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Walcott’s goodbye

December 20, 2013 pm31 3:11 pm

Today every teacher in NYC received a goodbye message from Dennis Walcott (at the bottom of this post). That this is his last school day as Chancellor is something most of us would instinctively celebrate.

But was Walcott a bad chancellor? That question should be asked in context, and in comparison. Was he as bad as Joel Klein?  How will he compare to whoever comes next?

There is no question that Joel Klein was reviled by parents and teachers across New York City. If the question was “who was more hated?” then Klein wins walking away. Walcott was not personally offensive the way Klein had been. He wasn’t provocative, mocking. He wasn’t hated. But that’s not the question here. Was Walcott a bad chancellor?

Klein really was bad. His disruptive reorganizations took a mediocre system and made it a disaster. He vilified teachers. He engineered the ATR crisis (through budgeting legerdemain, combined with hoodwinking the UFT’s leadership). He screwed up special education. He closed and reopened schools, improving nothing, but damaging communities. He appointed anti-public education reformers to high posts, including many who had barely taught. He helped make teaching a far less attractive job.

As Joel Klein’s damage peaked, he was replaced, first by Cathy Black (tell me again why the UFT did not oppose the waiver for this non-educator to become Chancellor), then by Dennis Walcott. Walcott walked in to the system in the worst shape it had ever been. And every day that passed, it stayed that way.  And every day it stayed that way, the damage was deepened. The Board of Education and its schools are a worse place after Dennis Walcott then they were after Joel Klein. Walcott has been the worst Chancellor I have known.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – –

I expect that teachers will not fall in love with the next Chancellor. I expect she will do a lot of things we don’t like. But I also expect she won’t be hated, and that she won’t pursue massively harmful reform strategies. And I hope that she will undo all of the Bloomberg destructive policies. And I expect that she will undo at least a few of them.

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, December 31 will be my last day as Chancellor. I am writing today to thank you for your unwavering commitment to our students and families. Over the past 12 years, first as Deputy Mayor and then as Chancellor, I have witnessed your outstanding efforts to prepare our students to lead this City and our nation. It has been a privilege to work with you.

You are engaged in an undertaking that is both noble and challenging, and not a single day has gone by without my reflecting on the magnitude of our shared pursuit. The phenomenal gains we have achieved are a testament to your expertise, creativity, passion, and dedication. You are the reason we are handing over a system of schools that is far better than when we started. What an accomplishment!

Under the next Chancellor, I am confident that you will remain focused on the critical work you are leading. While challenges clearly remain, I have no doubt that you can take our schools to even greater heights.

Thank you again for helping our students work toward graduating high school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.

I wish you and your families a healthy, happy holiday and a wonderful new year.


Dennis M. Walcott

11 Comments leave one →
  1. chaz permalink
    December 20, 2013 pm31 5:10 pm 5:10 pm

    He simply was the Mayor’s poodle and had no independent thought as the school system continued to deteriorate around him.

    He was a terrible Chancellor and it was the “mayor first and children last” under Walcott..

  2. Zulma, retired math teacher permalink
    December 20, 2013 pm31 5:49 pm 5:49 pm

    He did not look out for the education welfare of our 1.1 million children. His main concern and role was to uphold Bloomberg’s extremely flawed education policies. How can anyone sit back and allow the mayor, who does not understand minorities and poverty, to deprive our most vulnerable children the fundings necessary to provide fair and equitable education? Walcott thought about his own career, where it would lead him after Bloomberg is gone and has no remorse for not listening to parents, teachers, students, and the community when their schools were heartlessly, unnecessarily being closed.

    I believe in karma and I pray that Walcott’s karma will be one that is newsworthy.

  3. Ed Research Forum permalink
    December 20, 2013 pm31 8:19 pm 8:19 pm

    Walcott was not a Chancellor rather a caretaker officer of a large business that never connected with its clients teachers, students and parents.

    The vilifying of our public school teachers went on under Klein and Walcott. The emergence and maintenance of ATRs speaks volumes to the worth of the professional educators under Klein and Walcott.

    Principals and assistant principals were no longer real instructional leaders as they used to be.

    The Math AP becomes the guru of the English or language teacher, for instance.

    Principal or assistant principal -political appointee-can insult the intelligence of any educator in his/her school building.

    Anyone good at manipulating data becomes a real leader of change at Tweed.

    Talking about education was the only way to attract attention of the voters, never mind housing cost or the cost of living in the City.

    Municipal workers or parents of the schoolchildren in the City are left without a contract for years.

    Walcott and Klein as well as the many political appointees were disconnected with the very people they were supposed to serve.


    Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2013 19:11:44 +0000 To:

    • December 20, 2013 pm31 8:53 pm 8:53 pm

      I do not think that it is fair to characterize Walcott as a caretaker.

      Walcott chose to be Chancellor. He wasn’t already working for Bloomberg, picking up an extra responsibility.

      The national context under Klein was all out attack on teachers and public education. There was pushback developing around the country during the Walcott years; the attacks were being blunted in some places. But in NY, Walcott was going full bore. Not a just a caretaker.

      Ask any active teacher. Each year under Walcott has been worse, much worse, to be a teacher in NYC. That’s after Klein, Walcott made things worse.

      Two full years, and two half years. He has a record. Not a caretaker.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 21, 2013 pm31 12:22 pm 12:22 pm

        Hi JD2718,

        Below is the context for the use of the caretaker (1).

        Walcott was deputy-mayor for education(2) for nine years under Bloomberg when he was granted a waiver to become Chancellor in the aftermath of the Cathie Black’s debacle given his lack of training as schools administrator.


        World English Dictionary
        caretaker (ˈkɛəˌteɪkə)

        — n
        1. a person who is in charge of a place or thing, esp in the owner’s absence: the caretaker of a school
        2. ( modifier ) holding office temporarily; interim: a caretaker government

        Source URLs:





  4. Joe permalink
    December 25, 2013 pm31 1:54 pm 1:54 pm

    Legerdemain? Write simply JD. We already have an over abundance of pompous educators.

    • December 25, 2013 pm31 5:44 pm 5:44 pm

      Slight of hand. I’ve discussed it in this space before. And I assume my point was not lost in the pomposity of my language.

      By the way, 6 days left, and still no chancellor.

    • December 30, 2013 am31 10:17 am 10:17 am

      To confuse “using a word I’m not familiar with” with “being pompous” is to confuse the horizon with the edge of the world.


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