“I’m so happy to be here, so happy,” said Dennis Walcott, addressing the New York City Department of Eduction staff this afternoon while standing in front of the marble staircase inside the Tweed Courthouse.
“You’ll see me in your offices, you’ll see me hanging out,” Walcott told the staff. “I told some folks already, you guys don’t know what you’re in for. They’re going to have to tie me down, because I’m just going to be all over the place.”
The staff seemed delighted with Walcott’s appointment, cheering and applauding him when he stepped up to the podium in his first solo appearance since being named schools chancellor this afternoon. The enthusiasm was apparent, and in striking contrast to when Walcott mentioned his predecessor, Cathie Black, whose tenure saw a number of high-level departures and whose name drew only a smattering of polite hand claps. Walcott referred to Black as “jazzy” and a “trailblazer.”
After the warm reception he got, Walcott warned the staff, “You guys are applauding me now and people may saying nice things–that can turn around just like that.”
Walcott should know.
He’s been with the Bloomberg administration since its first day in 2002, and was key in shaping nearly every educational decision, big and small. A number of them drew large protests at the time, namely the elimination of social promotion for fourth graders, the shutting down of large high schools and replacing them with smaller, themed-schools, and reshuffling the Community Education Boards, to name a few.
During Walcott’s appearance, he said he stood by the administration’s past policy choices, and, also, will not be revisiting any of the decisions made during Black’s three-month tenure (notably the decision to shut down or relocate certain schools).
After thanking Black for her work, a reporter asked Walcott what went wrong with her.
“I’m not here to talk about Cathie,” said Walcott. But he did add, “We have a new vision as far as how we’re moving forward.”
I asked Walcott what specifically will change, now that he’s in charge. “The policies will basically be the same,” he said. “We’re going to continue to enact what’s been in place.”