The new clueless chancellor came to our neighborhood, to a school not far from my house, one where I used to work. I entered the door by the auditorium, the one I stood at so many mornings, making the sixth grade monitor (yes we used to have monitors in those days) smile, when I would sing, "I hear you knocking but you can't come in," until the clock hand hit precisely the right number and I swung the doors open and welcomed the onslaught.
Tonight the doors were open wide, but school security officers were nowhere near as welcoming. I found a seat with the other UFT teachers while the chancellor found the right moment to enter. And when she did she came down the aisle shaking hands and greeting people.
Probably the highpoint of the meeting for her.
She began the meeting with a slide show highlighting all the great accomplishments of the Bloomberg regime. She attempted a polished, confident demeanor, but used the archaic name for the Inclusion classes, tripped over the pronunciation of inquiry and read the number 2003 as two thousand zero three. (I used to teach third graders in that building to read four digit numbers).
And then things went downhill. The local politician thanked her for coming and then asked her about the overkill of standardized testing, and test prep in the schools. "When I went to school," he said, "test prep consisted of the teacher telling us to bring a sharpened number two pencil." She was asked about school closings, lack of communication, programs for the gifted, teacher tenure, budget cuts and PCBs in the schools. The answer to everything was "teacher effectiveness"- wait- she liked the PCB questions, she had a lot to say about that. She tried to respond to questions with highly undeserved assuredness, responding to one that she should know, she had been on the job for five weeks now. She told us that study after study proved that "teacher effectivenss" - read no tenure, no seniority made all the difference but refused to site one study. In fact that is what she did best, not answer questions. Usually words would leave her mouth and float into the audience- fooling absolutely no one. I can't recall one response that got even a smattering of applause. The woman next to me said she looked even uglier in person that then on tv and as the hour went on the sinews in her neck vibrated more sharply than the violin strings in the endless concerts I had sat through in that very auditorium. At one point she was pressed hard on the overcrowding issue and she repeated for the sixth time that six schools had opened in the district during the Bloomberg era. Someone behind me yelled out "there is always birth control," the line the chancellor had tried as a joke in an earlier townhall meeting. The stare that came our way could only be described as deserving of the "if looks could kill..." axiom.
And then it was over, someone with a very heavy accent was going on about how she believed charter schools were actually a good thing and the chancellor turned from the podium, and skiddled skaddled up the stairs behind the stage with her minions following The crowd booed. And it was over-no friendly down the aisle handshaking this time.