Friday, April 7, 2017

DOE's Reign of Principal Terror Breaking Point & What We Must Remember

Seven parents occupied the school auditorium at East Harlem's Central Park East 1 school ("CPE1") last night in solidarity with the teachers that are chafing under working for an oppressive principal. See Dartunorro Clark's "Parents Stage Sit-In at Harlem School in Latest Attempt to Oust Principal" in DNAinfo today.
Parents protesting principal Garg last night at CPE1 in East Harlem

Just a very few months ago students were sitting in, in the hallways of Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, Queens. There they were protesting also against a draconian principal, Rosemarie Jahoda. See here on the sit-in and here on the state of the struggle in more recent weeks.

What these schools have in common is that they have histories of being progressive in climate and as serving the more advantaged half of the city's students. While it is quite laudatory that students and parents are mobilized at both campuses we must remember that there are dozens of other schools across the school with equally oppressive principals. However, these schools serve more black and Latino populations that come from lower income families. They do not have as much clout as parents at progressive Manhattan schools as in CPE1 or students at elite examination entrance schools as in Townsend Harris.

Perhaps these profiles are why NBC New York has given attention to the CPE1 struggle and the New York Times gave a few articles to the struggle at Townsend Harris.

Second, it must be noted that what allowed for draconian principals and a completely aloof process allowing the principals to have free reign and the city to give them a blank ticket for being rude to students and dictatorial to teachers has been the complete removal of any semblance of democratic input, with previous mayor Michael Bloomberg's replacing the Board of Education with the Department of Education.

The former system had greater opportunities for parental input, public forums for engaging parents, and a process for elected leadership of the school system. The current system is a top-down corporate model with no room for authentic popular input. All power stems from the mayor. As we saw a week ago the rubber stamp Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), all decisions in the NYC Department of Education are done deals. There is no place for popular expression to be heard around how to run schools, whether public schools are to be supported or whether charter schools are going to be given privileged status in the school system.

So, we applaud the parents, students and teachers mobilized at these schools. But we must remember the unrecognized oppression at other schools in the different boroughs. We must end the undemocratic regime in the city so that principals can no longer rule without any checks against their power.