Monday, November 23, 2015


 Keep Your Hands Off My of Child Reformers!

Just when I think I have gotten a handle on getting comfortable with becoming a dad involved in the fight of education, weekends like this past weekend happen.  Clear evidence that maybe I really do not and should not have a handle on the shenanigans that go on surrounding the multi-billion dollar business that has become Education.  Growing up, I had the image of Education being just like a first responder. Similar to those in Fire personnel and Law Enforcement. You had it in your heart! You were blessed to have it in you to do a job that changed lives. To save lives. My educators did just that!  Of course, after being involved in the fight for current education issues, I see that is so not the case! Today, it is about reformer and political turf wars over the lives of the young minds that fill the seats every day when the school bell rings!  I also, see that it is a growing trend to confuse the public by using words like REFORM to achieve their agendas and their own gains.  Reform as I knew it always had a positive definition.  Now, I am not so confident that is the case!

1.make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
"an opportunity to reform and restructure an antiquated schooling model"
improve, better, make better, ameliorate, refine;

According to the above definition of REFORM, one would think that would mean to make better. To take something and turn it around for the better!  Those involved in reform “The Reformists” would be in the business of taking the old and making it new and better. Keeping what works and finding flaws for opportunities of improvement!  I hear the phrase “Educational Reform” used so much nowadays. WELL WELL! By the new reformists’ definition and specifically when it comes to education…THEY CAN KEEP IT! They have changed a positive meaning of the definition and are confusing the public to think they are here to throw out the life preserver.  Sure, they have given job security for journalists across the country, but they have done nothing but reform the bank accounts of fake philanthropist like the Waltons, Gates and Kleins from large to humongous!  So now the words “reform”, “reform” and “reformists” are words I choose not to associate myself with as a dad with a child in our current US educational system.  Let these reformists work their magic in the affluent white areas of the country, the 1%ers and with their own families before they sink their meat hooks into our urban children and their education! It will NEVER HAPPEN!

It reminds me of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That creepster The Child Catcher! Prancing around town, luring the children into his mitts with gumdrops and lollipops!  Employed by Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst to snatch and imprison children on the streets of Vulgaria as they hated children! They enslaved the children they capture! To do their bidding. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, our present day barons and baronesses have mega software companies and retail chains. Using our children’s education for their own personal games. It’s absolutely terrifying!

Reform has bled its way into our branches of government from the White House to the State House and all the way down to city halls across the nation! NJ, NY, IL, LO and spreading faster than the Influenza Virus. It is even getting to parents! YES PARENTS! The organization Parent Coalition for Excellent Education is popping up in cities where ever you see the Charter Expansion. New York has its own version called Families for Excellent Schools.  Backed by families like the Gates and the Waltons, the premise is to portray grass root family and parent organizations to stick their foot in the door of the conversation where they have no parent voice. Masked by Charter Factories like KIPP, TEAM, NORTH STAR and Uncommon Schools to rally up the numbers. Under 501cs they are staffed with paid employees, have office spaces in corporate owned buildings, pay for parents who lobby efforts for overturn or develop new legislation for the “Reformy Crusade.”  They have preyed on disenfranchised parents just like the Child Catcher, with Charter schools that have superficial bells and whistles claiming they are the messiah that will save their child from the mean streets of urban culture. Yet, fail to produce any results. Right here in Newark, we hear of charter schools still facing gang life, low or no academic achievements, teen pregnancy, bullying and drugs. These coalitions and fictitious parent groups do not have the parent voice and most times do not even represent a portion of the majority of the parents fighting for public education. We have parents contacting parent organizations like The Parent Power Movement Team, advising they were marketed for enrollment, removed their child from traditional public school, had horrifying experiences in charter schools and transferred their children back into traditional public schools. Their boards and executive staff read like the Who’s Who of Educational Scandal.  You shouldn’t take my word for it. Just do the research! Look at the names of the boards and executive staff. Do more research than media outlets like NJ Spotlight have done!  Matthew Frankel makes a phone call and submits a press release and it gets in print! Only speaks to the credibility of the media source. One executive even was quoted a few years back in saying “every white person has a little Hitler in them and that the Pope is the Antichrist!” This same person also is known for other racial and homophobic slurs.

Just this past weekend at the League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City, NJ the “parent driven” Parent Coalition for Excellent Education partied it up with the big wigs! Not just partied, but hosted their own room at the Taj Maha Casino Resort Convention Hall! I can tell you being a co-founder of a grass roots parent organization, we operate out of each other’s living rooms and fundraise by selling t-shirts just so we can supply us with copies to hand out to inform parents. So how do they afford such a swanky event as a grass roots parent coalition? When asked they either state “we don’t know where the money comes from” or will get angry and defensive and pick a fight with you when approached. Even some of our legislators, assembly people and Newark City Council members  were happily in attendance at the PC2E AC event. Their red carpet and step and repeat was even graced by NJ Senate Education President Teresa Ruiz. Wow, most parents and voters can’t even get a return email or telephone call from her! The motto “ WORK HAD, PLAY HARD!” I guess selling yourself out can be exhausting!


This morning there was a Bob Braun article that discussed Neighborhood Schools and the work that Mayor Baraka and Dr. Lauren Wells has developed for our city and the South Ward. Big problem is I personally spent the weekend with members of Parent Power Movement, PULSE and Abbott Leadership Institute this past weekend on the topic of developing Neighborhood Schools. None of them ever asked to sit at the table with the Mayor’s office or his Educational Team to develop Neighborhood Schools. Heck one of my team members is still waiting for a date when the PPM team can sit with the Mayor. How can this plan represent "Community" schools when the community is not all represented at the planning table and these schools will not be implemented in ALL the wards in Newark? Community or Neighborhood schools CANNOT BE PLANNED AND IMPLEMENTED FROM THE TOP DOWN! We got faster movement from State BOE President Mark Biedron and even from Superintendent Christopher Cerf. So now we have another type of Reform going on. Reform for the community without the community! Hard to keep up isn’t it? How can neighborhood schools be discussed when it is not representing the ENTIRE city of Newark. When all wards are not represented at the table?  Logical right?

I am learning, maybe slower than others, that the only logic in Educational Reform other than “SHOW US THE MONEY” is there is no logic! It seems like the moment I get at least an understanding on one dimension of the reform monster, another head sprouts. All I can say is this if this is what reform is like…NEVER LET ME B

Thursday, November 5, 2015

One Small Step for Parentkind!

One Small Step for Parentkind!

Yesterday was an exceptionally proud moment for the #ParentPower Movement Team. After a few back and forth scheduling emails, our team of  parents sat down last night with appointed Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf. Many said "oh don't do it, he would just use you all to say he had parent interaction." Well, isn't that one of the reason why we said all those years Cami had the seat, she was not effective is because she would never engage with the parents in the city of Newark? If we did not work hard to try and arrange something with Superintendent Cerf, wouldn't we be doing a disservice to the parents we speak to and assist in our community?

I am a volunteer member for the East Ward Newark 350th Anniversary committee and Mr. Cerf and I ran into each other at the Kick Off Family Festival in October held at Military Park in Newark. We exchanged introductions and contact information and he said" He heard of ParentPower Movement and would love to sit and chat with us!" I said, "Do you really mean that?" He said of course so we exchanged contact information. Within the next 24 hours #ParentPower was receiving communications from both his office and Superintendent looking to set something up. Like I said it took some working out as we are all hardworking parents with different schedules and children in many extracurricular activities, but we settled on 11/4/15 at 7 pm at 2 Cedar Street, Central Offices for the Newark Public School District.

Leading up to the meeting the team reviewed emails, phone calls. social media inboxes and personal accounts we had with parents and came up with an agenda to help guide us through our first sit down with Mr. Cerf. Many of us or I should say most of us, the only interaction we have had with him has been seeing him at State Board of Education meetings when he was in the Commissioner of Education seat and now at local Newark Advisory Board meetings.  So our team all met in the lobby of 2 Cedar Street in full #PARENTPOWER uniform, packed the elevator and made our way to the 10th floor. We were greeted kindly, of course and escorted into the conference room where within moments of our arrival Superintendent Cerf entered. We went around introducing ourselves to him and in return he requested that we call him " Chris." It took awhile but after the meeting warmed up a bit we much obliged.  We all had our copies of our Meeting agendas with our logo on the top and handed one to Mr. Cerf. along with a #PARENTPOWER MOVEMENT button! 
The agenda listed items such as:
- Who is #ParentPower Movement. Our Goals and Mission Statement
- IEP issues 
- Facility Conditions
- Arts in Education
- School Closures
- Charter Expansions

We discussed how One Newark was not impacting our local neighborhoods as the data we where hearing from him or the district portrayed. The team brought in one of our parents who we have been dealing with for sometime to speak and give first hand account of the horrific experiences she had with her family going through the process of IEPs and trying to find a fit that met the basics of her child's IEP needs. Educated in over 10 years of experience and advocating for her children she let him know bluntly the tremendous cracks in the system. We discussed how we hear from many of the Special Needs/ IEP population of parents and their dissatisfaction. We also discussed failures in ESL and with our bilingual community. The team proposed that he institute to us a direct "hotline" for our team to get around the chaos and mess parents have to deal with when they contact Central Office for an issue! He agreed that was a wonderful idea and requested to his note take DeShawn, to "make it happen."  The team was really happy about that. We set guidelines for response times and how the hotline would work. That was a big win for us!

As things from the agenda are still being worked out since our meeting, I do not feel it is helpful to share the details of what was discussed. I will share with you somethings. We worked out some lists and issues that needed to be addressed district wide and time frames for resolution. He knew what type of caliber parents he had in the room by our moxy to not back down and stand firm when we required certain actions to be taken. The running joke in the room for him was " Unfortunately, have no sympathy for you!" After the 3rd or 4th time he knew he wouldn't be getting any from this group of parents! He also knew that we had a parent in the room physically recording every word that was said. So when it came to "on the record" statements, he knew our entire meeting was on the record. He actually made a comment about our new relationship and I had to stop him and clarify, " I wouldn't call this a relationship just yet. Relationships build over time with trust and respect. So lets take it slow. 50% of all marriages end in bad divorces." We all laughed but acknowledge this to be a slow process. We also joked about propaganda and said well yeah...we will use what we can to grab the right persons's attention. He must have seen our many memes in the past. He did say " We should do more of these." " I corrected him and said" Oh NO THERE WILL BE MORE OF THESE NOT SHOULD." He definitely agreed. After about an hour and a half we concluded the meeting with some confirmation of timelines, said our goodbyes and had our individual chats with him one on one as we left the conference room.  

Besides helping to create #ParentPower Movement, last night was a really proud moment for me to see our team of well informed, well prepared, professional and diplomatic parents work together as a team. To take this step together. We didn't call in a special favor to get us the meeting, we didn't have hedgefunders set up the meeting for us. We didn't take pictures for media purposes. The meeting last night is because while we maybe button pushers and feather rufflers, we are also Do-ers. We want to see change not just talk about it. To pull ourselves away from the table from having discussions with those empowered to make decisions would do a disservice to the families we work with and our followers.  So, we are not expecting changes over night, we are not on a pink cloud of false expectations. #PARENTPOWER Movement has timelines set up with Superintendent Cerf and his team for resolutions on this first agenda and we will be happy to report solutions and resolutions as they are finalized with Mr. Cerf and the district. Until then, we encourage all TRADITIONAL Newark Public School parents to reach us at  tel.862.227.1818 or via email with their issues so we can help expedite solutions and resolutions regarding your child's education!