Archive for the ‘Schools and Universities’ Category

Snow Day for Schools – Rejoice!

Snow Day in NYC!

Snow Day in NYC!

All schools (and also most if not all universities) in NYC are closed today due to the snow.

I found out first from my friend Annie on Facebook…she knows, she’s a teacher.

Hooray! Kids in NYC! This is like a major event. The last time we had a snow day – well we never had a snow day while growing up in the late 80s early 90s. It was always delayed school openings or leaving a little early and a weird bell schedule with strange lunch.

Make the most of this day!

Surprise at Sentiments from Hofstra Students Pre- and Post-Debate

I totally understand that the rest of the country is going to have its McCain supporters. And I know that, these days, Hofstra University attracts many students from outside Long Island and New York. But I was still surprised at the sampling of students that Eyewitness News [NYC ABC channel 7] interviewed before and after the last presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Am I naive to think that more students at Hofstra would have been pro-Obama? Or did Eyewitness News purposely handpick their sampling beforehand, so as to have an equal divide? I have even been surprised lately to hear the college kids of the 21st century leaning so against abortion, even at Hofstra. Can you weigh in on this? Because I remember when I attended SUNY Stony Brook in the 70s, our student body was a Democratic [even radical] island in the middle of a conservative Republican territory. Why does it seem so different today?

NYC Schools — Hot Hot Hot in a September Heat

Many — if not most — of the NYC public school classrooms are still not air-conditioned. Newer schools have central air-conditioning, and in most of the older schools, only the principals and some administrators enjoy office window air-conditioning units. Although the Department of Education tries its best to use as many AC-equipped sites for summer programs, often they have to use non-AC sites as well. It’s not easy to motivate kids these days, but even harder in summer, and harder still in hot classrooms.

I taught in such a school up in East Harlem. The building was competed as part of the WPAduring the Great Depression. When we had a hot June, students would take Regents examsfully equipped with frozen water bottles on their desks.

So, during the last week, I have been thinking of NYC’s public school students and teachers in those hot classrooms on their first week back in the classroom. And it’s not going to be much better this week, as we hover around the 80s until the middle of the week.seal of the NYC Dept of Education

Happy Easter — Passover in April– Students Get Split Break!

Happy Easter. Brrrrrrr. Those Easter bonnets are going to have to be lined with wool. It’s colder and earlier than usual this year.

And it doesn’t coincide with Passover this year, which makes for difficulty with the school calendar. NYC students and school employees had a long weekend this time. The week-long Spring Break will be in April, a month from now. I have learned that most of the country, as well as Christian parochial and other private schools in our area, had Spring Break last week or this week, coinciding with Easter.

NYC still operates on a schedule conducive to giving time off for observance of Jewish holidays. But I wonder about twenty, or even ten, years down the road. The faces of NYC teachers are changing. What was traditionally a career for Jewish people, is opening up to more and more non-white college graduates. This is a result of a new generation of African-American and Hispanic college graduates who want to go into the education field, and it is a good thing. The faces of the students have been changing for a long time. White families have been leaving the city for the suburbs for decades, and the ones who stay typically send their children to private schools when possible. Even in the whitest neighborhoods, there are few secular Jewish students. There are pockets of exceptions — newly-arrived Jews from Russia former Soviet Republics in Brighton, Bensonhurst, or Rego Park for instance. Better yet, with increasing Muslim student enrollment, do we close NYC schools on those holidays as well?

It will be interesting to see, in the coming decades, how the DOE adjusts the school calendar to the changing needs of a new demographic.

Bronx Science taken over by Dorothy Umbridge type lady

As a former student at Bronx Science, I feel that it’s important we all note what students at the school today are facing. It seems that a strict ruler has taken throne at the historic school. Among alumni of the high school are Jon Favreau of Swingers & upcoming Iron Man fame, rocket scientists, 5 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and of course yours truly.

To see the oppression taking place makes me sad. When I attended the high school there was an extremely inclusive principal who not only gave us monthly chances to “have lunch with the principal,” but was generally affable in the halls and such. I’ll never forget you Mr. (Stanley) Blumenthal.

Now this being a video made by the New York Post, I’m not sure about the fairness in reporting. It’s pretty much event coverage without much depth, but it’s funny to see that kids in high school still look like I remember them.

Help schoolchildren and win fabulous prizes!

My pal (and former/founding Metroblogging NYC author) Sars over at Tomato Nation is awesome. Why, you ask? Because she is running a contest on her site where participants can win fabulous prizes. Which is awesome in and of itself, but the way to enter the contest is even more awesome – you donate to one of several challenges she’s set up at Donors Choose.

Donors Choose is a website that allows teachers to ask for funding for classroom projects and lets individuals choose which projects to fund. It’s a way to bridge the gap between what public school budgets provide and what students need.

The challenges she’s set up (including the current challengeare part of the Blogger Challenge at Donors Choose, and we at Metroblogging have set up a challenge too. Sars is totally kicking our butts right now, but remember that you can donate to as many projects and challenges as you want – and even small amounts count.

Almost all of the local NY metro projects on Sars’ challenge have been funded, but many NYC projects are still in need of funding in the Metroblogging challenge. You can also enter preferences if you join the site and they will let you know if local projects come up that need funding. And if you know any teachers, let them know about the site so they can get funding for their projects!

Portrait of the St. John’s Gunman– Possible 9/11 Trauma

A clearer picture of Omesh Hiraman, the 22-year-old freshman who sent the Flushing main campus of St. John’s University into a tailspin yesterday. Hiraman was wearing, of all things, a George W Bush mask, and carrying a rifle. St. John’s had recently instituted a text-messaging system, and thousands who had signed up, received warnings on their cell phones abut the gunman on the campus, which was promptly put on
‘lockdown”. Without a doubt, everybody on campus, as well as millions off-campus who heard the news, had frightening thoughts of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the most recently threatened campus — Delaware State. Luckily, no one was hurt, largely due to a NYC police cadet, also a St. John’s student, who spotted

But, as the identity of the gunman emerged, so did the sad details. Today, with their son in a psychiatric unit at Bellevue Hospital, Omesh’s parents spoke to the press. They apologized to the community for the havoc their son had wrought on campus yesterday, and said that Omesh was not a bad person. Then, a picture emerged of a troubled history borne of events for which he was not responsible. Omesh Hiraman was a student at Stuyvesant High School, the specialized high school for the city’s most brilliant students. In fact, from there he had gone to Cornell, but left after a short time.

But, then 9/11 happened. From his high school, which is right next to Ground Zero, he saw the Twin Towers fall. and according to his parents, he was never the same from then on. He became paranoid after that. It wasn’t clear from the interview whether he suffered from schizophrenia before that day,but it seems apparent that the events of 9/11, exacerbated whatever latent mental illness he was prone to. He also recently had back surgery to correct his scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and suffered extreme pain.

Maybe it was 9/11, the medication he took for back pain, mental illness, the pressure of two older accomplished brothers, or a combination of all of the above. We can’t be sure. But we do know that Omesh Hiraman was a victim of a world and a medical condition that dealt him more than he could handle. And for that, I pray for him, as well as all the others out there that keep it all bottled up until it all explodes. Today, St. John’s students tripled enrollment in the cellphone emergency text-messaging program. But we all have to register for a bigger program– to try to repair a world in which children can get through life without the fear of snapping all of a sudden. We all need to look at the factors that have made days like yesterday far too common lately on our campuses.

Pay for Good Grades

As a former NYC high school teacher, I must expound on a subject that fellow NY Metblogger Eric touched on as part of his blog entry entitled “More Incentives” on 6/19

As a teacher in the inner-city, I was constantly searching for ways to incentivize my students to study and raise their grades. I was not allowed to give money but I ran contests to compensate them for the things they were supposed to be doing, like coming every day to class on time for a week, or turning in homework for a whole week. I gave pizza parties, I took winners to lunch– you name it. And it was always the same kids who won all the time; the kids who reaped the benefits were the students who did these things anyway — incentive or not. The students who were habitually late, cut class, or failed quizes didn’t change their ways. But what they did do was try any way they could to trick the system, like coming in on ttime, sitting at their desks, but running out when I turned my back. Or better yet, running in before the late bell and then falling asleep, surreptitiously text-messaging under the desk, or otherwise continuing the bad habits they always had. Or worse, arguing and making excuses for missing the mark, and demanding pizza lunch anyway.

No, the only money incentive they could see was the lure of the NBA, MLB. a starring role in a music video, or a record contract. Once when American Idol auditions came to town, a bunch of my students announced to me that they wouldn’t be back next week — they were all off to Hollywood, because certainly they would wow the judges and be selected.

I don’t have the answer or I would be writing this from a plush well-appointed office rather than my apartment. But I can tell the Mayor and the Chancellor that it’s going to take more than a few hundred dollars given to the students who would do well anyway. Unlike Eric, my parents never paid me for good grades. When I told them they should pay me for my A’s, they said I was expected to get A’s, and they weren’t going to pay me for something I should be doing anyway. Amen, Eric. It doesn’t work. Instead, we have to somehow prove to them that an education will pay off like the media stars they so idolize, who got where they are by being one in a million contenders

I once tried to extoll the future payoff of a good education to one of my students. I couldn’t argue with his response: “I don’t want to go to school all those years and make your crappy salary”. he said.

Accused Janitor Freed

Now I am fully aware that this is a sensitive subject, but as a former teacher in the NYC Board of Ed, I find myself haunted by this week’s news story about the school custodian who was accused of sexually molesting an 8 year-old student. The man spent two days at Riker’s Island, was taunted and threatened by inmates (child molesters are the lowest of the low in prison), and his wife and other family members suffered telephoned death threats. He was released due to “inconsistencies” in the child’s story, although the 8 year-old hasn’t retracted her allegations as of this writing. Oh, and the Dept. of Ed offered him his job back “if he wants it”. Now, let me say up front that I am not a parent, although I taught high school to inner-city kids. And I fully realize that school systems MUST take these kinds of allegations very seriously! But I also can’t help thinking there may have been a better way to handle this. First of all, would YOU want your job back after YOUR name was broadcasted all over television, and you were taken out of YOUR workplace in handcuffs? What kind of trauma will he and his family have to survive? Was there a better way to do this?

Local School Goes Green

173px-Recycle001.svg.pngI am a Westchester boy thru and thru… Raised in the thriving city of White Plains, about 25 miles north of Manhattan, I like to keep tabs on what’s going on back home and what new buildings are popping up in the growing town. With that interest, I have heard about a really cool new initiative at one of the WP elementary schools…

According to, the nearly century-old Post Road school in White Plains will be getting a face lift and much more. It will be redesigned and will reopen in 2009 as a fully green building, including geothermal heat, lower flow toilets and sinks, recycled core materials, and grass-topped roofs. The company who designed the new features says that the benefits are two-fold. First, it is an effort to cut the overconsumption that runs rampant through our country and also a true step in the right direction to reduce dependence on foreign fuel sources. Secondly, it will serve as a fantastic example to the children who make the building their second home. I have a vested interested in this particular school, as my sister is a teacher there.

I always love to hear stories like this. While Westchester was a fantastic place to grow up, it is nice to see that as it becomes more and more densely populated, it is improving itself and becoming an even better place to live. I hope that NYC schools see this as a challenge to step up, but of course a suburban budget is always much friendlier to projects like this.

Know of any other really cool “green” projects going on around the area?

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