Letters

GENERATION GAP

In Jennifer Block's otherwise excellent "Street Sweeping" [November 19-25], she quotes FIERCE program coordinator Hermon Geta-chew as saying that the reason transgender prostitutes get arrested in the West Village was because "we live in a transphobic,homophobic community."

I don't think any New Yorker would take as reasonable the claim that the West Village, of all places, is homophobic. Rather, what's actually going on is that the older generation of gentrified gays puts pressure on the local police to bust the trannie hookers in order to keep up property values. The same people who once marched at Stonewall now call the cops at the sight of a homeless queer kid trying to make it through the night.

Steve L.
San Francisco, California


DOGMA 2003

Re James Ridgeway's "Kerry's War" [Mondo Washington, October 22-28]:

Senator Kerry explains his changed opinion on using his military background very clearly in his new book, A Call to Service. The pre-Clinton years were relatively peaceful. We are now at war. Senator Kerry quotes Abraham Lincoln as in support of his changing view. "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew." Now we need a candidate with military experience—not necessarily a general, however. We need someone who understands what it is like to be one of the troops.

Angela Worden
Naples, Florida


CSA TAKES ISSUE WITH BARRETT

In response to Wayne Barrett's article "The Best of Bloomberg's School Reform" [October 15-21, with special reporting by Ruth Mantell], it saddens me that after many conversations with your assistants, they failed to grasp who CSA represents and what its members do. They even got the name wrong.

We are the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. We do not represent superintendents. Superintendents have no union. Chancellor Klein was not responsible for our 9 percent raise. It was the same amount given to the other municipal unions. (It's called pattern bargaining.)

You quote Mayor Bloomberg as saying, "Companies need direction not distraction." (a) The city's schools are not a company; (b) distraction from whom? New York City schools are a public entity; the taxpayers fund them. They have a right to know how the schools are run and have some input into the process.

CSA did not try to stop principals from hiring assistant principals. We asked the Board of Education to train principals in proper interviewing techniques to protect the BOE from lawsuits. CSA filed no complaint about a proposed $25,000 annual bonus for principals. The city withdrew it, saying it would be too expensive if the money were pensionable.

Joel Klein is not empowering principals; he is micromanaging them.

Principals are told what to tell their staffs. They do not control curricula, instructional coaches, or teachers. Principals control no more than 10 percent of their budgets; the federal, state, and city governments mandate where the rest is spent. Prior to a principal's spending a cent, two BOE supervisors must approve that 10 percent.

The new regime monitors employees who rock the boat. Principals are afraid to tell the truth to the chancellor and his underlings for fear of retribution. (They even tell me that Tweed keeps a "secret list" of their activities. Paranoid? Maybe not.)

Barrett claims the BOE is stymied by the principal-evaluation process. Nonsense. The BOE agreed to that evaluation process. If Chancellor Klein wants it changed, he must renegotiate.

The article mentions an increase in the number of non-union positions. Those positions are not excluded from the union simply because Mr. Klein says so. The CSA contract is clear about who belongs to our bargaining unit. We have challenged the legality of many of those new positions. If Klein continues to break the contract (as well as state law), we will continue to challenge him.

The reorganization's architects have caused many new problems. Some examples:

* Principals cannot get help from the regional offices about which you so glowingly write. Phones go unanswered, are busy, or have full voice-mail boxes.

* The Individual Education Plans and medical records of students with special needs are still not in schools. (It's November.)

* Tweed's mismanagement has led to enormous overcrowding in scores of schools. (Tweed blames the federal legislation No Child Left Behind. Principals say otherwise.)

This reorganization does not put children first. It puts structure first. Our children's future is too important to become mangled in a giant business experiment.

Jill Levy
President, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA)
Downtown Brooklyn

Wayne Barrett replies: Caught! Principal Levy nabbed me for a typo. Actually, not only do I know what the CSA is, I made the point that Klein was increasing the number of non-union superintendents, one of the many reforms that has obviously driven Levy nuts. Levy's letter boasts that's she's challenging the creation of these new positions, in keeping no doubt with her union's position that there should be virtually no non-union managers of our multi-billion-dollar system.

But if I made a typo, how about Levy's lies? The CSA filed grievance #U-2390 with the state's Public Employee Relations Board and, contrary to Levy's letter, it cites Klein's granting principals the power to hire their own assistant principals as the sixth "improper practice" (paragraphs 43 and 45). The same grievance also cites the $25,000 bonus as the fifth "improper practice." Levy's grievances have been so insanely destructive that's she's even filed one on behalf of "education administrators" stating that "the requirement" that they engage in "regularly scheduled student contact violates the union agreement." I can't respond to every Levy shriek (omigod, overstuffed voice mail!), but her snide claim that any questions about principal evaluation are "nonsense" was rebutted by the recent City Council hearings chaired by Eva Moskowitz, who's also said that it was fear of union retribution that prevented principals from testifying about the excesses of union contracts. Isn't it funny also that the graceless Levy is so determined to give the Bloomberg administration no credit for supervisor raises that she attributes them to pattern bargaining—unconsciously making herself superfluous? To play on her own closing comments, "our children's future is too important to be mangled" by such self-serving and obstructionist "leadership."

 
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