The Times today has a new profile of Eva Moskowitz, the politician-turned-school operator who is at the helm of the four Harlem Success Academy charter schools. I say new because this is actually the second full-length profile of Moskowitz the Times has run. (The first is here.) Why pay so much attention to this charter school operator, amid the sea of them? I'll give two reasons. First, Eva Moskowitz is not just trying to improve public schools by creating better ones in Harlem. She is testing a theory of politics. Three years ago, after becoming a living legend in her tenure as head of the City Council education committee, holding drama-filled hearings that took on the mayor as strongly as the teachers union, Moskowitz tried to take her political career to the next level by running for Manhattan borough president. She lost in 2005 to Scott Stringer, a defeat that was in no small part thanks to the enemies she made as a tough committee head. But Moskowitz did not jump out of the limelight. In fact, the opposite: she still declares her intention to run for mayor one day. Whether she really will run for mayor, she is trying to prove a point: that it doesn't matter that she infuriated the teachers union and other labor groups. Moskowitz's arguement is that school improvement efforts, done well, can build a natural constituency all their own. If she succeeds, she will shake up what is permitted in the politics of running schools.
I've been getting a lot of ideas for what to call the nameless movement personified by Jon Schnur. The good news is that I think the descriptions are getting a lot more precise. The consensus points I see emerging: This set of reformers puts a primacy on data; is obsessive about getting rid of bad teachers, and views the democratic political process as a barrier. They are also young and bratty. We are getting closer, but I do not think we are there yet. I define "there" as the moment at which you the readers have delivered me a single adjective that I can slap before "reformer" without feeling a twinge of remorse. So, please send more entries! As you brainstorm adjectives, the best of the suggestions so far, which I've compiled below and which include superstar entrants including Joel Klein and Diane Ravitch, may help.
A top official who ran lobbying efforts for the city Department of Education has died after suffering a massive heart attack. Terence Tolbert had taken a break from the department to campaign for Barack Obama in Nevada. Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Klein just put out statements on the death, which are below the jump.
Students from PS 282 make guacamole at Palo Santo. When Jacques Gautier, chef at Park Slope's Palo Santo restaurant, first asked students from PS 282 to name the five flavors, the first child he called on volunteered "chips." When Gautier said that was incorrect, half the students lowered their hands. Just weeks later, those same students could name all of the flavors — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and even pungent — and they could also have a conversation about what fruits are in season, thanks to a 14-year-old program that each October brings professional chefs into elementary school classrooms for food appreciation classes. The Days of Taste program, offered free to schools by the American Institute of Wine and Food, this year paired about 2,000 students at 22 city schools with 63 restaurants for a four-session course on food, nutrition, taste, cooking, and the restaurant industry. Before the PS 282 students visited Palo Santo, Chef Jacques had taken them to a local greenmarket, where they sampled unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and visited the school twice to teach food vocabulary and salad-making. Yesterday, the children toured the restaurant, made fresh limeade, smashed avocados into guacamole, and molded dough into an El Salvadorean dish called papusas. Then they sat down at a table they'd set themselves and enjoyed the lunch they'd prepared.