Don’t Dare Scapegoat Our Teachers


I have never understood the criticism of teachers.
Especially considering educators have been forced to go way beyond “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” These days’ teachers are as much social workers, as they are the ones with the precious task of educating our children. Unsung heroes, and they never received proper credit. My point is simple!  Show me a success story in life, and I will show you a teacher that guided that person along.
It needs to be understood that for most kids, especially the ones in Urban America, that teachers are the first, and often, the only role model that children will encounter in their young lives. For me, one of the highlights of my life is when I was able to reunite as a grown man, with my 8th grade Bronx teacher from I.S 137, off of Webster Ave in the Bronx. Her name is Rose Fairweather-Clunie. We students called her, “Mrs. Clunie,” and I remember she always had control of her classroom.
Mrs. Clunie went on to be a principal at In-Tech Academy,MS/HS 368 in the Bronx. She headed the school since it opened in September 2000, only inches away from John F. Kennedy H.S, a school that I also attended.
All these years later, Mrs. Clunie still looked the same.
One of my crowning moments in life, right up there when I got to interview Nelson Mandela is when Mrs. Clunie had me as her graduation speaker. I will always be thankful to the United Federation of Teachers. I had did several public events for the union, and often, with deep admiration, talked about some of my former teachers. In this case, Rose Fairweather-Clunie, and in the snap of a finger, the U.F.T arranged for us to reunite.
When I sat there in Mrs. Clunie’s office, she told me about her grown sons, and I thought to myself as it hit me for the very first time ever, wait a minute, all that time you spent with us, and you have sons. A family?
Ironically, but I wasn’t surprised, when Mrs. Clunie announced her retirement, in a Riverdale Press newspaper article, students said they were sad to see her go. They said Ms. Fairweather-Clunie was a "good leader because she kept the students in line.”
She has more control over the school,” Diana Valdez, a tenth grader, said in the article. “When she passes by everybody’s quiet.”
So I am very, very appreciative of teachers.
For a fact, I wouldn't be a journalist today, if NYC public school teachers didn't believe in me. The sad reality is like so many from my community, I would be dead or in jail.
Teachers gave me the confidence that I could succeed.
So I salute my 8th grade teacher. I salute A;; teachers. Mrs. Clunie, you made a difference in so many lives. Enjoy your retirement. It is well deserved.
Teachers are the best example I can think of when it comes to “Each One, Teach One.”
I am saddened currently at what teachers have to go through politically, and how they are scapegoated.
I close this with an email, I received just the other day from a teacher. Her name is Meredith Martino.
You can sense the frustration from her, but Mrs. Martino has saved lives, and she reminds me of Mrs. Clunie.
Hello, I tweeted you after seeing you on the Verizon news channel. I noted that you were the only one on the panel who made sense in regards to education, especially in areas where schools are considered "failing." I am looking forward to reading your book, also. I would like to share with you my dream initiative. First, I taught in the Bronx from 2000-2003. I recently heard from who student who thanked me for telling him that he was capable of high quality work in 8th grade. His message got me thinking and motivated to share this with you. I was elated to find out he has been a teacher in Washington Heights for four years now. I was a new teacher in 2000. All I did was encorage students in my 8th grade English class to write and revise until they were handing in work they were proud of. This was not easy. I had dreams of changing lives as a brand new teacher. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time dealing with classes that honestly did not even acknowledge that I was starting a lesson. Honestly, silent reading time was a battle. Books were thrown at each other instead of read. Fights broke out and desks were tossed around. A gun and knives were found in my classroom. I do not mind admitting this because every single day I tried my best and so many kids in my classroom tried to learn in the midst of this. So many teachers and students experience this daily. This has nothing to do with a lack of teacher preparation or training.
Every student enters a classroom with a story. Often times, school is truly something that he or she cannot focus on. Imagine a young girl finding out her twin brother has been in her class all year-neither of them knew. A student had to ride the subway at night when her mother's boyfriend visited. Another student began crying one day, her makeup began to come off and her bruised face was revealed. An effective teacher will show compassion and realize that writing workshop is not a priority in this child's life and may not be for quite some time. I cannot imagine a teacher or politician would think any student would perform to the best of his or her ability on a test, project, or a state exam.
So my dream initiative accompanies the current push for teacher accountability. Students are part of this, too. They are vital to the success of their education. Let's send a message to students to go home and read, do homework, and have grit. Regardless of where you live or go to school, value your teachers. Classroom time does not mean comprehension time. Students must be accountable for practicing until comprehension occurs. This means work for the teacher and the student. Instead of labeling schools, students, and teachers as failing let's focus on team work. Students are aware that teachers are evaluated based on their test scores. Students know the state tests truly do not count for their grades. They are not held accountable for reading a passage too quickly, skipping questions, choosing the wrong answer, or not including two text details. Teachers are held accountable for a test we have never seen. I have yet to have viewed an 8th grade Common Core exam, yet I am evaluated by its results. I proctored for the 7th grade the past 3 years. The 11th grade Common Core was shared with teachers last year. Why are teachers grades 3-8 not allowed to view the tests our students took? Right now, the teacher is rated based on this. It scares me that a state test may possibly count for 50% of our evaluation. I do not mind being accountable for my students and my lessons, but students must part of this plan. A positive education initiative, even just on social media, should encourage respecting teachers, paying attention in school, and respecting oneself and his or her peers. Your reading Lexile does not improve just because you were in school. It improves when you read in and out of school. We need a positive message being spread, not one about failure. Money should be spent providing more counseling for students who need it, extra help, a safe environment, and support for teachers. Funds should go to the school and its students, not testing companies and private investors at charter schools. The message should be about achievement for all. Our entire country needs to support public school students and teachers.
Overall, I do not see why our politicians do not encourage students to always do their best work, to pay attention in school, and promote studying outside of school. Longer school days, bashing teachers, charter schools, tax caps, outside observers evaluating teachers, and standardized preparation and testing are not solutions.
Thank you for taking the time to look at this. Also, thank you for the positive and compassionate work you do.

Sincerely, Meredith Martino

The Real March Madness- Athletes Don't Receive a Dime

NCAA March Madness

It’s that time of Year. Enough excitement to fill your entire body, even if your not a sports fan. It goes something like this, "At the buzzer.... its good !!!"

March Madness is upon us, but what is wrong with this picture?

Coach K at Duke, 10 Million annually.

NCAA, Billions with a B.

The players on the team? A nice scholarship….but other than that, not a dime, and beyond that meal card, nice dorm room, and education, AGAIN, NOT a single Dime.

The other night on Verizon FiOS/RNN TV we mixed it up greatly on this topic.

My point is that the folks that the NCAA is making Billions off of their backs should receive something. Call it a stipend, call it whatever.

My colleagues point to Title IX, ( the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education) and that is an excellent point about fairness for ALL athletes and teams on campus. (women's teams) Not just the sports that draw the huge TV coverage.

So what’s wrong with a sliding scale situation where all the campus athletes at least receive something?

Hey, at least John Oliver of HBO is on my side.

Oliver makes a very good point as he argued.

“Everything in the NCAA tournament is branded, including the ladder used to cut down the nets after the championship game.  ("Pretty soon, the only thing left to sponsor will be the sponsorships themselves.")

NCAA, Do the Right Thing

  • The "N" Word Controversy

  • It's also Wrong when African Americans use the word

  • 2015-03-12-1426175005-9526740-paris.jpg
    Full disclosure. The "N" word controversy is an issue that has deeply bothered me to the core for a very long time.
    When I ride the New York City train system, for example just the other day, I am often embarrassed to see the frequent use of the “N” word, by people of color. Young men, and even young ladies. Case in point, Tuesday, riding the “A” train from 125th street in Harlem to 34th street, to co-host a radio show on WABC with Curtis Sliwa.

    The use of the “N” word is so pervasive even in public on transportation systems, that the conversation in my head goes something like this. Don’t they know the history of this word? How could you?
    I normally look at the kids that are uttering the word so much, it’s like they are passing out candy or something to their friends. I want to say something to the teenagers, but ultimately decide that perhaps I should just leave it alone. If your goal is to say, Hello, what's up my brother?, why not just say that rather than inserting the "N" word.
    When a person has the merits of an argument on their side, one has to admit that they are correct.
    Like Rush Limbaugh or dislike him, on this issue he is dead on correct.
    The same use of the despicable “N” that has caused such an outrage for the now former and disbanded Oklahoma SAE fraternity, would be a hit on radio if Kanye instead said it. In fact many Rappers already have seen commercial success using the “N” word.
    I have heard the ridiculous argument over the year, that goes like this. Brother Carter,” they are keeping it real about the ghetto experience.” And it's used so oftenthat now, the word doesn't end with the letters "" , the slang abbreviated version ends with "....a" An actual, highly successful song by Jay-Z and Mr. West, titled "N....s in Paris"
    I grew up in the projects of the South Bronx on welfare, and I don’t see this as quote: “keeping it real!” My wife Marilyn Carter grew up poor as the rest of us, in Harlem, and is an educator, I have never once heard her use the word.
    Let’s get this out the way now. Give me a break, the “N” word is not a term of endearment amongst African Americans.
    It’s wrong when the fraternity members used the “N”, and it wrong when kids of color do exactly the same thing.
    Everyone is up in arms because of Oklahoma, but select any urban area in America, and see how SOME of the young kids of color refer to each other. “N’ this…..”N” that, My “N.”
    So is that OK?
    Should we simply ignore it and look the other way because the people are black. And considering the wicked history of this word, (that yes, has often gone along withLynchings) it is a word that NEVER should be used.
    It reflects an ugly part of history. My kids were raised to never ever be allowed to use the word under any circumstance. They are now 27 and 22 years of age. At least I will go to my grave knowing their kids will be raised the same way.
    I tend to look at this entire Oklahoma situation as one that was rather unfortunate, but credit does have to go to the University President and fraternity leaders for acting so quickly. It’s my contention that the students involved should have been perhaps suspended, but not expelled from college. This should be a teachable moment for them. In my opinion, this is not a First Amendment issue but it should not define the rest of their lives, and hopefully it won’t.
    No one should ever use the "N" word, and by the way, OF COURSE, that includes the Rappers.

  • Anti-Semitism is Still Alive and Well

    Anti-Semitism in the Year 2015!

    That’s very difficult to comprehend.
    One recent headline that sets off the alarm bells is from the State of Missouri. The suicide this month of one of their elected officials, Auditor Tom Schweich.
    Schweich was reportedly taunted with anti-Semitic comments during a quote, "whisper campaign." as it related to his recent run for Governor.
    Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth denounced the ugly nature of American politics while eulogizing Schweich, suggesting that political bullying and the anti-Semitic whispers led to his friend to kill himself. Auditor Schweich  was Christian and had some Jewish ancestry.
    'Words do hurt. Words can kill,' Danforth said. 'That has been proven right here in this state.'
    Schweich, 54, fatally shot himself in what police said was an apparent suicide at his home in Clayton, Missouri. He left behind a wife, two children. Here is how we discussed this case on Verizon FiOS TV News.
    My point is it's disgusting, shocking and a scary thought to think that anywhere in the world, Jewish ancestry could be considered a potential dis-qualifier in the arena of politics.
    Danforth said he had talked with Schweich two days before his death. He said Schweich was upset about a radio ad from a political action committee that mocked his physical appearance and suggested he was a pawn of Democrats who would "quickly squash him like the little bug that he is" in a general election.
    But Danforth said Schweich was particularly distraught by what he perceived to be the anti-Semitic whispering campaign by the chairman of the Missouri Republican party, who Schweich said had been telling people that Schweich was Jewish. 
    Wisconsin is also apparently another example of recent Anti-Semitism . According to its hometown newspaper the Milwaukee –Wisconsin Journal Sentinel , Wisconsin saw a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, more than twice those seen in recent decades. That was based on an annual audit by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council.
    Just recently with President Obama on hand, the United States  marked the 50th Civil Rights Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma Alabama.
    Some bigotry may be easier to recognize and repudiate, like recently at University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, but we must all take a stand.

    Anti-Semitism also cannot be tolerated.

    Hillary Finds Herself Already in the Hot Seat


    Critics finally have something now to talk about....and subpoena.
    You knew it was right around the corner, and the republican Congress has launched an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.
    A House committee investigating the Benghazi, Libya, attacks issued subpoenas Wednesday for the emails of Clinton, who used a private account exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — and also used a computer email server now traced back to her family's New York home.
    This issue sounds like its much ado about nothing.
    Yet critics are already using the emails as a way of further casting the former senator as "secretive," "untrustworthy." and in that arena of perception becomes reality in Politics, they can score points.
    Already on a TV near you, the argument s are being made about "one set of rules for the Clinton's, and another set for the rest of us."
    The House committee panel also instructed technology companies--- it did not identify to preserve any relevant documents in their possession.
    This issue was Page One News, the day after in USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
    This is about a dying investigation into Benghazi, and putting new life into it.

    Enough Already...Enough Snow


    All of us respect Mother Nature, but to live in a Northern State, and naturally, it begs the question of how many times are we going to be hit?

    How dare we complain!!!
    Yes, this is not Alaska, and yes, we haven’t been buried completely in snow as much as Boston, but No Más, we can’t take it anymore.
    Case in point.
    This Rocket Scientist (That would be me, do you sense the sarcasm) refused to go purchase a snow blower, and of course, that backfired…because I have already spent several hundred dollars with a local snow plow company.
    Naturally, every single time that I have the driveway cleaned of snow, it snows again.
    It’s nice to look out my window and see the Winter Wonderland, but then you have to walk through it, and step through it. So much for the scenic beauty. Man, this is hard work.
    Some lovely teenagers just recently, knocked on my door, and said their family heard me on WABC Radio complaining about the snow and their parents sent them over in a lovely gesture to voluntarily shovel for me, and they did. The tedious process of clearing the snow in the cold, and then even breaking down the ice. Of course, within Thirty minutes of the kids doing the job, it started snowing again.
    "Through rain or shine ,snow or sleet,” but perhaps my local mailman was trying to tell me something the other day. I trekked through the snow to get to my car, and trust me, that is an adventure all in itself, and on top of the car was a postal delivery. Officially, directly according to the USPS website carriers are not required to deliver to locations where there are safety issues — such as icy steps, snow-packed paths or icy overhangs. Wait, how did they know what my driveway looks like.
    My Postal Carrier's message was that getting to my house went way beyond the call of duty.
    Wait a minute, do you hear that…..
    The sounds of another big snow truck, clearing the public roads by of course pushing more snow into all of our driveways.
    I think even the most daring amongst us, the full endorsers and supporters of "let it snow, let it snow," are even respectfully throwing in the towel.

    No, this is not boxing, but we have had enough snow.

    Hillary Clinton in Email Hot Seat. Dominic Carter says critics have something to talk about

    Hillary Clinton is in the Hot Seat, as surely Congress will Launch Investigation into her Emails. However this is much ado about nothing. Yet, GOP folks will use the mails  as a way of further casting the former senator as secretive, and untrustworthy.

    Also, Here is a funny Cartoon from Bloomberg: Watch Cartoon Hillary Clinton Responding to Emails Today,” from Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect” – 2 min. video: