May 10, 2017
NYC school chucks books, sends teachers to Disneyland, gives no fucks
by Simon Reichley
The New York Post, in a pair of reports this year, describes some pretty heinous behavior from the administration at Manhattan’s Life Sciences Secondary School. Back in April, Susan Edelman and Melkorka Licea wrote a piece with the evocative headline “This school is trashing all its textbooks.” The title tells you almost all you need to know about the situation at Life Sciences Secondary. The longform version of the story is that principal Kim Swanson and assistant principal Derek Premo “ordered all textbooks rounded up and removed.” Why? Because books are “antiquated.”
Presumably, Swanson and Premo (hereafter Swampo) prefer sexy iPads and stuff to dusty-ass old books. Though it doesn’t appear that they actually replaced the hundreds of trashed books with anything, computerized or otherwise. According to sources in the school, they simply piled them up in the hallway and told teachers to deal with it. “They just took books that teachers have been using and not replaced anything,” one source claims. “Most classrooms have only two computers, and not all are hooked up to the Internet. Our hands are tied, and not having books has not helped the cause.”
One teacher actually hid print materials from the textbook death squads that Swampo sent through the school:
“They made an announcement that they were getting rid of the books because they were antiquated and outdated, and we should be using new technology,” a teacher said. “I hid some of my books to prevent them being taken.”
“We’re not allowed to use books,” said a second staffer, who advised struggling students to “go downstairs, grab a book from the pile, and take them home — because they’re just going to throw them out.”
This is bad enough. Swampo could have stopped here, and their legacy as shithead administrators who don’t actually care about the kids they’re in charge of educating would have been secure. But, for a team trusted by only thirty-two percent of their staff, that wouldn’t be good enough. That would not meet the lofty standards of excellence that Swampo appear to have set for themselves. And so… they persisted.
One of the excuses that Swampo and the DOE gave for trashing the books is that they were “outdated” and did not meet curriculum standards. One solution would be to buy new books, right? So that kids can establish an up-to-date brain-book interface and slurp the sweet nectar of knowledge held within. Or—fuck it—buy some sexy iPads and let kids watch Street Fighter tournaments all day. But you gotta do something, right?
Right. What you have to do is send a bunch of staffers on a fully expensed trip to Disneyland.
In a follow-up story published this week, Edelman reports that Swanson (that’s Swampo minus Premo) sent herself and eight staffers on a trip to the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, CA to attend a conference and “breathtaking extravaganza” held by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development. The cost? $15,000 taxpayer dollars, which could buy you a whole bunch of books, or a quarter-bunch of sexy iPads.
Apparently, after the Post ran their initial story, the books were removed from hallways and locked in storage closets. Swanson also appeared to soften her stance on the use of books in the classroom, telling teachers that, if they wanted a book, they could “talk about it” and maybe “go down to see if there’s anything we want,” but that there was “no budget” for replacing the books.
To be fair, this is probably exactly how I would run a school. No books, no homework, party in California one week, party in Miami another week, ask the kiddos a question about photosynthesis, and then spend the rest of the semester complaining about health care reform and explaining the inevitable heat death of the universe. No reading required.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.