Despite the serious impairment of not being a real person, “Mrs. Russo” congratulated Gov. Andrew Cuomo a few days ago for signing the law to keep mostly secret the identities of New York’s bad teachers.
“Mrs. Russo” apparently was a pseudonym the governor recently came up with during a news conference when he unveiled his take-it-or-leave-it compromise (an oxymoron?) that allows parents to see how good or bad is the specific teacher their kid has, but prohibits public dissemination of that specific information. Many, many people who work at the state Capitol agreed with Cuomo that it just would not do, to embarrass a teacher, even “Mrs. Russo,” by announcing to the taxpaying public that she or he is really wasting your little darlings’ time.
And, said the governor, we sure as hey do not want parents looking to see which teacher in your child’s next-year grade has been rated ineffective so parents can make sure their youngsters can avoid that “Mrs. Russo.” Parents, please check the agree/disagree box on the governor’s sentiments.
Some news media, especially TV, treated the passage of the governor’s bill to limit public disclosure of teacher evaluations like a done-deal, this-solves-it-all, shall-we-move-on? solution for “Mrs. Russo” and her public-pensioned ilk. Even the guv said this “strikes the right balance between a teacher’s right to privacy and the parents’ and the public’s right to know.” Really?
The law gives the public — you know, those people shelling out $18,000 per student in taxes, highest in the nation — the right to see only some sort of double-blind-type information. Depending on how it’s set up, they (including news media) can find out how many of a school’s teachers fall into one of four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. But not their identities. Some lawmakers said they did not want the news media “exploiting” such info — after a downstate judge declared that teacher evaluations should be made public, New York City Mayor Mike “Don’t Gulp Your Drink” Bloomberg concurring. No way, no how did it have anything to do with the teachers unions virtually owning many of those lawmakers, or so they would have us believe. A tabloid headline writer screamed that “Pols Cave to Unions,” after Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos conferred with Randi Weingarten, who heads up the teachers union, which is a lot like Leno and Letterman taking in a movie and a nightcap together. The formerly recalcitrant, GOP-controlled Senate would then vote 58-1 in favor.
Parents, however, will be allowed to see the results for their child’s teacher, as in “Mrs. Russo.” So, for purposes of this exercise, let’s give “Russo” a break. Let’s say she is not found to be ineffective, but one step up from that — “developing.” And you’re gonna tell me that the parents of the little monsters in “Russo’s” class, just as soon as even one of them learns of that rating, will refrain completely from texting and tweeting and Facebooking and whatever else it is they do with them there computers, the news about teach’s bad fortune. Sure, and then tell me that story again about the bunny who delivers eggs.
Next morning, little “Rocco” walks into “Mrs. Russo’s” class (hey, it was the governor who chose the ethnicity, not I. Make it “Mrs. McGillicuddy” and her student “Patrick,” if that makes you feel more politically correct) and “Rocco’s” got this wiseacre grin on his face because he knows the teacher’s evaluation and she knows that he knows it. But can we count on “Rocco” to keep his little secret and not go blabbing about it to classmates in the lunch room? Believe that and I’ll take two dozen of the bunny eggs!
But don’t you go fretting about all of this. No fretting permitted because the governor, after all, is the self-declared “student’s lobbyist.”
What’s that, you want to know what ever became of “Mrs. Russo?” Well last we heard, she and the superintendent of schools had become an item but then she hit the Mega Millions jackpot, dumped the super and moved to Arizona. Hey, she’s fictional, OK? If it makes you feel better, have her moving to North Carolina.
John McLoughlin is a freelance columnist and a veteran Capital Region journalist now at NewsChannel 13. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at JMcLoughlin@WNYT.com.