Eleventh Hour

Thompson and de Blasio back out of FES forum at last minute

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A revised advisory about the Families for Excellent Schools forum shows a blank where Bill Thompson’s name used to be on the list of participating mayoral candidates. Bill de Blasio also backed out of attending.

When parents from charter schools around the city grill mayoral candidates about their education views this evening, two expected candidates won’t be there.

The campaign of Bill Thompson, the former comptroller, told Families for Excellent Schools today that he would not be able to make the forum, which is one of the first times that charter school advocates will get a chance to ask questions of the candidates. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also backed out of attending the forum at the last minute.

FES, a group that is trying to mobilize the parents it works with to play a role in the mayoral election, had previously announced that Thompson  and de Blasio had confirmed their attendance.

The last-minute lineup changes come as candidates gear up for a conversation that could be uncomfortable for those who, like Thompson and de Blasio, have declared opposition new charter schools and to school co-locations, a controversial space-sharing arrangement that has allowed charter schools to flourish under the Bloomberg administration.

According to FES’s press advisory about the event, charter schools and co-locations are chief among the topics that parents will be asking the candidates about today — and the advisory makes clear what answer the group hopes candidates will provide.

“The discussion will address issues important to families with children in public schools, including: school safety; the role of charter schools; preparing students for success in college; and whether schools should co-locate in the same building, as more than 800 schools are co-located across the city,” the advisory says.

Getting a favorable response is likely to be a challenge, even with the depleted lineup. Comptroller John Liu and former City Councilman Sal Albanese have all said they would impose a moratorium on co-locations. And both Anthony Weiner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have said that the co-location process should be conducted more sensitively.

The teachers union, too, has said that it opposes co-locations that are done without approval of the local school district’s elected parent council.

The union is due to endorse a candidate next week, and Thompson and de Blasio are seen as top contenders. (Earlier today, Thompson called on the city to restore discretionary funding for teachers, a pet issue for the UFT. He is also seen as one of the candidates who is most palatable to supporters of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies.) But a union official dismissed the idea that candidates might have made the decision based on the union’s preferences.

“We’ve not talked to any of the candidates about the forum, and it is up to them whether they go or not,” the official said. “Not our call.”

The mayoral candidates have appeared together at dozens of forums on wide-ranging topics this year. But this is not the first time that a mayoral candidate has dropped out of an education forum shortly beforehand. Last month, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn skipped a forum hosted by ParentVoicesNY and moderated by Diane Ravitch, each vocal critics of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.