Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bloomberg talks down to parents, teachers and students fighting for lives of their schools

Michael Daly

Sunday, February 6th 2011, 4:00 AM

Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black (c.) attend Sunday church service at Christian Cultural Center.
Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black (c.) attend Sunday church service at Christian Cultural Center.

"This is not democracy, letting people yell and scream."

No, that was not Hosni Mubarak talking about the demonstrators in Egypt.

That was Mike Bloomberg talking about the parents, teachers and students who turned raucous at two meetings preceding a rubberstamp vote to close 22 schools.

How does Bloomberg propose NOT to let them yell and scream in an actual democracy? Eject them? Lock them up?

Bloomberg went so far as to say they had embarrassed their city, their state, even their nation.

He did not seem to consider that they were roused to fury by much the same feeling that rouses the protesters in Cairo. This is the sense that whatever you say in more reasonable tones will be ignored.

Bloomberg is no Mubarak, silly sound bites by teacher's union boss Michael Mulgrew aside.

But, the folks in that auditorium at Brooklyn Tech had no more real voice than the folks in Egypt.

Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and the ruling majority of the panel on stage are mayoral puppets. They hardly even pretended that whatever the people in the auditorium had to say made much difference.

"Not one person on the panel was actually listening," said Charm Rhoomes, who was there Thursday night as the mother of a student at Jamaica High School and the president of its PTA. "Even Cathie Black. She was on her BlackBerry."

Rhoomes came with her 16-year-old son, Shawn Nevers, and did not join in the yelling. She understands those who did. "They know that whatever they are saying is falling on deaf ears," Rhoomes said. "The decision was already made. It was horrible."

The only ears that mattered were not there. The mayor would hear afterward of what he deemed shameful behavior. He would say, "When you're yelling at a meeting like they had're yelling at the teachers, you're dissing them, you're dissing the principals, you're dissing the school safety officers, you're dissing the custodians, you're dissing the taxpayers paying for it."

They were really dissing the mayor. And to demonstrate their outrage, a good number of them staged a walk-out. Rhoomes stayed, and calm had returned when it came her turn to speak.

"There was no shouting, there was no screaming," she recalled.

Had they bothered, the minions on the stage would have had no trouble hearing Rhoomes as she spoke with a Caribbean lilt of her son, who never misses school and gets good grades and was so thrilled when he was admitted to college-level math. He attended one class only to be told at the second that it had been dropped from the curriculum because the teacher had been cut. He would still love to have college math, but he does not want to lose the school where he has worked so hard. "He still loves the school," she said.

This magnificent working mother of three was speaking from her very core, the place of her greatest hopes and deepest fears. There is really no measure for the disrespect that the people on the stage showed her.

"They were absolutely not listening," she recalled. "There was not one person I could see that was listening."

The dis far outdid the dissing the mayor called a national disgrace. It may be bad manners to shout at a meeting. It is truly shameful to sit there and ignore the heartfelt and considered words of a mother who is everything a mother should be.

The meeting ended with a sham vote to close the designated schools, including Jamaica High. I'll tell you what's not democracy, Mr. Mayor. Democracy is not a vote whose outcome is pre-ordained by the boss.

Afterward, Rhoomes and her son journeyed home across Brooklyn and Queens. He had school in the morning. He got there on time, ready to make the best of it, just like his mother said at the hearing where nobody listened.

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