I was at the Clinton Democratic Club and our guest speaker of the evening was Queens Coordinator of the UFT, Dermot Smyth who came to give an update on city schools. He gave us the straight scoop.
Budget cuts, overcrowding, increasing parental involvement, and decentralizing an out-of-touch bureaucracy at the DOE were the primary concerns amidst a room packed with civic leaders and concerned parents.
His comments give us an inside look at what the UFT has been advocating, and he makes some valid points:
Dermot Smyth, Queens Coordinator of the UFT addressed the Clinton Democratic Club. See what he has to say on a host of issues with this QP exclusive report.
“In order to serve our students we need a smaller group in the classroom. We have 20,000 new students coming in and less teachers.”
On Community Outreach:
“We have to strengthen community alliances and work with parents in tandem.”
On Mayor Bloomberg:
“We cannot allow the Mayor to play politics with our children’s education”
“Bloomberg sold to the public that he’s done a great job. He hasn’t.”
“He’s pro-education, Pro-Bloomberg”
On Chancellor Dennis Walcott:
“We have a chance because he [Dennis] will listen, he’s changed the tone.”
“He stood with us. He talks about Dial-a-Teacher where students can call up for homework help for free.”
“Yes he has to do Bloomberg’s bidding, but I’m optimistic.”
On Former Chancellor Joel Klein:
“Disengage was Joe’s policy.”
On Priorities of Budget Cuts:
“When money has dried-up, we must protect our children - we should do without, the city is not in as bad of a financial state as the Mayor makes it out to be. How is it fare to put kids on the pipeline?”’
On The Current Role of The DOE:
“Centralization from on high is wrong.”
On Future Prospectus:
“More fights are down the pipeline. I rep teachers and they have already been cut to the bone”
“We need new revenue sources.”
On Role of UFT:
“We will stand with you to protect our schools.”
A Call To Action:
“We need to standup and work together with elected officials so stand with us and protect our children.”
“We have to protect our schools as a community institution.”
Smyth answered questions from parents dissatisfied with the response of their concerns to the DOE. Joe Vaccarro, a Clinton Democratic Club Member, spoke of a personal experience trying to illicit a response from the central bureaucracy.
“We had every parent write a letter and the Mayors advance team didn’t even show up”.
With what Vaccarro believes to be a boilerplate response,
“The Mayor told us to go to hell – in a nice way,” he said.
Smyth responded with a sense of empathy to Vaccarro’s concerns.
“The Central BOE is blamed with blanket decisions. It is not looked at from a community standpoint,” according to Smyth.
Darren Kaplan of College Point was outraged with “Phantom Busses” that due to nothing less than an out-of-touch centralized bureaucracy have become a mismanaged resource. Under the present policy, students are denied entry to near empty yellow school busses for no other reason than red tape. The situation is compounded by poor logistical planning by the DOE.
“Even if there’s only three students on the bus,” he said with emphasis,
“My kid has been denied entry, she can’t get to school. There is no junior high or high school in College Point, 194 in Whitestone — is the only one, and they can’t get to it under these conditions.”
“On the night before school started at 5:30 PM, I got a recorded voicemail from the principal: No bus service for 7th and 8th graders.”
“They suggested I give my 13 year old five bucks to take the city bus!”
This is outrageous. But luckily at the Clinton Democratic Club, I counted at least 16 civic and labor leaders. President Paul Vallone encouraged us to take the message back to our respective clubs and organizations. Dermot gave out his contact information to all of the attendees. There was also some scuttlebut about Occupy The Bus Stop at JHS 194. There was a lot of networking and our members did a great job expressing their specific concerns to Smyth who will take the message back to the UFT.