Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, July 20, 2015

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Shows Contempt For Teachers, School Board

Sean Crowley at B-Lo-Ed Scene and James Eterno at ICEUFT blog have already covered the story of how new NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia's "I'm listening to you" tour has turned into a "I'm not listening to you" tour" as she met with the Buffalo school board to scapegoat teachers for the problems in "struggling" Buffalo public schools and declare she would fix the problems (i.e., close the schools and fire the teachers) if Buffalo didn't fix them first.

The one thing I want to get at here is the tone of contempt she had as she spoke with the Buffalo school board - here's the Buffalo News:

Some members on both sides of the usually bickering board attempted to explain the district’s past failures and plans for the future. She rejected each attempt.

The scenario that played out between the commissioner and the board members smacked of students sent to the principal’s office to explain their misbehavior. Elia’s tone became increasingly more direct as the meeting progressed.

Wearing a serious face with hands folded in front of her, Elia wasn’t buying excuses – from anyone on either side of the divided board.

At one point, board majority member Larry Quinn suggested the high schools on the receivership list were beyond repair and the district should focus its effort on elementary schools.

“Let’s be honest, you’re only looking at Buffalo,” Elia said, referring to possible solutions. “There are high schools in this nation that have been turned around. It’s going to be a huge sea change for this district and you’re the ones who are going to decide if you’re going to get there. You have a vote on a board to make the decision whether you’re going to do it.”

Quinn later suggested it could take a year to come up with plans for those schools.
“I can tell you, if you’re going to take a year to come up with a plan, you’re not going to have those schools any more,” she responded.

And when board member Sharon Belton-Cottman attempted to defend the district, Elia shared a similar exchange.

“I don’t want the impression to be given to you that this district cannot function,” Belton-Cottman said.

“For whatever reason,” Elia replied, “the Buffalo school system with the School Board has not gotten its act together at those schools.”

“That someone’s going to come in here and wave a magic wand, and all of these kids who have severe problems will start doing well, that’s just not going to happen,” Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said.
Elia disagrees.
“It’s important for you to understand there will be consequences if you can’t move those schools forward,” she said. “It’s handing you a tool and giving you an option to use it. If you don’t use it, I will.”

I'm not here to defend the Buffalo school board or their track record overseeing Buffalo schools.

I am here to point out the contempt Elia showed for the school board as she, in the Buffalo News reporter's words, treated the school board members like misbehaving children.

The talk from the Board of Regents when Elia, who was fired from her previous gig for being a divisive leader who created a culture of fear in the workplace and refused to take responsibility for the deaths of several children under her leadership, was hired was how good she was at working with disparate parties to build consensus.

Considering how she got kicked out of her last job for doing the opposite, the consensus-building claim seemed absurd.

Today we get more evidence how absurd it is.

Elia plans to take it to teachers and schools, her way or the highway on dealing with problems, and if her tenure in Hillsborough is any indication, when problems arise, she will be quick to evade responsibility and blame others.

Given how toxic and poisoned the politics around public education are these days in New York, her "My way or the highway" strategy isn't going to play well in this state.

The sand is already sifting to the bottom of the time clock on her tenure here in New York.


  1. I foresee a Newark/Cami Anderson situation forthcoming when Elia takes her "listening" tour to the parents of New York state.

  2. Bring that bitch down to NYC and let her hang out in the auditorium of Brooklyn Tech while thousands verbally destroy her. Come on down Elia. Buffalo is one thing, New Yawk Cita├┐ is another!

    1. Don't be too quick to discount B-Lo. John King had to sneak in here unannounced. Tisch wears a special snowball helmet while visiting. Every appearance she made here was carefully staged and choreographed to keep her safe from the rabble which we have plenty of.

    2. I agree.

      Fact is, NYC rolls reformy much more than other parts of the state.

      Poughkeepsie became Waterloo for John King.

      Long Island has been a leader in the opt out movement.

      So has western NY - including Erie County.

      The rest of the state has much to teach those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome here in NYC.

  3. What "tool" does Elia think will turnaround these schools? An oak paddle? Maybe Cuomo and his merry band of privateers will repeal New York's ban on corporal punishment next.

  4. I taught for three years in the Hempstead UFSD, at Hempstead High School specifically, one of the schools that have been "identified" as a persistently struggling school.

    The school had a student population of approximately 65% African-American and 35% Latin-American. As a teacher of Spanish-speaking students, a majority of them were recent arrivals from El Salvador and Honduras. When I refer to them as recent arrivals, the time period includes students in the US from as little to just arriving to less than one year in New York.

    Both the black and Latino populations suffered extensively fro severe economic hardships. As a teacher of Latino students, I recall many of them were wonderful children, but the experiences that they had endured, both before coming to the US and then magnified after living in New York, created barriers that children should never have to experience.

    One student would shamefully glance at the floor when homework would be collected. He confided in me that he worked in a restaurant after school and didn't get home until midnight. He did this to help his family pay bills. This student told me he wanted to do the homework but couldn't because he was too tired and could not keep his eyes open that late at night.

    Another student used to look into classrooms during holiday season. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she wanted to see if there was food because she was hungry.

    The high levels of unemployment, divorce rates, and crime in the area were heartbreaking, and I experienced this for the short time I was there.

    Ms Elia...what you fail to understand...what the reformsters want from you, is a punishment to be inflicted on a school that cannot defend itself. This policy is akin to walking over to a person who is handicapped and demanding that they walk, and when they say they can't, the person making the demand beats them, hoping to get the desired effect, while knowing in the back of their mind that it will not happen under current circumstances.

    Ms Elia...many of the teachers at Hempstead, both of the black and Latino students, were wonderful educators, warm and caring, using their expertise to change lives for the better.

    If you truly want to deal with the "struggling school syndrome", it is time to break from the Cuomo Party Line...visit the schools, walk through the neighborhoods, talk with the students.

    I am most certain you will not, because the truth is not what you are looking for. You are helping your masters to profit off the backs of our the blame is shifted against professional educators. What is even wors, is that the group identified here as the neediest is made up of children.

    Ms Elia...will you be a voice for them, or the people who are banking their success off the "manufactured" failures of children?

    1. Touching, but honestly, no one gives a shit. I worked in a beautiful high school in the Bronx where we won championships, marched with our band in neighborhood streets, and graduated tens of thousands if students over the decades. When that piece of shit(and I mean SHIT), Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky sat his stale, boring, and u charismatic ass in our auditorium, he knew we were great and had a "special" population. It didn't matter one bit. When the hundreds of neighborhood people spoke, it didn't matter. That fat ass scumbag Santiago Tavarez (now principal of shitty Clinton HS) also came and lied. Let his shit ass school burn too as its on "the hit list". Marc Sternberg, another piece of SHIT who "listened". Walcott? Getting the picture? Yup, they're all gone!!!!! Destroyed the system and left. Where's Susan Edelman's story on this? The new schools that replaced my school have lower grad rates. Unreal!!!!!! These pieces of garbage are GONE! No one cares! I have joined the "no one cares" group. Now I just look forward to retirement and my "entitled" pension. Neighborhoods destroyed so mini schools that are ridiculous are now rampid. Idiot, moronic Leadership principals who have a 2-3 year life span before being dumped are now in charge. This system is finished. Couple more years I can do with my eyes closed. Bloomberg's 3rd term was the final nail in the coffin. We did it to ourselves. Bill Thompson barely lost. No support from UFT and no support from big democrats. These mini schools SUCK IT!

  5. Thanks for the nod, RBE. I reiterate my assertion that Commissioner Doubtfire is little more than John King with an estrogen pump.

    1. It's interesting, she was brought in as a rebrand, with her "I'll repaint the Common Core nonsense" and the talkof her collaborative style, but what I see so far is tin-eared tone-deafness and a "My Way Or The Highway" attitude.