Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Where have all the School Libraries, Teacher Cafeterias, Staff Rooms and Save Rooms Gone?

On my Odyssey through Bronx schools, some buildings stand out for what they have, others for what they lack. As a typical example, lets look at the Kennedy campus , a hugh building with 8 floors. There are 6 student cafeterias and no teacher cafeteria. Some of the schools there have no staff rooms or SAVE rooms. Against the union contract, but who cares? I heard they finally opened the library, which had been closed for years.

Why does any of this matter? Well, teacher cafeterias and staff rooms are needed to share ideas, recharge your batteries (figuratively and literally), and bring a sense of cohesiveness to the staff. They were also invaluable for union activities. SAVE rooms are needed to have a place to remove students. Libraries are invaluable for student research, projects, homework and literary leisure. Many large schools don't have them or they are unmanned (and have deteriorated rapidly, i.e. Morris).
What's the reason for all this? Breaking up the schools created redundancy. Instead of needing 1 principal, you now need 6. Instead of 5 APs, you now have 25. Well, you get the idea. Same premise with space. The schools don't want to share space, so they create their own with whatever was controlled by teachers. For areas that had to be shared with other schools (and the costs accordingly) - no one wanted to pay (i.e., libraries). (Increase that attitude by 10 for charter schools.)

So what's the effect of all this? Many teachers eat lunch in their cars. I've seen many teachers grading papers and preparing lessons there as well. I recently met a teacher (at a student desk doing his classwork) in a small vestibule inside the men's room. Union activity is so fractured it is basically non- existent in most buildings. (I believe this is one of the main reasons for Bloombergs planned redundancy.) Why isn't the union insisting on one Chapter leader for each building? (The CL would be protected from most of the principals and APs. It would give real teeth to the CLs again.) Students and teachers have nowhere to go for quiet study or research. Unruly students are not removed and learning goes down to nil for many motivated students. There is no school spirit, it's like visiting a fast food restaurant. Go in and get out quick.

I personally hope that the large campus schools eventually come back as the great schools they once were. Redundancy is costing the city tremendous amounts of money and penalizing students and teachers in a myriad of ways.

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