2002-08-31 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

New Era in Education

With the approaching anniversary of the tragic events of 911, New Yorkers are, as never before, dedicated to working together to rebuild every facet of the city's life.  There is a renewed sense of purpose, of camaraderie, of commitment and of spirit to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice and together to make New York better, more durable, and more people oriented.

At this historic moment, education in New York City is also undergoing great change in governance initiated by the New York State Legislature. Under the new law, responsibility for governance of education in New York City will rest solely with the Mayor.  In his new capacity, Mayor Bloomberg therefore had the authority to appoint the Chancellor of the New York City Schools who then will oversee the District Superintendents.

With this dramatic change the Mayor is also moving the New York City Board of Education Headquarters to the newly refurbished, elegant Tweed Court House and setting up an Educational Center adjacent to City Hall. Offices at the center will include those of the chancellor and the superintendents.

On August 19th, his very first day in office, the new Chancellor, Joel Klein, made his very first official visit to Queens Borough Hall to meet with Borough President Helen Marshall, her recently appointed Queens representative to the new Panel on Educational Policy, Evita Belmonte, and a group of parents from all levels, - high school, middle school and elementary school.  The visit was quite low-key with the press limited to greeting Klein entering and leaving the building. As he opened the meeting, Klein announced to the parents, "I came to listen to your concerns."  And listen he did.  It was rumored that Klein chose Queens as the first borough to visit because he has fond memories of the great education he received at Bryant High School, from which he graduated. "I received a terrific education at Bryant and learned from many excellent, dedicated teachers who nurtured and encouraged me to pursue higher education".

Klein's well recognized management skills, strong work experience and record of scholarship will be valuable assets as he embarks on his new job. His greatest challenge will be developing a team of administrators, teachers, parents, business and the community leaders to make education in New York a top priority and a great success.

Borough President Helen Marshall, a champion of education for a long time, hosted a lovely reception and dinner at Borough Hall this past week to welcome her Queens appointee to the new Panel on Educational Policy, Evita Belmonte.  Ms. Belmonte has served as President of the Queens Federation of Parents and President of John Bowne parents association.  The new panel will advise Chancellor Klein on educational issues in the borough.

During her service of two decades in the New York State legislature and the City Council, Borough President Marshall was a strong advocate for students and parents.  As Chair of the Higher Education Committee of the City Council, she promoted and fought vigorously for quality education for all students.  At the Queens reception, Marshall set the agenda for the borough.  Education is a priority.  All groups - parents, legislators, educators, and the community -will unite in a team effort so that every child will be prepared to take his place as a citizen and as a worker in the challenging and competitive 21st century.

Change is the theme of education as we start a new year.  It will not be "business as usual " as we enter a new era in education.  With the spirit and determination of the men and women of 911, let us all work for a better New York through quality education.

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