By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, the former president of the city’s Board of Education, unveiled a plan that he said would improve public schools and give parents more of a voice in shaping the city’s educational policy.
Thompson, who introduced his plan on Aug. 28, said he would put a moratorium on the Bloomberg Administration policy of closing troubled schools and vowed to work closely with educators and parents to improve schools.
“We must respect teachers and principals, and not demonize them. We must also bring our parents back into our school system and move beyond the incredible focus of teaching to the test,” Thompson said.
“I will fix our schools, not close them, and ensure children have the wrap around services they need to live successful lives,” the mayoral candidate said.
Part of his plan involves reinvigorating the role of the district superintendent in the school system and making sure that personnel have the appropriate leadership experience, Thompson said.
Superintendents wielded a great deal of power and influence in their individual school districts under decentralization. Superintendents were appointed by local school boards. When the State Legislature voted to do away with decentralization a decade ago, the power to run the school system was put into the hands of the mayor and a more centralized, top-down system was put in place.
The New York Post reported earlier this year that the State Legislature might be having second thoughts about giving the mayor sole power to run the school system. A bill to remove that power from the mayor was introduced, the Post reported. But it went nowhere.
Thompson has also called for a renewed focus on teaching for success in college and careers, eliminating the “teaching to the test” policy, fixing schools rather than closing them and bringing parents back into the school system.
Thompson said that if he becomes mayor, he would also instruct senior staff at the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to conduct daily site visits to create greater oversight and transparency at struggling schools to ensure that the schools have the support they need. He said many of the schools that the Bloomberg Administration closed over the past few years are located in minority communities.
The former Board of Education head said he would provide free lunch for every public school student so students can concentrate in class without going hungry. He proposed an increase in the numbers of guidance counselors in struggling schools to help students’ emotional health and growth.
“If we want to put our children on the path to success in their adult lives we need to stress education now. No more excuses and no more complaining. That means preparing our children for college and the workforce,” Thompson said
Thompson’s education plan was endorsed by Assembly members Karim Camara (D-Crown Heights-Lefferts Gardens) and Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick-East New York) and Councilman Erik Martin Dilan (Bushwick-East New York).
“For the last decade, parents have been literally shut out of our education system, but under Bill Thompson’s leadership, that won’t continue. Parents are the first step in helping their children realize success – it takes a visionary to not only realize that, but to lay out real plans to fold them back into decision making about their own children,” Camara said.