The following letter was penned by Margaret Borchert, principal of Allendale Elementary School.
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We do not have school today because of the wind chill factor. The temperature is currently -‐5 degrees with a wind chill factor of -‐25 degrees. The safety of the students is the deciding factor to close our schools today as per the superintendents in western New York. Their decision to close schools today was based on the report findings of our local meteorologists. The meteorologists base their reports on the weather patterns through the sagacious use of several tools. They use these tools to measure atmospheric conditions that occurred in the past, compare them with the present conditions, and apply this information to create educated guesses about future weather conditions. We who live in the Buffalo area know full well that our meteorologists cannot control the weather. There is always the possibility of a shift in the direction of the wind. I submit, that even if you purchase outrageously expensive weather forecasting equipment as you boasted and bragged about when you “graced” Buffalo with your presence during our November snowstorm, and awkwardly insulted our local meteorologists, there is just always that possibility of a shift in the wind. I am wondering about the temperature in Albany and the wind chill factor near the Governor’s mansion and the State Education Department. I promise myself to check it right after I finish my letter to you. I know that a politician such as you, must have a keen understanding of the shift in the wind. I hear that you watch polls religiously, and they must certainly be similar to the shift in the wind.
Since it is so brutally cold outside, it is the perfect day to stay inside, and curl up with a good book. I thought that I would read your book, but the reviews on Amazon say that it sold only 948 copies it’s first week. The review further says that it is weak on narrative, and lacks the eloquence for which your father was known. Weak on narrative? Not to worry, David Coleman of Common Core fame says: “ forget narrative essays, no one gives a sh—about what you have to say.” That’s rather rude of him, don’t you think? I thought that that was only for those who are being taught the Common Core or is it? Even though your book touches upon limits on campaign spending, a topic in which I am immensely interested, I think I will read Zephyr Teachout’s book instead. The title of her book is: Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. Catchy title. I have to admit that I am All about the concept of “TRUTH TO POWER.”
Governor, I would love to share my truth with you. I am an elementary school principal. I have been an elementary principal for over 24 years. Prior to that I was a speech pathologist, a director of elementary education, and a CSE Chairperson. I am in the final years of my career, and with feelings of great nostalgia, I ask myself what sort of legacy I will leave behind. I imagine that you must think of that as well. If not, I advise you to do so. It changes the lens with which you look upon things considerably. I now ask myself, what will the children who have shared their hopes, dreams and fears remember about me? What will the children’s polls, if you will indicate about me? I hope that they would say, first and foremost, that I loved and respected them for who they are, and that:
I recognized their own unique learning styles and the differing speeds with which they learn;
I understood the hardships and diverse backgrounds from which they come;
Even though they may live in dire situations of extreme poverty, they too, deserve a right to a free public education;
They remember to call 911 when they are faced with an emergency situation beyond their control;
I want them to be honest, kind, caring and to tell the TRUTH;
They can be anything that they dream to be, and that NO ONE has the right to crush their hopes and dreams.;
They need to make the world a better place; They are much, much more that a number;
If they stand together against bullies they will make a difference;
Most of all, I want them to know that I refused to live my life in fear, and that I spoke out about injustices imposed upon them by flawed decisions based upon greed, campaign contributions, and a dysfunctional education department. I want them to know that I stood up for them, and protected them from the abuse assailed upon them by a bully who sold his soul for political gain and that:
I stood up for those who did not have a voice in the flawed implementation of the Common Core;
I cared that they receive a well-‐rounded education;
I spoke out about high stakes testing because it is a sham-‐ it is not a measure of their achievement;
I believe that NO ONE can measure an individual’s perseverance;
I believe that the twinkle in a child’s eye is the light that I choose to follow.
Now, Governor, I want you to know about me. Although, my social standing is most certainly considered to be Middle Class, I will not sell the minds, hearts, and souls of my beloved students for all of the tea in China. Like me, they deserve the right to acquire an education and to pursue a career that will help them step out of impoverished conditions. They do not deserve to be the guinea pigs of an unproven curriculum and high stakes testing which is neither valid nor reliable. To base decisions on students on these tests is MALPRACTRICE. To evaluate teachers based on what is clearly a sham is MALPRACTICE. Is your goal to annihilate the Middle Class in New York?
When I was a little girl, my father used to ask me:” If someone told you to jump off of a bridge would you do it?” As a professional, I interpret that to mean, if someone directed you to commit MALPRACTICE would you do it? Not for all the tea in China.
Now, Governor, the wind is shifting. There are enough of us who are heading straight in to the wind to tell you to stop the injustices. Think of the legacy you are going to leave behind. What is the wind chill factor in Albany? It’s time to look it up. Your political career and aspirations may be blowing in the wind. I ask you, if the cost of one’s presidential campaign is the destruction of the future of our next generation is such that the country would no longer be a democracy, is it worth selling your soul to the corporate elites?
Truth to Power,
Margaret Borchert, Principal and Defender of the Defenseless
P.S. If I had known that a person could take the Bar Exam multiple times until they passed, I may have pursued a career as an Attorney as my father wished. Certainly I would have thoroughly investigated: the stockholders of Pearson Publishing; the bid process that most likely was ignored in New York state as evidenced in New Mexico; I would check which countries are profiting off of the backs of children of New York; I would investigate the campaign contributions of Pearson Publishing not just in New York State but each and every state; I would fight against a monopoly such as Pearson Publishing; I would defend public education and democracy, and most assuredly I would recall that : “People in Glass Houses should not throw stones.” My father used to say that as well. I respect him for the hard working, honest man that he was, and pray that he would be proud of me for standing up for what I know is right, and for my willingness to fight for democracy. Please be advised that our meteorologists are predicting a winter storm warning.