An Interview with Dr. Joseph Rella
fortunate enough to grab a few thoughts from Dr. Rella on his
recent celebrity, his interaction with our elected officials,
mainstream media’s creative filtering, and most importantly, what
we can do to continue to stand up for public education.
PJSTA: You obviously
couldn’t have imagined that your letter to elected officials would
go viral as it did. When you sat down to write it what were
you hoping to be able to accomplish?
Last Thursday, I wrote a letter to each of our state
legislators in light of the release of the test
scores. I also wrote a letter to our parents in
anticipation of the avalanche of negative press and press releases
from the State – lots of spin and magical thinking. I
posted them on our district
website Thursday evening. On a normal weekend
in early August, it would get about 30
hits. By Friday morning I was getting emails
from all over Long Island, California, Louisiana, Indonesia,
etc. Apparently, my words have found resonance beyond
you most about the response to the letter?
one common theme. It was expressed best by a
I am an elementary teacher in the Plainview
School District for almost 30 years. I cried when I read your
letter. It was such a relief to read that someone influential (like
yourself) in a school district gets it!Thanks for being so “right-on” in your
appraisal of the current testing situation and for speaking so
eloquently for me.Most appreciatively,
that it was going to be a rallying point for groups who support
weekend people from around the Island – more
correctly, teachers, from around the Island
–were emailing and calling. Teachers who have
set up major blogs, etc.
officials did you write to?
local legislators, Senators LaValle and Flanagan
and Assemblyman Englebright.
responded to you? If so, what have their responses
with all three. They understood my
understand your point, are they in agreement with you? Did
they express to you whether or not they are supportive of the
Common Core and it’s implementation or is it something that they
me phrase it this way. Steve Engelbright said that
he supports the views I expressed in my letter. He
said he would be proud to stand next to me in the “public square”
and do just that. He’s coming on
Saturday. I’m proud to know him.
attend Saturday’s rally?
The Common Core implementation and testing is hurting
children. We need to stop it now. We need to
fix it now. If it can’t be fixed – we need to SCRAP
IT! STOP IT – FIX IT – or SCRAP
rally a success in your eyes?
going to need hundreds of thousands of emails, tweets, etc. to get
to the Governor, Commissioner, Regents, and the legislature.
The rally last June had over 10,000 people – it didn’t get a single
word of coverage down here. The traditional media is
OUT. The power of social media is the way we will communicate
with those hundreds of thousands. In fact, that’s why I’m
doing this here, on the PJSTA blog.
Channel 12’s editorial director was looking to
speak with me. They’re done. The filtering is too much
for me. Last Sunday’s NEWSDAY had a
two sentence quote from my letter. Given the tone of the
article, it looked like I was saying: “I can’t understand why so
many of our kids failed.” I can perfectly understand
it. The Commissioner told us last fall that it would happen,
he designed a test to make it happen, and then it happened.
I’m done with them.
after the rally? What is the next step?
that group above – weekly! An email or a tweet is no big
deal. We’ll probably have a “day” to do it en masse.
Numbers matter. The first question I was asked by one of our
legislators was: “How many emails did you
get?” With apologies to Will Shakespeare: They have
taught us well but we “will better the
eclipsed Clinton Kelly as the most famous
person from Comsewogue?
us collectively) ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN GET THIS
DONE. Up until now, no group has gotten it done – NOT
the educational leadership – schoolboards, superintendents,
administrators – NOT the unions – NYSUT, UFT, AFT, NOT the
parents. NOT our State representatives. ONLY
COLLECTIVELY DO WE HAVE A SHOT AT DOING THIS. Also, keep
in mind that none of the rhetoric used in the past has
worked. Time to try something
No one is going to help
us – EXCEPT ALL OF US TOGETHER
Thanks again to Dr. Rella for taking time out of his busy schedule
to provide us with his thoughts. We are looking forward to
throngs of people at Saturday’s rally. Just a reminder it
will be at Comsewogue High School at 12:00 pm.
For more information on the rally you can follow Students Not
Scores on Twitter or use the hashtag #studentsnotscores.