I think I need to stop this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A confession

Day 64 Almost every year around Thanksgiving I watch Miracle on 34th Street. I love this movie. At this point I have probably seen this picture more than 30 times. By the end of watching this movie I am always crying. I start choking up when Natalie Wood writes the letter to Kris after he is committed and tells him she believes in him. I stay choked up as the mailmen bring in the sacks of letters to the courtroom. After the Christmas party when Natalie is disappointed at not getting the present she wants and her mother tells her that she should continue believing even when she is disappointed I start choking up again. As the three of them drive home using the short cut Kris told them about I know what is going to happen but if you asked me to talk then I wouldn't be able too. Finally Natalie yells "stop!" and tears are rolling down my cheeks as she goes running into the house and up the stairs to look at her room and then to the back yard to find her swing. I don't ever cry, except every year I cry for Natalie. I don't know if I can really explain why I cry. I think that it might have to do with Kris giving up when he feels no one believes in him and then Natalie giving up when she doesn't get her Christmas present and then everyone finding redemption at the end. It has to do with other people believing in you even when you stop believing in yourself. At the end people do not just believe in Kris Kringle, they believe in each other. I think I am blessed with a lot of people who love me and believe in me. I don't think that this just happened by accident. I think that I spent a lot of time being good to people and believing in them and that I am getting paid back. I don't mean to sound conceited about this. I just think it is the way it is. I don't think I went out of my way to build up credit with people, I think I just did. I was reading over a research project that an NYU grad student did about my program. The project was a survey on whether or not students had teachers they could trust. The interesting part was that students who did not do well felt that there were no teachers they could trust. Most of our students felt that teachers cared about them and that they could trust them. Not believing in someone leaves you in a no win situation. It makes it hard to survive and thrive. Todays picture is from Cinqua Terra.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Last Night I Dreamed

Day 63 There is a great Isac Asimov story about robots called Last Night I Dreamed. If you don't know Asimov's robots, he always had these rules that robots had to follow. The robots became increasingly human and were programed by robot psychologists but they still had to follow the basic laws of robotics no matter what. One day this robot claimed to have had a dream. Eventually the head psychologist realizes that he really did have a dream and she destroys him. Of course robots can't be allowed to dream or they will have become too human and therefore dangerous. Last night I woke up earlier than usual and so I actually remembered my dream. I dreamed that I was teaching a chemistry class. This is the only time I have ever remembered a dream of teaching. It really made me feel good to be teaching. It is actually hard not teaching. When I was offered a job in the central board working in technology I turned it down because I could not imagine working in an environment without kids around. I think I made the right decision for my life. I have spend many nights not being able to go to sleep. I would lie in bed and start thinking of something stupid that had happened in school and I could not turn it off. I still sometimes have sleepless nights but it is never the consuming anger I used to feel. I wonder how other people deal with these kinds of things. I know lots of people who really do care about things as strongly as I do. Do they go through the same things. I think many do but they don't talk about it. Last night I had a dream, I guess that means I am human. I wonder if that is a good thing. Yesterdays picture was of Sequoia National Park. An amazingly beautiful and wild place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Something Quick

Day 62 I am starting to put together my defense. I am looking forward to being in a venue that actually has oaths and a certain level of evidentiary standards. At this point I have not appeared before any of the grievance tribunals where anyone actually cared about anything I had to say or asked for any proof. The other day I called myself a martyr. I wanted to point out, for those of you who did not spend your youth listening to nuns, that martyr are saints because of one thing they did. For instance getting eaten by a lion in the coliseum because you would not denounce Catholicism would make you a martyr. This can happen even though you did not lead a perfect life. I can assure you that I did not lead a perfect life, nor was I a perfect supervisor. When my father moved into being a manager he choose to run his office with as little contact with the home office as possible. He was promoted from running the Albany office to running the larger Detroit office, but he would have probably gone higher and been promoted faster if he had more to do with the home office. In schools APs who are always asking for advice are treated better than I was because principals like to think that they are these wise sages. APs who play into that feeling are always valued more. Of course the same AP may walk out of the principals office and turn to a colleague and roll their eyes. Being obsequious always pays.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Strange Weekend

I guess words are powerful. I did consciously use the word tormentor and it seemed to have caused a stir. If you don't usually read the comments the ones attached to Friday Day 60 are interesting and require little comment. I am starting to accept that I am a good writer, though I would rather people talked about what a great photographer I am. I spent last week recovering from the previous weekend's letters from Gorman. I thought I was recovered and then I received another certified letter on Saturday. This one didn't really change anything it was just a legal thing saying the state had been notified, but it did throw me for a loop. I spent the rest of the weekend down. I got a bunch of work done around the house, but I feel I am doing this because I can't think of what else to do. I have the name of a psychiatrist. I keep trying to decide if I should go see him. Maybe there are drugs that would not leave me as fragile as I am. Drugs do seem to be contrary to who I am.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Day 60

60 days, I am getting resigned to being here this year. I just had my step 3 on my end year evaluation scheduled for December 13. This is another useless step as far as everyone is concerned. The big problem I have from a legal point of view is that my union also represents my tormentor. I know a bunch of lawyers and they all feel that I should not agree to anything without having an independent lawyer look at it. I am sure this is sensible advice. Today I was helping someone find a place for a high school kid who was having problems in his regular school. We started talking about alternative schools. This made me realize that there are some good things going on in the city. At one time there was a department of alternative education. A lot of the really innovative schools that exist today came out of this group. Many of todays new small schools do not come from the alternative model. They are actually developed by a small group of organizations that have grants to open these schools all over the country. While some of them are interesting groups, such as outward bound, they are very different from the old alternative model. The new group has that corporate grant feel. I am not sure if this is good or bad. It is just different. One of the schools I recommended this guy check out is Urban Academy. Urban academy feel like the kind of alternative school I grew up with. It has hand painted walls, and couches in the lobby where kids hang out. It treats kids as human beings capable of self direction. It looks funky. The kids look funky. Many years ago one of the alternative principals took over a large high school in Brooklyn and the first thing she did was remove the metal detectors. She said that the number of incidents in the school went down. I asked her how she had the guts to do this, knowing that if there was one incident she would get murdered by the bureaucrats. She said she just did it. There are good people working in the system. Some even make it fairly high. But in general I think the progressive forces are loosing the war. These types of things are cyclical. I hope.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The person I want to be

Dealing with smart kids is fun but not as rewarding as dealing with damaged kids. Luckily there is no shortage of damaged kids in my school. Many of our brightest kids have real personal issues. Usually high school is not a great place to deal with them. As a teacher the best you can do is to try to get them through and give them the tools they will need in college to start dealing with the things that were done to them as children. The bright kids are comparatively easy to deal with because they are verbal. But the kids that have always made me feel the best are the ones you get that are not that verbal. I have often found kids that no one else wanted to deal with. Sometimes you can just be there for them and get to them. I start with the idea that some of the acting out is a desire for attention. It would seem counter productive to deal with a kid like this by not giving them attention. I always seem to have 1 or 2 kids that I give lots of attention to even though they seem to be abusing my concern. Being older and not being their parent, I can afford to play it out for a long time. When one of these kids graduates high school I am gratified. Some of them go to college but most just end up working someplace. These kids are not going to change the world, but everyone changes me for the better. I am actually debating if I am a martyr or a political prisoner. My 60's SDS radicalism feeds into the concept of being a political prisoner. On the other hand I have a very strong catholic upbringing in which the nuns would tell wonderful stories of people willing to die for their beliefs. It sure seemed like a cool thing to do when I was 7. No matter how many times I have seen Niagra Falls I am always impressed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Day 58

Yesterday's rant had a lot to do with a kind of feeling of "why am I under arrest and they are free". In a time of madness sane men will be considered crazy. (I know there is a quote like this, but I can't find it.) This week's copy of the New Yorker had an article on Habeas Corpus. George Bush seems to feel that he should be allowed to arrest people and then not give them any constitutional rights. Just like a high school. When Arlene Specter complained about this he was marginalized. Bush people figure that we are in a war against terrorism and so we can suspend civil liberties. Pinochete, Franco, Mussolini and many others have made the same argument. Once they get started they seem to never stop. The truth is that most people like the peace that comes initially. Many may feel uncomfortable with what is happening, but they don't complain. Those that do seem to disappear. The problem with Bush eliminating Habeas Corpus for a bunch of foreigners in Guantanamo is that you can not build democracy by undemocratic means. Societies do not define themselves by how they treat the best off but by how they treat the poorest and most difficult. I don't mean to sound like the great martyr of western civilization, but I do think I am a martyr. For all the wonders of New York City, sometimes standing in the desert watching a long train go by is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Another milestone, This is my 58th day in exile and my 50th blog. I sometimes wonder why anyone stays in teaching. I think there are lots of reasons to start, but why stay. When I was young there were lots of men who got involved in teaching because it kept them from getting drafted and going to Vietnam. But now that we figured out how to hire poor kids to fight our battles this is not a problem. People start teaching to earn a living while they figure out what they really want to do. Some people are motivated by a desire to do something good and give back. Some people seem unsuited for any other kinds of work even teaching. My personal approach to hiring was to find the smartest people I could find. Many of them leave to do other things, sometime because the other things are more exciting and sometimes because they are just bored with teaching. Why stay? Of course sometimes people stay out of inertia or fear of what would happen if they leave. I don't think that is why I stayed in teaching. But it is why I stayed working at a school that many others abandoned. In high schools I think many of us really want to help kids figure out the future. The thing we set up in my program involved a lot of hanging out with kids. This was a great opportunity to just talk about life. I felt that the kids I dealt with needed to see a different way of leading their life. Many of them did not grow up with a museum visiting, book reading, PBS watching childhood. I felt that I could provide that model. One of the things that join many teachers together is a desire to mold children. Many of us get a real thrill when kids repeat some life lesson we have been telling them, or when we see them succeed. This has some relationship to why we have kids ourselves. The first school I taught in was an all boys junior high. The students were mostly black, and there was a dean who was one of these large black guys. He had a paddle hanging in his office. When kids were send to him he would sometimes have them bend over and he would whack them with the paddle and then tell them not to cry. His image of the perfect boy was someone who did not cry. What he did was illegal, but he was black in a black school with lots of parental support for his approach. I was horrified. This guy was not outside the historic mainstream of education. Nuns have been hitting kids across the knuckles with rulers for generations. Private schools have a long history of paddles and canes. There is even a large body of literature centered around canes and paddles with every combination of teacher and student possible. It is probably too easy to attach a sexual meaning to this behavior. It may be there, but I don't think it is the primary reason why some teachers love corporal punishment. In my school there is no corporal punishment. What there is often is just plain bullying. We seem to feel that it is OK to treat kids in a manner that is generally not an acceptable way to treat adults. Some teachers do this because they can. This is probably why they became teachers to begin with. I suppose that bullies exist in all professions. I have worked for some, and have know others. I don't really understand why humiliating other people becomes such an important part of who these people are. I don't think that bullies are in the majority. I do think that they often have the ability to define organizations. One of the cheerleaders in the picture above is my mom and one is my aunt.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Specification of charges


EDWARD **** (hereinafter referred to as "Respondent"), Social Security #***, File No.***, is a tenured Assistant Principal previously assigned to *****High School in Manhattan, in Region 9.

During the 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years, Respondent was insubordinate, and rendered incompetent and/or inefficient service as follows:

In Particular:

SPECIFICATION 1: During the 2003-2004 school year, Respondent failed to submit required teacher observations as follows:

A. Respondent submitted 36 out of the 80 observations required for that academic year.

B. The observation reports submitted failed to indicate dates of pre or post observation conferences.

C. The observation reports were retuned to the teachers in an untimely fashion.

SPECIFICATION 2: During the 2003-2004 school year, Respondent allowed students to work on their own without adult supervision.

SPECIFICATION 3: On or about October 21, 2003, Student A* was observed in Respondent's classroom hanging onto the ceiling ledge reaching for a balloon.

SPECIFICATION 4: During the 2004-2005 school year, Respondent took two (2) students on an out-of-state trip without receiving proper authorization when he:

A. Failed to obtain the Principal's approval on the Trip Plan and Certificate of Liability Insurance prior to the trip.

B. Failed to submit parental consent forms prior to the trip.

SPECIFICATION 5: During the 2004-2005 school year, Respondent failed to submit the required number of teacher observations when he submitted 16 quality observations and supervised 4 inter-visitations out of the required 46 observations required for that academic year.

SPECIFICATION 6: During the 2004-2005 school year, Respondent failed to arrange a meeting with the Union Square Partnership as directed to do so.

SPECIFICATION 7: During the 2005-2006 school year, Respondent failed to submit the required number of teacher observations when he submitted 20 of the 44 observations required for that academic year.

SPECIFICATION 8: On or about 4/25/06, Respondent rendered an unsatisfactory lesson as detailed in an observation report by Principal D as follows:

A. The class ended without an assessment piece or summary.

B. There was no homework assignment.

C. There were only 11 of 24 students present.

D. Respondent was unable to articulate what kind of outreach he was doing to get students back in school Respondent did not take advantage of share pair activities, especially when asking for examples of living things.

E. The graphic organizer was not developed on poster paper and duplicated with individual assignments for each pair.

F. There was no agenda, objective or aim on the chalkboard.

G. The chalkboard contained student graffiti on it.

H. There was no writing during this lesson.

I. There was no note taking, journal entry or vocabulary section during this lesson.

J. The students were not using any form of a notebook during the lesson.

SPECIFICATION 9: During the 2005-2006 school year, Respondent had 68 detentions become suspensions because he did not follow through to seek out students who did not attend counseling sessions.

SPECIFICATION 10: During the 2005-2006 school year, Respondent had 74 detentions become suspensions because he did not follow through to seek out students who did not attend counseling sessions.

SPECIFICATION 11: During the 2005-2006 school year, only 34 of 57 seniors graduated due in large part to Respondent's:

A. Lack of guidance intervention.

B. Lack of teacher motivation.

SPECIFICATION 12: During the 2005-2006 school year, Respondent failed to arrange a meeting with the Union Square Partnership as directed to do so.

SPECIFICATION 13: During the 2005-2006 school year, Respondent caused unnecessary pressure on his colleagues due to his failure to:

A. Timely submit a master schedule.

B. Timely write a budget for a Learn & Serve Grant.

C. Open his books in a timely fashion.

D. Schedule trips in a timely fashion.

E. Resolve the required credits issue for the physical education class.

The foregoing constitutes:

- Just cause for disciplinary action under § 3020 - a of the Education Law;

- Conduct unbecoming Respondent's position or conduct prejudicial to the good order, efficiency or discipline of the service;

- Incompetent and/or inefficient service;

Substantial cause rendering Respondent unfit to perform properly his obligations properly to the service;

- Neglect of duty; and

Just cause for termination.

* The student's name will be provided prior to trial.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A break

Day 56 I am going to wait until Monday to post the charges against me. I think that now is the time to think about having a good Thanksgiving break. I always enjoy cooking on Thursday, and I love the smell from the kitchen. One of the questions I have had is why wait 50 days before charging me. When they charge your they give you a copy of the law. On the last page, page 36, the law says that the process may not take more than 150 days from the time they charge you. If you add that to the 50 they waited you get 200 days which is the complete school year that AP's work. I would like this to happen faster, but I don't know if I can do this. Today's picture is of my father and my sister. She looks about 10 which would make the picture 1944. I miss my father, though I don't know if I would share any of this with him. I know I have not shared anything with my sister. I guess I am not comfortable with anyone worrying about me. Someone said I should get a massage. Massages don't make me feel good. I think this is the same kind of thing. I don't really know how to be taken care of.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Day 55 I met with the CSA lawyer today. Tomorrow I will post the actual charges against me. A few interesting things came out of this meeting. Now that I am in the state part of this process I will be meeting with an outside arbitrator. This is a process that actually has things such as disclosure and testimony. One of the options I have is to have an open trial. I said that I would like to do that. This may still be months away but doing things in the open has always appealed to me. Physically I still feel very shaky. I have things to do now so it keeps me busy. A word about today's picture. This is me on the top of the Empire State building. I grew up upstate, but because I had lots of relatives in NYC we would come in all the time. I always liked this picture for some reason. I remember making a vinal record of myself in a booth. This was before tape, cd's etc.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Saturdays Letter



51 Chambers Street, Room 604 New York, NY 10007

November 17, 2006



Brooklyn, New York 11231

Dear Mr. :

I have been advised by Elaine Gorman, Local Instruction Superintendent of Region No. 9, that probable cause has been found on the charges preferred against you. In addition, I have received a recommendation that you be suspended.

In accordance with Education Law Section 3020-a, I hereby suspend you with pay effective as of close of business November 27, 2006.

Please be advised that you are to continue to report to your current location at District 7 Offices, 501 Courtland Avenue, Bronx, New York 10451.


Deputy Counsel to the Chancellor (as designee for

TE: mdp Joel I. Klein, Chancellor) cc: Lawrence Becker

Theresity Smith

Virginia Caputo

Joann Molter

Sunilda Nunez

Valerie Shannon

Kisha Toure


Elaine Gorman, Local Instructional Superintendent, Region #9

Maurice Miller, Esq.

Judith Rivera, ROC-PM, Region No. 9

D, Principal, High School

S.S. #378-

OFFICE OF LEGAL SERVICES * 51 CHAMBERS STREET * ROOM 604 * NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10007 Telephone: (212) 374-7600 * Fax: (212) 374-1074/1091

Monday in the Bronx

Day 54 I'm back in the Bronx. This is much preferred to the hell hole on Seventh Avenue. The noise level on Seventh Avenue seems to have increased dramatically. Of course the lack of windows is depressing as is the jockeying over chairs. I sent the letter I published to Elaine on Thursday and have had no response. On Saturday the doorbell rang and the postal worker was there with a certified letter. The letter said that I was suspended with pay and reassigned back to the Bronx. I have no idea what this means. I will scan it and post it tonight. Tomorrow I go to see the union lawyer. The letter destroyed me. I don't know why this one got to me worse than all the others, but it did. I was basically catatonic all weekend. I could not get it out of my mind. I never went to bed on Saturday. I think that this is all getting to me on a very serious level and I don't know what to do about it. Today I feel weak. The tension headaches I was getting are going away and being replaced with lethargy and general weakness. I don't know if I know how to survive this.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Looking for happines

I thought I would include a picture take from a hotel outside Asisi. I took this as the sun came up at about 6:30 AM. I was up because a roster was crowing outside my window. I don't know if I was outside to take pictures or murder the rooster. It was however, a magical time to be up. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would ever leave Asisi. The food is great, the town is small and people seem to know each other and the views are wonderful. But of course people are leaving Asisi as quickly as they are leaving Scranton. This has been an amazingly not good week. The charges have shook me, even though they were not a total surprise. Until this happened I could dream of everything just ending. I thought I would end the week looking across the farms outside Assisi and wondering what it would be like to live in such a place. I am a sucker for books like Under the Tuscan Sun. This book particularly combines my two loves, renovating old buildings and sitting around a dinner table drinking wine. I just got an assessment on my house. The guy said it was worth over 1 million. Conceivably I could cash everything I have in and have over a million dollars. I don't totally comprehend this, but it does seem as though I could sit on the hill outside Asisi or some equivalent here in the United States. This is a pleasant thought on one level, but I wonder if it would make me happy. Why do people leave Asisi and move to Rome or Brooklyn? Why are people not satisfied with looking out at the beautiful fields? For me I suppose it has to do with being afraid that all this excess time and lack of stress will cause my brain to atrophy. This is the one thing I can not deal with. Part of my delight at rediscovering my artistic self is a feeling that the absence of the stress of work will not translate into mental atrophy. Georgia O'Keeffe lived in the middle of New Mexico, and Pollack lived in the Hamptons before the Hamptons became hot. But I think they have more in common with Under the Tuscan Sun, a steady stream of guests. This is the world I want to live in. Dinner parties with great guests who leave you alone during the day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Open Letter to Elaine Gorman

Dear Ms Gorman

We have never met, but I wanted to tell you how disturbed I am at having received the charges on Wednesday. I am disturbed for a number of reasons. I had been removed from my school for 51 days prior to receiving the charges. During this time many people wrote on my behalf. During these 51 days you told my teachers that investigations took a long time to protect my rights.

I don’t understand. Was I ever being investigated for anything other than the charges I received on Wednesday? If I was not than I do not understand how you can make a determination on my worth without ever speaking to me or to any of the teachers I supervise. I am a very results oriented supervisor. I care primarily about how well a teacher is doing. I would hope I would be judged by the same standards.

It is clear at this time that I am not being judged on how well I supervise my teachers and students. I can not be judged on this because no one has spoken to them. In truth, I do not understand how I am being judged. While personnel decisions do not have to follow the rules of evidentiary law, they should at least have an appearance of fairness. Your decision to file charges against me without ever speaking to me or any of my teachers is unfair and unjust.

I understand I will have an opportunity to prove my case in front of an independent panel. I do not understand why I was never given an opportunity to prove my case to you or Mr. Heaney. I wonder why you chose to only listen to such a small group. I am disappointed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006



Mr. Edward

Dear Mr.

In view of your unprofessional conduct while an Assistant Principal at Washington Irving High School located in Manhattan and within Region No. 9 during the 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2004-2006 school years, the following charges are being preferred:

1. Just Cause for disciplinary action under Education Law §3020-a;*

2. Conduct unbecoming Respondent's position, or conduct prejudicial to the good order, efficiency or discipline of the service;

3. Incompetent and/or inefficient service;

4. Substantial cause rendering Respondent unfit to perform

his obligations properly to the service;

5. Neglect of duty; and

6. Just cause for termination.

By this notice, you are hereby informed of the nature of the complaint. I will be preferring and filing the above charges. You will be informed of the procedures involved in the Trial of Charges.


Local Instructional Superintendent

Elaine Gorman

Region 9

* Education Law §3020-a is the state law that is used to take away a persons license.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another Milestone

Day 50 No Charge from the DOE After 50 days I have still not been charged. Someone did call today to see if I had worked in the summer. I don't know what that means, but the more time you have the more little things become significant. I have always felt that the largest problem with welfare clients is the amount of time they have available to them. The drama that goes on in the population comes from this time. More paranoia, my wife applied for a job and something happened to her application. Does the principal have such far reaching power that she can keep my wife from working. I have already lost about $15,000 being here. This is not a good thing. I heard part of a speech given by the admissions director of MIT. She was trying to tell parents to let kids be kids. In the suburbs parents are talking to their kids about college from elementary school. By junior high they are putting pressure on them and by high school they have them signed up for all kinds of special programs trying to get them into the elite schools. Our population doesn't necessarily operate this way, but it does put all kinds of pressures on kids to not be kids. We have added 37 minutes of extra time to the day on the theory that more is better. Many of our parents are happy to expose their kids to all kinds of adult material, and adult responsibility on the theory that they need to grow up. Why? The concept of my program was always to give kids space to be kids. This is a difficult thing to defend in the current climate. But if we can't give kids that space in the schools, where will they ever find it. A word about todays picture. My son asked about how I achieved the effect of the dancers. The dancers are actually the only thing about the picture I did not manipulate. The background green is from some water pictures I took in Sequoia. I dropped them into the background. I love Photoshop.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 49 No charges from DOE

Day 49 No charges from DOE I'm going to publish early today because I have an appointment with an accountant to talk about retirement types of things. I received a call from someone at the CSA on Friday. I told her I had set up my pension consultation. She said that I probably found out how rich I was going to be. After I hung up I started thinking about this. I finally decided to email her. I told her that not only would retiring be a hardship to me and my family, but in addition I would be giving up a job that I loved doing every day of my life, and that she should keep that in mind as she defended me. She didn't respond. Friday another guy from the CSA stopped by to talk to me. He took the letter that said I was under investigation. He did not understand why the letter did not even mention which office was investigating me. It is hard to figure out what I am being investigated for. I started talking about my principal. He is the first person from CSA to admit that if it is a dispute between me and my principal that CSA was in a difficult position because we are both members. I keep saying that to them and they tell me it is not a problem. Both the Daily News and the Times have had articles about the CSA. Both papers have pointed out that if the principals keep getting more hiring and firing powers that it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in the union. Both papers feel that principals should have the power to hire and fire AP's. On the surface this seems like a good thing. More like real industry. Or is it? One of the trade offs you make when you go into education, is you settle for less pay in exchange for a good pension and stability. This is the deal that all of us made. The second issue revolves around why education has tenure. Tenure was started so that people in the public venue would feel safe and free to speak out. This is an important concept. Today the DOE announced that employees at a high level were no longer allowed to speak to the press or at a public meeting without clearance from the DOE. They argued that the DOE needs to present a unified front. The unified front is actually a code word. It means that the DOE does not want the press or the public looking too closely at what they are doing or the mistakes they may be making. I am sure the Bush administration has the same policy. Public officials do not like public scrutiny. Education is a public institution, the same as the Pentagon or the CIA. It is important that voices are not easily silenced. I find the new DOE policy frightening. It is very corporate, but it is not good government. School systems are not things that can fail and go bankrupt, like Pan Am or Tower Records. Public education is part of the design of democracy. It should always be part of the public debate.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Culture Wars

Day 48 No charges from the DOE In much of the debate about education, the issue of culture war is usually ignored. What happens in schools is a war. We are the representative of our culture and we are battling against their culture. They are teenagers. Teenagers in NYC come from a large variety of cultures. The one thing they have in common, is the fact that there cultures are different from their parent's cultures and their teacher's cultures. We teach a large number of first generation kids. These kids are half Dominican and half America, or have Chinese and half American etc. The gaps between them and their parents is often huge. One of our jobs in a high school is to help kids navigate this divide. Even kids who are not first generation need help with the divide. If any of us think back to our childhood we will realize how hard this can be. What my school has decided to do is not to navigate this divide but to declare much of the kids culture bad. Our approach is to try and teach kids that our culture is the best. Of course we hold most of the cards so if they don't want to accept our culture we will declare it law and enforce compliance. This becomes the basis for much of what we do. Many of the rules we enforce in our school can only truly be explained by the idea of culture war. For instance hats and do rags. In our school no student is allowed to wear a hat or a do rag. This mainly affects boys. The justification given, is that hats and do rags are used as gang signs. This is probably sometimes true, just as shirts or even socks can indicate gang allegiance. This is, of course, the wrong question to ask. The correct question is does banning hats lower the incidence of gang membership or gang violence within a school. This is probably not true. I have seen gang membership rise and fall based on what was happening in the community. Wearing hats in school has at most an extremely minor affect and probably none at all. Why put so much effort into enforcing something that has so little pay back. The effort is not just mental, it is also financial. The more rules you have in a school, the more it costs to enforce them. Creating a rule within a finite budget takes away from something else you want to do. The only reasonable explanation for the no hat rule is that we didn't wear hats when we were young. Hats are not worn in the respectable business world. Therefore hats must be wrong. Hats also symbolize a youth culture that we do not understand and therefore feel is wrong. Personally I don't get hats. But I do get the desire of teenagers to not look like adults. I do get the desire of teenagers to define themselves as unique. We may not see the act of choosing and wearing a hat as an expression of uniqueness, but kids do. I think the proper response to kids acting this way is a smile, a shake of our head and benign neglect. Wearing a hat as a teenager has no long term consequences. Why put so much effort into stopping it? This is an unpopular position in a school. The type of actions that cause us to condemn the Taliban or the generals in Argentina or Chile seems to be perfectly acceptable when dealing with kids. Personal sound systems are the same as hats. In the days when these were not banned I would occasionally see a student in my class with earphones. This was certainly not an aid to learning, but I did not need an all out ban to stop this. This was an internal discipline issue in my class. By banning Walkmen etc. we stopped students from listening to music on the train and during lunch. I am not a music person. I don't own one of these gadgets but I know lots of people who do including most of the teachers I know under 30. The question to ask is do kids learn less because of Walkmen? I would think that you would be hard pressed to find any research that could show this. The major reason I can see why the school would want to ban Walkmen, is that kids listen to rap music and other music designed to incite children to riot and have sex. This is why Elvis Presley was banned from my high school. Again you have to ask if this ban is worth the cost of enforcing it. Do kids have more sex today because of rap. Actually statistics seem to indicate that they have less or the same amount of sex as they did 20 years ago and pregnancy is down. Again, most of us in charge, grew up without these gadgets, therefore they must be bad and should be banned. The great thing about this ban is that it will become impossible to enforce. The technology will become so small that we will not be able to see it. In the new school world where everything is supposed to be researched based, we have allowed discipline to become cultural based without anyone even attempting to justify it with research. A word about pictures. I have tried to not use names in this blog. Bogs are by their nature public documents and I did not feel that I needed to make public statements about people directly. The pictures will be ex students or personal photos that mean something to me but will not expose any of my friends to any type of association with me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The weather is great

Day 47 No charges from DOE It's a beautiful day. I have started a completely weird diet that will probably fail. Every day I start with a chocolate donut and a cup of coffee. I then have an apple at 11:00 and finally at about 12:30 I take lunch. Most days I just walk around. I feel that if I don't move more than I am that I will become sick. My new thing is to come back and have a slim fast for lunch. Yesterday it was raining and I was feeling particularly down and trapped so I had a cheese omelet and French fries. When I came home that night I had a slim fast for dinner. If this diet actually works I'll write a book. My life has become a series of small events. I remember getting nuts with my mother because she would turn little things, such as taking a taxi to the airport, into big productions. I kept thinking, just do it. Sometimes I talk to parents who are on welfare or not working and I am amazed at how long it takes them to get things done. At this point, my life is like a welfare moms. I actually live from one meaningless meeting to another. When the welfare recipient gets a letter telling them that they have to go to some office I suspect that they are thrilled. At least someone is paying attention to them. Actually I have always got that about kids. So many of the kids who end up in my office for discipline reasons are there because someone is paying attention to them. It is better to get in trouble than be ignored. These kids need to have attention paid. Some one told me that a school was a zero tolerance school. My school is probably described that way. It is a very strange concept. The idea of zero tolerance is a concept that has a great deal of appeal to adults. Theoretically you can attach a punishment to every transgression and apply it uniformly throughout a school. It treats kids as simple problems to be solved. In the adult world, the same approach is tried with mandatory sentencing. The adult world will decide that one ounce of marijuana is worth six months and 1.1 ounce is worth life imprisonment. It is an absurd concept to think that we can define something so clearly that we will not have to think about it. We are not interested in listening to circumstances. We are not interested in evaluating the person in front of us. We just react. Ultimately you could develop a computer program that sentenced students to a punishment. Saying this, I realize that there are large numbers of people who will think that this is a great idea. It is not a great idea. It is a very bad idea. It does exactly what we should not do. It does not pay any attention to the kids. It reinforces the concept that they are not human. It does not listen to them. It does not do the one thing we are trying to do, it does not change behavior for the better. Schools really are families. Discipline is necessary, but it must always be designed to make your kids better people. Not subservient, better. I have decided that it is fun to poke through my pictures and post them on this site. I want to make it clear, after yesterdays blog, that my criteria for posting pictures is not having had an affair with the person in the picture. My criteria is to post pictures that I like.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Day 46

Day 46 No charges from DOE. Yesterday was very slow. Today is very slow. Tomorrow will be very slow. I start getting it. The concept is to kill me with inactivity. I think that this may be doable. Yesterday I was having a very difficult time. I am sure that my life is going through some type of transition, and transitions are not easy. Even though I have gone through some before. I am never sure that I can survive them. I am starting to forget what it was like to be around kids. I sometimes remember when I spend time or talk to one of my ex-students. At these times I start realizing how much I was able to accomplish. How much I miss being able to work with kids. Any good teacher would have the same feelings. Many teachers would not feel this way. When I look at the people I know who seem to have been promoted lately, I can not help but realize that the path to success seems to lie through avoiding most contact with students. I suspect that this is the master plan for the DOE. Yesterday the teachers got a new contract, while the AP's have not had one for over 3 years. Under the new approach AP's shouldn't exist. What is needed is technocrats. Technocrats develop a performance based evaluation system and then teachers are judged using this system. The role of the curriculum based AP is finished. The UFT thinks this is great, because they think getting judged by AP's is a bad idea. In the new world of technocracy these performance objectives will be developed and administered with no prejudice. Of course the real prejudice is built into the creation of the objectives. I supposed to be neutral they need to be based on test scores or some similar criteria. This same approach happens in medicine. Hospitals look at mortality, or numbers of days patients are in the hospital or some such supposedly neutral evaluation. If you are losing money in your hospital the solution is to fire the doctors with high patient admission days. This is true because of the flat rate paid for many procedures. If you are a teacher and grades don't go up, then you are a failure and should be eliminated. Here is a possible scenario for a new school. The top management has gone through business school and been trained to run a school. There are one or two assistants, also business people. All staff development is done under contract with outside staff developers. Each year each teacher is called in for their end year evaluation. The principal/CEO looks at how well the teacher did, based on the data. Teachers are promoted, demoted or fired based on this data. This is how GE works, or Bloomberg, or Verizon. The thing is, on some level this is not a bad way to run a school. It is obvious to anyone in the system now that some teachers will never be able to succeed in this system, and they do not deserve to remain teachers. The system may finally get rid of some truly bad people. Other teachers may be able to identify what they need to improve in order to succeed. Anyone in the business knows that kids succeed when they have good teachers. What is wrong with this is that teaching is not a job you can do well if you are not motivated. The reason that so many people leave so quickly is that it is very hard to do the job. Without a manager who gets this on a visceral level teaching may be even more difficult. I have to admit, when I watch "The Office" I see people who are working hard in spite of dysfunctional management. Good managers are useful, but no always essential. Schools have not changed in 100 years. I suppose it is time. In the spirit of confessing, I would like to confess to having an affair with the person in the picture above. I wonder if that is what I am being investigated for.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Day 45 No charges I did get a call from the CSA suggesting maybe I should go for a pension consultation. I called to get a voucher. Something I need to do, but there is something sad about this. I am not tired and I have much to give. During the 70's and 80's there was a movement to insist that city employees, particularly police and firefighters, live in the city. The concept was that the people patrolling our streets should have a connection to the community. Lately this has been dropped because it is difficult to live in the city on a municipal salary. Still there was something to this. One of the things that I have seen happen to people such as police, is that they start developing a bad view of the community. All they ever see is the bad part, so if they don't live in the community they start feeling as if this negative group is the complete community. When you get to education it appears as though the same phenomena happens. I know many good teachers who have moved to the suburbs because they could not afford to raise a family in New York City. I can understand this. I think it is a bad trend, but it can not be easily solved. I know many educators who have moved to the suburbs because they can not imagine their children ever going to a New York City public school. I know school employees who live in the city but send their kids to parochial school or private school because they can not conceive of ever sending their children to a New York City public school. The people who reject the city schools outright present an interesting problem. They don't just dislike their local school, it's the whole city system they don't like. So what does that say about them. Are they working for the DOE with the hope of changing the system and making it worthy of their children. Do they feel that the students are so awful throughout the city that the system can only be designed to contain them, but never to inspire or educate. Do they feel that the city has the system its residents deserve. One of the questions I kept asking is why can't we treat our students the same as students in the suburbs are treated. No one ever took that question seriously. It is a question that needs to be asked. It may be that we can not always treat our kids the same. We don't have the resources and we probably have more problems than the suburbs, but we need to always ask this question. When we don't ask the question we are creating a mind set that there is a real difference between the kids who go to city schools and those in the suburbs, not just an economic difference. Rules such as the no swimming on trips rule were absurd. They could never have lasted a minute in the suburbs. Why do they happen in the city. I worry about this country when we give up our egalitarian sensibilities. My parents, who lived through the depression, had a greater sense of empathy than most of todays Americans. There is a great photograph in today's paper of two Afghan girls watching a competition. They have big smiles on their faces. They are just two kids enjoying themselves. In my 20 years of dealing with city kids I saw more similarities between my life or my kids lives than I ever saw differences. The world we live seems to be working very hard to separate people. This is very sad.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Day 44 No charge from the DOE When I worked in advertising I observed that New York City art directors rarely did anything creative for themselves. This was not true of out of town people. To be an art director you had to have come out of the art world. This means you had once painted, or sculpted or did something artistic. It seem as though the city drained all your creativity. When I was in the business I never took pictures, unless someone was paying me. Most of the people I worked with were the same. There were a few who seemed to maintain their art. After I left the business I started taking pictures again. It was fun but it didn't feel the same as it did when I was young. I could take good competent photographs, but I seemed to be mostly disconnected from the art I has once pursued. I spent two weeks in Italy and was able to create a nice travelogue, but nothing I would frame. I think that I put so much creative energy into teaching that there wasn't enough left for photography. When I was young I was driven. I lived and breathed photography. When I was in school and had little time for my own work it would actually be painful. I would build up a backlog of concepts and would not have the time to realize them. When school would end I would explode with work. Eventually I would slow down. I realized I needed the combination of free time and school work. The intellectual stimulation of school helped me conceive new ideas. Because my life has been so slow lately, I have been able to start thinking of creative tasks I want to tackle. I am actually dreaming of photographs. To me the greatest satisfaction I can have is when I conceive something and then I realize what I have conceived. The conception doesn't have to come weeks in advance. It can happen by accident. If I see something and then see it as a photograph, then take the photograph and the photo comes out the way it should I get an enormous amount of satisfaction. It is amazing how rare this is. Photography today is about digits. The photo show last weekend at the Javits was about Photoshop, Nikon capture NX and other software programs. Kodak had a small booth in the corner and they were giving away film. I have nothing against manipulating pictures. Messing with the color and fixing dust spots are just fine. They can often get you closer to the truth. I've actually been to a couple of amateur shows where the photographers were creating these elaborate joined together photographs. The kind of things where cows float in the air, or you do a nude with three breast. Most of what people did was crap. When VanGough does strange colored skys or unusual perspectives the viewer can see the reality. VanGough's skies feel real, even when they have the wrong color. It never comes across as gratuitous. Most amateurs are just creating a "look what I can do" image. Meaningless use of technology. I booked tickets to Las Vegas to look at houses. I talked about it for months. I have now done it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

one two three

Day 43 No charge from DOE No one can find any charge against me. So why am I in exile? Now that I have been through 3 of the 4 steps I have in my grievance I would like to describe them. I am going to use a divorce as an analogy. If it seems messed up you can blame John Kerry. Step 1: You file a grievance against the principal. The principal hears the grievance. If this is a divorce this would be the point where you went to your wife and said, I want the car, the dog and the Beatles CD's because your complaints about me are wrong. Your wife then says she will think about it. And of course she decides that after much thought, she is correct you are a jerk and she is taking the car, the dog, the Beatles CD's and the CD player. (In my case this took over a month) Step 2: You go to a person in the region. You plead your case. This person hears both sides and makes a decision. This would be like you and your wife going to mandatory marriage counseling in an attempt to resolve your differences. At the end of this step I owed my soon to be ex-wife the car. the dog, the Beatles CD's, the CD player and all the Star Wars videos. Step 3: Now it gets interesting. In step 3 you go to an office downtown and you meet with a new arbitrator appointed by the chancelor. You go into a small room and your CSA rep is there, the principal is there, the arbitrator is there and a person from the region is there to plead the principals case. The person from the region turns out to be the arbitrator from your step 2. This is like showing up in divorce court only to discover that your marriage counselor is actually your wife's lawyer. Of course you've just been screwed because obviously step 2 was not an impartial hearing but actually an evidentiary hearing. Step 4: This is actually called an arbitration. I have never been to one of these. To follow our divorce analogy further along I would guess that I am going to discover that the judge in my Step 3 is actually my ex-wifes brother. I keep thinking Star Chamber, but I have to look that up. Wikipedia says: The Star Chamber (Latin Camera stellata) was an English court of law at the royal Palace of Westminster that sat between 1487 and 1641 when the court itself was abolished. In modern usage, legal or administrative bodies with strict, arbitrary rulings and secretive proceedings are sometimes called, metaphorically or poetically, star chambers. The Bronx CSA rep came by today. All of a sudden people seem to know I'm alive. I wonder why. The rep had no idea why I was here. He did feel that all superintendents just want peace. Maybe the strategy should be that there would be more peace with me returned from exile then from me in exile.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Step 3

Day 42 No charges from DOE So, I am heading down to a building across the street from Tweed. This will be a new experience, a step 3. The CSA does not hold out much hope for this step. They are saying that things are usually solved in arbitration. Arbitration usually has an outside person involved. I don't know what outside means. I asked my CSA rep if she knew what I was charged with. She doesn't. All of these grievances were initiated by me, not the DOE. I dressed up today. I have generally come to work in less than AP clothes. As long as I have a para job, I felt I should look like a para. I hate to put on airs. I did however put on about 15 pounds. Are these para pounds? I have decided to stop eating lunch to get rid of this excess weight. I still go and walk around. Apparently there is only one Starbucks in the Bronx and it is nowhere near me. There were more in Barstow, CA. I think that the Bronx should sue Starbucks for discrimination. I read that Lee Malvo confessed to killing someone in Arizona. The mom of the kid killed was very thankful and said how it showed a certain humanity in him. I don't think so. When you are on trial for murder, you are in the paper every day. Your lawyers keep meeting with you, and news people want to interview you. It is all kind of exciting. After you are convicted your life changes to mind numbing routine and boredom. By confessing Lee has started the exciting stuff over again. My mind numbing exile has left me being willing to confess to almost anything, if it will bring on the excitement of a trial. Anyone what me to confess to something let me know. I think I may be fully responsible for every student who has ever failed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Exercise in Futility

I had my grievance today. This was the one on my end year evaluation. As I looked at it I realized that it is mostly filled with statements that have no evidence behind them. They are more of the nature, he didn't try hard enough, or he didn't do something on time. Hard enough and on time are very tenuous statements if there are no deadlines and no clear expectations. I have been known to say to my wife; "you got up too late on Saturday for us to do something" and she responds that I never told her I wanted to do something so how could she know when to get up. This is a typical type of dispute that married couples get into. "How come you didn't read my mind." It needs to be continually worked on. In a business environment when no clear deadline is given or no clear directive is made and then you are criticized for not doing something this is a problem in leadership. I have been guilty of doing this in my own leadership and I continually work to not do it. When people who are my leaders act this way it is difficult to function. Particularly if they do not see that. Clear directives, clear responsibilities and firm deadlines are what make good organizations function. It is hard enough to think that your wife should read your mind. It make for tension between us and we love each other. It is impossible at work. The grievance hearing involves a woman who is a lawyer taking copious notes as I speak, the principal in her office on a speaker phone, my union rep and myself. The union rep had previously read my response but did not say much. I did most of the talking. The process at this level is a joke. It has the appearance of a legal proceeding but it does not have any rules of evidence. All the notes the lawyer takes give the impression that someone is listening. Just like my students who take notes on a piece of paper and then stick them in their back pocket. You know they will never be looked at. In this "legal" environment quasi-innuendo is good enough. The presumption is that whatever the principal feels is true must be true. I knew going into this meeting that this was how it was going to work. At the end I felt amazingly depressed. Listening to bad things being said about me with no reasonable way to defend myself is depressing and frustrating. It felt like I was on trial as an infidel in Iran. Why bother going through this exercise. I left the building and just walked with a feeling of being lost. I think I am so out of touch with my internal feelings that I am always surprised when they come to the surface. Thursday is a step 3, a new experience.

New Week

Day 40 Still no charge from the DOE I took Monday off to go to the doctor. I did a lung capacity test and it turned out that my lungs are fine. Just old. Today I am going for a Step 2 grievance on my end year. I assume this will be like the last one, in that no real evidence will be looked at. On Thursday I go for a step 3 grievance on my midterm. This may be more interesting. This is supposed to be an outside panel. I will write more about this this afternoon. The thing about these grievances is that I initiated them. They have no direct relationship to why I have been removed. I have still not been told why.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sleepless in Brooklyn

Day 38 no contact with DOE or CSA no charges. When I was in tenth grade I was the catcher on my high schools baseball team. We weren't bad, but we weren't that great. One day we were playing against a much better team and we were getting killed. In the 7th inning I came to bat, and I dug in and concentrated. Even though we were loosing by 10 runs, I was still trying to get a hit. At some point one of the umpires said to me that he was impressed by me because I never quit. I actually never quit, but I don't think the umpire understood why not. What I do mentally is not think about the past or the future, just the present. When you do this it is no longer an issue of quitting. I just live for the present. In the present I want to get a hit. I sit here usually living for the present. Last night was parent night and I received a few emails that reported that the principal told a parent that I would never be back. Even though this has always been a possibility, it generally is a possibility that is in that future that I never look at. Suddenly the future seemed much closer. My mind immediately became obsessed with my never coming back. The evening moved on and Detroit lost. I became even more obsessed with the concept of never coming back. (I used to live in Detroit and my father and I spent 2 summers playing gin rummy and listening to almost every Tiger game on the radio so watching them lose did not make me happy.) For someone who lives in the present, I suddenly had a nostalgic view of the past and a horrible view of the future. When I went to bed I discovered that my body was actually twitching. It became quickly apparent that I was not going to easily get to sleep. What I usually do in these cases is lie on the couch in front of the TV. TV offers such little intellectual stimulation that I can usually fall asleep easily. I did manage to get about 3 hours of sleep. I had intended to try and write something funny today. It didn't seem to work. I am amazed at the level of physical reaction I had. Do you think if I get sick I can sue the DOE?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday 10/25

Day 36 received email from DOE and CSA still no charges. So, I have a step 2 grievance scheduled for October 31. It was scheduled for the 24th but then canceled. This is the step 2 of my end year evaluation. Meanwhile I received a copy of the step 3 filed on my midyear. This was done on October 23, 21 days after I had my step 2. I wonder if the CSA thinks it is doing a good thing by dragging this out. They do seem to have the attitude that all of their clients are guilty and that the only way they will win is through union trickery. I wonder if CSA members feel this way. I don't. I want a quick resolution. The word is that a retired science chair is being brought in to talk to the science department. This in a school without departments. I also hear that the principal wants to kill chem. because the kids don't have the math skills. If this is aimed at me we once again have a self destructive vindictive move. Kids will have only two Regents level science courses and will have to pass both. Unless she wants to replace chemistry with Physics. I used to have two teachers in the art-performing art program who loved teaching physics. I am not going to claim that all their students managed to pass physics, but the passing rate was as good if not better than the rate for other science classes. It was certainly better than the rate for the bad teacher who taught earth science. Did the art kids suddenly become proficient in math? I doubt it. The truth is that good dynamic teachers can teach almost anything to students. Lester Maddox once said that the problem with Georgia jails was that they needed a better class of criminals. Schools don't need a better class of students, they need a better class of teachers. It is our job to teach, if we believe in democracy we need to believe in all kids. Just got a call from the CSA about my step 2. The lady, who I have never talked to before, asked if I had been charged. I said no and she seemed unconcerned. She said clearly that I was being paid so why do I care. The new DOE motto "You're getting paid so why do you care?"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mole day

Day 34 No contact with the DOE or the CSA I emailed the CSA and told them how I start my Blog each day. The grievance guy immediately got back to me and said that I was wrong. That the CSA talked to me whenever anything new happened. I told him that the last time I had emailed him he forwarded the email to someone and asked them to call me. They had not. So therefore my opening statement was accurate. He forwarded my email to one of his subs but still no call. Today is the first Mole day I have missed in 12 the years I have been doing it. This has always been a day I have looked forward to because it gave me a chance to be silly. I bought candy for the kids yesterday and my teachers will distribute it. One of the amazing things is that not only has no one spoken to me, but no one has spoken to my teachers or students. Any relationship based on an unwillingness to be honest with those around you is doomed to failure. The DOE seems to miss this very essential idea. I am not talking about divulging confidential information or always showing your cards, but I do think you need to base business on a basic level of honesty. I saw a survey today that said that the number of kids bringing cell phones into schools is the same or higher today then it was a year ago. Educators have this great ability to defend the past even as the future is overwhelming them. The goal of public schools has always been to produce good citizens. The state usually defines good citizens as those who are willing to go along with the law no matter what. Good kids don't bring in cell phones because it is the law. Never mind that the students had no input into this law. The same concept applies to me. Good students and teachers should accept the decisions of the DOE because the elders know what is best. This is what makes good citizens. This is what makes good soldiers. The book I cut my education teeth on was called The Transformation of the Schools. Progressivism in American Schools 1876-1957. One of the interesting things in this book was a study that seemed to have proven that if you let kids take whatever they wanted they ended up doing just as well or better than the kids who were forced to take a core. What impressed me about this study, and the book in general is that it seemed to say that kids actually do know what is good for them. Unfortunately most adults will not accept that concept. Last year I decided to give Spanish instead of German. The result was that kids complained because in the end they wanted to feel special. German made them feel special. If you treat kids special they respond. This is what we always tried to do. If you build a special program you get special kids, if you build a prison you get convicts. You get what you see. I'm still looking for a term to describe someone so interested in hurting you that they are willing to hurt themselves in the process. Damn, it's mole day October 23 (10/23) equal to the number of atoms in a mole 6 time 10 to the 23rd. I am stuck in this hole.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Day 33 No contact with the DOE or the CSA. Wow, 33 days! One of the people I spent time with while incarcerated on Seventh Ave. has been found innocent of all counts. She was sent back to her school. 1 year and 1 month from when she was removed. I think she did not talk to anyone from the DOE for most of that time. I find it hard to believe that her case was so complicated that it took that long to resolve. The truth is more likely that this proves the incompetence of the DOE. Got an anonymous message from a grad student. I would respond to her personally if she wants to leave me a comment with her email address. I have lots of time for personal comments. Some woman came into my work release site. She is supervising the rubber room upstairs. I guess I am sort of like a trustee, I work in the office and do not have to spend my day in the rubber room. It's clean work and I don't have to do the rubber room laundry. It also gives me access to office supplies that I can use to make a shiv. This makes me feel safer. Anyway, back to this woman. Apparently one of the rubber room people was to be sent back to a school but he was giving her trouble about leaving. She started going off on these people are disgusting and are just manipulating the system etc. Of course everyone believes this. I looked at the High School Directory for 2006-2007. Once again my program is listed incorrectly. I sent a request to the principal last year and I assumed that it would happen or at least we would discuss it. Did it not happen because it is a plot. I think the way the school is now structured that she will have problems reaching her attendance goals. While hurting me, she also hurts herself. The concept of being so angry at someone that you are willing to harm yourself in order to hurt them. I'm trying to think of a term that describes this. Someone wrote me using the term lustful gluttony. I though that this was a terrific term. I keep using it. Words can be cool. That's the kind of term I'm looking for. Everyone makes this huge deal about how hard programming is. I don't find it that hard. You do need to count all the possible groups of students you have. The one part that is easy is programming freshmen. Freshmen are programmed in blocks. You take 34 kids and you give all of them the same program. In the case of my honors group you need to account for a few kids having advanced math skills, but that is not that hard. You just parallel a junior math class with the freshmen class. There are always enough juniors who don't belong in the junior class to give you space for the freshmen. So when I look at my list and I see that the freshmen are not blocked I wonder how this happens. Is it a plot or is it incompetence or do people just not care.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An audience of one

Day 32 no contact with the DOE or the CSA. When I was in advertising I was told that no one ever reads body copy except the client and your mother. I suppose I have often looked at this blog as being read by very few people, all of them equivalent to my mother. If I thought I was writing for a wider audience would I write differently. My brother-in-law was a politician. I found that when I spoke to him that he never strayed from the party line. Even though I was a relative, he was smart enough to understand that 100% of what a politician said could possibly be part of the public record. Good politicians get that. I hung out with an author named Herb Gold when I lived in San Francisco. Herb wrote this intimate books about growing up. The books were fiction, but they were designed to sound autobiographical, sort of like Portnoy's Complaint. The books probably drew heavily on his life. I asked him how it felt to write such intimate things, and to know that people he ran into in cocktail parties knew intimate things about him. He just shrugged. He was an author. It came with the territory. I am certainly not a politician. I seem to find it difficult to always be as guarded as a politician needs to be. I am not an author. I might talk about some intimate things, but on some deep level I find it difficult to be open. I suppose I lack the art of Herb Gold and the caution of a politician. I suppose this makes me just a normal human being. What could this mean, if my audience is greater than one. I think back on everything I have written and wonder if I wrote some things I shouldn't have. There is probably a 100% chance that I have. I do not have a history of telling people what I think of them on my way out the door. I always feel that there is no point to this. It doesn't make you feel that good and you never know when you might run into someone again. I suppose blogs by their apparent anonymity, have altered how we interact with other people. Maybe we have all learned to be Herb Gold.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A little Math

Day 31 No contact with DOE or CSA One of the things wrong with the new business oriented DOE is that it is not really so efficient. When I was sitting in the rubber room I figured out that there were about 80 people that were assigned there. Most of them were experience teachers and many were probably at maximum salary. There were also a few social workers, some guidance counselors some AP's and some principals. The DOE usually considers salaries at about $58,000 per year per employee. This group was certainly making much more than that. Even if you use the DOE number you still end up with a figure of $25,777 per day for the people sitting in one room. This does not take into account the salaries of our jailers or the real estate values. Why would the DOE want to continue paying this amount. I find it hard to understand the motivation. Joel Klein claims that it is not his fault. It is the fault of the union. The union keeps tying his hands. If you look at the top of everyday's blog you will find it hard to see where my union is delaying the process. I think what happens is that you get points for putting as many people as you can into the rubber room. It shows that you are tough. If the prisoners received a quick hearing then the room would be much smaller and the principals and LISs would not look as tough. Quiene is mas macho?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An anniversary

Day 30 No contact with DOE or CSA. I'm hard to manage. I admit that. I tend to not be very cautious. I do not think I know any other way to be. I have tried to learn to be more cautious. I never seem to learn. I remember asking an AP why she didn't say something at a meeting and she told me she would speak up after she got tenure. She will never speak up. As a manager I have often worked with teachers who were difficult to manage. I traded an AP a dumb, bad math teacher, for a bright, good math teacher that wouldn't play ball with the AP. I loved this guy. Teachers labeled as difficult are often those who will not compromise their vision and will fight for their students. One of the givens of good management is to always hire people who are smarter than you and capable of doing your job. Does anyone seriously think this is the approach in the DOE or most of education. I was reading a story in the Times about a great teacher in California, taught 15 years, had great results, did not have all the education credentials he needed under "No Child Left Behind". Therefore he was declared an unqualified teacher and told to spend the next few years taking these courses. He left. He was a difficult teacher. He refused to waste his time taking meaningless courses. People only have a finite amount of energy. If he had used it taking these courses, he would not have as much left for his students. He is teaching in a private school. To me a difficult teacher is a teacher who does not have any imagination. A teacher who continually does the minimum amount of work necessary to not get fired. A teacher who is not smarter than me. I am a difficult person to manage. I find it almost intolerable to work under people who are dumber than I am. If I am here because I am difficult so be it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Do the right thing

Day 29 No contact from DOE or CSA Spent some time this weekend thinking about ethics. There has been two stories in the news lately that I think relate to what is happening to me. Recently there was a lot of press about the first responders on 9/11 and the type of problems they are having with breathing and other things. This type of relationship is always difficult to prove conclusively. The science of large groups and the statistics around such relationships always leaves some room for doubt. The mayor in a perfect corporate response allowed that there might be a relationship but that this was not a sure thing. Christie Whitman than followed up by saying how she told people to wear respirators and so it was not her fault. The point of the response is to provide the case to deny lawsuits or at least to minimize their impact on the city treasury. The second story appeared this weekend. Apparently three years after the Staten Island Ferry crash there are still people who have not been compensated for their injuries. Some of them have lost jobs and then homes. No one seems to be saying that the crash did not cause their injuries. The city is claiming that it is a maritime accident and therefore subject to much harsher restrictions on compensation. This argument stands to save the city millions of dollars. In the corporate world the Mayor would be lauded for being fiscally responsible. In the present day climate, the common wisdom says that government should act exactly like a corporation. The Mayor as CEO. The problem is that government is not a corporation and should not try to be. While government can learn much from modern management it should not learn the "bottom line at any cost" mentality that exists in much of the corporate world. The government needs to do the right thing. Government should be reflecting the hopes and fears of their constituencies. We all hope that if we respond to a crisis that the government will take care of us. The US government did not have to create the GI bill after WW2 but it did, because it felt it owed the soldiers a debt. Why doesn't the US government or the state or city government feel that they owe a debt to those who worked on ground zero. If some of the first responders would have gotten sick anyway, so what. We owe this group. It is the right thing to do. The Staten Island Ferry is the same type of situation. People are in pain and the city is acting like an insurance company. The city, by it's actions, is sending the message to its citizens to not look at us to help. We are simply an entity that takes tax money and maintains roads, builds parks and provides police and fire protection. The school system is currently in the same mindset as the rest of the city. Klein and the current leadership see themselves as a corporation. Klein decides he does not need AP's and so he works to downsize them out of existence. Principals become middle managers evaluated on an "unbiased" scale and then fired if they do not perform. When I asked people to write letters for me I left Klein off my list. It may also be that my superintendent and my local instructional specialist (LIS) were also a waste of time. I don't know these people personally, but I wonder if they are willing to look at me as an individual. They may also have a larger agenda then my problems. The fact that no one has been willing to talk to me indicates that the corporate mentality is at play here. Don't say anything that could be used in court and could subject you to a liability. They are most likely unwilling to do the right thing. Educators should always be thinking about doing the right thing. They are not in the business of creating the most efficient way to give students a body of knowledge. It is their job to educate a kid in all the sloppy ways this can be interpreted. Education should always be about doing the right thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Day 28

Day 28 No word from the DOE I did receive an email from CSA asking that two people call me and find out how I am doing. This was because I emailed them. Of course they didn't call. I took Thursday off because I was sick. I think people react strangely to me some times. It seems like when you have suffered some serious loss in your life and no one can figure out what to say to you, so they avoid saying anything. Actually my life is bizarrely normal and I think I just want people to some times just treat me that way. I try not to overplay the, "you should do this for me because I am suffering" number. I ended up with a very relaxed week. Monday we were off, Tuesday I left at 1:00 to go to the dentist, Wednesday I did a full day, Thursday I was sick and Friday is very slow but the end of the week. I walk into the corner coffee shop near my work release location and the guy knows I take black coffee. This is not good. One of the things I have always thought about is the idea of contacting the press. I am not sure what the story would be, though I imagine that the part that would appeal to them is the sitting here day after day with no contact with the DOE. Klein keeps saying how the unions stop him from solving the problem of paying all these people for doing nothing. I think he would be hard pressed to explain what my union did to delay judgment on my case. I now have a name in the press and I do not know what to do with it. I think that because I want my job back that I am reluctant to go to that level. I have decided to email all the people involved with the problems with the programs. They will either respond or not. If they choose to keep ignoring my emails I will at least have the evidence that I sent them. As I said earlier, prisons do not do what people think they will do. I can no longer even imagine dealing with anyone at school with out putting it in writing. I keep getting copies of letters people are sending in my behalf. They make me feel great. I wonder if the superintendent is smart enough to just filter all letters with my name in them to his junk mail.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wednesday Day 26

Day 26 Still no contact. Kind of a busy day yesterday. It did go quickly. I've been trying to figure out if I am depressed. Some people keep tell me I am but I wonder if they are not projecting what would happen to them. I went to see Annie Leibovitz last night. She read the introduction to her new book while showing pictures. She was Susan Sontag's partner and within 3 months Susan Sontag died and Annie's father died. She seems to still have a hard time reading the introduction part that dealt with this. You might be able to say that she is depressed, but I think maybe we jump on that term too easily. She is mourning, and she needs to do this. It may end up looking like clinical depression but it may be necessary for her health. So, what signs do I have of depression. I slept a lot the first few weeks, but now I don't spend weekends sleeping. I actually get things done around the house. I am getting exercise and this is good. I meet with people. I write my blog. However, I am forgetting really minor things. I feel that my relations with those around me are on hold, not dynamic. It is possible that my coping strategy involves repressing all emotions. I keep wondering if I should have some cathartic emotional breakdown. Sit in a dark room crying. But one of the problems I have always had with my life is the feeling that it is too much like a movie. The dark room bit seems derivative. R sent me my horoscope and it said I should do silly things. Another friend said I should go to comedies and ride my bike. I actually think I have been doing that. I think what gets to me is the need to actually laugh with someone else. I think when I get to the end of my life I will make a difficult old guy. I think I will be more interested in the comedy around me than I will in reviewing my life. "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." ps: Observation on writing: We saw the manuscript of the speech that FDR gave on December 8, after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It said December 7, 1941 a day which will live in world history. FDR had crossed out world history and written infamy. Sometimes a word can make a big difference. Writing a blog has made me more sensitive to this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday Day 25- "Happy Days are Here Again!"

I referred to the place I work in the Bronx as my school. R said that was a bad way to refer to it and that I should call it my work release program. That sounds like the right term to use. We went to Hyde Park yesterday. It was a beautiful day, and we walked around the grounds and through the FDR museum. Of course FDR was an extraordinary leader in an extraordinary time. Eleanor was also and extraordinary woman. No matter how many times I hear the story of her quitting the DAR and then arranging a concert at the Lincoln memorial for Marion Anderson I am moved. This was in the 40's when this move probably cost more votes than it won. The two of them were people who had a sense of right and wrong and were willing to act on it. My parents lived through the depression and probably left me with an inordinate fear of being out of work. R's father and mine worked for the same company for most of their lives. I think that in this day and age, people on the fast track do 3 years and people not on the fast track but with health careers do 5 years at one place.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday another day

Day 24 - no word. It is Friday before a three day weekend. I have had no one visit me today. I spent the day fooling around on the internet and reading. Time moves at a snails pace. I saw some more supportive emails today. So the powers are getting regular emails. Still no one has talked to me. I wonder what this experience will do to me as an employee of the DOE. Many years ago I was working with some people in central. One of the woman I was working with got in some bogus trouble . She was removed from her job. I was asked to write a letter in support of her. Of course I did. I then asked my principal to write a similar letter. I knew he felt that she was railroaded. He said he had to think about it and then he never wrote one. I am older and wiser now. I would still write the letter. As a system we keep making decisions that are designed to protect us. This happens because people get caught sometimes in bad situations. I saw a little girl yesterday who had come from Hati. The problem was that there were no clear legal papers proving her grandma had custody of her. What can you do about a situation like that. If you wait for papers to come from Hati it is possible that it could be weeks before you see them. Meanwhile the kid is not in school. If you think about the worst case scenario, the kid was kidnapped, you would still want the kid to spend her day in a safe school environment. So I admitted her. I will never change. A conservative is not a liberal who is ten years older or a liberal who has been mugged. A conservative is just an egocentric prick. Or maybe they are just afraid.

Go To College Online

Go To College Online

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Day 23 - No resolution

It is Thursday and I life continues to move slowly. It is apparent that there are major problems with my program, and I am unable to help solve them. The thing that I wonder about is if things are messed up because of incompetence or if it is because there is an effort to dismantle my program. One of the things I have fought against is the fact that many people in the building have given lip service to houses, but done nothing to support them. When someone starts a sentence by saying that we need to face reality I know that this is code for I don't really believe in this and it is time to dismantle it. This happens all the time. I usually react to it by getting angry. If I ever make it back I will have learned that I can not trust anyone. Like most prison situations the result of my imprisonment will be a more dangerous person. I heard that the business partners want me "resolved" soon. That is one of the up points of the day. In general my days are mostly filled with peaceful meaninglessness. I come home and putter around the house then watch TV and fall asleep. I have to say that my sleep has been mostly deep and untroubled. I think I may be experiencing premature retirement. It is an interesting physical state. I can see that if I do not create a level of activity high enough to keep my body in shape that I will fall apart quickly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day 21

It's Tuesday,still no contact with the region. I find it increasingly amazing that no one seems to feel they need to talk to me. Last June when I tried to find out if I was working summer school, no one returned my emails or calls. This is such an amazingly bad way to deal with people. I think that there is something really sick with this system. I am settling in here. I find that I tend to be short and grouchy with everyone at home. This is not a good trend. Things in school continue to be screwed up. The longer I am not there the less chance I have to fix them. I kind of feel that you can not build a school and separate it from the personalities of those who work in it. What you can do is create an environment that attracts the right people and hope that the school will survive you. Even then, I think schools can only maintain a vision a few years after the founders have left. Someone can come along with a new and even a better vision, but the old one can not last. Meanwhile I sit here in the Bronx, not knowing what to do. I think emails are still going to some people. Possibly they will do some good. You get to a point, like all prisoners, where prison becomes normal.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Day 20 no charges - 407 issued

It is Friday. The next two weeks are only four days each. This is a good thing. What I do each day is sit at a desk. This is what is physically killing me. I have decided to walk about five blocks to get lunch. This helps some. I need to keep catching myself. When I travel I always see lots of people riding around on electric scooters. I feel these are people who sit all day and then don't move the rest of the day. Eventually they can no longer move. I can feel that happening quickly to my body. What I could get away with at 50 I can no longer get away with. The principal keeps telling people she expects me back. What she doesn't tell them is how hard she is trying to keep that from happening. It is a great political trick. You appear to support something in public and do the opposite in private. This texts a lot of heat off of you and keeps you from being asked questions. The next time she says I expect him back someone should ask her if she wants that to happen. If a student is absent twenty days in a row he gets a 407. I wonder if I have a 407. I wonder what my co-workers here in the Bronx think of me. They probably know I was sent here, but no one has really asked me why I was here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Day 18 – no charges

I rode my bike to the subway today. I decided that the most efficient way to get to the Bronx was to ride downtown and take the 5 train all the way. The ride takes about ten minutes. By the time I got there I was breathing heavy and my heart was racing. This combined with the headache I have had for the past six days is making me wonder about the health affects of what is happening. It could possibly be just the inactivity that is getting to me, but I don’t think so. This is the principal that has twice sent me to the doctor to get stress tests on my heart. I cannot figure out an easy way to release any of this stress.

The principal had my door removed. My door had my name stenciled on to it. I suppose painting it over would seem to overt to the staff, so it was better to claim that my office needed a new door. I wonder what she did with the old door. I want to start a contest in my comments section. What is the strangest thing you could imagine the principal doing with my door? You can be profound or profane.

I actually find stuff like this to be bazaar. Last year I painted my door blue and the day before school opened, an extremely busy and stressful time for custodians, my door was painted red so that it conformed to the rest of the school. I laughed at this, but I was really mad. I think I get caught between being inside my life being mad about stupid things and being outside of it and seeing it like a weird independent movie; maybe by Vincent Gallo, the guy who did Buffalo 66. From the outside it just comes off as strange. I find it hard to imagine what type of person finds that they need to remove a door. I wonder if she had a meeting about it. I think if I die in the school I want them to put me on my door and carry me out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday Day 17 no charges

I am still in the Bronx. No matter what train I take it seems to take forever to get here. This is because the trains are incredibly slow. I have assumed that I am here as a further punishment. Send me far from home. The truth is if you have something to do the day passes quickly. I saw "The Great Escape" the other day. Steve McQueen kept getting thrown into solitary confinement. He always seemed to come out of it mentally sound and still defiant. Paul Newman also did in "Hud"”. I a’m not sure I would be able to do that. These guys were always my heroes.

I have been thinking about bureaucracy the last few days. I always felt that one of my roles was to protect good teachers from the wrath of bureaucrats. I am not against bureaucracy. Filling out forms correctly will often provide important information for people. Taking good attendance will help expose kids with bad attendance, book inventories save you money, etc.

The problem is that bureaucracies often become religious. For every attendance sheet you don'’t turn in you get a venial sin. Every three sheets becomes a mortal sin. (If you can'’t follow this ask a Catholic friend.) Once you define things this way you create a system in which you no longer look at people. You judge everyone by the number and accuracy of the forms they fill out. This is an absurd way to judge people. We become willing to sacrifice good people for bad reasons.

After years of protecting people from this type of vengeance I find myself a victim of it. This is a strange place to be.

I received a call last night. I thought it was just friendly, and it may have been. It is also possible that the person that called me was asked to see what I felt about not coming back to my school but going somewhere else. I am aware that this may be how this plays out, but I am still trying to get my brain around this possibility.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gary Grayson

Still no formal charges. I’m sitting in LaGuardia waiting for a plane to Atlanta. My last uncle died. This leaves me as the oldest generation in my family. I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. I have read a couple of great letters written about me. I guess I am nervous because my best shot is now being played out. I have no idea what my next step is if this does not work.

My day in the Bronx was pleasant and uneventful. I don’t really understand why I am as scared as I am. I am reading a Virginia Wolfe book, Mrs. Dalloway, which may be causing me to feel down. It is about one day in England. I think it is about missed opportunities. It is not about tragic consequences, it is just about how ones life ends up where it is. This is probably not a good book for me to be reading. I think a need to go back and read Gary Grayson and the Hill Street 11. For those of you unfamiliar with these books, and I would be amazed if any one has heard of them, they are books written for young boys. I found them in an Uncle’s basement and I think that they were published in the early 20th century. All of the books were essentially the same. Gary was the star of the local youth football team. Some how or other there was always some bad kid who figured out a way to keep Gary away from the “Big” game. In the end Gary always managed to escape at the last minute, make it to the field and win the big game.

I think I have wanted to be Gary all my life.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Bronx

Day 13 No formal notice of why I am here, no contact with anyone from the DOE. I was reassigned to the Bronx on Wednesday. R asked if I was upset by this. Actually any escape from the boredom is fine. I took 4 trains to get there and over 90 minutes. I introduced myself to the secretary. The district superintendent was not in so I have been sitting here reading..the same thing I did on seventh avenue except there is no one to talk to and I do not yet have access to the internet. I sent out an email to about 50 people yesterday. I asked people to write to a group of people I thought could do me good. These people will either listen to what is said and meet with me or see it as an annoyance and just delete everything. I feel that I do no have a knockout punch but maybe enough body blows will win. If this doesn't work then I will find another group of people to send emails. I started trying to figure out a Plan B. I went to a meeting Wednesday about opening new schools. I may be too damaged to ever do this. It would of course be a dream come true, but it is hard to get excited. 12:00 The superintendent came back. I am being assigned to replace a para who is being sent somewhere else. I am doing intake. Oh well I get to explore the South Bronx.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Step 2

Still no charges, I asked the lawyer for the district what the time frame was. She said she would get me her finding in a few weeks, but the more important issue of why I was removed could take up to a year to happen. I asked who decides what happens or when. There seems to be no clear answer. What is clear is that the principal put together a package and sent it to the district and argued that I be removed. She keeps telling people that it is not her fault. This is of course a total lie. So I am upset. I do not want to be here and I need to feel that I am doing something positive to move myself out of here. I am unwilling to sit here while other people decide when they will deal with me. The room seems to get one or two new members each month but no one ever leaves. I need to do something. It seems that the only thing I can do at this point is to have people email the people who are involved in this. I need to organize this soon.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday day 11

The room is a little empty, only 42 people. A few came and then left, I have no idea where they go or how they get away with it. I supposed that so little attention is paid that you can do almost anything. We have acquired a few posters, which are on the wall. Typical teacher kinds of things. The lack of activity has made the weekends kind of strange. I did a bunch of things but I also did not get many of the things I wanted to get done, done. I slept a lot more than I should of. I know from my own life that activity breeds activity. I have to figure out how to take more control of my life. I have become angry the last few days. ( Is this one of the steps Kubler-Ross speaks of.) The things going on in school are wrong, and no one is there to make noise. The complaints the principal has made about me are becoming more absurd. I find that there are people who say that they support me but who probably think that I screwed up and are willing to accept the principal's premise. In other word, "this should not have happened to him because he is a great guy" not " the charges are false". God save me from my friends. One of the charges involves mis-programming gym so the students do not get enough credits to graduate. I keep saying that this is not true, and now I have a copy of a transcript that clearly shows that the computer was mis-programmed and that my students are not getting credited for the correct number credits. Of course it is easier to say, "Ed screwed up", then to exam the transcripts. While I have been sitting here the principal has put the two worst science teachers in the building into my house. This is the type of thing that made me call her a moron. This is a bad thing to do. I suppose she is not a moron, she just does not understand that people make all the difference. She also does not understand programming, budgets, or credits. Numbers are not her strong suit. I sit here and she keeps her job. I am getting increasingly tired of sitting here calmly. Tomorrow I finally have a chance to argue part of my case. I can always hope that someone listens to me. Most likely they will not, but you never know. The UFT guy is here today. He is handing out a form. One of the questions it asks is would you like to join a suit against the DOE regarding timely presentation of charges. Without making my situation more grand then it is, there seems to be a general tendency of government to ignore constitutional guarantees when it suits them. George Bush argues that he does not need to follow the constitution and of course either does Mike Bloomberg or Joel Klein. I am angry about my situation and the general injustice of this place.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Day 10 still not charged

58 people, day 10 and no formal charge. Yesterday I had a meeting with the union. Basically they are saying that I will probably loose my step 2 grievance because it is all opinion stuff and the principals opinion is believed more that mine. The UFT sent three people here on Thursday. Someone brought up the fact that almost everyone here is a senior teacher. They were asked if they were pursuing the age discrimination suit against the DOE. This has gotten me thinking about age. Last year one of the AP's in my school had her birthday in February. Someone asked her how old she was. She said 62. I said wow you are really old. She is 6 weeks older than I am. Everyone seemed embarrassed at how old she was and they seemed upset that I had said something. I have never talked about my age but I assumed that people generally knew how old I was. I guess they did not. I told them that what I said was a joke and explained why. They nervously changed the subject. About a year ago I had participated in a professional development in which we were asked to break up in groups based on what decade we were born in. I was the only one born in the 40's. The LIS who was born in the 50's joined my group because he said he felt bad that I was all alone. I didn't feel bad being alone. When it came my turn to talk about my decade I said I was proud of it and what I had done. I told them all that I felt that it was my generation who had established who they were. We were the ones who created sex, drugs, rock and roll and politics. When I arrived at college birth control pills were just becoming available, the Beatles, the demonstrations against the war and the anti-segregation marches in the south. I had lots of friends who spent their summers in jail in Montgomery. I am not embarrassed about what I did or who I was. The last thing I needed was the LIS's sympathy. He will never understand the world that made me who I am. This year when we had our first cabinet and did our usual what did you do your summer vacation I made a big deal about how I was eligible for the Golden Eagle life time pass to the national parks. I decided that it was time to celebrate my age. I think the people here are correct. We are living in a system that wants to discriminate against us. It is possible that it is partially based on the economics of pushing senior teacher out of the system to save money. It is possible that there is an assumption that we are not capable of becoming part of the new corporate model of education. In some ways I think that we, (over 60) need to start making more noise. I think that I personally need to start celebrating who I am.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day 9

44 people, day 9 and still no charges. I have a meeting with my union today so I have been thinking about justice. It is amazing to me that I could be here 9 days, charged with a "serious allegation" and have no idea what it is. No one in this room seems shocked by this. I imagine that the unions and the board are happy with this. The union is happy because people are still being paid. Being paid is all that matters from a union point of view. The DOE is happy because "criminals" are out of the school where they will not embarrass anyone. The number is not that large as a percentage of the total number of employees. While it might not be possible to get real number from the DOE I suspect that most people are put back in the schools. Certainly my experience with people in my school is that almost all of them came back. What does everyone get out of this? The DOE does not have to invest in doing real investigations. If something bad does happen with an employee they can say we tried but the union stopped us with loopholes. They do not care if about merit. The school gets to remove someone who is either a bad teacher, a bad person, caught in a bad situation or an annoyance to a principal. The hope is that the person will go away. The union gets to flex its muscle and say to their members, "look how powerful we are." Prisons have often been known to breed the best criminals. This is not what they are designed to do, but of course they do. This prison mostly breeds cynicism. If a teacher has that in them this place will develop it to a fine art. We have all met this type of teacher. They are rarely affective teachers because they think that there is no hope for education or for students. If you want to lock them into this attitude, this is the place. If a teacher is a bad person, the chances are they will not be punished for their transgressions. The DOE is not interested in investing the type of money necessary to investigate them. The truth is that it is probably cheaper to just keep them here. I may feel the worst for the young teacher who gets caught in the bad situation. There is a young man sitting near me who apparently broke up a fight (young male teachers do that) and was accused of hurting a kid. The response is to abandon him to the department of investigation. I doubt that any of his supervisors have contacted him or supported him in any way. The way to make your career safe is to run away from anyone accused of anything. The teacher may not have done anything wrong, but there is no political points to be made by backing him. Of course I put myself in the last category. Being here removes an annoyance from my school and sends a clear message that principals are not to be defied. If I ever make it back the hope is that the experience will be so devastating that I will become meek. This is how we run schools. We suspend students on the theory that they will become reformed. The bad ones become badder and the good ones become cynics. No one becomes better.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Still no charges, about 42 people in the room. The AC is working today so I don't have a headache. A couple of friends came over last night . These are the first people I talked to since this started. It felt good to just chat. It is good to have friends. I forget I have them sometimes. I also received a great email from an ex-teacher of mine and someone I greatly respect. She said such nice things that it makes me feel better and not so alone. I suppose I want my job back because I feel that I have done things I can be proud of. She pointed that out to me. I realize that I often tried to separate myself from the school because I just wanted to do good things and not become involved in the politics. I have always been a revolutionary and not a diplomat. I just want to do things and not be involved waiting patiently for the right time. My daughter once asked me what she thought she could do about something she didn't like in college. I answered, take over the administration building. She laughed and ignored me. I am trying to be patient and wait for the time to start agitating. I have a meeting on my midyear grievance next Tuesday. I will wait until after this date to start doing things, but I am still the revolutionary. More room snapshots. In front of me a woman has bought a small wooden folding table. She put a plant on it and has brought in a set of water colors. She spends her day painting. I have to wander over someday and see what she is painting. I moved my seat 8 feet so that I could have a different view. The yenta table has 4 women and two men. Mostly they read the paper and talk, usually simultaneously. One of the guys has his computer opened all day and is mostly on it. I listen to endless conversations about things, such as the best dog breed. Next to the yenta table is a guy who has his chair pushed against the wall and another chair in front of him. He mostly reads the paper and stares ahead, sometimes he sleeps. Today someone came up to me and asked me why I didn't socialize. I told her I was not interested. I do socialize. I am just not interested in becoming part of this family. I have been thinking a lot about time. It seems as if having too much time makes you think about it. I am starting to feel that I have a finite amount of time. I'm not being morbid about death. I am just becoming more aware that when I waste time I don't get it back. This is partly why this is hard. We have a jailer named Donna. She is a secretary who has the job of making sure we are all behaving. Yesterday she came in and yelled at everybody for getting into fights with each other. The group was contrite and silent while she spoke. They treat her with utmost respect and try to stay on her good side.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


There are 42 people here, strangely depressed, still no formal charges. One of the things that I thought about on 9/11 five years ago is how the distraction of the WTC also destroyed all the efforts of the people who had built it. If you spent 2 or 3 years of your life building something and then watch it be destroyed in hours seems to be a waste of human effort. I still believe that people should spend their lives making the world better. To have this destroyed so easily just seems to be sad and frustrating. When I read about Afghanistan where 50% of the men are unemployed and of course 90% of the women are also I feel that the country will never become better. We should not be wasting human beings that way. I think that I am particularly feeling this way because my life seems such a waste right now. When I came to the room I was given a paper to sign with the room rules. these include: 1. Electronic devices such as DVD's, TV's, Laptops or Tape/Cam Recorders for personal use are Not permitted. 2. Room light must remain on at all times. 3. Room doors must remain open at all time. Many of us think there was also a prohibition against sleeping, but I do not seem to be able to find it. I will continue to describe the room. The air conditioning was not working this morning. They said it was broken, but only in our room. Many people do not believe this. To the left of the crazy lady, sitting in the corner surrounded by two broken copy machines is a group of mostly Hispanic men. Sometimes they are joined by one or two other people, usually Hispanic. One of the guys tends to be loud and is always making comments. He is the one who got into the fight with the woman. Generally they just sit their talking, but at least once a day they play dominoes. They have an old metal snack table and a large board that serves to increase the size of the table. These are real domino players. Most of them can pick up their dominoes in one hand. Very impressive. I was going to try to do an ethnic breakdown, but I am not always good at figuring out who is who. I suppose the room does not look that different than the makeup of teachers in general. To my right is the yenta table. I have never actually seen any of them reading anything. They have these ridiculous conversations filled with inaccuracies or inanities. Today one of the big topics was how short Alan Ladd was and how he had to stand on a box when he worked with actresses. (This box is called an apple box) Not being a writer I am struggling with how to describe what I see and hear. Susan said I should just report what I hear without comment. I think she is correct, but this is not easy to do. At this table is one guy. He seems to stay quiet and work on his computer. I suppose he got a seat at a table and will not give it up.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Union Trip

There were 54 people here today. Still no formal charges. All my counts are approximate. I had an appointment with the CSA today. They don't really care about me, or they care about me in a way that I think is wrong. The union guy started talking about how many more years I had to retirement. The implications was that they could screw around for a couple of years. I told him I would kill myself if I had to spend two years here. The board and the union works very slowly. The time frame is months. Months is way too long. According to the CSA there is no time frame for filling charges. I figure the only way to push this is to become annoying in a way that will make them want to move me up. I am not sure how to do this. With all of the noise made by the chancellor and the union, neither side is interested in moving this along. Today was one of the worse days so far in terms of people yelling at each other. There were at least four confrontations. One involved a new person who could not find a place to sit. She got into a confrontation with one of the regulars. She told her to back off and get out of her face. She then got up and left and I have not seen her since. There is a rumor that there is another room where they put the really crazy people or the people accused of serious crimes. I suspect there is no such place. I think that this is just people trying to say that they aren't so bad. The deputy supereintendent of district 9 came in to look around.


I rode my bike in today. I rode five years ago and I remember that I stopped at the top of the Manhattan bridge and looked at the skyline. It was a beautiful day five years ago. Almost identical to today. I remember feeling great. I was on my bike, the day was beautiful, and I was looking forward to the new school year. It was just this perfect feeling. Today they closed the bike path on the side of the bridge nearest to the World Trade Center so I couldn't end up exactly where I was five years ago, but I did stop on the top and look at the skyline. It's easy to know where things were because the black building that Cleary Gotlieb is in is a marker. I felt like doing the sign of the cross but of course I know longer believe in god. Still it seemed liked the appropriate thing to do.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Weekend

I decided that I needed to stay busy. I bought tickets to a local production of a Neil Simon show. The concept was to keep myself busy. I did a bunch of errands and fixed some things around the house. Managed to make it to Sunday at 3:00 before this weird depressed feeling started to set in. The idea of spending another week in this room does not make me happy. Went shopping for new bathroom rugs and started to feel weird about spending money. I am still the sixties radical I always was. I still want to do what is right, but I start thinking about how I am going to spend the rest of my life. The money issues are real. I do not want to lose my house or spend the rest of my life in a trailer park in Florida. I would probably be a better person if I could move beyond this fear. Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of 9/11

Friday, September 08, 2006

First five days

I am starting this document as a record of what is happening in my life at this point. This experience may be one of the worst I have ever gone through. Sitting in one place is incredibly difficult. I am curious to see if this document becomes a story of learning to cope with difficult circumstances or if it becomes a decent into madness. My wife asked me not to kill myself. A reasonable request considering her and my experience with other people's suicides. I said I would not, and I mean it.

Thursday August 31: The principal’s secretary calls me and asks me to stop by on my way home. I said I needed to talk to her about other things, could I come down now. She asked me to wait 20 minutes. I went to the office and was give a letter reassigning me to the regional office. I told a few teachers who spread the word. I left the building hoping that on Friday I would find out what I had done wrong. The principal said that she did not think it was because of the U she had given me.

Friday September 1:

I reported to the regional office. I asked the secretary when I would find out what I was charged with. She said she had nothing to do with this. I was given forms to fill out and then was escorted to a large room filled with people sitting randomly in chairs. I sat down and was told by a woman that someone usually sat in the chair I was occupying. I shrugged. No one showed up to evict me from my chair. No one showed up to tell me why I was here. Got phone calls from many of my teachers saying they supported me. Most were voice mail and I did not return the calls. I was feeling very bad. I called the union but they did not return my call until after 4:30.

Tuesday September 5:

I spent the day sitting in the room. I read and stared at the wall. Lunch was 12:30 to 1:20. This was the highlight of my day. I wrote an email to my supporters. At 3:00 the teachers leave and a few people who have longer days are left. At this point it is easy to get on to the internet. I sent the email at this time. My union rep called at 3:30 and said someone would visit me by Thursday. They were trying to find out why I was there. I left at 4:00.

Wednesday September 6:

Another day. You find that you make everything take longer than normal. Filling time is what this is all about. At 11:00 Joanne, my union rep, came in and we talked. She said that I was here because they were trying to take my license based on failure to supervise. She said that she would let the main guy in the union know what was up and that I should call him that night to make an appointment.

Thursday September 7:

A few people emailed me about my “thanks” email. This was nice. Generally I received sympathetic response. I came home and was extremely tired. You would think that after sitting all day I would have lots of energy. Of course I know that the more active I am the more energy I have. You find that you don’t want to do anything at home that you could do in the rubber room. Anything to pass the time.

Friday September 8

Time to describe the room. The room is 20 by 24 carpet tiles. I think the tiles are 18 inches each which makes the room 30 by 36 feet. At the moment I am writing this there are 42 people in the room. When we come in we have to sign a book. Someone said they counted 100 pages in the book. There is no window. The room does seem a little light today and so I will try to count each day. Maybe I should give my weight like Bridgett Jones. There are two desks in the room 3 rectangular tables and one round table. My understanding from some of the veterans is that there used to be more tables but some were removed. One of the things we had to sign when we arrived said that we would not put our head down on the table and sleep. I suppose that is why the tables were taken away. Chairs are just scattered around the room but because we are still human beings many of the chairs have been formed into informal circles. I started by sitting in a chair facing no where and talking to no one, but gradually I became part of a circle. I have no awareness of how this happened or when it happened.

Yesterday my circle built a table. We found two empty milk cartons and two empty plastic trays that hold liter soda bottles. We placed the two trays on the floor because they were wider then the milk cartons and then the two milk cartons. We then realized that if we place a milk carton then the two soda trays then the second milk carton we would create a small extension to our pedestal that could serve as a coffee cup holder. On the top of this pedestal we place a wooden plaque we had found in the room. The plaque had a picture of a kitten in soft focus and then was covered with a thick coat of epoxy. The edges were scalloped. On the top of this we placed a top of a carton of legal paper so that we would not have to look at the cat or possibly damage the art work.

We are in fear that someone will steal parts of our table. Luckily we are not scanned on the way in so it is possible for us to arm ourselves from attack. Just as a deterrent.

To my left is one of the desks. A middle aged black woman sits behind the desk. She was the one who warned me on my first day that I was sitting in someone else’s chair. The desk is set so that she is sitting between the desk and the wall. She was concerned that if I sat next to the desk that she wouldn’t be able to get out from behind the desk. When she goes to lunch she leaves a note on the chair saying it is hers. Last night when she left she pushed the desk and the chair even tighter to the wall. She pushed one side in but because their was a chair in the way the other side came away from the wall, so she pushed the other side in pushing out the original side. This went on for a few minutes before she realized that she had to compromise the sides and balance how close they were to the wall. Basically this woman has created a wall around herself.

There is an outlet behind this desk that would be handy to use to recharge our laptops. Every time someone plugs something into it she growls. The woman next to me brought in an extension cord for her laptop. The desk dweller became quite agitated. She felt that there was a danger that she would trip over the wire when she got up. She said that if she did and if she hurt herself she would sue.

I don’t know how long she has been here, but people say that she was a very pleasant person last year.

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I started this journal 10 days after I was taken out of my school. Initially it was a way to give my life some meaning and therefore stay sane. It has since become a forum to allow me to clarify what I believe. Sometimes this is done to explain myself to others and some times I use it to explain myself to me.

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