Education news. In context.
Diversity & Equity
Politics & Policy
Teaching & Classroom
Student & School Performance
Leadership & Management
Charters & Choice
Find a Job
How to be a Chalkbeat source
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
April 16, 2011
At Columbia, Walcott says "poisonous debate" is hurting kids
PHOTO: Stephanie SnyderDennis Walcott at Teachers College. In his first speech since being named chancellor, Dennis Walcott poured on the charm, asking everyone to “dial down the rhetoric” and giving no hints of any new reforms he’s planning. Walcott spoke at Columbia University’s Teachers College on Saturday morning, filling in for ousted Chancellor Cathie Black, who was originally scheduled to speak as part of the day-long “academic festival.” While Black quickly gained a reputation for verbal faux pas and blunt remarks, Walcott was warm and light, cracking jokes about his recent high-profile stint making waffles for students — and even jokingly flirting with the namesake of the morning lecture, Phyllis Kossoff. Walcott’s charm even moved the crowd to applaud the much-maligned Black. Carefully avoiding new policy announcements, Walcott focused most of his speech on trying to bridge different sides in the reform debate. He told the crowd about his childhood in Queens — noting that he grew up, and attended public schools, in the same borough as ex-Chancellor Joel Klein — and the role that great teachers had in his success. “Unfortunately that’s not a storyline we hear as often as we should, especially when it comes to education," Walcott said. "The conversation we hear about is poor versus the wealthy. Charter schools versus district schools. And who is to blame for the failures of our education system. "People on both sides of this debate have been guilty of contributing to the current polarized atmosphere," he said. “The poisonous debate is hurting our children, plain and simple.
April 14, 2011
On his seventh day as chancellor, Walcott visits his alma mater
Last week, Chancellor-designee Dennis Walcott visited his grandson’s school. Today, he’s visiting his own. Walcott’s packed schedule of public appearances takes him this morning…
April 13, 2011
Bloomberg's message to principals is continuity, not change
A guest appearance by Mayor Bloomberg in the Department of Education's weekly email update to principals makes no mention of last week's biggest news: the firing of Chancellor Cathie Black. Taking over the space usually occupied by a message from the chancellor, Bloomberg focuses instead — just as he did when he announced Black's departure last week — on the man he selected to replace Black, Dennis Walcott. In the letter, which accompanied a long list of logistical announcements, Bloomberg summarizes Walcott's involvement in the city schools and emphasizes that Walcott's mission is to continue the mayor's education priorities and policies. "With every decision we make, Dennis brings to the table his experiences as a teacher, parent, and community leader, as well as his years of experience working closely with you," Bloomberg writes. The mayor also slips in praise for principals, some of whom have reported feeling a lack of support while the department has undergone rapid internal changes. "Our students have no greater champion than Dennis Walcott, and I know that—working with the most talented team of principals in this country—he will help our schools continue the tremendous progress we’ve already made," Bloomberg writes. Bloomberg's full message to principals is below.
April 11, 2011
Posing as Black's opposite (and a tree), Dennis Walcott arrives
Chancellor-designee Dennis Walcott joined P.S. 261 first graders for a dance and movement class. On his first visit to a public school since being named Chancellor-designee, Dennis Walcott breezed through Brooklyn’s P.S. 261 like the warm weather soothing the city today. As he strode in, memories of March and his deposed predecessor, Cathie Black, seemed to fade. He chatted easily with third graders about gardening, read to a class of first graders, and took his turn at kickball during second graders' recess. Dropping in on a dance and movement class, Walcott climbed onstage and, following a teacher's orders, posed like a flower, then like a tree, and then tried to follow along with the class's "alley cat dance" steps. "I feel like I'm in a commercial," said a first-grade student. "A commercial?" said Walcott, laughing. "Some people may see it that way."
April 8, 2011
City estimates savings of $300 million by laying off teachers
Chancellor-designee Dennis Walcott testifies at the New York City Council's Education Committee's Budget Hearing City school officials said today that they would need roughly $300 million to avoid laying off thousands of teachers next year. Today's twice-delayed City Council hearing on the DOE's preliminary expense budget for 2012 focused on how to avoid teacher layoffs and the current "last in, first out" rules that require the city to lay off teachers based on seniority. Testifying before the City Council for the first time in his new role as chancellor-designate, Dennis Walcott fielded questions about how the city can avoid mass layoffs. And, although he's still being referred to by some DOE officials as Deputy Mayor, Walcott was treated just like his predecessors by the Committee: with skepticism. Council members were quick to offer their congratulations and support to Walcott, but then became less welcoming when the subjects of teacher layoffs and ending "last in, first out" rules were raised. Many council members questioned whether or not Mayor Bloomberg had requested enough funds from Albany, with several suggesting that perhaps the $600 million Bloomberg requested ($200 million of which was set to go to schools), was deliberately low, perhaps as a strategy to continue pushing for changes to "last in, first out" rules.
April 8, 2011
At MS 223, a microcosm of reform's benefits and challenges
MS 223 in the South Bronx was the first school I visited when I started covering the city's public schools nearly six years ago.Principal Ramon Gonzalez introduced me to the on-the-ground issues that principals face every day — and now he is doing the same thing for readers of the New York Times. The cover story in Sunday's magazine, a profile of Gonzalez and MS 223, uses the school to examine how former Chancellor Joel Klein's school reforms are playing out in corners of the city far from Department of Education headquarters. Author Jonathan Mahler writes: In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids. And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail.
April 8, 2011
Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief
The city's official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn't meet all of the state's requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said. Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city's chancellor, according to city officials. State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent's license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have "exceptional training and experience" in education. Bloomberg's letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott's training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master's degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.
November 30, 2010
Waiver in hand, Bloomberg and Black head to a Bronx school
It’s the first day of school for chancellor-in-waiting Cathie Black. The morning after receiving permission from the state to make Black the city’s new…
June 17, 2010
City Hall promises charter leaders a second meeting, no money
Charter school leaders concerned about frozen budgets got a friendly hearing at City Hall Tuesday. But they didn’t get any promises that officials will follow…
June 14, 2010
Charter leaders will ask City Hall for budget help tomorrow
Charter school heads will visit City Hall tomorrow to present Mayor Bloomberg with an audacious request: They would like him to go over state lawmakers' heads and restore a funding freeze that Albany probably won't. This year, lawmakers froze charter schools' per-pupil funding levels at last year's level, denying school leaders almost $1,000 per student in an expected increase. Given the rotten budget climate, it's likely the legislature will do the same to next year's budget. To fight back, charter school leaders tomorrow will meet with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott — and, they hope, with Bloomberg, too — to suggest two possible solutions. Bloomberg can either "negotiate with Albany to remove the freeze," as Charter School Center head James Merriman wrote in an e-mail last week. Or, Merriman wrote: he can substitute other funds in the City's own budget.
January 8, 2010
Jamaica and Columbus High School supporters pack hearings
Parents, teachers and alumni cheer on the testimony of a Jamaica High School supporter at a public hearing on the plan to close the school last night. From Queens to Brooklyn, hundreds of teachers, students, and alumni poured into auditoriums last night to defend their high schools from closure. In Queens, supporters of Jamaica High School turned out in droves for the public hearing, a meeting also attended by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and some of the Department of Education's top brass. The arguments against phasing out Jamaica and replacing it with several small schools in the same building were similar to those voiced at a question-and-answer session with DOE officials held at the school last month, which also drew an angry crowd. When one speaker pointed out Walcott's presence in the back of the auditorium, audience members rose from their seats, turned around to face him, and chanted, "Save Jamaica High School." The Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, Dmytro Fedkowski, asked the DOE to postpone the board's vote on the proposals until the department releases more information about how the closure decisions were made.
August 14, 2009
Bloomberg's resurrected panel is a mix of old and new
The citywide board that became a hotly-debated issue in the fight over mayoral control is back with a mixture of old and new faces. Mayor Bloomberg announced his eight appointees to the Panel for Educational Policy on WOR Radio's The John Gambling Show this morning. Of the people he named to the board, four will return to their previous positions, while the other four will join the panel for the first time. Bloomberg said that the new panel will complete the process of restoring mayoral control. "It is the last step in re-establishing the school governance that has led to all of these improvements over the past seven years," he told Gambling. The newly-formed panel will not be an exact replica of the previous one, but the changes are more modest than some had hoped. Going into this summer's school governance fight, critics who charged that the PEP was little more than a rubber stamp for the mayor's policies had hoped to give members fixed terms and to prevent the mayor from appointing the majority of its members. Though neither of those changes happened, the new panel will have some increased oversight of things like contracts and school utilization. The mayor's appointees have close ties to his administration. One new PEP member, Gitte Peng, spent five years as a senior education policy adviser to Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott. Peng helped craft the original school governance legislation that consolidated the mayor's control of the schools. Walcott briefly served as president of the Board of Education this summer before mayoral control was reauthorized. Bloomberg said today that Peng's appointment would permit Walcott's presence "live on" at the board.
July 9, 2009
To serve on new Board of Ed, deputy mayors needed waivers
The mayor's signature from one of the waivers he signed. The newly reconstituted Board of Education is stacked with three deputy mayors — but before the officials could serve on the board, they had to get waivers from Mayor Bloomberg. That's because of a statute in the city charter that prevents people from holding two city jobs without receiving a waiver from the mayor. Bloomberg wrote letters (read them here) authorizing Patricia Harris, his first deputy mayor; Dennis Walcott, his deputy mayor for education; and Ed Skyler, his deputy for operations to serve on the Board of Education on the same day that it met for the first time in seven years. A deputy mayor sat on the school board as recently as the Giuliani administration, when Giuliani appointed a board member, Ninfa Segarra, as his deputy mayor. But it's not clear to me whether three deputy mayors have ever served on the board simultaneously. (Knowledgeable readers?) In each letter, Bloomberg explains he is waiving the prohibition because the deputy mayors won't be compensated for their service on the board. (State law outlines $15,000 salaries for board members and $20,000 salaries for the board president, but all board members right now are waiving the salaries.) Bloomberg appointed two of the deputies to the board, Harris and Skyler. The Queens borough president, Helen Marshall, appointed Walcott, who is now president of the board. In other new-world-order developments, Chancellor Joel Klein is declining to transform a second parent council into a community school board.
July 1, 2009
BOE on tape: The most productive 4 minutes you'll ever see
The speedy pace and the unnervingly scripted feeling of today's Board of Education meeting is captured in this video I took, which at four minutes documents almost half of the meeting. The video starts just as board members are voting for Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as president. Walcott leads the rest of the meeting. After he takes over, you'll see the group vote to elect the Department of Education's chief lawyer, Michael Best, as its secretary and hear the resolution proposed that would make Joel Klein chancellor. We all know how that vote turned out: 7-0 in support of extending to Klein "all powers under law ... that may lawfully be delegated to the chancellor." The board members, from left to right: Jimmy Yan, Patricia Harris, Carlo Scissura, Walcott, Edward Burke, Edward Skyler, and Fernandez. Sitting just behind the board on their left (our right) was Klein, who looked on but never said a word during the proceedings or the press conference that followed. The full text of the resolution to rehire Klein is below:
everything old is new again
July 1, 2009
In 9-minute meeting, reborn Board of Ed endorses Klein and mayoral control, and is gone ’til September
This piece was reported by Philissa Cramer and Anna Phillips. The mayor’s top education aide is the new president of the Board of Education, Joel…
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line