New chancellor Walcott tours his alma mater, Francis Lewis HS

By Howard Koplowitz

New Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited his alma mater, Francis Lewis HS, on Thursday, where he touted the school for balancing its large class size with special programs that attract some of the brightest students in the city.

Walcott, who was granted the waiver he needed Wednesday by the state Education Department to become chancellor, said the school “is very unique in that Lewis is an extremely successful school, and success attracts people.”

Walcott said he would work to reduce class size at Francis Lewis, attended by 3,200 students in four sessions over the course of the school day.

Francis Lewis estimates that as much as 40 percent of its students use false addresses to get into the zoned school.

“Our goal is to try to reduce their numbers,” Walcott said.

Walcott toured the halls at the Fresh Meadows school, visiting a drama class and taking time to talk to students, including senior Mahfuza Ahmed, who is headed to the prestigious Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.

“You got into Sophie Davis? Whoa, that’s big time,” Walcott told Mahfuza.

“It was fascinating to see him and we’re happy that a guy from Francis Lewis is chancellor and we’ll look up to him,” she said.

Francis Lewis HS Principal Musa Ali Shama said the school takes pride in knowing the new chancellor attended classes at the school in the mid-1960s.

“I think this helps you motivate students,” Shama said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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