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Panel recommends Walcott

[UPDATE] A nine-member advisory council met in Albany to consider granting Dennis Walcott a waiver allowing him to serve as New York City Schools Chancellor.

The panel recommended that Walcott receive the waiver even though he does not have the required superintendant’s certificate.

New York State law dictates that the chancellor for the city has the powers and duties of the superintendent of schools.

To serve as a superintendent, one must be eligible for a school district leadership certificate. To receive one, a candidate must be a graduate of a college or university approved by the state education commissioner and also complete 60 semester hours in graduate level courses.

Without these qualifications one must be granted a waiver. Cathie Black, who resigned from the position, was granted a waiver from commissioner of education, David M. Steiner.  Steiner will now take the panel’s recommendation and consider whether or not to grant Walcott the waiver.

When Mary Gallagher first heard that Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott would be the next Schools Chancellor, her initial reaction was that “the mayor realized that Cathie Black wasn’t the best person for the position.”

Gallagher, PTA president at P.S./M.S. 207 in Howard Beach, said that “when the mayor first appointed Cathie Black, I thought she’d do a good job, being a woman, but I felt she was disconnected.”

Black resigned from her post as New York City Schools Chancellor on Thursday, April 7, after plummeting approval ratings and the recent loss of four of her deputy chancellors.

Critics berated Black, a former Hearst magazine executive, for her lack of experience in the education field. She was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg three months ago when the previous chancellor, Joel Klein, resigned as well, according to published reports.

In a recent NY1/Marist poll of 772 residents, she was approved by 17 percent of respondents. Out of them, 2 percent said she was doing an excellent job, while 15 percent believed she was doing a good one.

Black will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, who has worked with the mayor on educational affairs.

The former chancellor required a waiver from the state commissioner of education, David M. Steiner, to get around the prerequisites of the position, as requested by Bloomberg. The standard chancellor salary is $250,000, a Department of Education spokesperson said.

New York State law dictates that the chancellor for the city has the powers and duties of the superintendent of schools.

To serve as a superintendent, one must be eligible for a school district leadership certificate. To receive one, a candidate must be a graduate of a college or university approved by the state education commissioner and also complete 60 semester hours in graduate level courses.

Additionally, by the time of the chancellor’s appointment, the candidate must have completed three years of teaching experience “satisfactory to the commissioner in public or non-public schools.”

As of September 2007, state administrative code also mandates that those seeking a superintendent post must hold a master’s or higher degree from an institution approved by the department of education. Alternatively, the candidate can complete a state program specifically geared toward a certificate as a school district leader.

Black did not meet these extensive requirements, but Walcott comes closer with a master’s degree in education from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

Walcott, who has served as Deputy Mayor since the beginning of the Bloomberg Administration in 2002, has been Mayor Bloomberg’s City Hall point person on all educational and youth policy. Prior to the Mayor’s election, Walcott served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Urban League, as a member of the New York City Board of Education, as a kindergarten teacher, and as an adjunct professor of social work at CUNY’s York College.

“To me, I’m just a guy from Queens. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for this opportunity to serve New York City’s 1.1 million school children,” said Walcott. “With my children and my grandson, my family now represents four generations of New York City public school children, and I am determined to ensure that we deliver what our parents expect and deserve – a higher quality education.”

“Dennis Walcott has the experience, expertise and talent to take over the helm as Chancellor of the nation’s largest school system,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Dennis is fully aware of the high stakes involved in each child’s education and, as the parent of children who went to public schools, knows full well what goes on in the city’s classrooms.

“He has a steady hand and a clear understanding of the vital role that parents play in their children’s education. He works well with them and has always been responsive to their concerns during his many visits to the Parents Advisory Board here at Borough Hall.”

Marcia Keizs, president of York College, was delighted to hear of Walcott’s appointment.

“It’s very exciting for Queens, exciting for York. I think it’s very good for New York City. He will bring both the knowledge and the sensitivity needed to further the agenda needed to serve NYC’s kindergarten through 12 population. We are proud of Dennis and we consider him a friend of York.”

Upon approval from the New York State Board of Regents, Walcott will step down as Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development. As Chancellor, he will be a “direct report” to the mayor.

“I feel Dennis Walcott is a much better choice,” said Gallagher. “With so much background and experience, he must be more knowledgeable of the needs of the students and the individual schools. He has an inside look.”

The mom of three told The Courier that his biggest challenge in his new position will be “dealing with failing schools while facing major teacher layoffs.”

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