Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Small Schools

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There’s something to be said about Bloomberg’s small schools initiative, which is that they’re a bright idea completely done in by a backwards implementation.

A small school should make the most of its versatility by shedding the administrative layers that large institutions require. After all, with a limited staff and a small student body, direct action is possible by the head of the school.

Not so in NYCDoE schools: Read the rest of this entry »

Bureaucratic Ineptitude

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A more ridiculous example of bureaucratic wrongness has struck me. Several, actually, which I’ll be posting about more or less regularly, if but for posterity, for it’s wrong and terrible to subject non-DoE friends to the constant onslaught of horror stories during our weekly pub crawls when I can just post it here.*

I return to this topic because Bloomberg came to the decision, after the latest round of ultimatums to the UFT, that he wasn’t going to lay off teachers after all. This filled me with dread, because the last time he said that and the UFT cheered their own might, he instead took his pound of flesh out of DC37, myself included – for, you see, computer technicians and technology coordinators are not covered in the technology section of the budget, which Bloomberg has kept sacrosanct by virtue of ensuring that none of it can be used to pay salaries.

What that meant was that the same year my school – my former school – spent $300k on new computers, SMARTBoards, tablets and associated errata, under the “use it or lose it” style of budgetary discretion principals tend to abide by, they laid off the one staff member responsible for their upkeep and usage.

My school – my current school – has spent around that much on new equipment this past school year. We’ll see if I’m still here come October.

*DoE friends are all alcoholics and incapable of talking about anything else but the system, so they lose nothing in the bargain.

Bureaucratic Inertia


The NYC Department of Education Office of Web Services runs official school “portals,” which are websites within the domain for each school in the system but are in practice little more than static webpages with a list of phone numbers – web pages, consequently, that cannot be substantively changed except via e-mailed request to the OWS from the principal’s DoE account, which takes four to six weeks. Needless to say, in internet terms, four to six weeks is a lifetime.

So my school decided to strike out on its own and hire a private vendor that specializes in making NYC public school websites. We paid them and handed them the domain we’d purchased for the purpose, which had previously been used merely as a placeholder that redirected to said portal. They built our website. It works perfectly… expect on school computers. The DoE blocked our school website, which they can do because all school computers must use a DoE proxy to get online. The domain simply won’t resolve.

Why? Because we used to redirect our domain – which, to reiterate, we purchased on our own – to the DoE portal, which means contacting OWS and advising them of the change and requesting that they stop the blocks. This means waiting four to six weeks for an answer. Mind you, they have no direct phone numbers – even the DoE IT office cannot directly contact them.

Meanwhile, updating and maintaining the new website must be done off-campus, so to speak, which means not on paid time. The vendor offered to buy a fresh domain, but that would mean shuffling our Google Apps account, tied to a subdomain on the same URL, which still works perfectly fine for no other reason than because it was never redirected to the DoE portal.

I cannot immediately recall a more perfect example of a faceless, capricious, unresponsive bureaucratic inertia.

Bedbug WTF

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Dear Faculty & Staff,

There have been multiple concerns with regards to bed bugs this school year. As a city made up of over 8 million people, it is almost inevitable that one of us, or many of us will come in contact with these bugs. The [High School] is not immune to bed bugs. We have reported three bed bug discoveries so far; one classroom, the library, and one lunchroom. However, there are some things you can do to aid in the prevention of bringing them home with you:

1. Remember to place your bag on a desk or table (keep it off of the floor)
2. Have up your coat far away from other coats
3. Shake out your coat and clothing in the bath tub when you return home
4. Cover your mattress and box spring in a plastic, zipped covering

These tips should give many of you some peace of mind. If you would like further information, the website:
has a great user friendly guide!

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to speak with any administrator.

Might as well just write, “If you work here, you will get bed bugs. Courtesy of Michael Bloomberg.”

Not a Very Bright Idea

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Bob Herbert praises two schools in New York for offering enough college-level courses in high school to allow their students to save expensive tuition money through an abridged tenure in actual college. The comments to his column are abuzz with people who are outraged for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the students don’t then get the full collegiate experience.

This is true. This would also be true even if they went to college for four years. College now appears to bear little relation to what the student learns but whose institution is on the student’s degree, and the student is concerned less of his classes than of his bursar bill: It may be a scant four years in college, but it’s an agonizing forty to pay it off. Personally, I’ve always been told of the supposed truth that, indeed, a university is not a trade school, and I’d agree: No trade school could justify costing this much.

It’s true that accelerated courses hinder one’s social development both in high school and college, but people do such programs out of necessity, not convenience: If it didn’t already break my bank and kill my credit rating, I’d still be in college – it’s certainly preferable to today’s job market. The schools that garner Herbert’s praise are no more than a stopgap: The system itself is flawed and the costs need to be brought to heel.

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  • Published: May 13th, 2010
  • Category: Society
  • Comments: 1

I’m Too Young For This

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I’m still twenty-something, still running the starter motor on a career – any career. I can’t already be in the “what is this world coming to” mode yet. Not for another thirty years more at least.

In times of boon more government subsidies are given to the middle class: Highway construction and maintenance, tax breaks for homeowners, etc. But whenever we’re in the red, the poor must pay – mass transit gets cut. State unions get double pressure from the state and from public opinion, as low-paid private sector workers inevitably fall upon their public sector brethren in a lamentable divide-and-conquer scenario.

But what strikes me as truly unconscionable is that public schools and libraries are almost always the first to go. The NYCDoE is running for another round of thousands of layoffs (I was laid off last October), and now Queens Library stands to lose 14 branch libraries. Where can society go without education? Even during the Great Depression, these things remained sacrosanct. It reminds me of that term floating about the blogosphere: “Epistemic Closure.”

We’re Rome circa 400AD. All the great thinkers are dead and new ones are not replacing them.* The societal zeitgeist is more in tune with marketing rather than message. One political party is more interested in winning elections than governing, the other is stuck in an endless loop of second-guessing if any one necessary, life-saving act is even politically feasible, and they’re both bought, paid for and essentially wholly-owned subsidiaries of corporations who bleed society at large and whose only products of note are rich ex-CEOs.

Yeah, yeah, “we all have to tighten our belts.” Why, however, are the belts wrapped around our heads?

I know Obama’s plate is more than full, but he seriously needs to consider bailing out the states. The feds can run a debt. The states can’t, and apparently Paterson (and others) are too stupid to understand what it means to cut education.

*Consequently, I hate Augustine of Hippo, hypocritical charlatan that he was.

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