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Jacqueline Wayans

Jacqueline Wayans

Jacquie Wayans is a co-author of the New York City Best Public School guides and has visited more than 250 NYC public schools. Most importantly, she is the mom of three public school graduates.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 04:07

Spread the word! Free summer meals

As a former food stamp recipient and a mom who uses great savvy to feed my three kids, I was encouraged and empowered at this week’s Hunger Crisis Forum to hear Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of Food Bank for New York City say: “No one should feel shame just because they don’t have enough money [to adequately feed their family].” The Hunger Crisis Forum took place the same week that the annual Free Summer Meals Program [PDF] kicks off.

An all-female panel of CEO’s discussed rising food prices and the increasing number of parents struggling to feed their families. In fact, they said, many educated and middle class families find themselves using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the first time.

At least 80% of students in NYC public school qualify for free lunch. In response to the growing need, the United States Department of Agriculture is spending $400 million on the Summer Meals Program which starts in New York City on June 27. Yet only 16 percent of eligible children are expected to participate. Why? According to speakers at the forum, that "stigma" and "embarrassment" often keep people from taking advantage of the services.

Six mayoral hopefuls showed up on Tuesday night for the Democratic Mayoral Candidate forum for parents at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. Below are highlights of most of the questions asked and answered, reported by Jacquie Wayans, assignment editor at Insideschools and the mother of an Eagle student. The statements are not direct quotes but a synopsis of each candidate's response.

Q1: What would you seek to accomplish within your first 100 days of office?

John C. Liu

Christine Quinn


Adolfo Carrion

Bill DeBlasio

Stop the pipeline to prison and create cradle to career instead.


Allocate resources so that every neighborhood can have good schools. Extend the school day and expand successful models of existing schools.


Choose a chancellor who is an educator. Encourage critical thinking and not memorization for standardized tests. Form a parent academy with a clear message that families should be involved.

Jobs where our children contribute to the economy and climb up the employment ladder.


Tax the wealthiest to improve schools. Implement Full day Universal Pre-k. Guaranteed 3 hour after school for middle school.


Q2: By show of hands, how many would still support mayoral control?”

All candidates raised their hands, but all said they would implement changes.

Q3: What major initiatives of mayoral control would you keep? What would you get rid of?







Keep - “The buck stops with the Mayor” but mean it. Rid - shutting down  failing schools and move from testing to teaching.


Rid- living and dying by test and move more schools to portfolio model.

Keep - More Eagle Academies (lol). More career & technical education. Rid - from day one – stop closing schools.


Keep – accountability and responsibility on mayor. Rid – stop posturing with the teachers union.


Keep testing but utilize a better system so that it can be done right. Rid – parents being disrespected.


Rid – high stakes testing. Invest in teaching corps with 1 year internship.  Promote pediatric wellness.


  • DeBlasio challenged Quinn on the issue of high stakes testing. Click to see NY1 coverage.

Q3: Would you continue to support single gender education?

All said yes.

Q4: Cathy Black – Show of hands that believe next chancellor must be an educator?

All hands went up, except Quinn's.






I don’t believe the next chancellor has to be an educator and I will look at all options.


Disagreed sharply. We need an educator, the whole system will not respect non-educator.


State law requires an educator to be chancellor. As mayor, I would follow state law. Handling schools like  business divisions is not fostering learning .


(No longer present. He left early for another panel discussion)


We haven’t had a serious discussion on an educational vision and direction in 12 years.



Q6: Do you support the teacher evaluation system supporting teacher terminations?






Yes, I think it is right – the 2 year timeline can work. Bigger challenge is teacher retention.


Need to recruit and support teachers. Need to train and use best practices.


Teacher evals should be about making teachers better not getting rid of them. The evaluations should be done by educators and not outside consultants. Peer reviews are also important; other teachers don’t want bad teachers in the classroom.

Implement teacher modeling based upon a Texas model.

Use a combination of test, principal evaluations and peer evaluations.



Q7: Describe a time when the UFT was wrong on a position

See Gotham Schools for a description of their different perspectives. (DeBlasio & Albanese left after that question.)

Q8: Would you continue the co-locations of DOE schools and charters




I don’t think the co-locations work. I see stark differences in charters from other public schools and it sends a terrible message to kids. This is classism. It’s playing shell games with our children’s lives.

Both sides say co-locations are not working. I don’t want to eliminate charters as an option, but it is not the answer – however, there is no way to do that without co-location. I would clarify the process and make it transparent.


I agree with Liu. Put an end to co-locations. Schools are closed without consultation. Announcements of 72 new schools and only 2 are actually new. Students can’t be second class citizens in their own building.


Last Question: Budget – How would you hold the DOE accountable?




I’d make the budget municipal-controlled and then parents can get involved and go to the city office to raise their voices. Make a full city agency for balance of power, as every other city agency, and clear reporting.


Agrees with Quinn. Would also have annual budgets published and go back to a budget breakdown.


I agree but I am more concerned about ending the millions spent at headquarters on no-bid contracts.


Each remaining candidate had one minute for a closing statement.




I want NYC to have the best schools and best choices. Engage all stake holders in conversation, bringing resources into schools and not central. Take a look at what we are doing well and replicate it. Schedule longer school days, evaluate teachers and move from testing.

I am a product of NYC public schools, came here as an immigrant and didn’t know the language. My wife and my kids are also products of NYC public education. We have some of the best schools in the country and we must reinforce and reinvigorate the system.

Mayor Bloomerg wanted to be known for education. I want NYC to be known as the education city. We must involve all stakeholders again. I would select a chancellor with a background in education. I would move away from this “One size fits all” mentality for our schools. I will not sentence our kids to poverty.


The start of the 2013 mayoral race began in earnest in February when Christine Quinn was the first out of the gate to release her education plan at The Center for NYC Affairs.  Since then, there have been numerous forums with mayoral candidates -  separately or collectively -  with many more to be scheduled before election day. However, there has yet to be an event targeted specifically to parents, an after-work forum that gives parents the opportunity to address potential candidates about issues close to their heart.

Such an event is finally happening on Tuesday, May 7, at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. David Banks, head of the Eagle Foundation, invited all of the candidates to come and answer parent questions. The forum is part of Eagle Week, a series of events designed to give Eagle students an opportunity to do community service as well as exposure to engaging speakers and workshops. Banks opened the policy forum to the public so that city parents, educators and community leaders can pose their concerns directly to the mayoral candidates, and. in return, hear their proposed solutions.

Confirmed candidate attendees are: Sal Albanese, Bill DeBlasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.  It will be moderated by Elinor Tatum, Publisher of the New York Amsterdam Newsand Gerson Borrero, columist for El Diario/La Prensa.  A nice community touch is that WBLS will be present in order to run a live audience poll. 

As an Eagle parent, former CEC & PTA member, I encourage all parents to take advantage of this moment. Let's show up and be prepared with the hard, intelligent questions that need to be asked!

See the details on our calendar.

Tuesday, 07 February 2012 12:38

Bronx schools that (may) have room

The elementary schools in the Bronx have been improving in recent years, but many still have a long way to go. Some Bronx parents still prefer to take their children to school in Manhattan. Here are some options for parents who are dissatisfied with their neighborhood schools but who want to stay in the Bronx.

This list includes regular public schools as well as charter schools. Remember not all charters are created equal: some are great and some are definitely not for everyone. Do your homework. Unlike some zoned schools, charter schools usually have open houses and tours.

Many Bronx parents wait until the last minute -- even until September -- to register for kindergarten. Be aware, that if you wait until then, you might be out of luck even at your zoned school. Historically the Bronx has had some of the most overcrowded schools and long waitlists.

Friday, 06 January 2012 09:44

It's time to stand up to cyberbullies

When I was a kid in elementary school, I dreaded lunchtime when a nasty girl in my class would relentlessly make fun of my hand-me-down clothes, tell your-mom’s-so-ugly jokes, and threaten bodily harm. I looked forward to middle school to escape, but my tormentor followed me there. What was worse, my middle school was overrun with even bigger bullies and administration had their hands full. So I did what most smart geeks did, hang out with my teacher during lunch—and try to be the first one out the door when the bell rang.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011 18:46

A few charter schools have open seats

Parents who are dissatisfied with their child’s school placement for this year may have a shot at a charter school. Insideschools has found a handful of charters - most of them new ones -  that still have seats available for fall 2011.

While most charters are filled and many have long waiting lists, it doesn’t hurt to call and find out if any slots have become available. There may even be openings into September as registered students change plans.

Your best chance for openings may be at one of the 31 new charter schools opening this year. Check the list and give them a call. One exception is the Harlem Success Network schools. They are all full with have long waitlists.

Know of other schools with open slots? Please post a comment below. We'll update the list if we get more information.

Update Sept. 2: Summit Academy Charter School in Brooklyn has openings for 25-30 6th graders and 25-30 7th graders, according to the charter office at the Department of Education. Contact the school for more information at (718) 875-1403

This month the Department of Education is calling for public school parents to run for a seat on the citywide and community district parent councils. Applications will be available on March 23, according to the Office of Family Information and Action (OFIA).

In 2009 I answered such a call and served as a member of a Bronx district council.  I did this first and foremost for my son who was in middle school. Knowing there is a lack of information available to parents in my community, I hoped that my years as a PTA president, School Leadership Team chair, and reviewer would be an asset.

I believed that parents had the power to make real change within the community council structure, that despite flaws in the system, we could still offer support, resources, and information to families and schools in our community.  I was fortunate to work with strong team members in District 10, and a very engaged district family advocate and superintendent. Unlike many other education councils, we had no internal squabbles and usually had enough members to make a quorum at meetings.

However, it became clear to me very soon that parents had lost their faith in the councils' ability to address their concerns or to effect change. Attendance at the meetings was consistently low. At the orientation and trainings for council members, it became apparent by the grumbling that they were increasingly frustrated with the lack of power. Officials at OFIA were usually gracious and patient as members expressed their irritation, but they could not provide direct solutions.

What do the CDECs do?

Due to the various restructurings at the DOE over the past eight years, parents and administrators alike seem genuinely confused about the role of the CDEC. “What do the CDEC’s do?” was the question posed to me again and again as I made contact with the principals in my group of 10 schools.  They wanted to know: “What exactly can you do for us now?”  “What power do you have to stop or push through a proposal?”

I could only tell them, “We are liaisons who can convey and share information with the superintendent, board members, and community.  We can become aware of facility needs and help the school submit a grant.”  The principals shared with us their many pressing social and financial needs, but we could only nod and listen. We were powerless to directly intervene for the parents or schools who came to us for aid.

Despite all of  this, I was willing to fulfill my term, assisting whereever I could. As a freelancer for I agreed not to write school profiles or submit comments about schools in my district when I was elected. This was extremely frustrating as all council members visit schools and have access to information that would benefit parents. Eventually I had to step down due to “conflict of interest.”

I am glad to see that changes have been made to the nominating system and PA and PTA members can now nominate themselves for a council position. That’s a good thing.  But, even if the most involved and aware parents join the councils, they will find there are too few opportunities to make an impact.

I honor those who continue to work on the community and citywide councils and I would never discourage anyone from serving.  Our schools, communities and parents need you.

Considering joining a council? Here are my suggestions:

  • Sit in on a few monthly meetings
  • Talk to current board members about their initiatives
  • Consider your intended role and what you can offer
  • Talk to your district superintendent about what she would like to accomplish
  • Learn about your district’s challenges
  • Ask questions of your child's school to find out how they have interacted with the CDEC.
  • Get to know your district’s family advocate

These simple steps will help you realize how well your council might function and whether or not you have what it takes to dig in and help out.

Applications will be accepted from March 25 to April 9. The organization Power to the Parents once again will be handling the elections. Check their site for information later this month.