Letter: New York’s education system: A pitiful mess

To the Editor,

Over the past few weeks, I have taken the time to read the lawsuit filed by Carin Mehler, watch the YouTube video of the last Rye City Board of Education meeting and listen to state Sen. George Latimer’s contribution to a New York State education symposium.

What I come away with is this: New York’s education system is a pitiful mess from the top down and Rye’s leadership and [state Education Department] Commissioner King have one thing in common—they don’t listen and won’t do so unless a major storm is created by both parents and teachers.

It has been a year since an insecure parent brought both of her equally insecure children to Osborn School’s principal to report testing inconsistencies in both Mrs. Mehler’s and Mrs. Topol’s classrooms.

Within a short time afterwards, this parent’s friend at Milton discovered the same inconsistencies, whereupon two other teachers were put on administrative leave.

Out of these four teachers, one resigned; not out of guilt but out of disgust, one made a deal with the board, her lawyer being the mayor’s wife—the board president’s husband had been recently appointed to the council by the mayor. The other two teachers are sequestered, separately, in “rubber rooms” pending their fate.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The district is still investigating this situation. Up until last week, the superintendent was calling parents to ask if their children would testify. This not only smacks of desperation, it proves that after one full year, there are no substantial charges to be made.

What parent would allow their child, one year later, to be able to distinguish what happened last year in one person’s class from what happened this year? In most cases, the class configuration has changed as well.

This is not a course in creative writing. This scenario has teachers’ careers and reputations at stake.

There are those in the community, as teachers at the meeting pointed out, who have become judge, jury and executioners of these teachers. Not by fact, mind you, but by gossip and innuendo.

Over my 30 years of both teaching and living in Rye, I have met these kinds of parents.

Many think they are well-meaning by spreading the word. They are not. They are just recharging the batteries of a motor, which should have died a long time ago.

Whatever gripes they have had with other teachers, both past and present, are being aimed like an arrow into the heart of each one of these teachers.

If this isn’t bad enough, this superintendent has messed with Mehler’s rights as a parent by blocking her presence at parent-teacher meetings and events in which her children participate.

Mehler was told that, before she could enter the building in the role of a parent, she needs the superintendent’s permission, which he has repeatedly denied. This is evidenced in the lawsuit. A total abuse of his power as a superintendent, if not hard-hearted as well.

He has not only hurt this teacher; he has hurt her children.

From anyone who has worked in public education for any significant length of time, this scenario was predictable.

In a cocktail shaker, pour a raised bar in one full swoosh, add a test that only tests endurance and not ability, provide little to no professional training, sequester models of the test and tell the districts they can allow for 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation test scores. Add an interim superintendent, who has been known to turn the screws. Pour over insecure children, parents, a new principal and superintendent and, by golly, you have a toxic cocktail that can put the taxpayer under the table with one hell of a hangover come budget time.

Serve to a board, with the exception that they have become sheeple to a superintendent and you have a predictable mess, which can only be cleaned by replacing both the board and the superintendent.

I must also question the effectiveness of Osborn School principal Angela Garcia.

They have painted themselves into a sorry corner. And an expensive one, to boot.

Time to turn the sails and sail in a new direction.

The children and teachers of this district deserve better leadership than what they have right now. A district with such a sterling reputation bought themselves some real booby prizes.

Shelley Karlen

Greenwich, Conn.