[Scott] Stringer, Manhattan’s borough president, gives [John] White glowing marks for the way he’s managed to navigate what he calls a “schism” in New York over the mayor’s agenda. Stringer said that he has organized “war rooms” to give city officials and parents a chance to meet and talk about issues like school overcrowding. And he said White has shown a willingness to take community input seriously.
“He didn’t always walk in the most popular guy in the room,” Stringer said. “But he had answers and statistics and he always walked out being one of the most respected.”
That’s a skill that could serve him well in New Orleans. Parents and others in New Orleans have complained often that the state is forcing changes from above without getting much input from the city.
On the other hand, White’s critics in New York echo some of the complaints heard here: that school officials will show up to hear parents’ concerns but rarely act on them.
Irene Kaufman, one of the founding members of a group in New York called the Public School Parent Advocacy Committee, said White met with parents mainly to “beat the drum for Joel Klein’s agenda.”
She added, “A lot of us found him to be very condescending.”
Leonie Haimson, a parent in New York and a founding member of the group Class Size Matters, said White has often told parents one thing and gone ahead with another. She described a case a year-and-a-half ago in which White assured parents in Manhattan that a new computer learning program called “Quest to Learn” would not take up existing school space. Haimson said it ended up in the gym at Bayard Rustin High School anyway.
“He has no interest in other stakeholders,” Haimson said. “He has no respect for parents.” [emphasis added]
There was no way Pastorek would chose anyone to run the RSD who was not a carbon copy of Vallas, and White is clearly familiar with Vallas’ let-them-talk-then-do-what-you-want-anyway approach to managing public K-12 education. All three of these men seem to have either forgotten or never known that public schools are public entities and that putting federal and state tax dollars into fewer and fewer private hands does not guarantee success in education, even if your only measure is once-a-year standardized test scores.