January 19, 2011
New chancellor Cathie Black made her debut at the Panel for Educational Policy tonight to a packed crowd that drowned out her remarks with boos and jeers — especially when Black mentioned the name of her new boss, Mayor Bloomberg.
“Let’s try to do this with some civility and decorum,” the panel’s chairman said as he introduced Black. Yet the crowd continued to shout and jeer, forcing Black to raise her voice as she delivered prepared remarks.
The remarks described what Black has learned on her tour of schools — “I’m seeing what makes an effective school leader and how a strong school culture can contribute to learning,” she said — and also named her priorities, including building a strong teacher evaluation system and empowering principals.
She also summarized the education agenda Bloomberg laid out in his State of the City address this morning. The mayor laid out a trio of changes tied to coming budget woes and projected teacher layoffs: legal changes to transform the way teachers are laid off; contractual changes to deflate the Absent Teacher Reserve pool of teachers on the payroll who don’t have formal positions; and reforms to the teacher pension plan to cut costs.
Hundreds of people packed Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene tonight for the panel meeting, including 80 who signed up to speak. The largest group includes teachers and students at the John Jay high school building in Park Slope who are protesting a plan to add an additional high school to the building.
(UPDATE: That plan passed the panel, with 11 members voting in favor. The panel members appointed by the Manhattan and Bronx borough presidents both abstained.)
When she began her remarks, Black praised the school board itself, offering a rare praise to the Panel for Education Policy, which has been belittled as a rubber stamp to the mayor by some and as an opportunity for political theater by others. ”This panel,” Black said, “has played a vital role in the major policy changes that have dramatically improved student outcomes in our city.”