LI Education Forum Summary: The King Is Still Not Listening

Topic: NYS Education Regents Reform Agenda, blah, blah, blah
In attendance: NYS Education Commissioner, John King, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch (not this one, the real one), State Senator John Flanagan, and lots of special interest groups.
_______________________

I have to say, tonight was powerful. The passion, energy, commitment, and dedication of our Long Island parents and educators was palpable in Ward Melville High School tonight. Tomorrow it is your turn Mineola area!

Last spring, before my wife and I made our final decision to have our son refuse the NYS assessments, I attended a parent/educator meeting in Mt. Sinai. The meeting was very well attended on just a week’s notice. Again, I thank Jeanette Deutermann for her tireless efforts to both raise awareness of the misguided NY educational reform agenda and for inviting me to that forum. I left that forum feeling inspired, educated, and determined. I vividly recall coming home that night and saying to my wife: “Dear, we just found ourselves a cause around which we can rally.” Actually, I don’t think I said it that nicely as a result of drinking a beer, or two, at the time. That was my first “no turning back” moment. Tonight was my second.

For starters I missed my fellow green lacers from the Lace to the Top group and my fellow district parent advocates from SCAPE outside. I arrived later than planned (but did make nearly 17 traffic lights in a row all the way from the south shore to Old Town Rd – all green lights) and wanted to rush inside since a friend was holding a seat. Thank you, Jane St. Pierre, for attending. It really means so much to me and my family to have your support, insight, and expertise. So I missed all of you “cool kids” hanging out stirring up trouble literlaly on the corner. Mark, Kevin, Jeanette, Sara, Janet … next time. I did arrive with 12 22″ green glow-stick-necklaces, proudly wore mine inside, and drove home will all of them in my windshield. I also did go out to look for you a little after the mid point, but then returned to sit with the overflow crowd in the cafeteria. Out of guilt for missing everyone, I came home and forced myself to have a bowl of green ice cream. It was terrible. I did spot the educational rockstar, Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella literally standing in the back the entire time after coming in from hanging out with the cool kids.

The crowd. What can I say. Were they loud? Yes. Were they sometimes rude? Yes. Did the Commissioner expect anything else? No. The way these “public” forums are setup, the organizers left themselves open for these types of passionate outbursts. That and the fact that Commissioner King refused, yet again, to address any questions presented to him in these forums. He literally opened his first talking segment with, “Let me tell you why 45 states adopted the Common Core…” When you see someone like Commack Superintendent Dr. James cut off after a measly two minutes you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Of course, every speaker went over time. The holding up of the time warning signs right in the field of vision for the speakers was a little much in my opinion. Here we have years of frustration all boiling over and you are supposed to package it up nicely into a nice 2 minute box. Not going to happen.

Speaking of packaging things up nicely … have you seen the video of PJSTA President Beth Dimino presenting her case at the forum? She was one of the first few to speak and it was shocking that she did not have that much to say. I mean she only had 50 letters, and mailed 300 others, asking for Commissioner King’s resignation. Maybe that just wasn’t enough letters? I bet we can drum up a few more. She had her red on for public ed and her green lace around her neck. Standing ovation #1.

My view of Beth’s powerful message is here.

I don’t have a list of speakers, but up to the point I left, they were all really good. Even the ones I may not have agreed with 100% were still making an effective case for their message. These were all points we could sit down at the table and discuss with the NYSED officials and the Board of Regents, but you see, that will just never happen. This is clearly a dog-and-pony show, smoke-and-mirrors, or whatever other over-staged phrase you want to use (feel free to comment below with some good ones.)  This King is still not listening.

I was proud to listen to Sachem Schools Wenonah elementary principal, Christine DiPaola speak. She made very powerful comments about every educational reform item that concerns me as a Sachem parent. If I can find her video or transcript, I will repost it here. I am sorry to have missed the other two Sachem speakers. Principal DiPaola was standing ovation #2.

As the speaker is called from the Smithtown school district, I am thinking, “I wonder what she will say considering I saw some resistance last spring from Smithtown with regards to the parent refuse movement.” I have to say, Smithtown parents and educators your Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw spoke very eloquently about this current mess. I sense some support there and hope it was genuine. I believe she was standing ovation #3.

There was another star tonight and that was Eric Gustafson from the Three Village School District. Watch for yourself and you’ll see why he received standing ovation #4.

There were some quotes and quick moments that stood out.

– “The Mommies in NY don’t abuse their children.” –Beth Dimino
– Paraphrasing this one: Please explain to me Mr. King why I was rated 19/20 last year and only 11/20 this year. I am the same person. I lead my students the same. –Longwood Middle School Principal, Dr. Levi McIntyre
– “What has happened to the common sense of the Common Core? If this intiative does fail it will be due to pilot error with you and the state at the controls.” –Sachem Schools Wenonah Principal, Christine DiPaola
– “What about the kids? What about the kids?” -Yelled by a special interest group member from the back of the auditorium

And my favorite one-liner of all: “We agree more than we disagree about these points.” – John King

Is that so?

One of the things that really struck me while I listened to Commissioner King provide a “timed” response three different times was exactly what others online have said about him, and his speeches: he did not once mention the students. Hours of thoughtful, passionate pleas from these many educators and parents who see what all these new education reforms are doing to these kids presented before him and he doesn’t once mention the students, the children. Every single reform buzz word/phrase was used. He barely, I mean barley, remotely referred to anything the speakers mentioned. He picked up on a keyword or phrase like “professional development” if someone mentioned that. Then he’d go on and on that he’d help and he’ll get more money, but it never addressed the point the speaker was making about professional development, or whatever else the topic might have been. He has failed his Common Core listening skills module.

And here’s a few online comments I just discovered:
– ” Tonight I heard such articulate speakers ask very intelligent questions and Commissioner King did not answer any if them.” -LM
– “So proud of all the amazing people who spoke on behalf of the children tonight and ALL the green laces that were inside and out! Bad news…. King is STILL NOT LISTENING….” -JR
– “If there is a better parent organizer than New York Ed Commissioner John King, I have yet to meet him! He has single handedly turned thousands of parents in New York State into education activists!!!” -MN

A common comment from the audience during a lull, was: You’ve rallied the mommies. Something of that sort. My response … don’t forget about the daddies, too! So, that’s all I can recall from memory from tonight.  I urge all New York residents to get out and attend one of these meetings. Don’t sit there and complain all day about teacher pay, standards, testing, your taxes paid to the schools. Listen to these people. Hear their message and understand the concerns. Don’t be like Commissioner King and pretend to listen knowing full well your mind is already made up.

Here’s some local media coverage of the event.

Patchogue Patch:  State Ed Commish Slammed in Common Core Forum
Port Jefferson Patch:  Realtime Live Updates (now archived)
Newsday:  Hundreds attend East Setauket forum about state testing
News12 Long Island: LI Residents Gets Heated at Common Core Forum
Times Beacon Record North Shore of LI: State Education Commissioner Faces Heated Criticism

Note: I edited the text above to include the name of my “friend” who held my seat after receiving her permission to do so. The original wording when first posted kept her anonymous. That is no longer needed.

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4 Comments

  1. yeahitzme

     /  November 14, 2013

    So glad to get to see the videos and hear the speakers that are there to speak out for the “children” who haven’t been able to speak out for themselves and the nightmares they are being put through…along with their parents! It’s soooo disheartening to see the “love of learning” drained out of children right before our very eyes!! And feeling helpless and unheard makes it all the worse!!! We can only hope that these leaders…hah!… are really in it for the kids and are willing to do their jobs with “effectiveness” as they should!!!

    Reply
  2. Janet Daniello

     /  November 13, 2013

    Excellent summary of the forum last night..thank you!

    Reply

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