New York City public schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott held a town hall meeting at the Walton Campus last night. The chancellor by the Mayoral Control law must have a town hall style meeting every two years in each school district according to Community District Education Council 10 President Marvin Shelton. Due to the poor outreach in organizing this town hall meeting there were few parents in the audience which included DOE staffers, teachers, and principals (as you will see in one photo below).
Walcott opened up by saying that he prefers schools of choice, in 3-4 weeks students will be taking the state Math and English tests, and even with Hurricane Sandy and a bus strike the schools have come out all right. Walcott answered (or had some DOE personal) answer questions that ranged from ELL & immigrant learners, chronic overcrowding, budget cuts, IEP'S, The recent incident at MS 80, when the Walton pool would reopen, and what goals set up by the mayor that have not been reached. Answers ranged from that a new 665 seat school would be opening on Webster Avenue in 2014, the failure to reach an agreement with the teachers union, the reopening of the Walton pool in April, and in 2001 there were 1250 schools whereas now there are 1750 schools. Walcott added that many larger schools have been closed and broken down into smaller schools where the common areas are assigned by the individual school enrollment and worked out by each principal when questioned by Assemblyman Dinowitz (who was in the audience).
It was brought up during the meeting by members of the audience that a town hall meeting is an open forum to ask questions, and not to have to write them on a card that then gets edited. CDEC 10 President Shelton lamented that the original procedures put in place when the education councils were put into effect to replace the school boards are now not being followed by the DOE, giving the example of zoning. Walcott answered by saying that was good feedback and that he would look into it. Walcott then went on to speak on how he took 2-3 buses to get to junior high school, and 3 buses to get to high school. he ended by saying that he wants to give every student a choice of a good school, and not just have to go to the local school.
After the town hall meeting Chancellor Walcott was interviewed by two television station reporters who asked about the recent incident that took place at nearby MS 80. Walcott answered that the incident was under investigation, that the DOE has a discipline policy in effect for such incidents, and that the parent has a right to a safety transfer for her child. When I asked if the incident was gang related as has been in some cases in the past, Chancellor Walcott said he did not think or know of any gang problem at the school.
Left - Chancellor Walcott opens the meeting (CDEC President Marvin Shelton is seated behind Walcott).
Right - Walcott watches as Interim Superintendent Melodie Mashel answers a question, as CDEC President Shelton looks for the next question.
There were lots of empty seats at this Town Hall meeting due to lack of getting the information about the meeting out to the parents and public.
Left - Chancellor Walcott is challenged by two of the attendees on the procedure of a town hall meeting.
Right - Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz addresses Chancellor Walcott.