Enron Accounting & NYC Public Schools

Published on February 16, 2011, 8:54 am
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We hear a great deal these days about how New York City’s public schools need to be run like a business. Specifically, if people aren’t doing their jobs, they should be fired regardless of seniority.

Of course, running our schools like a business begs the question: What business should they be run like?  Should we operate them the same way companies like Enron, Tyco, and Global Crossing were operated? Perhaps we should run them like AIG or the way BP ran its offshore drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe we should run them the way so many Wall Street firms ran their financial operations over recent years. We all know how “well” that worked out for everyone.
The fact is the school I taught in before I retired from the New York City Department of Education in January of this year kept its attendance records similar to the way Enron kept its books. At the end of an academic year, it was perfectly possible for a child to have a 100 percent attendance record and still have missed the equivalent of approximately 37 days of school. Here’s how:
The school day began at 8:00 a.m. Any child who arrived for class passed that time was late (though he was not officially recorded as a late arrival until 8:30 a.m.). My class, like so many others throughout the school, had students who ordinarily arrived anywhere from 8:30 to 9 o’clock in the morning every day of the week. And that didn’t count the wasted time it took for them to get ready once they showed up in class. Since the school day ran approximately 7 hours – including about an hour for lunch (counting the time it took to accompany the children to and from the cafeteria), there were buy levitra in usa roughly 6 hours devoted to instruction each day. So if a child regularly missed up to an hour of school, that worked out to being absent from the classroom almost one day out of five every week. There are about 186 school days a year. Twenty percent of 186 days amounts to 37 days of lost instructional time. Yet, when I would receive the regular attendance record of a chronically late child – provided he showed up at school every day, regardless of his arrival time – he would be listed as having 100 percent attendance, and his instructional time would be indicated as 100 percent, as well. Not only was that ridiculous, there was a good chance that the kid would be given an award at a monthly assembly for perfect attendance.
Of course, whenever I encountered a child who was excessively late, I made the administration and guidance office aware of the situation. I also explained to the parents, when I could reach them, about the importance of having their child be punctual. My efforts hardly ever helped. In all fairness, the administration did record each child’s late arrival (once again, the half-hour from 8 to 8:30 a.m. didn’t count), but did not reflect it as lost instructional time, most likely since it would poorly affect the school’s performance rating.
Seems like Enron-type accounting to me. Moreover, what does this sham teach our students? That it’s okay to be late for school. That it’s okay to be late for a job interview. That it’s okay to be late for work. In fact, that it’s just plain okay to be late for anything. Is that the way you ran your business Mr. Bloomberg? And what about you Ms. Black? Is that the way you ran your business, too?


Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | Bronx.com - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.