NYC DOE - Doing what it can to keep opportunities away from kids

The difficulties I've had with the city and DOE are pretty well documented by now.

Today I'm going to tell you about my latest dealings with DOE and how they prevented my team from bringing free quality CS education to city students.

CSTUY's not running SHIP, its summer program this year.

That's not something I'm happy about but part of me knew it might happen. What did surprise me, although it shouldn't have, was the role that the NYC DOE played in preventing it from happening.

The bottom line initial reason for us not running SHIP this summer was my time. Moving over to my new position at Hunter has been terrific but I haven't had the time needed for adequate fundraising and outreach.

I recently talked a bit about the difficulties we've had with fundraising as compared to the "chosen programs" in this post.

I've also written a bit about related issues in these posts:

In any event, we weren't going to be able to run this summer.

When I spoke to the team, Sam asked, "if we can keep the budget down and figure out how to not be dependent on fundraising and outreach, can we do something?" I told him, I'd love to.

He came up with a plan. Instead of a full day program, we'd run half day - this means fewer staff hours and no lunch. If we could run it at Stuyvesant, in the computer labs (which already run Linux), we wouldn't have to worry about equipment.

Under this plan, additional fundraising wasn't needed, in fact, kids could attend free of charge.

In terms of outreach, since we already had sufficient funds, even if we only got returning shipmates and a few from word of mouth we'd be ok and if we could cast a wider net, so much the better.

Oh, and the plan was for me to take the summer off. I'd help with initial organization but I wouldn't actually work the summer.

So, to summarize:

  • Free for the kids
  • I'm not involved and receive no compensation for the summer (this is important for later)
  • My teachers would be paid for teaching in the program and CSTUY would supply the funds to pay them.

We floated the idea to Stuyvesant's principal figuring that since the teaching staff is from there and some of the kids tat would benefit are Stuy students it wouldn't be a problem. She said she loved the idea but had to send it off to the conflict of interests people.

You see, it's very important that teachers and former teachers don't actually benefit from working extra – it's critical that teachers be kept down.

Long story short - the teachers could work the program but aren't allowed to run it. They can come in and teach but can't talk to the principal about organizing it. For some reason, running a free program for kids instead of relaxing over the summer means that the teachers are getting this huge benefit. Sure they'd be paid for their time, but that seems fair.

As to me, I'm not allowed any dealings with the DOE for a year. Forget the fact that I wanted to set this up while taking no pay so that the kids wouldn't be left without a program. Nope, that's no good - can't have us bringing quality CS education to the kids.

I dealt with these folks once before so I wasn't really surprised.

A few years ago, a friend connected me with people at Amplify to see about creating their APCS MOOC. We met a couple of times but then the DOE people said I couldn't work with them even though I was just going to be working on the MOOC and not dealing directly with the DOE in any way. I wasn't negotiating contracts, making sales pitches, or anything. I was just going to work on MOOC content.

It wasn't like a certain NYC School's Chancellor who had just left the DOE and took the leadership position at Amplify. That wasn't a conflict - I guess it's just important to keep the teachers in line - the rules aren't meant for the higher ups.

Funny side note – when I shared the fact that I couldn't work for Amplify with my friend, his first reaction was "because of the union?" That seems to be the knee-jerk reaction from people in the business world. Nope - the union was fine with it - it was the administration / city. The city has done far more harm to the public schools than the union ever could. Pretty much all the union does is make sure the city follows the jointly negotiated contract.

Back to the story.

So, we're not allowed to use school space to bring free CS education to kids this summer. Plenty of other organizations non-profit and for-profit alike seem to have no problem bringing their programs into the schools. I'm sure many are getting money for this, grant based or otherwise. In all cases, I'd take my team and their program over what the DOE is actually rolling out.

This is the type of thing makes me want to say to hell with DOE but, unfortunately, they aren't affected, it's the kids that lose out.

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