Category Archives: Politics

Diversity Lessons Starbucks Can Teach McDonald’s

Diversity and Starbucks:

Starbucks, last year had a racial profiling incident that involved two black men. The event took place in Philadelphia, Pa. I remember it distinctly for two reasons, 1) one of the black men was a member of ΩΨΦ, and two it forced Starbucks to have a series of diversity trainings. Training in which they closed all of the stores. The fact that Starbucks used this as an opportunity to learn was a powerful moment for me, because for Starbucks it wasn’t so much about profit, as it was using this unfortunate incident as a teachable moment.


Insert McDonald’s circa 2019. I have witnessed video from two racially charged incidents from their franchise.

McDonalds Employee Attached:

The first involved a white male customer putting his hands on an African-American female employee. Said employee defends herself (in an MMA kind of way), and justifiably so. The manager of the store still awarded the belligerent customer with his order, and never once on camera admonished the customer for his unacceptable behavior. In my opinion in an instance where the customer was wrong, the cops should have been called, and the customer arrested for assault. The lack of empathy displayed by the manager to his employee screams for a Starbucks type sensitivity training.


McDonalds Times Two:

The second incident involved an African-American male customer. A McDonald’s employee is witnessed calling the employee the N-word. The employee used the word rather loosely and was very offensive to the customer. The customer recorded the employee going on a violent racial tirade. Meanwhile, the manager of the store never takes the time to reel in the employee. The managers gut instinct was to call the cops on the customer when in fact the customer did nothing wrong.

Both McDonald’s incidents albeit in various states scream that the corporation needs to train its employees on how to deal with racially charged events. Would it be too much to ask McDonald’s to close for the day while its employees attend diversity training similar to the instruction given by Starbucks?

Besides Boycott, what’s your solution. Are these teachable moments?

Elizabeth Warren Pulls a flip-flop on School Choice

Senator Elizabeth Warren:

For those of you that do not know, before the presidential aspirations, the exploratory committees, the serendipitous DNA results, Senator Elizabeth Warren was once a champion for school choice.

In her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap” (co-authored with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi), Warren endorsed a school-voucher system to free children from the tyranny of educrats assigning them to schools based on where their parents can afford to live.


Senator Elizabeth Warren

Before the Flip-Flop:

It was during those times; I could see myself backing an Elizabeth Warren run for president. The forward-thinking, the honesty, the willingness to fight for the people was evident in the beginning stages of Warren’s political career.

In an article originated by the NY Post, Warren goes on to state, “With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice.”

Senator Warren spoke to how zip codes should not be the determining factor of how parents select schools for their children. By selecting schools in this manner, the poor and disenfranchised would always be at a disposition. Schools for the poor are still less desirable than schools for the more affluent. In other words, parents shouldn’t have to buy houses that can’t afford, to have excellent school choices for their children.

Circa 2016, Massachusetts was at the forefront of the school choice debate. The citizens of Massachusetts had a ballot measure Question 2 that supported the expansion of ten new charter schools. Massachusetts charter schools perennially outperform Boston public schools. Adding twelve charter schools would have been a direct measure to level the playing field for the poor. It provides them with much needed school options.


Question 2 Massachusetts Charter School Expansion

No support on Q2:

Senator Warren refused to support the measure. Warren’s rationale for no was as follows, “I will be voting no on Question 2. Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools,” Warren said. “But after hearing more from both sides, I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating an opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.”


Elizabeth Warren 2020:

That’s a direct contradiction to her initial support for school choice. I don’t know which Senator Warren we’ll get if she’s elected president. It is for that reason that During the early stages of the 2020 presidential campaign, I can’t throw my support around Senator Warren. It’s not to say that I won’t, but as an informed citizen I need to hear more. I have to know that Senator Warren will unconscionably fight school choice options for the poor under any circumstances, even if it means she doesn’t win the Democratic primary. It is then and only then will I be able to throw my support around Senator Warren.

Implicit Bias Against SoC

Implicit Bias in NJ:

When I first caught wind that, a young scholar-athlete was asked to cut off his hair to compete in a wrestling match; I know the implications. It’s almost 2019, and we have a student of color (SoC) ostracized and told he’s ineligible to compete because of his hairstyle. It is time for a great awakening amongst our people. This incident is another instance of why the Obama administration got it right by providing Civil Rights protection for students of color (SoC).

This act of discrimination is another instance where our emotions can get the best of us. My initial thoughts are everyone needs to be held accountable for this injustice. However, after further analyzing the situation, I want more than accountability. How can we use this racist occurrence to spurn policy change in education?


I want us (people capable of seeing things objectively) to look at this incident objectively (while still being pissed off). This act could be the act that highlights the type of discrimination SoC face daily. We need to focus on change.


Other instances of discrimination Amongst PoC.

Whether its the young lady in Philly not being allowed to play basketball due to wearing her hijab or the young lady in New Orleans being sent home because of her hairstyle, black popular culture is under attack. We must defend our students in all circumstances.

So yes, you have every right to be passionate about the injustice that continues to happen to SoC. The question is, what are you going to do to keep fighting for their rights. We know the current administration does not care about the civil rights of SoC or other disenfranchised groups. It’s up to us.

School Choice Matters Most for Poc (People of Color)

School Choice:

One of the main concerns that I hear from school choice pundits is “charter schools and other choice type schools take away valuable resources from school districts.” To those pundits, I ask these simple questions: What should parents do if traditional public schools do not work for their children? Should they allow for their children to be sacrificial lambs in failing schools while educators work toward fixing the problem? How long should they wait? How will they be viewed if they decide not to wait?

Many parents that exercise school choice are products of traditional public schools. They speak rather candidly about the failures of said schools. These schools have left parents with animous based on their own experiences. Even with this expert knowledge, we still have folks questioning the rights of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their children. There’s nothing more offensive than reading parents are choosing to send their students to charter schools because they are uninformed. That couldn’t be more from the truth.


School Choice Matters to PoC:

As educators, we should never question or second guess a parent’s choice. Why? Because parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their kids. We can have conversations with parents to ascertain why they made their choice, but we are in no position to make that choice for parents. Parents are experts when it comes to their children. While educators also have a level of expertness, its more broad view expertise, while the parental knowledge allows parents to be laser-focused on the needs of their children. The goal should be to support a parent’s choice, not to question it or undermine it.

School Reform:

I think we are all school reformist in one way or another. Currently, “reform” is such a dirty word that when its heard, it immediately forces some to take offense. For those offended by the word ‘reform,’ I ask if the district schools are failing, what are parents supposed to do? I’m an idealist. I don’t ever want to call someone anti-school reform. I hope that we can all agree that all schools can improve and that its the job of educators to ensure that improvement. If we can agree to look at it from that perspective, then we can all agree that in theory, we want the best for children. I don’t expect for us to agree on what “best” looks like, and that’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to agree, because it is the parent’s choice to determine the best fit.


Animus towards School Choice:

Moreover, if you have hatred towards those that exhibit their right for choice, I ask why? Affluent parents exercise school choice all of the time. When politicians in Washington, DC decide that they want to send their children to Sidwell Friends, or other elite private schools throughout Maryland and DC, they are exercising their choice. When families on NY’s upper east side decide they’d instead send their kids to private schools with 50k yearly tuition, again it is their choice. No one unfairly persecutes these parents. I’ve never read any literature recommending these parents send their children to district schools. However, when people of color exercise their options, they become bad parents?

I have heard enough about blaming parents. We provide parents with a product. If parents are unhappy with the product, they have every right to go after the best product that will work for them. We are in no place to judge them for that. We should all support their right to choose. In my opinion, those that exercise their right to choose & stand out is because they aren’t afraid to stand up.

Quality Education is a Civil Right

But Here’s What You Are NOT GOING TO DO This!

Firstly, I work on Long Island, as a school superintendent of the only K-12 charter school in Suffolk County. A quality education is a civil right.

Given the history of our school; the power of the teacher’s union on LI; and a total lack of knowledge and/or understanding of what school choice means, there’s a great deal of animus towards our school and the work that we do. We have accepted and embraced this, and vow to impact as many students and families as we can, as we get them on a path to college and beyond.

For those of you unfamiliar with Long Island, it is the epicenter of the Opt-out movement. The opt-out movement was designed for parents to allow their students to opt out of NY State tests. These tests were once mandatory.


The Evidence:

Moreover, there’s an idea being floated around by state officials, & Governor Cuomo that would tie teacher evaluations to their student’s performance on NY State exams (ingenious if you ask me). Accountability put suburbia in an uproar, thus creating one of the most successful campaigns of educational defiance of the past 10 years.

Exhibit A: A prominent school superintendent on Long Island writes a letter of reassurance to his principal regarding the school’s 2017-18 growth index scores. These scores tell you if a teacher is Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, & Ineffective (HEDI). To have a score of zero (HEDI) score leaves me at a lost for words. To have a superintendent that encourages this is also very telling as well. The level of entitlement that’s exuded in this correspondence is something that won’t be afforded to a leader of color.


Letter of Assurance

More Evidence:

Exhibit B: The following is the level of proficiency of students from Tremont Elementary School in the 16-17 & 17-18 school years on the NY State Math exam. Given the 2017-18 NY State exams have now become the new benchmark, it’s unfair to compare the 2016-17 results to the 2017-18 results. However, based on this data set, twenty-eight students took the exam in 2018. One student out of the twenty-eight students who tested scored proficient. Seventeen students scored at a level one. Even though this is a minor glimpse of the overall performance of the school due to a high percentage of students opting out of the test, I don’t think anyone should be put up on a pedestal based on these results.


2018 NY State Test Scores

Here’s what we know:

We know kindergarten students from middle-class families, and upper middle-class families come to the table with different skill sets than kids that are the same age, but from a lower socioeconomic status (SES).

• We know that standardized tests are written in a manner that highlights the experiences of the middle and upper class, therefore immediately putting students with the lower (SES) in catch up mode, with the constant need for remediation.

• We also know “Children raised in homes with low income or low levels of parental education are at an increased risk of struggling academically in school” (e.g., Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Duncan & Murnane, 2011; Magnuson, 2007).

• We also know regardless of if you are for/against standardized testing, you can find reasons to substantiate your viewpoint.


Education as a Civil Rights Issue:

Quality education is a Civil Right. Some would say it is the single most important issue of our time. Pre & Post Brown v. Board, education for black and brown students was and still is inadequate. Funding formulas, nor allocated resources can make up for a system that was never designed for the disenfranchised to be successful. I don’t want to make this an issue about race, but I don’t know very many superintendents and/or principals of the minority persuasion that would be allowed to continue their employment with these results.

Works Cited:

Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 371–399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev. psych.53.100901.135233.

Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity?: Rising inequality, schools, and

children’s life chances. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Magnuson, K. A. (2007). Maternal education and children’s academic achievement during middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1497–1512. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1497.

SUNY’s Controversial Plan

SUNY’s Controversial Plan to Allows Charters to Certify Teachers:

Firstly, SUNY is a nationally recognized charter school authorizer from NY state. SUNY recently made headlines for approving a new, innovative approach by allowing its high-performing charter schools to certify their teachers. Some Charter schools experience hard times staffing their schools with highly qualified staff. Consequently, teacher turnover rates are higher than in traditional public schools.

According to a study on teacher turnover conducted on charter and public school teachers in Los Angeles, determined that charter school teachers leave at a 33% higher rate than teachers at traditional public schools.

The Nay-Sayers

Generally speaking, as a school leader in public charter schools, I have always operated under the mantra that no teacher education program was created equal. We would have some first-year teachers that were extremely prepared for the classroom.  We have others that are less prepared to take over a class. It comes as no surprise that colleges and universities are not in favor of this new teacher certification initiative.

Not to mention, universities lose a ton of money if potential teachers no longer obtained Master’s degrees in education. I am not sure what the world of education would do if out of touch college and university professors lost their soapboxes, and had to move away from the theory component of teacher training. Imagine if they had to deal with the complexities of the practice component of training teachers. One of the most significant takeaways from my teacher education program was, in theory, everything works.  However, in practice, well that is a different story.


NYSUT:

Moreover, another major player in opposing SUNY charters to certify their teachers is the state’s largest teachers’ union. Those familiar with NYSUT should not be surprised by their stance. Anything anti-establishment in my opinion usually draws ire from NYSUT. I am not sure if NYSUT is upset because they did not have a say in the process. Maybe this is just legal posturing. It could be their usual malcontent for anything charter school related.

It’s Never Really About the Students:

Lastly, and most importantly, what about the Scholars? Success Academy, and other top performing charter schools that will have the honor of certifying their teachers. Success Academies have knocked the ball out of the park with their performance on NY State assessments. If I were a teacher, training under schools that have a proven formula for success (no pun intended) would entice me.  I would choose this over a dreadful undergraduate program that doesn’t prepare you for teaching.

Notwithstanding, how will this benefit the scholars? Having an in-house training program will allow charters to build teacher capacity and stamina for the work. Two of the top five reasons teachers leave charter schools are lack of administrator support and job security. Charter schools would be more invested in keeping staff that they have trained from the ground up. Plus, it is a lot easier to hold charter school’s accountable for staff attrition if they are certifying their teachers. We all want teacher turnover to decrease, and that will undoubtedly benefit scholars.


RCS #PuertoRicoStrong Initiative

My opinion is that I like the idea.  However, I want to love the idea. Having a clear and transparent record keeping of staff attrition is helpful.  There would need to be a way to monitor teachers who leave after they are certified.  Possibly only allowing these teachers to transfer to other SUNY endorsed schools.