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Queens school leaders: Walcott unresponsive

TimesLedger Newspapers

Some leaders of the borough’s community education councils, which act as liaisons between parents and the city Department of Education, gave city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s office an “F” for communication.

“He has yet to answer one e-mail from the CEC,” said Nick Comaianni, president of CECD 24, which covers central Queens neighborhoods including Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and portions of Corona.

Walcott was appointed chancellor in April after the brief and tumultuous tenure of Cathie Black, and he has declared this week Parents Week, a designation that rings with irony for Comaianni.

Walcott held two meetings with all of the CEC presidents in the city shortly after his appointment, but Comaianni said he did not answer any questions, has not held any subsequent meetings and has not answered communications from CECD 24.

“If he doesn’t’ meet with us, he’s essentially not meeting with any parents in the city,” he said. “I think this chancellor is not a chancellor, he is more of a politician.”

Isaac Carmignani is co-president of CECD 30 — which covers neighborhoods including Jackson Heights, Astoria, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Long Island City — and said his office has also not received an answer to communications sent to the chancellor’s office.

“I have not gotten a response from his office,” he said. “I know his office is getting thousands of e-mails. But the bottom line is we need a response.”

Carmignani was also at the two meetings in the early portion of Walcott’s tenure and found it odd that the chancellor demurred from answering many of the questions, claiming he still had a lot to learn about the job.

“Dennis Walcott was on the school board for many years. This is not a new field for him in New York City,” Carmignani said. “Because of that, that is why you have people feeling like he’s not really saying much.”

More open communication with the CECs in Queens would be an advantage to the chancellor, Carmignani said, since the councils’ task is to relate information between the city and the community.

Representatives from CEDC 29 in southeastern Queens could not be reached for comment by press time.

CECD 26 is ranked No. 1 in the city in terms of performance and covers neighborhoods including Bayside and Douglaston. President Jeanette Segal said that an officer from Walcott’s family affairs office reached out to the district, but she still does not believe the chancellor’s office adequately communicates with the CECs.

“Do I feel do they properly engage the CECs? No, I feel they just tolerate us,” she said, comparing Walcott’s reign over the school system to Joel Klein, who was appointed chancellor in 2002, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg won control over the city’s school system, relegating community boards, which became CECs, to a largely advisory role.

“Overall I think that there is absolutely no difference from Klein and they are basically going to do what they feel is right,” Segal said.

The city Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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Jason from Bayside says:
I watched him speak during a community forum one day and said to myself, "This guy is a veteran political player who doesn't appear genuine to help in any way. The question is: Why did Bloomberg pick him?
Oct. 27, 2011, 8:48 am

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