Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Last week, Public Servant Paul Perzanoski issued a public statement that in his mind at least, is an ‘apology.’  He’s not sorry for showering his employees with partisan posturing, just for getting caught by how he did it, it seems.


Make what you will of PSPP’s plaintiff offerings below; as for us, it only reinforces the arrogance and elitist self-view of government school personnel.  Mr. PP, Brunswick’s School Superintendent, shows all the symptoms of teachers union pathology, from whence he ideologically springs. 

Like all such leaders, he  proclaims that ‘children are the first priority,’ while religiously avoiding focus on accountability, teacher performance, metrics, and any other way of determining whether expectations are identified (if even acknowledged!), and are being met.  A subsequent item published on Sunday, written by the President of the Maine teachers union, fortuitously reinforces this view with standard union-speak, as you will see.

We still view PSPP’s staff letter as a case study in political  harassment, in which, like union officials, there is an explicit and implicit assumption that all ‘members’ unequivocally support the partisan position of the administration.  Funny how clear those expectations are; if only such clarity were applied in other areas.

Before we go any further, here is his statement. 

Over the course of this week many Superintendents in the State of Maine will be addressing their staff about current issues facing public education in their convocation addresses. Some of the topics will probably be improving student achievement, bullying, public education bashing, staff morale, charter schools and the restraint/seclusion mandate. One school department will be dealing with a $350,000 to $500,000 deficit to pay for students to attend charter schools.

The text of these speeches will probably not reach the media because there will be no media present. I placed my concerns in writing, in a letter to staff which had very different ramifications. The right to express myself appears to be a different issue than the forum used to do it. I will sincerely apologize for using the “Back to School” format to the Brunswick community and the Govenor (sic), yet I will continue to stand behind the message of my letter and interview. Support of public education and the staff that work within it will be voiced through personal letters, appearances and my professional organizations.

Students should come first as we work through reform in public education. We understand this and embrace it, which is why we use data driven decision making to improve student achievement. Recently we have begun to see improvement as evidenced by the last three years of achievement scores.

Education has always been the great equalizer in America and it is more important than ever to keep it that way.

Paul Perzanoski
Superintendent Brunswick School System

“The great equalizer;” wow!  There’s more than one way to read that.  To quote my freshman composition prof at Rutgers, ‘ambiguous-reword for clarity.’

As always, we get complaints about funding, at the same time his own system funding on a per student basis grows at an alarming and unsustainable rate.  He says ‘children should come first,’ and indeed they should.  But they don’t in the Brunswick system (and most others).  Look at salary curves for teachers who do the same job year after year.  As far as ‘reform,’ unless that means hiring more staff and paying higher salaries, we have no idea what he’s talking about.

And we’ve provided pretty compelling evidence that students are not the top priority of Brunswick’s government schools, regardless of the test scores. As Joe Biden says, ‘show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what your values are.’

Case in point: Brunswick’s values are paying teachers more without any evidence that doing so achieves anything except better compensated teachers. And schools falling into disrepair faster than they should have.

We refer you to these two posts of some months back:

See if you can decide

Some help on the answers

So, we say, poppycock!

Now, if you’re up for more poppycock, read this “Maine Voices” column in Sunday’s Portland paper, written by Lois Kilby-Chesley, MEA President.

We’re just going to respond to the ‘highlights’ in her piece.

We must make 2012-13 "the year of the child" in Maine and focus attention on making public schools our No. 1 priority.

From the union President?  Unions are about making the unions and the members and their chosen political champions their ‘No. 1 priority,’ nothing more and nothing less.

Public school educators have always put our students at the top of our priorities.

Balderdash; see all of the above.

Nowhere in the governor's introduction does it say "public education." It is imperative that we focus school improvement and reform on public schools.

Why do solutions to ‘school improvement and reform’ have to be limited to thinking only ‘inside the box’ of public schools?  You said children are the 1st priority, but this doesn’t sound like it, does it?

A -- Accountability. Educators agree that teachers, parents, students and elected officials should be held accountable for guaranteeing we put students' needs first.

Should is the operative word, yet we see no evidence of any commitment; see all of the above.  The last thing unions will support is accountability of any sort directed at them and their members.

B -- Best Practices. We believe that we should raise the bar by adequately preparing educators for the changing role of schools, and providing professional development that informs good teaching and benefits students.

Just like always, it comes down to more money, and all of it spent on teachers.  While you’re at it, how about telling us what you mean by ‘the changing role of schools,’ though we have our own hunches.  Aren’t schools supposed to teach/educate kids?  Or should the focus be on dispensing meals, providing health care, and social, cultural, and political indoctrination?

The second alternative is moving taxpayer dollars away from public education (including public charter schools) into the hands and pockets of out-of-state, for-profit, corporate charter schools.

What about in-state charter schools and private schools?  Is anything but government run schools inherently evil and greedy?  What happened to ‘choice’ as the hallmark of free society?  And what about those out of state textbook suppliers and others?  Do taxpayer dollars flow into their for profit hands and pockets?

Private charter schools have one incentive -- making money for investors.

In case you haven’t noticed, Madame President, private enterprises don’t survive if they don’t deliver for their customers.  We recognize that your beloved government schools and your members survive no matter how poorly they perform; they have the force of law on their side, and the ability to compel funds to keep them ‘in business.’  As we see it, the number one incentive of government schools is funding unions and union members, with no incentive for satisfying their customers, unless you consider the members the customers.

Reforming our schools takes more than rhetoric about our failures.

Well that’s a refreshing observation!  It also takes more than rhetoric about your successes.  It takes openness to real reform, something you have never shown.

Let's focus on what works. Teaching students to think creatively, accept others' differences and listen to differing opinions develops 21st-century learners. Give students the opportunity to practice creativity and problem-solving, critical-thinking and collaboration skills.

There you go; the heck with mathematics, reading, writing, literacy in general, science, and all the other outdated skills no longer needed today.  Instead, let’s focus on group therapy, cultural programming, and social engineering.  Students needn’t worry about making it on their own; we’ve got the government here to help them.

Let's take action now to support our schools, not denigrate them.

The only action you and your unions support and approve is giving you more money and more control over government schools.  

Admittedly, not everything is perfect. We must do better for our students' sakes. 

We’re shocked…a rare moment of modesty and vulnerability from a teacher.  Now please tell us exactly how you need to do better, and how you will!

Rather than building walls between our stakeholders -- parents, educators, community leaders, businesses, professional organizations and the Department of Education -- let's spend the next 10 months honestly working together for our public school students, and lead the way to great public schools in Maine. 

We wish we could believe that last part, but we don’t.  And for the reasons why, you can start with Michelle Rhee and the Washington DC School System.

All in all, Ms. Kilby-Chesley, we give you an A+ in mastering the propaganda from the unions, both state and national.  They’ve had decade after decade to hone their message in the face of public concerns, and have their way with local, state, and federal budgets.  You’re just the latest to be educated in their private school of union orthodoxy.

Imagine what you could accomplish for our children if you truly had them as your highest priority; after all, that’s what public service once meant.  A long, long time ago.

Instead, Madame President, we’ll leave you with this quote from a teachers union legend:

“When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”

Albert Shanker - President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

TTFN, teacher; we’re off to our next class.  And we trust you will ‘accept our differences’ in this matter.

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