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City Comptroller William Thompson joined a group of Queens parents last week in condemning the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg is overseeing public schools and vowed to make major reforms to the city Department of Education if he is elected to replace the mayor.
Thompson held a roundtable discussion at the Hillcrest Jewish Center last Thursday night to get input from parents, school teachers and community leaders on how public schools can perform better. Many of the parents said they were fed up with city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Democratic candidate agreed.
“Honestly, the first thing I’d do? Fire Joel Klein,” Thompson said when asked what he would do if he were elected in November.
Thompson contended that under the Bloomberg administration, the school system has become more bureaucratic over the last seven years and as a result, students were not learning the basic reading, math and science curriculum.
“I still have yet to understand if you’re a principal and you don’t understand education, what do you doi” he said.
Thompson said he would like to see two additions to the curriculum that would help teens during this rough economic climate. He said he would push for more education on financial literacy and skills for entering the job market.
“A lot of kids don’t know how to get a bank account,” he said. “A basic finance 101, our kids just don’t understand.”
Vanessa Sparks, of District 28’s Community Education Council, said a number of principals appear not to care about their students and teachers or lack a long history of working in schools.
“We have principals with less than five or six years of education experience,” she said.
She also said she believes standardized tests have hindered children’s education.
Last week, the comptroller’s office released an audit of the DOE that indicated graduation rates were improperly reported and dropout rates were higher than the department had indicated. Thompson said the city needed to be more transparent on the progress of the school system and the best way to make it that way was to get parents more directly involved in the DOE’s decisions.
“Parents have been shut out of the public school system,” he said.
Rob Caloras, president of the Community Education Council in District 26, agreed and urged Thompson to push for more parent involvement in the future.
“We’re not looking for control, we are looking for input,” he said.
City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who is running to replace Thompson, and state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), who is vying to replace his brother at City Hall, also backed Thompson’s proposals for the schools.
Mark Weprin said he believes that under the current system, teachers are forced to educate their students based on standardized tests and not actual curriculum.
“They’re not learning history and science and math — they’re learning how to get the right answers,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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