Monday, February 26, 2018

The Origins of School Board and Administrative Abuse in the Berkeley Unified School District- A Guest Post by Valerie Trahan

Trahan Educational Treatise- The Origins of School Board and Administrative Abuse; Berkeley Unified School District and California at Large.




                                                              Valerie Trahan



Many educators have asked me why the teaching profession is in such dire straights. Much publicized has been the stories of the statewide teacher shortage, forced retirements, and a lack of new teachers coming into credentialing programs. The teaching profession, which in the past has been the most respected and important profession has been diminished in many ways to constant abuse, bullying and outright crimes perpetrated by the administrators, private law firms and by extension local school boards. To explain the current we must look to the past and examine the education code last updated in 1976.


In 1976 State Senator John Stull wrote many of the principles highlighted in the evaluation process, student conduct and most importantly teacher discipline and removal. The requisite statutes can be found in California Education Codes 44660-44664, 44932, 44938 and 44939 all   inclusive. While the codes and statutes were well intentioned for the times, in the post modern era the omissions of these statutes have unwittingly opened the door for the attack on teachers and pubic education employees at large.


A cursory analysis of the performance evaluation code (44664b) punctuates the point: The Evaluation


(b) The evaluation shall include recommendations, if necessary, as to areas of improvement in the performance of the employee. If an employee is not performing his or her duties in a satisfactory manner according to the standards prescribed by the governing board, the employing authority shall notify the employee in writing of that fact and describe the unsatisfactory performance. The employing authority shall thereafter confer with the employee making specific recommendations as to areas of improvement in the employee’s performance and endeavor to assist the employee in his or her performance. If any permanent certificated employee has received an unsatisfactory evaluation, the employing authority shall annually evaluate the employee until the employee achieves a positive evaluation or is separated from the district.


While at first glance the statute seems neutral what is missing is the binding authority of statute. The phrase “the evaluation shall be signed under penalty of perjury” is missing. Therefore the “description” of the unsatisfactory performance, “areas of improvement” can easily and often are based on fiction and not on the actually events that occurred in the classroom observation. Testimonies of teachers …“my administrator said I didn’t have a warm up on the board, he said I didn’t have a goal and objective, he said I didn’t check for understanding, he said I didn’t have an exit ticket..none of this was true.”


California Education Code 44938: The NUC/NUP also called the 45/90


The statute states: 44938.  

(a) The governing board of any school district shall not act upon any charges of unprofessional conduct unless at least 45 calendar days prior to the date of the filing, the board or its authorized representative has given the employee against whom the charge is filed, written notice of the unprofessional conduct, specifying the nature thereof with such specific instances of behavior and with such particularity as to furnish the employee an opportunity to correct his or her faults and overcome the grounds for the charge. The written notice shall include the evaluation made pursuant to Article 11 (commencing with Section 44660) of Chapter 3, if applicable to the employee.



The statute as designed derives the NUC/NUP from the evaluation. Like the evaluation again there is no stipulation in the language that the “specific instances of behavior” need be truthful. Nor is there any criteria established in the statute to justify the disciplinary document. As the appellate court complained in Perez vs Commission on Professional Competence;1983;[149 Cal. App. 3d 1170]


“We conclude unsatisfactory teacher performance said to be unprofessional conduct should be measured by the standard of fitness to teach. Absent this objective measure of performance, the livelihood of the teacher is dependent upon an abstract characterization of conduct which will shift and change from board to board, district by district and year by year. Such discretion is required to be bridled by the restraints of the standard of fitness to teach.”


Going beyond the analysis of the appellate court the standard of the fitness to teach should be anchored and based on the truthfulness, accuracy, and integrity of the events surrounding the education process and the employee in question.  A recent anonymous teacher opined, “I just received a warning letter from my administrator. He said that I was recording the P.E. teacher on my Iphone. Not only was this not true, I was not even on the playground when this happened.”


The Notice of Unprofessional Conduct (44938) also is not signed under penalty of perjury which gives the administrator license to arbitrarily threaten the livelihood of a teacher.





California Education Code 44939 (b) and (c); Egregious Misconduct-Immediate Suspension and Removal


The statute states:


(b) Upon the filing of written charges, duly signed and verified by the person filing them with the governing board of a school district, or upon a written statement of charges formulated by the governing board of a school district, charging a permanent employee of the school district with immoral conduct, conviction of a felony or of any crime involving moral turpitude, with incompetency due to mental disability, with willful refusal to perform regular assignments without reasonable cause, as prescribed by reasonable rules and regulations of the employing school district, or with violation of Section 51530 , the governing board of the school district may, if it deems that action necessary, immediately suspend the employee from his or her duties and give notice to him or her of his or her suspension, and that 30 days after service of the notice of dismissal, he or she will be dismissed, unless he or she demands a hearing.

(c)(1) An employee who has been placed on suspension pursuant to this section may serve and file with the Office of Administrative Hearings a motion for immediate reversal of suspension.  Review of a motion filed pursuant to this section shall be limited to a determination as to whether the facts as alleged in the statement of charges, if true, are sufficient to constitute a basis for immediate suspension under this section.  The motion shall include a memorandum of points and authorities setting forth law and argument supporting the employee's contention that the statement of charges does not set forth a sufficient basis for immediate suspension.




Analysis. In this statute the statement of charges can be signed by an administrator or by the governing board of the school district. Consistent with the previous mentioned statutes the charges are not signed “under penalty of perjury” and therefore the charges have no standard of being factual or accurate. In addition, the motion to oppose the charges is not allowed to contest the truthfulness or accuracy of the charges, but simply allows the employee to “beg” not to be dismissed. In effect, in all above mentioned statutes the employee is guilty until proven innocent rather than innocent until proven guilty. This is the reverse of due process guaranteed by the California Constitution.


An anonymous teacher in Los Angeles reports: “A student who had been suspended and reprimanded several times accused me of slamming him up against a locker after I removed him from class. Over 25 students were in the class at the time. Miraculously somehow only 7 reported that this had actually happened. I have been in teacher jail for almost 2 years. The preponderance of evidence standard is over 51%. This is not fair…”


Remedies: Reporting by School Employees of Improper Governmental Activities Act


In any other venue besides education these situations would be prosecuted as crimes. On the level of Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent these crimes could be enforced under the “Abuse of Office Clause” residing in California Code 53243. Contrary to popular belief employees do have recourse in these situations where their livelihood is threatened under false pretenses. Beginning with California Education Codes 44110-44114 employees may file a compliant with law enforcement in the following situations:


  For the purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings: California Ed Code 44112:


(a) “Employee” means a public school employee as defined in subdivision (j) of Section 3540.1 of the Government Code.

(b) “Illegal order” means any directive to violate or assist in violating a federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation or an order to work or cause others to work in conditions outside of their line of duty that would unreasonably threaten the health or safety of employees or the public.

(c) “Improper governmental activity” means an activity by a public school agency or by an employee that is undertaken in the performance of the employee’s official duties, whether or not that activity is within the scope of his or her employment, and that meets either of the following descriptions:

(1) The activity violates a state or federal law or regulation, including, but not limited to, corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of government property, fraudulent claims, fraud, coercion, conversion, malicious prosecution, misuse of government property, or willful omission to perform duty.

(2) The activity is economically wasteful or involves gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency.

(d) “Person” means any individual, corporation, trust, association, any state or local government, or any agency or instrumentality of any of the foregoing.

(e) “Protected disclosure” means a good faith communication that discloses or demonstrates an intention to disclose information that may evidence either of the following:

(1) An improper governmental activity.

(2) Any condition that may significantly threaten the health or safety of employees or the public if the disclosure or intention to disclose was made for the purpose of remedying that condition.

(f) “Public school employer” has the same meaning as in subdivision (k) of Section 3540.1 of the Government Code.



After much legal research done by a statewide team we can find only 1 case where “perjury” was enforced and invoked in an educational setting. The case in question (People vs Clark;72 Cal.App.3d82) dealt with a College Professor who filed a falsified grievance. Over 40 years ago the legislature omitted this issue from the ed code, but the issue still resides in other statutes in California state law.



Remedies in Penal Codes 132, 134 and 135


Penal Code 132: Every person who upon any trial, proceeding, inquiry, or investigation whatever, authorized or permitted by law, offers in evidence, as genuine or true, any book, paper, document, record, or other instrument in writing, knowing the same to have been forged or fraudulently altered or ante-dated, is guilty of felony.


Penal Code 134: Every person guilty of preparing any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, with intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true, upon any trial, proceeding, or inquiry whatever, authorized by law, is guilty of felony.


Penal Code 135: A person who, knowing that any book, paper, record, instrument in writing, digital image, video recording owned by another, or other matter or thing, is about to be produced in evidence upon a trial, inquiry, or investigation, authorized by law, willfully destroys, erases, or conceals the same, with the intent to prevent it or its content from being produced, is guilty of a misdemeanor.


Penal Codes enforced in an Educational Setting:  People vs Clark; [72 Cal. App. 3d 82]


“1b] In the instant case the language of Penal Code section 134 clearly covers administrative proceedings instituted pursuant to section 24315 of the Education Code. Section 134 of the Penal Code applies to matters intended to be produced at "any trial, proceeding, or inquiry whatever, authorized by law." The Legislature in addition to providing that this section apply to full-scale trials, provides a penalty for falsely produced material at other proceedings or inquiries "authorized by law," which plainly need not be full-scale trials. (United States v. Bekins, 304 [72 Cal. App. 3d 84] U.S. 27, 47 [82 L. Ed. 1137, 1141, 58 S. Ct. 811]. fn. 3) The instant grievance board hearing is both a proceeding authorized by law, Education Code section 24315, and an inquiry pursuant to that code section.”


To continue,... "[3] This statute must also be construed to effectuate the purpose of the law. (Moyer, supra, 10 Cal. 3d 222; Select Base Materials v. Board of Equal., 51 Cal. 2d 640, 645 [335 P.2d 672].) Interpretation of the Penal Code section shows that its objective is to prevent the fraudulent introduction of material in a proceeding under the authority of law. To apply the Penal Code section to inquiry proceedings is necessitated by the purpose of discouraging introduction of this material."


In addition:


"[1c] Respondent states that Penal Code section 134 has only been used in proceedings before a fully convened court of law. (People v. McKenna, 11 Cal. 2d 327 [79 P.2d 1065]; People v. Housman, 44 Cal. App. 2d 619 [112 P.2d 944]; People v. Horowitz, 70 Cal. App. 2d 675 [161 P.2d 833]; People v. Geibel, 93 Cal. App. 2d 147 [208 P.2d 743].) However, respondent has not cited any authority proscribing application of section 134 to other proceedings. The fact that section 134 has not been invoked outside the courtroom is not authority against permitting such use. [72 Cal. App. 3d 85]”


There is no ambiguity that a performance evaluation or notice of discipline is in fact a proceeding, inquiry or whatever authorized by law. The evaluation and notice of discipline is a document with legal and professional consequences, therefore the document not being signed under penalty of perjury taints the entire process of the public education system.


The Failure of Collective Bargaining Contracts:


For whatever reason, the unions have failed to address this glaring issue when it comes to defending the rights of public education employees. As a consequence, veteran teachers have been driven out of the profession. Counterposed to that young adults no longer want to come into a profession where they can be arbitrary abused and summarily dismissed. The unions have also failed to address the rights of “temporary” and “probationary” teachers who can be dismissed even with a stellar evaluation. However as noted before “tenure” ultimately gives no protections for teachers for reason I have outlined above. The Berkeley Schools Labor caucus has amassed data for thousands of teachers throughout the State of California. The data shows a disproportionate number of veteran teachers targeted for credential removal, teacher jail, administrative leave, Notices of Unprofessional Conduct, PAR, subpar evaluations and forced retirement. The data we have quantified shows the acute attack on teachers over 46 years of age, African American, highly educated and seniority on the salary schedule. Janus v AFSCME and agency shop dues are the least of the unions worry. A larger factor and point is their failure to advocate for a tangible deterrent for administrative and school board abuse.



Mandatory vs Directory Language:


Oftentimes the employer will argue directory language (or discretionary language) as a rationale to discipline an employee. However mandatory language such as “shall” protects not only the employee but the governing board from discretionary administrative abuse. A simple modification of California Ed Codes 44664, 44938, and 44939 will focus the discussion to objective facts and truths and away from what Superintendent Donald Evans calls “micro-politics”. A careful read of Evans thesis shows a complete deviation from the rule of law and a total embrace of politicizing events and outcomes in public education.( Public education is not a cesspool of power struggles going on at any given moment. At its best public education is the incubation of creativity and ideas and the development of young minds. Therefore, for this reason Evans thesis must be rejected outright.








To quote Evans thesis:


“Five out of six principals found the evaluation process very political. Disagreements over observations often involved other teachers, parents and the district.”(@p27&28)


The appellate court in Perez v Commission on Professional Competence found this outcome in the evaluation process displeasurable. Since the courts can only interpret statutes it is clear that the legislature must correct and amend this horrific error.


 The School Board:


School Boards have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to voting to retain or dismiss an employee. Over 99% of the time the employee is told not to demand their rights to an open hearing to clear their names. The rebuttal to the statement of charges is never read, and the accuracy and veracity of the charges are not considered. The edict of the Superintendent is considered sacrosanct. In many districts the Superintendent is paid $250,000.00 per year to “manage”  the district with no oversight. The boards have totally surrendered their fiduciary duty to serve the public and provide oversight. School Boards are reticent to hold the Superintendent accountable because by nature the job of the Superintendent is to provide “political cover” for the board. The board doesn’t want to be seen as losing confidence in the Superintendent because the “appearance” of operations appearing above board is what will allow them to become a multi term incumbent. The lawyers have a financial interest in not only creating conflict but also advising the board how to violate the rights of the employee in question. Often times it is the lawyers themselves who are authoring the fraudulent statement of charges! The charges are then signed by a lower level administrator who will garner no consequence after the crime is committed. The final vote of the board is done in the star chamber of closed session as a throw back to the privy council for the Queen of England.


 As a result the teacher or employee gets fired under false pretenses rubber stamped by the unwitting school board. It can’t be understated how many thousands of public school employees have lost their jobs, homes, marriages, careers and health in the current system.


“…its a system of trust and it works.” (Quote from anonymous school board member). The fact of the matter is the system is enmeshed with criminal racketeering and it should be defined as just that. A teacher or employees job and career is at the mercy of arbitrary discipline the current state of affairs can not stand.


In Summary:


Often times in law the remedy to what may appear to be a complex problem is that simple.

The legislature must amend The Stull Act to include the mandatory language of “shall be signed under penalty of perjury” into the aforementioned statutes. (44664, 44938, 44939).This will protect the employer from senseless litigation which could solve problems at the board level instead of feeding the firms of ambulance chasing lawyers. The employee will feel safe that they can serve as the delivery system to students without the fear of losing their career to a rogue administrator or micro-politics. In summary, to the public school employees: If the above situations happen to you, call the Police and the District Attorney.


Valerie Trahan

Member; Berkeley Schools Labor Caucus

M.E.D.; Harvard University






Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Why the Wrath of Middle Class Mothers Will Neutralize the NRA- A Lesson From Common CORE

One of the reasons why the Common Core Standards failed- despite their support from powerful politicians and foundations- is that they targeted middle and upper middle income school districts where parents were happy with their child's education as well as high poverty districts where parents were dissatisfied with schools. As word got around about the amount of testing the Standards required, middle class parents, especially middle class mothers, became convinced that their children were having their joy in learning smothered to make them guinea pigs in a huge national experiment. Thus aroused, they helped build a huge opt out movement that ultimately forced politicians, even those who had taken contributions from wealthy supporters like Bill Gates, to back away from the standards. The wrath of middle class mothers proved more powerful than Billionaire dollars.
Now something similar is about to happen with gun regulation. Up to the present, the NRA has been able to prevent any effort to limit access to assault records from gaining political tradition, But the massacre at Margery Stoneman Douglass High School, an elite upper middle class public high school, has changed the equation. Middle class parents throughout the country now feel that THEIR children are in grave danger from unstable people possessing assault weapons. And they will respond the same way they did when they saw uncontrolled testing threaten their children. They will organize and mobilize until something is done to restore their sense of security in their children's safety and well being. In the face of their wrath, the NRA's money and political muscle will shrink in significance in a way once impossible to imagine
The wrath of middle class mothers will take the NRA down a notch the way it did Common Core Supporters like Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Game Changer in the Gun Debate

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School may well go down in history as a "game changer" in the gun debate in the United States.
First of all, it took place in one of the best public high schools in the state of Florida, a school with over 3,000 students which every parent in Broward County, if not the state, would love their child to be in. From a parental point of view, the message was chilling. If their children weren't safe at Douglass, they weren't safe anywhere.
Secondly, for the first time, it mobilized STUDENTS as an independent force in the struggle for gun safety. The Douglass student body is not only brilliant and capable, it is diverse in a way that makes it a microcosm of the nation's young people. Almost immediately, students at the school responded to the catastrophe that befell them by organizing protests against the proliferation of assault weapons, demanding that policy makers do something to protect them. Their speeches and interviews were so eloquent that they immediately became figures on national media, not only giving a new and formidable face to the struggle for sane gun restrictions, but spawning plans for national student walk outs and marches on Washington. '
We now have a national movement for gun safety that large numbers of middle class and upper middle class people see as protecting THEIR children and families; and a group of brilliant new leaders who refuse to just be victims and are demanding that new state and national policies assure that nothing like this ever happens again.
I have been deeply moved by the speeches and comments of the of the brilliant young women and men of Margery Stoneman Douglass High Schools. about what needs to change in this country.
Though the NRA has ruled the debate thus far, they haven't faced young people this eloquent and determined, given strength by intolerable pain, fighting for their dead and wounded friends as well as their future.
We may have finally turned a corner and are ready to join the other advanced nations of the world in taking practical measures to assure school safety and reduce gun related deaths.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Clash of Two Rights and an Epic Struggle About to Unfold

What we have in the US today is a conflict between the historic right to bear arms, forged in 18th and 19th century political conditions, and the right of the nations teachers, students and families to feel safe from disturbed individuals armed with assault weapons. Though the right to bear arms has a long history and is deeply rooted in the culture of many families and communities, like all rights, it is subject to modification when it conflicts with other equally important rights ( Remember; the nation once affirmed the right to own slaves). We have now reached a point where a majority of the nation's school population feels unsafe because of the proliferation of assault weapons in the hands of unstable individuals. The people who work in our schools, predominantly women, are mobilizing to protect themselves and the children under their care. They are not going away. And they have the model of multiple women's mobilizations from the women's marches in the early days of the Trump Administration to the #metoo movement. This time, the NRA will be facing a gun control movement infused with the energy of a struggle for women's and children's rights. If it captures the imagination of the nation the way I suspect it will, the NRA may not be able to defuse it the way it has movements in the past. An epic struggle is about to break out on the American political landscape.

A Suicide Path

The way I see it this country is on a suicide path.
First of all, the people shaping education policy in this country, during the last twenty years, have done everything possible to create more wounded children like Nikolaus Cruz;
They have deluged schools with standardized tests that squeeze every ounce of joy out of classrooms
To pay for the tests, they have cut back on counseling, libraries, the arts, sports, physical education, all activities where young people in trouble can find refuge or a place to express themselves
They have deprived more and more students of meaningful social interaction, either with teachers, or one another, by having them sit in front of computers all day.
They have adopted zero-tolerance disciplinary policies and throw out students who cannot adopt to the test and punish regimes that dominate more and more schools
The result, more and more students who have emotional issues or learning disabilities are given little support, little mentoring and few outlets for their emotions or talents, and are pushed out or pushed aside
And then, if they are angry, what is there to greet them
Easy access to drugs
Easy access to guns, including assault weapons
We are creating an army of outcasts and then arming them to the teeth
And unless we do something about both issues, a rigid, test driven education system, and easy access to guns, we are going to see more and more acts of terrifying violence in our schools and communities

Sad Thoughts on a Friday Morning

As I walked through the Fordham campus this morning in early dawn, I thought about the beauty of the place as well as the wonderful students and colleagues I have encountered here over the years and was filled with a warm feeling.
And then I thought of something. What if the teachers who worked at Douglass High School in Parkland Florida felt the same way about their school as I did mine? After this shooting, they will never feel this way again. Images of blood and death and trauma will always invade their thoughts when they come to work.
As my heart went out to them, i realized this could happen at Fordham. It could happen anywhere. We are all vulnerable. The beauty we are surrounded with could be taken away in an instant.
Which is why we must not only show solidarity with the teachers, students and families in Parkland, we must try to do something about the conditions which make tragedies like this all too normal in our country,
There is time for mourning. There is time for tears. But eventually, there has to be a time for action.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Something I've Got To Say That No One Wants To Hear

Of all the school shootings, the one that just took place in Broward County scares me the most.
Here's why. Every school or sports program I have worked in has a kid like Nikolaus Cruz, a young man so angry and disturbed that even the toughest teacher or coach couldn't deal with him. In my days coaching baseball and basketball in Brooklyn, I took pride in taking boys and young men under my wing that no one else could handle, but there were occasionally kids who were too difficult even for me, and with great reluctance I had to throw them out of the program. In one instance, a young man I threw out came back with an ice pick and threatened to cut me up, but with help, I was able to handle that. But what if he came back with an automatic weapon. If he did, I and several other people would have been dead.
Basically, that's what happened in Broward, A disturbed young man who was thrown out of his high school returned with assault weapons and killed 17 students and teachers. And here's my point. There are tens of thousands of Nikolaus Cruz's all over this country. Give them easy access to assault weapons and they are a massacre waiting to happen.
This isn't a mental health problem--there is no therapy program that cure the rage inside every wounded, bitter young man. It isn't an education program- there are some kids even the best trained, most compassionate, street smart teachers can't reach.
It is an assault weapons problem. You put assault weapons in the hands of every adolescent loose cannon in small town and suburban America and you are setting yourself up for massacres of students and teachers.
No one in those communities wants to hear this.No program anyone has ever developed will defuse the rage in the Nikolaus Cruz's of the world. You want your children to feel safe? Take the assault weapons out of their hands

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On The Spousal Abusers in the White House

Sexual and physical abuse is something which crosses lines of class and race and ideology- it is not something that can be placed at the feet of any one occupational group or political party. Nevertheless, it is telling that two high level figures in the Trump White House who were close to the President, first Steve Bannon and now Rob Porter, had a record of physical abuse of spouses.
I do not think this is accidental. I strongly believe that the way men approach power in all aspects of their lives spills over into how they deal with women, both those they are in professional or personal relationships with, and those they meet in random encounters. If you create a culture at your workplace where weakness is despised, strength is exalted, and compassion is seen as the province of fools, as Mr Trump apparently does, you are likely to attract people who apply those principles to their personal lives.
I have often said that if Donald Trump is to be neutralized and discredited, it will not be Russia that will be his downfall, but his attitudes towards and relationships with women. Surrounding himself with spousal abusers is one part of a disturbing pattern of cynical behavior towards women that reflects a worldview which transforms all individuals and groups perceived as “weak” into objects of contempt. Most people, if they thought about this pattern honestly, would be very uncomfortable having a person with such views as their leader, whether in their community or the nation.
Donald Trump may well complete his first full term in office, but the toxic features of his leadership style are gradually getting exposed in ways which will permanently tarnish his Presidency

Monday, February 5, 2018

The United States of Sports and Music

Growing up in Crown Heights in the 1950’s, the child of two teachers who had come out of dire poverty to scrape into the middle class, I viewed politics and government as abstractions, frightening and remote. Between my parents whispered talks of McCarthyite purges, the mushroom clouds I saw on tv, and the shelter drills we had in school, politics was scary. Televised pictures of Eisenhower and Nixon, who looked nothing like the Jewish, Italian and Black People in our neighborhood, made it remote. I was told by my parents never to sign a petition, the Constitution was something we memorized in school and trying to become President seemed absurd for people in my section of Brooklyn.
So how did I become “American,” attached to the possibilities, mythologies, and opportunities the nation offered to people of modest means who came from immigrant backgrounds?
It was sports and music which made me American. Watching Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider play center field; watching Carl Furillo, who had the same face as many of my Italian friends, throw bullets from right field; listening to Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers; Dion and the Belmont’s, and Little Anthony and the Imperials, kids who came out of neighborhoods just like mIne, create beautiful harmonies and sell millions of record; watching Giants linebacker Sam Huff try to tackle the great Cleveland running back Jim Brown! These were things that brought fame and fortune to kids like me, things that showed that anything was possible in America even if you grew up with very little or were stalked by ancient hatreds, such as the anti-semitism that was so much a part of my parents childhoods.
By the time I was 10 or 11, i knew that though I loved music, sports was going to be my ticket to “success” that mysterious thing that everyone in my neighborhood said you were supposed to aspire to. Hitting and throwing the ball farther than the other kids; dragging five of them down a football field when I carried the ball, made me realize that I had something which could get me entry into a world of opportunity beyond my neighborhood, something I realized every time I went to Columbia University to watch my cousin Stephen, who lived downstairs, play basketball.
Because of sports and music, I not only believed in the promise of America, I believe it applied to ME, something I transformed into reality by becoming the captain and number 1 singles player on the Columbia tennis team, building on skills I learned on the tennis courts of Lincoln Terrace Park on the border of Crown Heights and Brownsville.
Later in life, I would study and experience things that undermined my romantic portrait of US history. I would become a student of Race in US history and a fierce anti-racist. But I would never lose the memory of what it was like to be a child in Crown Heights and thrill to the harmonies of Frankie Lyman or Dion and the Belmont’s , the beauty of a Willie Mays basket catch, or the magic of a double pump layup by Elgin Baylor. Those images and possibilities became my Constitution and Bill of Rights, markers of my American identity.
They remain so to this day

Saturday, February 3, 2018

School Troubles In DC

The DC School scandal, as Jeff Canady has been telling us for years, involves multiple levels of tragedy other than manipulation of test scores
First, it was accompanied by, and made possible, by the removal of hundreds of the city’s most dedicated veteran teachers, the majority of them Black, with devastating consequences for the DC Black community as well as students in DC schools.
Second, it has accelerated and promoted the gentrification of DC neighborhoods, leading to the forced migration of tens of thousands of Black DC residents into nearby suburbs such as Prince George County, a process that some call “demographic inversion” and others call “ethnic cleansing”
Third, it has promoted a false narrative of educational transformation which has led to the spreading of the DC model of teacher firings and charterizarion to other cities, with equally devastating consequences.
Whatever you call what happened in DC- and Jeff Canady uses the term “eugenics” - it is a devastating indictment of the test driven, teacher bashing model of education policy that had swept through the nation in the last 15 years