dennis walcott

New York

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.
New York

Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief

New York

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.
New York

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.

everything old is new again