Today a group of parents picketed PAVE. They used their voices to demand accountability and honesty from the DOE and PAVE's founder Spencer Robertson. Teachers stood by on the sidelines, as not to participate in political action on the school block, but wanted to support the parents who braved below 20 degree weather to exercise their civil rights. Spencer Robertson chose to exercise his mouth and showed who he really is.
We should start by noting that Mr. Robertson's cracks began to show earlier this week when he told the school's building council that PAVE had all the money they needed to build their own building and that they would sign a contract for their space in 45 days (interestingly right in line w/ the timing of the PEP vote- maybe we can expect another grand announcement like the one we experienced this fall at the CEC meeting when they fake announced their space plans for the umpteenth time). What is even more interesting is one of PAVE's board of directors announced yesterday, they need an additional six million dollars to build (in addition to the 26 million in taxpayer dollars they have already been awarded by the DOE and the six million they have already fundraised). The board member also noted they already own a property in Red Hook on Henry and Mill Street. So, now we know for sure the real Spencer Robertson in a liar.
It is important to note that all of this discussion about a space or no space, building or no building, money or no money is irrelevant considering the agreement was made to the community for a two year co-location, which expires this June. Instead of acknowledging the fact that they, Spencer and his board, have misled the community and had no intentions of leaving in two years, they act like they are doing PS 15 a favor in assuring everyone they have every intention of leaving... some day, but they can't say when and the details of where and how change daily. Robertson ignores the negative impact his school and his actions have had on the educational programs at PS 15 and further the division it has created in the community. So, we know the real Spencer Robertson believes he is not accountable to the people of Red Hook or the children of Red Hook. We know his only interest is his charter empire.
This morning, as parents picketed outside, Spencer called the police and PAVE parents wrote on blogs demonizing PS 15 parents for standing up for what is best for their children, both denigrated PS 15 parents and teachers calling their actions political and tried to shame them for supposedly involving and scaring children (it is important to note this picket was purposefully set to begin after PAVE students arrived at school so no children would be forced to walk through the picket). What was happening inside? PAVE students were led in chanting, in PS 15's auditorium while our children arrived and our teachers and families set up our holiday fair in the gym next door, ...we are a charter, a mighty, mighty charter, this is our school, you can't move us... So now we know Spencer is not only Orwellian, but he, unlike the teachers and parents at PS 15, actually does indoctrinate his students with propaganda.
During the parent picket, Spencer stood next to the only two white men on the line and presented his case, women and tan people need not be spoken to. He thought he was reaching his good 'ole boy network, instead he got an earful. Apparently this shook him so much, his only recourse was to attack the dedicated teachers, who said and did nothing, who merely stood in silence, separate from the picket, to support parents who were standing in freezing weather, to highlight their true commitment and dedication to this community they proudly serve. As the teachers filed in the building to pick up their students, Spencer turned to them and said, "So this is what it takes for you to get to school on time." Oh no he didn't! Now we know that the real Spencer is a desperate man, a cynical man, and too low for words.
The teachers at PS 15 are one of the most dedicated and hardworking groups of educators in the city. Despite tremendous obstacles, and by every measure, they succeed with their students. You value test scores, take a look. Some of the highest reading and math scores in the city. You want programs; take a look, many teachers volunteer their preps, lunches, and Saturdays organizing and running programs for students, parents and the community. While Spencer Robertson pockets 26 million dollars from the DOE, teachers at PS 15 scrounge for paper and write grants at nights and on weekends to make up for the more than 10% cuts the DOE has placed on our budget in the last year. This man has the nerve to defile our teachers in this way?! We should note this isn't the first time he has done this; in an email earlier this year he called our teachers lazy. Late and Lazy. Hmmm. How many of his teachers work with parents in the community? How many of his teachers volunteer their time? How many of his teachers have been serving Red Hook for ten years or more? How many of his teachers buy their own supplies? How many of his teachers procure their own funding for the school? Do we see his teachers or for that matter him on Saturdays or Sundays or in the evenings in Red Hook? It is the typical neo-liberal/neo-con strategy: say it is so and so it is. You have to wonder if these people believe their own lies, or if they are so cynical the lies easily slide off the tongue without a second thought.
Spencer Robertson has painted himself as the son of a philanthropist who cares so much about children and inequality he gave up a privileged life to help minority children have access to a better education. The real Spencer Robertson needs to stand up. The truth is, Spencer Robertson is the son of a billionaire who is used to getting what he wants and will protect his own interests and will propagate his own agenda at the cost of anyone or anything that gets in his way. His strategy, along with BloomKlein and the entire charter/privatization movement, is to divide communities, demean and demonize teachers, disenfranchise parents, and dismantle existing successful public schools, particularly in minority communities that have a history of limited organization and mobilization.
Spencer and his cronies picked the wrong school and the wrong community to manipulate and mislead. Regardless of what happens over the next month, as long as this man is in PS 15, and most likely as long as he drives into and out of Red Hook each workday, he will face an outspoken group of people who know who he really is. We will be his mirror, maybe he can hide from himself, maybe he can even hide from the PAVE families who entrust their children to him, but all darkness comes to the light. Eventually the cracks will accumulate to a fracture and the facade will come crumbling down; the real Spencer Robertson will be left standing, most likely alone, on display for all to see. Hopefully the parents and teachers of PS 15 will still be around to pick up the pieces.