Walcott says he has left plan to overcome crowded classes – QNS.com

Walcott says he has left plan to overcome crowded classes

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

Outgoing city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he has left a blueprint for the incoming de Blasio administration that includes a capital plan to address overcrowding in western Queens.

“I’ve talked to the mayor-elect a couple of times and we’ve prepared a very detailed transition document for the mayor-elect and his team on having a smooth transition from one administration to another,” he told reporters after touring Queens Gateway to Health Sciences School in Hillcrest Wednesday. “A significant proportion of the proposed $12 billion capital plan is to address the overcrowding in Districts 24 and 30.”

Walcott, who will be leaving the city Department of Education at the end of the year, has repeatedly said one of the city’s top priorities is tackling overcrowding in areas of western Queens, which is done through the city School Construction Authority’s capital plan.

In the new five-year plan proposed last month, about 43 percent of the 32,560 new school seats scheduled to be built through 2019 will be in Queens.

The capital plan and its yearly amendments are generally approved in February, but even with the groundwork laid out by Walcott and his team, the de Blasio administration will face significant challenges.

Only about half of the 5,604 seats the construction authority said were needed as of last month are funded, and over the next few years Queens, especially in certain neighborhoods in the western part of the borough, is projected to experience precipitous growth.

Walcott spent about an hour speaking with students at Gateway to Health Sciences, one of the smaller, themed schools that have been the hallmark of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial education agenda.

A recent study showed students in the smaller high schools are more likely to do well in their first years of college than their peers at larger schools, and Walcott said the reforms the Bloomberg administration put in place have made the city better for students and will continue to do so in the future.

When it comes to his post-chancellor plans, Walcott said he was not sure what he will do beyond spending some time travelling with his wife, but said it would probably be in line with his past roles.

“Every job I’ve had has had some angle of education or community involvement,” he said.

There are a handful of names being discussed as possible picks for chancellor in the de Blasio administration, including former DOE Deputy Chancellor Andres Alonso and former Regional Superintendent Kathy Cashin.

Walcott said all the potential candidates are “high-quality people,” but would not weigh in on who he thinks is best for the position.

“That’s not my job,” he said. “Once [de Blasio] identifies that new chancellor, then I will be always available to talk to that individual.”

“If I had a favorite, it would jinx that individual probably,” he added.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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