Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was the headliner Wednesday evening at a J.H.S 74 town hall, but it was the audience who stole the show.
Walcott caught a chorale of boos and hisses when he stuck up for his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, before the packed auditorium.
“The mayor has been extremely supportive of teachers,” said Walcott. The statement struck the wrong cord with the many educators in the crowd.
The room practically convulsed with fervid assertions to the contrary before Walcott said in the mayor’s defense, “We’ve been able to get a 43 percent increase in the base salary of our teachers under Bloomberg.”
When the grousing continued, Walcott, a former educator himself, halted nearly all voices by rebuking; “You would not allow your children to act that way.”
The chancellor said the crowd might disagree with him, but he would “not take” further outbursts from teachers anymore than he did from students when he was before a class.
Nonetheless, he had nothing negative to say about teachers on the whole.
“I think teachers are the most valuable people in this world,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, moderator and CDEC 26 President Jeannette Segal brought up a Patch article, saying, “There was a poll on Douglaston Patch—”
Before she could continue, the Chancellor quipped, “I’m sure I’m not polling very well.”
She assured the chancellor the poll wasn’t on his performance, but instead about what District 26 residents would like him to prioritize. Most of the respondents, 53 percent of the 30 polled said a new high school for the district was most urgently needed.
Relating his experience as a Francis Lewis High student in the late 1960s, Walcott said, the issue of overcrowding was much the same now as it was then.
“Then Cardozo opened, and that was popular,” he said.
The chancellor believes that once new schools open, Francis Lewis, which is reportedly at 175 percent capacity, will again be relieved of crowding.
A brand new high school is slated to open in Maspeth. CDEC 26 was also notified last year that a new high school site was being scouted in Northeast Queens, though the DOE says they've yet to find one that's adequate.
He also revealed that the Dept. of Education’s revised capital plan will make 800 new seats available in Queens.