Incoming Schools Chancellor Seeks Calmer Debate
It's good to see the Dennis Walcott isn't backing down from reform:
Dennis M. Walcott said Saturday that he planned to use a softer touch as New York City's new schools chancellor to ease the bitter rhetorical battles that have caused wide divisions among teachers, parents and bureaucrats. But Mr. Walcott also made it clear that he did not plan any major shifts in Education Department policy.
Speaking at Teachers College at Columbia University in his first speech since his appointment April 7, Mr. Walcott called the current tenor of the debates over teacher layoffs, standardized testing and charter schools "poisonous," and he acknowledged it had led to morale problems among teachers.
"People on both sides of this debate have been guilty of contributing to the current polarized atmosphere," Mr. Walcott said. "I view my transition to the role of chancellor as an opportunity for us to begin anew."
Mr. Walcott offered an olive branch to the administration's critics, including the powerful city teachers' union, saying, "Too often we hear that all of our problems would be solved if we could just get rid of bad teachers." But he also strongly defended Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's handling of the school system over the past nine years, a system Mr. Walcott had been an integral part of as the deputy mayor in charge of education. And when he described the middle ground he would seek on contentious issues, he often reiterated the main thrust of the administration's current policies.