Tag Archives: Ted Kennedy

A Letter to Andrew Cuomo: Mr. D for New York’s new P-12 Assistant Education Secretary

English: New York State Capitol viewed from th...

English: New York State Capitol viewed from the south, located on the north end of the Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I hear that you’re losing one of your top advisors to…law school?

May I ask, do you recruit from the kiddie pool?  May I suggest your next interview be during adult swim?

When I heard of Katie Campos’ departure as Cuomo’s P-12 Assistant Education Secretary, I wasn’t surprised.  I mean, how much can a 20-something who has NO experience in the classroom, NOR in administering a school building know about New York’s arcane system?

Let me repeat that—she was never in a classroom.

She was never even a principal.

She was never a TFA drone, a Teaching Fellow, a Broad Fellow or any of the other alternative programs that the reform crowd love to tout as “experience.”

Michelle Rhee, Richard Barth, Geoffrey Canada…I have my issues with these people, but at least they had some real knowledge of the trenches of education.

Campos spent her three years between college graduation and her Albany post as nothing more than a political apparatchik, from Democrats for Education Reform to the New York State Charter Schools Association.  That’s akin to letting the late Ted Kennedy be principal of a girls’ high school—probably inept, and possibly disastrous.

And she was your “most experienced” team member?  I hear the lamentations of a thousand pairs of soiled undergarments.

So for Campos’ replacement, I humbly urge you, our esteemed governor, to select someone with experience, commitment, passion and above all a vested interest in education.

Someone like me.

Now, besides being ravishingly handsome, I do bring some important skills to the table.  So before I start sending my resume up to Albany, a few bullet points to strengthen my case:

  1. Classroom experience – I’m up on Ms. Campos by nine years in that department.  In my near-decade in the classroom, I’ve seen special education kids, English Language Learners, kids in trouble with the law, kids experimenting with drugs and sex, foster kids, homeless kids, kids on the run from abusive parents…you name it.  I’ve managed to reach a lot of them (NOT all…I wouldn’t pretend like that) and in the process, gotten to know what works and what doesn’t work for kids, parents, and teachers.
  2. Bipartisanship – Why not appoint a Republican to your team, Governor?  Especially an elephant like me with a long memory and (most importantly) an open mind to new ideas. I may have an “R” next to my name, but I’m not some Tea Party nincompoop, nor am I a Wall Street goon. After four years as an undergrad in DC, crossing the aisle is really no big thing; it’s more of a matter of getting the right mix of ideas that can help solve the problem.
  3. Honest feedback about current reforms – Testing, Common Core, teacher evaluations, class size: the big four in terms of gripes and controversies (if I’m missing something, let me know).  How about getting feedback from someone who has worked with and worked to implement your reforms at its base level?  The reform poobahs will gladly generate the spreadsheets and charts to keep you happy—but are they being upfront with you?  At least I can give an answer based on those who actually utilize these programs, rather than the bean counters who collect whatever data is given to them.
  4. A balanced approach to the Common Core – speaking of the Common Core, unlike many of the opposition, I really have no beef with these standards per se.  In fact, in several instances they serve as a necessary clarifier for benchmarks that were extremely vague and open to interpretation.  The Common Core is not the problem; implementation is.  The inconsistent nature of Common Core adoption—followed by ramrod exams that were clearly shown to be flawed—indicates a more nuanced approach to the problem.  It’ll be slower, but much more effective in the long run.
  5. A “people person” who gets along with teachers, students, administrators, unions and kids – The “carrot-and-stick” approach only goes so far in New York state among certain places: the “stick” might work in those districts where the opportunities are slim and teachers take what they can get.  Yet there are also places (NYC, Rochester, etc.) that just laugh at the stick and whip out a bigger one.  Whatever programs that need to implemented, the initial phases will be painful.  Don’t make it more painful by using ed reform blowhards who patronize teachers and keep harping that it’s all “for the children.”  We all know it’s for the kids—at least it’s supposed to be.  Send someone who can reach the best in all sides, who can bring people together instead of drive them apart.
  6. A good-looking guy – did I forget to mention I’m ravishingly handsome?  I was on TV, for Pete’s sake.

With a CV like that, there isn’t a statehouse in America that wouldn’t want me on their team, right?

If you are interested, Governor Cuomo, my LinkedIn profile is right here, and I can be reached through this blog or at my email ldorazio1@gmail.com.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Give my best to Sandra Lee (that was from Future Mrs. D).


Mr. D

PS: If per chance you request an interview, please make sure it’s a nice day as Future Mrs. D enjoys the drive to Albany.


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Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy – A Life full of Lessons

Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy (1932-2009)

I was never a huge fan of Ted Kennedy, even when he was useful in the classroom.

When I teach about the U.S. Congress to my classes I often use Ted Kennedy’s book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C.  It’s a children’s book about Teddy’s daily life as a U.S. Senator, narrated through the voice of his Portuguese Water Dog, Splash (Yes, conspiracy fans, that’s no joke.).  The book offers a thorough yet kid-friendly look at the often tedious nature of lawmaking.

Once I finish, I ask, “You want to hear about a very bad thing Senator Kennedy did?  Jose, close the door.”

Then I regale the students about a fateful night in Chappaquiddick.  We know it too well—that infamous incident in 1969, the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne in Teddy’s car, while the senator from Massachusetts saved himself and waited eight hours to file a police report.  The kids love it, as most of us love when powerful people do bad things.

However, his passing last night places me in a more forgiving mood—not too forgiving, but a little more conciliatory.  Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy leaves behind a complicated legacy, one of great highs and even more spectacular lows.  His life and work prove to be a useful teaching tool for students.  Kennedy’s personal failings, especially earlier in his career, can show students how even the greatest men are fallible—in Teddy’s case, stupendously so.  Yet it can also show that even when dealt a crappy hand, we use what we are given to make a difference in our world.

Kennedy’s career in the U.S. Senate is spectacular by any measure; even the most conservative Republican must concede this point.  With 46 years under his belt, only Robert Byrd of West Virginia had more seniority in the chamber.  He authored thousands of bills, guiding over 300 of them into law.  His advocacy in civil rights, education, equal housing, and especially health care reform were unparalleled.

Much of this success stemmed from how Kennedy dealt with events that would have destroyed other individuals.  Two of his brothers were assassinated.  He nearly died in a plane crash.  He battled alcoholism and wild living.  His family was the object of constant scrutiny.  His own son, Patrick Kennedy, Congressman from Rhode Island, was just as wild as Dad.

Because of these events—many of which were his own fault—Kennedy knew that his destiny was something different.  Kennedy decided long ago that the way to make his mark was to essentially forget he was a Kennedy and become a great senator.  Nobody could close a deal like Teddy; his colleagues on both sides of the aisle applauded his mastery of political dealing.  Even with a steadfast liberal ethic, Kennedy understood that compromise gets things done in Washington.

Yet Kennedy’s personal life cannot be ignored.  Indeed, it has made him a figure of fun by liberals and conservatives.  My personal favorite is comedy songwriter Bob Rivers’  “Teddy, the Red-Nosed Senator”, where Kennedy drives Santa’s sled and gets it wrapped around a maple tree.  Only Teddy could manage a DWI with a team of reindeer.

The Chappaquiddick incident, his alcoholic past, the scandalous behavior of himself and members of his family all hang like an albatross over the senator’s legacy.  As an American worthy of study, teachers should not—indeed, must not—overlook Kennedy’s shortcomings.  His mistakes alone warrant two days of lessons on “correct” behavior in the public and private arena.   Should we hold public officials to the same standards of behavior as ourselves?  Are celebrities, politicians and other public figures often “given a pass” for their misconduct?  Can a community condone a severely flawed public servant, even when that servant does good things for the community?

Yet Kennedy should not be seen simply as a drunken, lecherous buffoon.  Even this exaggeration has fallen off the mark in recent years; his last marriage to Victoria Reggie was among the best 17 years of his life.  Kennedy should be remembered as a complex character that rose above his failings to make an indelible mark on American politics.  His senatorial career stands as one of the yardsticks by which all legislators should be measured.

I was often at odds with Ted Kennedy.  In fact, rare is the moment when I actually agreed with the senator on any position whatsoever.  Yet I recognize a great lawmaker when I see one.   Ted Kennedy, I’ll miss kicking you around.  But I’ll miss your command of the senate chamber even more.

Tonight, I’m having a scotch in your honor.  Cheers, old man.

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