Friday, October 14, 2005


She expected civility from black kids

City education officials are investigating the claims of a pair of boys from Oklahoma who moved to Brooklyn to experience diversity, and instead say they got schooled in racism and violence. Mom Lisa Brown, 33, told the Daily News she relocated her family from their small Oklahoma town so her husband, a Brooklyn native and social worker, could more easily find work and her sons could experience different people and ways of life.

Brown enrolled her sons, Sloan, 12, and J.T., 13, at Ebbets Field Middle School in Crown Heights. But when the boys, who are white, showed up, their mom said, they got a chilling indication of what was to come. "Oh my gosh, we are going to have fun this year," a security guard muttered, according to Brown.

Things quickly got worse. Sloan was beaten mercilessly, called "cracker" and "white boy," and chased into traffic by his new classmates, his family said. The abuse got so bad that Sloan routinely bolted out of the building to find his brother and run to a nearby subway, dodging verbal and physical attacks, he said. "It almost makes me cry," Sloan said. "I'm scared to go back." The brothers skipped school all last week while their parents tried to sort out the mess. "Do I have to send the National Guard in to get my children an education?" asked the distraught mom.

When Brown tried to alert Principal Marge Baker to the abuse, "the principal refused to take the calls," she charged. Brown filed several police reports at the 71st Precinct stationhouse about the alleged abuse, but said she was ignored. Police sources said precinct cops did take the incident seriously but believe school staff are in a better position to deal with what appeared to be a series of schoolyard fights and bullying.

The boys' stepfather, Ken Brown, requested a transfer for the boys on Sept. 28, but Education Department officials noted he can't seek the change because he is not a custodial parent. Eventually, the fedup mom went to nearby Elijah Stroud Middle School to transfer her sons there, but said the principal told her: "They'll have the same problem here."

Education officials promised to help the Browns - after being contacted by The News. "The principal was not sufficiently attentive to this situation," the Education Department said in a statement. "Upon learning of the situation, the region is taking immediate action to arrange a transfer for these children. "We will fully investigate what happened, including whether racist statements, which are not tolerated, were made and take appropriate action."

Brown said the Education Department called her several times over the weekend, after The News made queries, pledging to get the kids into Elijah Stroud and chastising her for calling in the press. Despite the principal's warning, Lisa agreed to send her boys to Elijah Stroud tomorrow. "I'll make sure my kids are safe because it is the school system's job to make sure they are," she said.

For Sloan and J.T., escaping Ebbets Field Middle School will be a relief. The school opened in September as one of the city's many new small schools, with plans to "become the crown jewel" of Crown Heights, according to the Education Department Web site.

The Browns said their ethnically and racially diverse neighbors in Prospect Heights have embraced them, and they thought New York was "the greatest place on Earth" - until they started battling the school system. "I was excited to expose my children to a complete variety of people," Lisa Brown said. "I thought it would be an advantage. I always told my children that children could be cruel - but not to this extent."



Supervisors can be humps in any business. That convenient truism has entertained disgruntled workers since the Egyptian pyramids were built. Groaning and passing the buck can be a fair and amusing tactic to elude personal responsibility and there's a time and place for everything. We're only human.

But New York City's Department of Education is unique, because whether its supervisors have harsh or mild temperaments, none has been held back for failure to possess an inkling of knowledge about the specialized area of his supervision. Subordinates typically have far greater training and experience than their superiors.

Anecdotal evidence, no matter how overwhelming, can always be contradicted and credibly challenged by diligent opportunists, planted in key places, who will dig up and plug fake research or bribed testimony to abet the perception that the nearly unanimous point of view of teachers is actually isolated and idiosyncratic. Chancellor Klein has many impressive job titles available for such mercenaries whose honor is on the market for the highest bidder.

Knowledge must be power because the judgment of many supervisors is lame. Klein's new breed of assistant principal is often in charge of subject areas of which they are totally ignorant. They rate the job performance of teachers who after decades of training and experience have developed expertise in those same areas.

In one ordinary case, the assistant principal took over the music department. He unflinchingly admitted that he couldn't tell Beethoven from beets, notes from nuptials, or cellos from cellophane. The school orchestra had made brilliant progress under the leadership of their teacher. His marvelous skills as an educator complemented his resume', which included his having studied music for thirty years, been a composer contracted to a major publisher, and a regular performer at Lincoln Center. Still, the assistant principal ruled him an "unsatisfactory" teacher.

Because of this, the teacher's salary was frozen, he became ineligible to teach special after-school programs, and he was on track for eventual dismissal. Later it was alleged that there was a "hit" on him. His earlier refusal to accept a transfer was an obstacle to the placement in his position of an aspiring teacher who reportedly was close to a local educational bureaucrat. No matter. The assistant principal became a principal soon after. The teacher resigned in disgust. The children lost.

In the same school the prestigious post of science department head defaulted to a different assistant principal who didn't know biology from black magic, chemistry from clairvoyance, or geology from gee-whiz. The teacher was an idealist with an engineering degree. After having worked for twenty years for a Department of Defense contractor, he was a natural in the classroom, merging proficiency with evangelical zeal. His supervisor couldn't pass a test that his seventh grade students had aced, but he had to humor her whose observations were mere stabs in the dark.

The social studies supervisor, to her infinite credit, was a bit coy about flaunting her no-nothingness, although she dutifully ticked off some critical comments in the one-size-fits all checklist used for formal lesson reviews. She had been a teacher for only two years and was blind to history, geography, and economics, but she was ambitious and knew how to network. All who traced her career attributed its advancement to fixings unrelated to the kind of merit most of us used to take for granted.

One of the English teachers, author of monographs on Milton and Carlyle, was under the thumb of the principal himself, who couldn't write a coherent letter to his Parent Association without the intercession of that virtual angel called "Spell Check."

In fourteen hundred public schools in New York City, this is the norm. Flying high as a supervisor is an almost overnight affair even before one has earned one's wings in the classroom. It used to take twelve years or more; now it is commonly achieved in two. To escape the rigors of the classroom and to leap tens of thousands of dollars of salary in a single bound, new teachers jump onto the supervisory runway as soon as possible.

Competent and credible supervision is vital. Supervisors should be appointed only after they have passed muster in the classroom and are experts in the subjects of their responsibility. They should have competed successfully in an open process in which backgrounds are screened and unrigged interviews held with administrators, teachers, and parents, as was standard before Klein replaced appointments with anointments.

Teachers should do their best work under all circumstances whether under their control or prescribed for them. But in education as in the military or corporate world, there will be greater productivity and loyalty from a workforce that looks up to its leadership than one that is forcibly reminded at every turn of its inadequacies. Teachers and supervisors should belong to the same united federation of servants to children



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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