Letter from the Brooklyn Superintendent about Conciliation Meeting

OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF BROOKLYN HlGH SCHOOLS
1600 AVENUE L
BROOKLYN, N.Y. 11230

Joyce R. Coppin
Superintendent
718-258-4826

February 3, 1995

Dr. David Roemer
Edward R. Murrow High School
1600 Avenue L
Brooklyn, New York 11230

Dear Dr. Roemer:

On January 5, 1995 at your request I held a conciliation hearing. Present were Dr. Saul Bruckner, Principal, Mr. Frank Volpicella, District Representative, Mr. William Foster, U.F.T. Chapter Chairperson, Mr. Ira Cohen, Assistant Principal, Ms. Winifred M. Radigan, Executive Assistant, and Mr. Vinnie Bono, Peer Intervener. The matter for conciliation was defined by you as your desire to continue to use a constructivist approach in physics when you have been directed by Mr. Ira Cohen, Assistant Principal and Dr. Saul Bruckner, Principal to use a developmental lesson.

In the course of the meeting, Dr. Roemer, you defined your position. First, your goal is for students to do well on the Regents' examination. To that end, you explained, you try to have students learn physics by making it easy to understand and enjoyable. Second, you added, your lessons are prepared in advance, numbered and handed out in class. The lessons follow a pattern of an uninterrupted explanation or demonstration of the first problem followed by directing youngsters to work on the rest of the problems while you offer individual coaching. At issue was your belief that the seven unsatisfactory observations received were based on "pre-conceived notions" rather than "sound pedagogical principles."

Mr. Ira Cohen explained that in solving the problems on the worksheet, students are doing mathematics rather than physics. Students are neither exploring and investigating concepts nor testing previously held assumptions and developing new ideas, that is, they are not engaged in activities that are constructivist. Homework given is from the review book and not the assigned text. Dr. Bruckner added that you, Dr. Roemer, have no lesson plan. You hand out a worksheet which is in and of itself an incomplete lesson. The aims on the sheets are not established. Science lessons should center on physical principles and real-world experiences. Because there is no teacher lesson plan or forethought, students are given no materials or tools such as calculators with which to test an hypothesis. Finally, Dr. Bruckner indicated, the goal is not to have students do well on the Regents, but rather to understand physics. He added that your lessons are all the same--a review of material followed by a worksheet.

I reviewed with you the folder of numbered lessons (1-44) you had brought. Dr. Roemer, you indicated that the one constant methodology of every lesson was a worksheet, although you disagreed that all lessons were the same. When I asked why you had not incorporated any of the suggestions made by Dr. Bruckner and Mr. Cohen, you responded, that they came too late, i.e, after the lessons had been published; that you did not agree with their suggestions, and that they were merely trying to use their authority to force you to do things their way. When questioned further about your being at odds with your supervisors, Dr. Roemer, you responded that you were using your professional judgment in not following the suggestions made by Dr. Bruckner and Mr. Cohen.

I indicated that some movement has to occur on your part in trying your supervisor's suggestions and that the worksheets shared should be used only rarely as a "do now," perhaps, or as a pop quiz or homework assignment. Dr. Roemer, you interjected that often students have only 10 minutes left for the worksheet as used; therefore, it was essentially a "do now." Upon my questioning further, Dr. Roemer, you agreed that frequently you spend 35 minutes in explanation. However, in your opinion the lessons are not teacher dominated or lecture because you give time for students to process information.

In summary, I requested that Mr. Vinnie Bono, the peer intervener, work with you, Dr. Roemer:

1. to use a variety of approaches that provides students with an opportunity to pose their own questions and to construct their own problems.

2. to avoid using worksheets alone since these are inappropriate and are, as stand alone activities, unsatisfactory approaches

3. to develop student-centered lesson plans that foster real group work

4. to incorporate the suggestions of Mr. Cohen and Dr. Bruckner into lesson plans.

After some further discussion, I reiterated Dr. Roemer, that you should look at how students demonstrate what they know and can do by developing their own problems and questions. I also warned you that, while I had not observed you at Edward R. Murrow, by your own description of what you do, you may be in danger of an unsatisfactory evaluation.

As the meeting was breaking up, Dr. Roemer, you expressed regret at your inability to persuade me that your lessons were appropriate and effective and indicated that they were the best you could do. I reiterated that you be open to other suggestions. The conciliation conference was ended at that point with my thanks to all who attended. I anticipate that your work with Mr. Bono will help you vary your methods to meet the needs of all your students.

Sincerely,

Joyce R. Coppin
Superintendent
Brooklyn High Schools

JRC:amr

cc:
Saul Bruckner
Frank Volpicella
Ira Cohen
Vinnie Bono
William Foster
Winifred M. Radigan