wish list

Teachers find speedy post-Sandy support on DonorsChoose

The basement at P.S. 15 in Red Hook was flooded with between five and seven feet of water during Hurricane Sandy, staff said.

Teachers across the city and region are turning to DonorsChoose, a website that allows educators to solicit funds for small-scale projects, to get their classrooms righted after Hurricane Sandy.

The site set up a dedicated page featuring only projects from schools affected by the powerful storm and so far, according to DonorsChoose’s current statistics, individual donors have given more than $50,000 to projects that will reach more than 19,000 students.

The quick pace of donations means that many projects are completed very soon after they are posted, giving schools an immediate boost at a time when goodwill is running high but coordination to deliver donated supplies to where they are most needed is only now being established.

In one remarkable example, a science teacher at Brooklyn International High School raised $1,080 from a single donor after explaining how his students’ science materials were destroyed when the school building lost power. “Unfortunately, our school cannot afford to replace the several thousands of dollars in chemicals and restriction enzymes we lost due to Sandy,” he wrote.

Other city teachers have gotten money to buy toys for students at P.S. 15 in Red Hook, which was flooded and has been relocated; give supplies to colleagues at a newly co-located school; replace graphing calculators for students at Staten Island’s New Dorp High School.

Some projects to help city schools still need funding.Teachers at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School are asking for $400 to buy packaged soup and cereal bars for their students, many of whom are now staying in temporary housing; and Ms. Estrada, a teacher at Far Rockaway’s P.S. 43, is asking for the basics to rebuild her classroom in her school’s new location.

Ms. Estrada writes on her donation request page:

Far Rockaway is a tough neighborhood. Money is very scarce. Parents have difficulty providing healthy snacks, lunch, supplies and clean uniforms under normal circumstances. Hurricane Sandy has left my students and their parents in great turmoil. My goal this year was to create an environment where my students could escape their hardships, and we no longer have that.

These resources and supplies will allow my students to escape the tragedy that they lived through and allow them to focus again in the classroom. I would love to return to my students at least the smallest sense of normalcy. The carpet, notebooks, pencils and basic school supplies will allow my students to worry about one less thing and feel comfortable once again in their second home. These materials will be one less thing lost.

There are also dozens of projects posted by teachers on Long Island and in New Jersey whose schools are struggling after the hurricane.

Online, small-scale donations are just one way that people from around the country are pitching in to help city schools that are in need. Here at GothamSchools, we’ve heard from several people looking for guidance about which schools need help, including from schools in Cumberland County, N.C., that want to pay forward the aid they received after tornados struck the region last year.

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

We’ve reached out for reaction from DeVos’s team and will update when we hear back.

home sweet home

‘Finally! Something useful’ or a dangerous mistake? Detroiters respond to city’s housing deal for teachers

PHOTO: Detroit Land Bank Authority
This home on Harvard Road was up for auction the week after Detroit announced a half-off-on-city-owned housing deal for teachers.

Friday’s announcement that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter, or parochial schools — will get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority stirred a lot of discussion.

Some of our commenters on Facebook had high hopes for the deal:

But one commenter wondered if it’s the city of Detroit that’s actually getting the best deal, not the employees — or other people seeking to buy homes in the city:

And others argued that people who already live in Detroit won’t benefit from this deal:

Still, some readers appear to be ready to move — and have even picked homes to bid on (though not necessarily from the Land Bank Authority)!