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By Mindy Rosier

me and august 2

I broke out my dressy clothes, some earrings, and my red lipstick for last night’s fundraiser for Eva Moskowitz. I was not a guest. As a mere teacher, I could not afford to attend the Third Annual Spring Benefit that began at 6:30 pm. Cocktails and dinner were served and of course you needed to dress to the nines. Since Cuomo was busy puffing away on cigars in Cuba, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn took over as the keynote speaker. Other guests included Eli Broad, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Daniel S. Loeb, even our ole school  chancellor Joel Klein. Seats started at $1,250.00 and tables began at $15,000.00. I wasn’t there to party, I was there to make some noise.

I got there early with some of my dapperly dressed friends. About 5 of us, including fellow MOREista August, walked over to Cipriani on 42nd Street holding some cleverly informative flyers. We handed them out to the guests. What was great about this action, was that this flyer was in the Success Academy colors. Guests thought that we were the welcoming committee and gladly took them. They thanked us and smiled, even the stepford wives like teachers. After about 20 or so minutes, more than 50 loud protesters arrived onto the scene, circling around the front entrance. These protesters were from several advocacy groups such as NYCC, Citizen Action, Strong Economy for All Coalition, VOCAL, AQE, as well as the amazing Hedge Clippers. These Hedge Clippers work to uncover the influences that hedge funds and billionaires use to sway government and politics in order to bolster their own power and wealth. Their most recent post was quite timely, posted early yesterday morning.  Hedge Fund Hypocrisy: The Double Standard of Success Academy is a great article that you all should read. “Success Academy doesn’t attract just handfuls of hedge fund managers – more like hordes.” They included a list of “over 50 hedge fund managers and hedge fund spouses who have notable ties to Success Academy. Though the hedge fund industry’s affinity for Success Academy is well known, this is the first time such a list has been published.”

Back to the protest…

For approximately 45 minutes we chanted and did mic checks in front of Cipriani. When we first got there, there was a small protest “pen” off to the side. This little pen was completely ignored. There were four or five police officers keeping an eye on us and when it was obvious that we were not going away, they moved the “pen” around us already in action. This space was considerably larger than what they had originally planned for. The police officers didn’t seem to mind us protesters, but the guests visibly did. I believe the only reason why the “pen” was moved, was because those guests did not want to walk past or through us. Also, during this time, we still had a couple of others continue giving out those flyers to those scragglers. I would so love to post this incredible flyer, but was advised that I shouldn’t by the authors, whose decision not to post I will respect. It stated some of Success Academy’s proud “solutions” with counter information….you know, the truth.

Pamela Garcia, parent and member of NYCC gave a powerful mic check and led commanding chants. Others did a mic check too. I was given the floor after one of those guests made a comment putting us protesters down for not seeing how incredible Success Academy is. I responded back to her, “you can tell that to my special needs students who were almost kicked out by her last year.” That prompted a Hedge Clipper to get me going. I don’t need a mic or any other kind of amplifier. I still proudly have my booming Brooklyn voice.

We concluded our protest chanting, “we’ll be back.” We most definitely will……

Overall, this was one of my favorite protests. I am proud to have stood by so many from different organizations and the wonderful people in them. Even though some of our messages might be slightly different, we still had common ground and united we spoke up and out….AND loudly at that!

Earlier this morning, a dear friend sent me this article by Eliza Shapiro from Capitol NY which is behind a pay wall. It is about last night’s event and how much money Miss Eva took in. Her oh so generous friends made her empire over $9 million richer. How nice for her!

Even earlier this morning, I checked out the feed of Success Academy on Twitter and I found the posts appalling. Here are some of those gems….

“We have not just closed the education gap. We’ve reversed it.” – @MoskowitzEva #RedefiningPossible #InsideSuccess

and another….Founder @MoskowitzEva to guests: “Visit our schools and become an ambassador for #edreform.” #RedefiningPossible

and another… “I stand here because I unequivocally support quality public ed & that’s what @MoskowitzEva & SA provide.” –@RepJeffries #RedefiningPossible,

then there is this one…”City govt & union bosses are institutionalizing failure. We will unapologetically back you up while you fight for kids.” – @campbell_brown

let’s not forget.. “You push these kids because their path is tougher and they have to be stronger.” – @campbell_brown #RedefiningPossible

and finally there is this….”If we want fewer people in prison it starts with reforming education.” – @DanLoeb #RedefiningPossible Yes, because Mr. Loeb knows exactly how to fix this problem. Easy to say when you are worth how much???

Last night was one of many protests that I have gone to in the name of saving public education. It will also be far from my last. As long as there are Evas in this would determined to destroy my beloved profession and bust up unions, I will stand loud and proud for my kids, because they do not deserve anything less.

success me

Why I am a Teacher Activist

February 19, 2015 — 1 Comment

#WhyImTeacherActivist

By Mindy Rosier

I have been a teacher for almost 18 years and the last 8 ½ with the DOE. I am now a newly delegate, however, I do feel it is important to share my story with you all to show you that you don’t need to have an official position to help organize your school. You can make a difference in any capacity. You need to educate yourself on this road of activism and justice. The truth is very ugly out there and we need to make an impact. We need to be fierce and unrelenting. We all have a voice and we need to use it loud and clear. Today we are fighting for our schools, our kids, and our livelihoods and I will be damned to let anyone take that away from us!

For way too long I was a complacent special ed teacher in Harlem who did what everyone else did. I complained with co-workers which really got nothing done other than cause more complaining.

My little District 75 school has been co-located with Success Academy for years. In fact, they began in my building. Over the years we have lost so much space to them, and what we gave up was never enough. In Oct 2013, Moskowitz came up with a plan that got pushed through via Bloomberg and his cronies that would have essentially kicked out my school. Enough was enough! During this time, I met Community Education Council 3’s VP Noah Gotbaum, Sen. Perkins, and a few others who spoke up for my school and something began stirring inside of me. Mayor de Blasio came into office and overturned that decision and saved my school. Of course Moskowitz got upset. In late November, I met Maria B. from the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and she basically gave me a crash course in organizing. She saw something in me that I didn’t even think was possible. I was very quiet, and mostly kept to myself, but I was very angry and she tapped into that. A press conference was planned on the corner of my school. She told me who I needed to call including community leaders, elected officials, and parents. I contacted the media and I discovered how useful Twitter can be for getting the word out. Our press conference was amazing. Many great people showed up to speak and even though I did not know of MORE at the time, I found out later that some of them was there as well. I will never forget how Noah Gotbaum said to me that day, “you need to speak up.” I have never shut up after that. ( Here is the link to the complete story I wrote for Crooks and Liars about what happened to my school and our battle with Eva Moskowitz.) At the end of March, Maria organized another press conference but this time on the steps of Tweed. So once again, I helped contact community leaders, elected officials, parents, my fellow educators, and the media. New York Communities for a Change was involved in the planning of this too. Maria encouraged me to speak at this press conference from a teacher’s perspective. This was on school day morning and I got permission to take a personal day for this. As nervous as I was, I gave my speech. Noah felt my schools’ story was very important and wanted me to share it again at the Save Our Schools Rally a couple of days later.. After several elected officials, I gave my speech to hundreds of people at the NY Public Library and proudly marched to Governor Cuomo’s office.

By this time, I had grown more confident. I took to social media with no abandon and I met MORE. In the following months, I helped fellow MOREista Patrick, who is in the gen ed school in my building, write up a proposal for our two schools by providing him all the information needed for my school so that we could become a combined Community Learning School. We got accepted!! My admins have been very hands off on this new adventure and they just recently said that they are trusting me with this and are basically giving me free reign. Also throughout  this time, Fran S from UFT was also a driving force to help our school and would advise me when I needed to write something up and who to contact.

Over the summer, I was out of commision because of ankle surgery, however, I was still strong on social media. I still read, still got angry, and I did my own kind of protesting from my comfy chair. Once I was able to walk again, I did not stop and I have had my hands in many things. With the knowledge of how to organize people and how to make social media very useful, I never stopped. I created a daily online paper that collected top public education and political stories. I wrote some blogs. I wanted everyone to wake up and know what it is going on.There are too many complacent people out there, too many people not know what’s going on or simply not caring. It has become my mission to educate others, to mobilize, to organize and of course agitate. I am not above hijacking a hashtag to get the truth out there. I did so with #DontStealPossible when that came out and I have no problem sending out hundreds of tweets out daily. It is truly important to have conversations with everybody in your school and in your community.

This past year, I have come alive. Not only have I completely changed as a person, but all of this activism has revitalized me as a teacher. I have always loved being a teacher but knowing that I am also fighting for my students has given me the energy, the excitement, and desire to do more. My voice does matter and I encourage all of you to think about this and be loud and proud.

I will conclude with this. My journey over the past year will be one I will never forget. I have made many friends in several organizations including AQE, and as a “thank you” for all of the work they have done for me and my school, I pay it forward and assist them on issues that they are involved in that I too believe in. I have and will continue to march, rally, and protest. I will continue to use social media to the best of my abilities and I will continue to be at events with elected officials and get the truth out there. I will work hard to make my school an amazing Community Learning School, I will continue to be there for my school staff in any way I can be and I will keep fighting for my kids. I am a very passionate person when I believe in something and I believe it shows. I will never forget what Maria from AQE, Noah Gotbaum, and Fran S., did for me in helping to create the activist I am today. I will continue to speak up and speak out.  I will also forever be grateful to MORE for allowing me to grow with them and to fight alongside of them. We have lots of work to do and I am not going anywhere! I am far from being done yet and our battles are many.

Now, I know I have touched many nerves over my journey such as those in Success Academy, Families For Excellent Schools, and moaning Mona Davids and her puppet Sam, and that makes me VERY happy. To me that means I am doing something right. Everyone reading this little blog piece is powerful. Tap into that power, and give ‘em hell!!!

 

What is your #WhyImTeacherActivist story?

Submit your story to more@morecaucusnyc.org

In Solidarity!