May 01, 2007
Staten Island, N.Y.
A crowd of more than 400 teachers, administrators and parents
gathered on the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University for
the Fifth Annual Education Forum, titled “Reflections on the
Restructuring of New York City’s Public Schools” on April 30.
31 I.D.E.A.L. (Information Dealing with Education And Learning),
a Staten Island coalition of parents, teachers, and school
community activists, co-sponsored the event which featured several
esteemed professionals who gathered to discuss the recent
reorganization within the New York City Department of
Ph.D., Dean of The
School of Education at St. John’s University, moderated the
forum which featured leaders in education including, Chris Cerf,
Deputy Chancellor, Department of Education; Betsy Gotbaum, The New
York Public Advocate; Robert Jackson, Chairman of the Education
Committee of the NYC; Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Chancellor’s
Parent Advisory Council; Ernest Logan, President of the Council of
School Supervisors and Administrators and Randi Weingarten,
President of the United Federation of Teachers.
Opening Statement Excerpts
In addition, Joan McKeever-Thomas, Chairperson, 31 I.D.E.A.L.
and Karina Costantino, New York City Public School Principal, both
addressed the overflow crowd, which included Dennis Walcott, Deputy
Mayor for Education and Community Development.
The lone representative of the Department of Education (DOE),
Cerf attempted to explain the current reorganization plan of the
department, but also acknowledged inadequacies and mistakes made by
the administration in the past six years.
“We have a great deal of pride in the plan that’s underway and
the progress that we are making . We also have real humility
about both our shortcomings and the distance that is yet to
travel,” Cerf said.
Cerf offered the “guiding principals” of the current reform,
beginning with accountability. He added the importance of
having qualified teachers in each classroom and the ability to
distribute “our resources fairly, transparently and ethically,” as
key elements toward the success of the plan.
Jackson mentioned the lack of involvement in the decision making
process and stressed the importance of keeping parents, teachers
and principals included, while also applauding the D.O.E. for
“listening a lot more.” Gotbaum, the Public Advocate,
reiterated the importance of parental involvement and announced
that she was “dedicating my next 2 ½ years to being there for the
parents…and to try to work with all the organizations to make sure
that the parents have a seat at the table.”
Speaking as a parent, Johnson was a bit more critical of the
current administration in his comments, but also clearly listed
what he wanted for parents and for the administration in order to
“We need outstanding principals who are seasoned educational
leaders, qualified and dedicated teaching professionals in our
classrooms, engaged students…and parents who are empowered,
consulted and respected,” he demanded.
Logan spoke of how his council has “pushed wholeheartedly for a
change.” He blamed the D.O.E. for not making students
critical thinkers, instead merely grooming them to “know how to
take a test.”
Weingarten addressed several inadequacies she sees within the
system before Dr. Ross opened the floor to questions.
Concerned Staten Island residents and teachers were given well
over an hour to ask questions, most of which were directed to
Cerf. The panelists patiently answered each question, and the
give and take of constructive criticism was shared by all in
For more information, please contact Elizabeth Reilly, Assistant
Director of Media Relations at St. John’s by calling (718)
990-5789, or e-mail email@example.com. For
additional news about St. John’s University, please visit www.stjohns.edu/news.