Long Story Short: Memorial Day edition
Galanes mural, pre-flatscreen
Photo by kc kratt
Ain’t no cure for the school board blues
In a recent editorial, the Buffalo News called for mayoral control of Buffalo public schools, and an appointed School Board. The editorial board’s claim is that a “well constructed” school board is better equipped than an elected one to limit a host of educational and budgetary problems. What’s the chance of either accomplishing this within the current system? Fat and slim respectively.
A Bloomberg miracle?
About handing ultimate authority to the mayor, the News stated, “We know that it’s worked well in New York City. There, after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was given control of the city school district in 2002, test results significantly improved along with the graduation rate, which recently reached 72.6 percent.”
Not so fast
Bloomberg mistakenly thought he could run education like a business. He closed 150 low-performing schools, prompting public outcry and triggering a lawsuit. He opened privately run charter schools provoking battles over education resources. He depended heavily on data from largely discredited standardized test scores. He promoted merit pay, a demonstrably bad idea. In Bloomberg’s competitive marketplace, some schools got saddled with a disproportionate number of needy students, increasing segregation. Bloomberg pushed for larger class sizes, when class-size reduction is one proven measure for narrowing the racial achievement gap.
So, what happened?
Overall, the graduation rate increased. However, this was largely due to lowered standards, and “credit recovery” programs, which allowed students to graduate via largely unsupervised software programs in which they could look up answers to multiple-choice questions. According to the Bloomberg administration’s own 2010 statistics, while sixty-one percent of students graduated, only twenty-one percent were college-ready. A year later, only thirteen to fifteen percent of black and Latino students were. Nearly eighty percent of New York City graduates who enrolled in community colleges required remediation. The number of high school graduates needing triple remediation (reading, writing, and math) doubled under Bloomberg.
The media ate up Bloomberg’s claims of having pulled off an education miracle (apparently the News is still swallowing). However, on the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP, there has been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the racial achievement gap since the mayor’s policies were first imposed.
In 2010, the state Education Department acknowledged that, over time, state exams had become overly predictable and attaining high scores had become easier. After scores were recalibrated, they declined dramatically, and the achievement gap in NYC turned out to be as wide as it was before Bloomberg. The black-white test proficiency gap in eighth grade reading even increased.
In short, Bloomberg achieved nothing.
Commissioner Elia weighs in
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, told the Buffalo News in an interview, that she does not favor handing Buffalo public schools over to Mayor Brown. Instead, she supports moving elections to the same date as general elections, when more people vote. A good idea.
The News stated, “Some worry [mayoral control] could make the board too political, but is there any better description than ‘political’ for the way the teachers’ union holds sway over the School Board now?” Yes, there is. It’s called democracy. Sadly, most citizens take their democratic duty very lightly, so—with no controversies brewing this election—only seven percent of voters turned out. The Buffalo Teachers Federation worked to get out the vote, which is what we do in America. This time around they may have had an impact, but let’s not forget that the disastrous Carl Paladino-led anti-union “reform” majority was elected under the same system.
When Delaware North incorporated local art into the design of its Patina 250 restaurant and separate corporate headquarters, Buffalo Spree commended co-CEO Jerry Jacobs Jr. in an article titled Art and industry: A taste of paradise. We included a picture of a Patina 250 mural by one of Buffalo’s most popular and respected artists, Fotini Galanes. “It’s a beautiful addition to our restaurant,” Jacob’s was quoted as saying, “We want Patina 250 to feel warm and sophisticated, and these works help us set that tone.”
For those who think nothing says “warm and sophisticated” like a flat screen TV slapped over a work of art, Patina 250 is your place. Because that’s what happened to Galanes’ mural.
Facebook takes up the debate
A photo of Galanes’s abstract artwork with a black rectangle hovering in front of it hit Facebook last week, and the reaction not good. LSS has many thoughts on the topic, but, for once, we’ll let some of the many public comments speak for us.
Stephen R Powell: “Art is something that can make our day a little brighter in ways we often don't even realize. Whatever dumb-ass plopped this TV in the middle of this piece that my friend who spent a month making, flatly hurts me.”
John Thomas Marohn: “Why a manager wouldn’t realize, know, or catch how offensive it would be to put a TV over a work of art, a modern fresco, boggles the mind.”
Mar Penner Griswold: “Nothing like paying an artist to create a fabulous piece of original art and then paying someone else to cover it up. People are idiots.”
Colin Dabkowski: “Here's an alert: Most people with money and influence in Buffalo do not care about art as anything other than a property value booster (vacant building>mural>unaffordable lofts>repeat) or a decoration for their walls.”
Gail Leacy Kratt: “Their philosophy must be we own it, so we can destroy it. So much for Buffalo’s renaissance at Patina...”
Richard Stamps: “Buffalo is a mental desert of provincialism. Any creative thinking is jaded by the desire to be heard above the noise of the other carnival barkers selling their collective souls.”
There were lots of shorter comments, all involving some degree of disbelief or outrage. These include: Disrespectful (several), WTF, Oh my god (several), Unbelievable, Whaaat????, This is so ignorant, NOOOOOOOO, DISGUSTING, Ridiculous, Bastards!!!
It’s safe to say that the public is not pleased. Fix this, Mr. Jacobs.
It’s a dream we’ve all had since we were children and our mothers insisted we eat everything on our plates because a poor African child would be glad to eat it. As my waistline attests, I have embraced this philosophy throughout my life.
But even with clean plates, there’s always some waste, which usually ends up in landfills, where it creates damaging greenhouse gas emissions.
The next best thing
Better than landfills is the handy garbage disposal. Solids washed down the drain can be used to create fertilizer. But it’s still a strain on the environment. Composting is the greenest option, but what if you don’t have room on your tiny city lot for a composter?
Mayor Brown and the city of Buffalo have a solution.
Residential Food Scrap Collection Drop-off Program
Buffalo now has five drop-off sites for some of this waste. The city has also purchased food waste collection totes, and is providing them at no charge, for home use. Once a week, residents will empty the containers at one of the five drop-off locations, and Natural Upcycling will transport the waste to Buffalo River Compost. There it will be blended with wood chips, and turned into compost for development projects, bio-retention ponds, habitat projects, and home gardens.
Bottom line for the city: this saves money, even if it has a miniscule positive impact on the environment. But it will make you feel better about waste. You can find out more here.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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