Chancellor Dennis Walcott met the parents last night at a panel session with PTA leaders and parent coordinators that gave him a chance to demonstrate his oft-stated commitment to community outreach.
Walcott also previewed a new survey, called the Chancellor’s Family Feedback Form, that he said will be released later this month.
A flier handed out to parents describes the survey as an opportunity to “Tell us what information about your child is important to you and how you’d like to get it.” The flier advertises a web site for the survey, FamilyFeedback.org, which is not yet live.
Asked for more detailed information, a Department of Education spokeswoman said that the survey is still being developed.
The announcement came as several attendees complained to Walcott about the challenges of getting a response from school officials. “What resources do parents have when principals don’t respond?” one woman said.
“What’s the chain of command here if we have a problem?” asked another attendee.
Hundreds of PTA officials and parent coordinators, the paid city employees who work at every school to share information with parents, attended the meeting, which was Walcott’s first citywide meeting with parent groups.
Walcott conducted the meeting in what he called his “Oprah” mode, walking through the audience with a microphone and facilitating a discussion about strategies to involve parents in schools.
Ideas ranged from offering babysitting services during PTA meetings to weekly coffee events to give parents casual opportunities to talk to each other and to school staff members.
Walcott also laid out the city’s vision for how it plans to roll out the new Common Core curriculum standards, which will hit more schools next year. “We want to make sure you have a clear sense of what we’re talking about,” Walcott said.
After the meeting, Steve Matsil, the PTA president of I.S.223 in Brooklyn, said that he was dissatisfied. “I haven’t heard anything tonight,” he said. “These ideas are not going to apply to my school. Our population is mostly immigrants.”
Another parent, Cheryl Smith, who is the treasurer of the P.S. 189 PTA in the Bronx, said that Walcott’s interest in involving parents seemed genuine, and she praised the event. “In terms of getting new ideas, it was great,” she said.
She added that the meeting compared favorably to one that she attended with former chancellor Cathie Black. “That was very disappointing. With him, he was more prepared,” Smith said.