road to city hall

Quinn, GOP skipping parent-focused Brooklyn education forum

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 8.25.39 AMIt’s been a while since City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the rest of the mayoral hopefuls have focused on education. In the two months since they last appeared at a schools forum, they’ve debated everything from public safety to technology to community gardens.

So tonight’s forum at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill seemed to be an important chance for Quinn and her rivals to refresh the public’s memory about their ideas on education, which parents say will be a crucial issue for them when they cast their ballots later this year.

But of the four Democratic candidates who plans to attend, Quinn isn’t one of them. The race’s five non-Democratic candidates, including four Republicans, also declined invitations to attend.

A spokesman said Quinn has a scheduling conflict, an inevitability at a time when the candidates are making public appearances and private glad-handing with breakneck speed.

”Speaker Quinn has attended 30 forums over the last several months, including three education-related ones and she is attending another roughly dozen this month,” said the spokesman, Mike Morey. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make this one work with the schedule. We appreciate the effort organizers put into it and are hopeful we’ll be able to do something with them in the future.”

Parents said Quinn’s explanation for her absence was both disappointing and not entirely convincing.

“It’s possible that she has another event, but it’s unfortunate,” said Rhonda Keyser, co-president of the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 29.

“I think this will prove to be very important and it’s a shame that she won’t be there because parents in District 15 are very engaged and interested to hear what the candidates have to say about education,” added Keyser.

Keyser said she thought one reason Quinn might have been reluctant to attend is who’s going to be asking the questions.

“I think it’s interesting that Diane Ravitch is the moderator,” said Keyser, referring to the New York University education historian and a prolific critic of Mayor Bloomberg, Quinn’s ally. The Alliance for Quality Education, one of the groups behind the anti-Bloomberg coalition New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, is co-sponsoring the event.

Of the Democratic candidates, Quinn has done the least to distance herself from Bloomberg during the mayoral campaign. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu and Bill Thompson have not only condemned Bloomberg and his signature education policies — such as co-locations and school closings — but have also vowed to move away from them if elected.

“Whether or not she actually has a scheduling conflict, I don’t think it will actually matter,” said Michelle Kupper, a P.S. 29 parent who helped organize the event. “Her absence will not go over very well.”

Although education is viewed as an important issue in the election, advocates say that the candidates have given the topic short shrift so far. Quinn is the only candidate to have issued a comprehensive education platform, which included promises for literacy programs, “community schools,” and a ban on field testing. Other candidates have made education proposals but have not yet set out a complete agenda.

“I don’t know where the candidates stand on the single issue that matters most to me,” said Janice Bloom, the mother of two students whose organization Parent Voices NY is sponsoring the event. Parents said they want to hear the candidates speak specifically about parent engagement, class size, and high-stakes tests. (The candidates have addressed those topics in the past, but not in front of an audience of mostly parents.)

It’s the second straight night that Quinn will skip a mayoral forum, which have filled up the candidates’ daily campaigning schedules for month. Quinn has attended 30 forums since late January, or about two per week. In the last 10 days, she has even attended two forums that other Democratic candidates missed.

Still, her pace seems to have slowed, her rivals said.

“No candidate has made every single forum — but Quinn does seem to be missing more of them (than) most,” said Dan Levitan, a spokesman for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is also running for mayor.

In an email, Ravitch said she expected her parent audience to be disappointed but she held out a glimmer of hope that Quinn would clear her schedule.

“We will save a chair for her in case she changes her mind,” Ravitch wrote.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”