By Sam Pirozzolo | August 10, 2015
In New York City, the mayor has substantial control over all aspects of public education.
Sadly, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have proved to be unequal to the task, as we’re learning with the ongoing revelations of the city’s burgeoning diploma scam.
In response, the globetrotting mayor has abandoned the rudderless ship in the midst of a hurricane and left his like-minded comrades in charge with orders to toss the children overboard.
Recently Fariña touted a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers. This was supposed to be a turning point for education in NYC — and indeed it was.
For example, a program called 37-and-a-half minutes, which in a previous contract increased the time teachers spent in front of students, was eliminated. Through recent contract negotiations it was decided to eliminate instruction time. The result has meant teachers now have even less time in front of the students.
I guess there was no evidence that increasing a student’s time in front of a teacher had proved beneficial.
Yet when de Blasio touted his renewal-schools program, a program designed to prevent a state takeover of 94 of NYC’s lowest-preforming schools, one of the key elements was: “Creating extended learning time — an extra hour added to the school day to give all students additional instructional time.”
Ahem, didn’t he just negotiate a contract that reduced instructional time?
Years ago, I was vehemently opposed to the opening of charter schools. I pleaded in my writings and conversations with the DOE and the UFT to please work together to limit the growth of charter schools.
I feared that if charter schools were allowed to flourish, the New York City public-school system would inevitably become the largest reform-school system in the world because any parent who desired a good future for their children would take their children out of the failing schools and put them in charter schools.
I was wrong about charter schools. There are, of course, a few bad apples, but I now see them as the best way for many parents to save the lives — and the futures — of their children.
The real question, however, is how do we begin to repair a public-education system that’s corrupt to its core? I believe the solution lies with the mandated inclusion of “independent” parent groups like the New York City Parents Union.
Much like our police department’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Department of Education must be required to have independent parents work together with the chancellor and the unions to create a learning environment that is beneficial to all.
Parents must legally have the right to participate in the system at its highest level and represent the rights of their children.
I’m not talking about Fariña’s “handpicked” buddies, who have been chosen to stamp out grade fixing. I’m not talking about the “UFT supported” parents at Boys and Girls HS and Automotive HS who will be responsible for the hiring of new teachers or political friends of the mayor.
I’m talking about independent parents who aren’t employees or spouses of DOE employees.
I’m talking about parents who have proven to be committed and able advocates for all children. These are the people who are so dedicated to public education, they’ve chosen to expose themselves and their children to vicious union attacks in an effort to improve public education — not run away from it.
The road to reform is steep. But just like the steps in any treatment program, recovery can’t begin until the abuser admits the problem.
Not only must de Blasio and Fariña own up to and be held accountable for their failures, but also it’s up to all of us — parents, legislators, union leaders and every citizen of New York City — to build back what others have destroyed.
Unless we take bold and unprecedented steps today, such as negotiating agreements fairly, allowing independent parents as participants and changing how we educate our teachers and how they educate our children, we will never stop the systemic failure for an overwhelming number of our children.
Sam Pirozzolo is a Staten Island parent, former president of Community Education Council 31-Staten Island and vice president of the New York City Parents Union.
Read Sam’s op-ed on the NY Post website at https://nypost.com/2015/08/10/how-to-fix-new-york-citys-corrupt-schools/