August 28, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: It is a great pleasure – let’s get our colleagues from the administration to come join us. It is a great, great pleasure to be here at PS 307, here in Brooklyn, one week until opening day of school. There is excitement in this building. This is a great school and everyone is getting ready for our children to start school on Thursday. And it is a great feeling because people are doing so much work to get ready to educate the children of this city. So, I’m proud to be here – I’m thankful to our principle, Roberta Davenport, who’s done an outstanding job in this school. Let’s thank her for all she does.
We are one week away from opening day. As a parent, I can tell you this is always an exciting time of year. We look forward to what lies ahead for our children. An amazing amount of effort goes, each year, into preparing for school and to make it great for our kids. This year something very special added to the reality. The beginning of a historic push – a historic step forward for this city as we greatly expand pre-k for our children – full-day, high quality pre-k for our children.
We will have record numbers of children in full-day pre-k. We will have the largest number of children in full-day pre-k in the history of New York City starting this Thursday. It will be a turning point moment and, I hasten to add, this is step one of two steps. Next year, we will add even more high quality, full-day pre-k seats to the point that, literally, every child of pre-k age in this city, the following year, will be accommodated. And then, every year thereafter it will become the norm in this city that every child deserves high quality, full-day pre-k.
This has been an incredible journey. A couple of years ago it started as an idea. People believed in it – people supported it. Over and over again, more and more people joined in and wanted this to become a reality. They wanted to see our children served in a way they’ve never been served before. They wanted to see our children prepared in a way necessary for the 21st century. They wanted to see the city of New York lead the nation in providing high quality, full-day pre-k. And that’s exactly what we are doing. This has become a movement – nothing less than a movement because so many people – educators and community activists and parents – have joined together to make this a reality. They made their voices heard last year in the public debate – in the election. They made their voices heard this year by fighting to make sure that these programs were available for their children. They went with us to Albany to ensure the resources would be there. Parents have been reaching out, community leaders reaching out, clergy reaching out to make sure people signed up for pre-k. This has become a movement. As a result of that movement, as of this moment, there are 50,407 students enrolled for the New York City full-day pre-k program – 50,407 students enrolled.
A lot of you have paid attention to what we pledged to do. We pledged to hit 53,000 in September – and we will hit 53,000 in September. There’s a huge amount of demand. In fact, the stories you will hear of people who hope they can get full-day pre-k – and even at the 53,000 level, there were still some kids who couldn’t be accommodated this year. But next year every single child will be accommodated. This 53,000 number is astounding and I’m honored to have put forward this vision. It was my number one platform agenda – I ran on it in the election – I’ve worked on it every day since.
But the people around me are the ones who made it work. These commissioners – these elected officials – put a huge amount of time into making this work. Behind them, thousands of teachers and school staff and health inspectors and fire marshals and you name it – building inspectors. Folks at the Department of Investigations have been working overtime. It’s just been a team effort [inaudible]. I’ve convened meetings – and I want to thank our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery who’s lead this effort with great energy. He’s called together people from every relevant city department. For a lot of people, this was not the norm to have all the agencies in one room in common cause, but Richard ran those meetings. He had the fire department, the health department, investigations, buildings, DOE, ACS and lots more in common cause to make sure we had full-day pre-k. To make sure it was safe and effective and ready.
And these professionals deserve our praise. I’d like anyone who feels good about this achievement to thank the people who did it – give them a round of applause for all they did.
I mentioned Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and his leadership. Of course, our schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has done an outstanding job. Our fire commissioner, Dan Nigro, who’s been focused every day on the safety of our children – our health commissioner, Mary Bassett – Dr. Mary Basset has been a key player in this effort every day and I know how passionate she is about making sure these sites are safe and ready for our children. A woman who has taught us more than anyone in the city government – looking out for the health and welfare of our children, Gladys Carrión, our commissioner for the Administration of Children’s Services. Thank you for all you have done to prepare for this day.
Again, the investigations department played an extraordinary and active role. I want to thank Commissioner Mark Peters for your extraordinary effort, and that of your team. I want to thank Department of Buildings, who played a key role in making sure facilities were ready – and thank First Deputy Commissioner Tom Fariello for his great work and his team’s great work – all these folks – all of the folks who work for them – all the principals and teachers and staff – all the parents who have been a part of it.
And then there was a separate team – an extraordinary team that went out in communities all over the city. Some of you have seen them. They went to community festivals and block parties – they went to beauty salons and barbershops. They went wherever parents were, aunts and uncles were, grandmothers, grandfathers. They told them that their children, the children in their lives, could have full-day, high quality pre-k and, by the way, it was for free. It was a way to do something transcendent for these children – to change their lives forever and for good. And people were so appreciative – the city of New York went to them. They didn’t have to hunt. They didn’t have to search for information. They didn’t have to fight bureaucracy. The public servants went to them, and that team did an extraordinary job and that’s why these numbers are what they are today. It’s August, and over 50,000 kids already signed up and we want to thank that incredible enrollment team led by Rick Fromberg and Alexis Confer. Let’s thank them for their brave work.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues in government, some may be showing up as we go along, but it has been, again, a team effort. We said from the beginning, we’re going to reach out to all the elected officials – ask them to be partners – because they have the trust of people in their districts and all over the city. And we wanted them to go – their staff to go – wherever you went. Town hall meetings, community centers – talk about pre-k. PTA meetings – talk about pre-k. And they did it with extraordinary effect and it’s part of why we have this moment of success. You’re going to hear from Public Advocate Tish James, we’re on her home turf here. Thank you Tish James for all you did.
Thank you, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. Councilmember Steve Levin, we’re honored to be in your district. Councilmember Mark Treyger, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, Councilmember Andy Cohen and Councilmember Mathieu Eugene – and if I miss anyone I know a handy note will be passed to me and I will update you.
So, I’ll tell you this quickly before I bring up some of my colleagues. Parents get what this means for our kids. They understand the difference between their child getting a strong start and not getting it. That’s why parents are voting with their feet. They are enrolling because they want this opportunity for their children. We built this in a year. And the people we came here to serve have ratified it by the extraordinary enrollment numbers. They know that children who get full-day, high quality pre-k are more likely to stay on grade level, to graduate on time, to be successful after school. It’s as simple as that.
Parents believe in pre-k. They believe that we are doing everything we can to make it strong and effective and safe for their children. That’s a commitment. That’s what every one of these professionals is in public service to do. That’s what I’m in public service to do. And as a parent, I take this very seriously. And by the way, a lot of these incredible leaders who watch out for the safety of our people and our children every day happen to be parents themselves, or they have aunts, they have nieces and nephews, or grandchildren in their lives that are precious to them. Everyone sees it through the human prism. We are here to protect our children and to elevate them. And this is an extraordinary team devoted to it.
I remember vividly when Chiara and Dante started pre-k. Every parent, at the beginning, that sense of a child advancing – it’s an incredible moment. A child takes their first step into education. I remember what it did for my children. They both had full-day, high quality pre- k at PS 372 in Brooklyn. It made a huge difference in their lives. It’s part of what made me so passionate about this cause. I know how much we depend on our teachers and the school staff and all the people who do all the inspections and everyone to get it right. I’ve been down that road myself with the two children that are so profoundly precious to me – that are my whole life. I saw it with my own eyes and that’s why I know it can work.
Over the summer, all of these agencies worked hard – saw over 1,100 pre-k sites – they worked hard to make sure they met the health department’s high standards for health and safety. They worked hard to make sure that if there were any outstanding violations, of any consequence, that they were addressed aggressively, that there was a rigorous plan to address them – there were follow up inspections. And any program – any site – that didn’t make the grade, literally, was pulled out of our pre-k effort. Because so many sites wanted to participate, when we found a weak link we literally took it out of the program and replaced it with a better one. 1,100 plus sites around the city – you might ask the obvious question – how many have an outstanding health violation that we are working on right now? Grand total – all five boroughs – five sites have outstanding health violations that we are working to rectify right now. That is down from 12 the previous week – there are only five left.
The reason this is possible is that we put an extraordinary group of personnel on the case – the Department of Education increased their early childhood team by 100 trained individuals – health department strengthened its inspection team by 40 additional personnel – FDNY created a 20 person taskforce specifically to focus on pre-k sites. Design and construction assigned 15 people – buildings assigned 13 people. It was an extraordinary combined effort and the full weight of this government was put behind in getting it right and making sure we dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’. Sometimes we find something that’s not up to our standards – we act immediately to fix it. If we don’t like what we see, again, we will close the site if we don’t feel comfortable that it’s up to our standards.
So, everyone’s ready – parents are ready, teachers are ready, kids are ready. You are going to hear in a moment – couple of moments I should say – from Kathleen Mooney who is a pre-k teacher here at PS 307. She’s going to speak, not only for this school, but for pre-k teachers all over the city who have been working hard to get ready for this historical moment. They know they’re a part of history. She is going to tell you what it means to be a pre-k teacher – what it means to have the chance to have such a profound impact on children.
Finally, I want to say before I call up a few of my colleagues – there are a few spaces left in pre-k, and you can do the math with me. There are about 3,000 seats that have not yet been claimed but they are literally going fast as we speak. Any parent who wants a pre-k seat that does not have a pre-k seat yet should act immediately because soon every seat will be taken. And that’s something we are very proud of – that every seat will be taken. But parents who are still trying to get this opportunity for their children need to call 311 or visit the DOE website. We all know at the beginning of the year some families move, some things change – there’ll be some moving around throughout September until the very final rolls are struck. But basically, in just the next days, the vast majority of these seats – these remaining 3,000 – will be taken. So, we really want to urge parents who are looking for full day pre-k for their child to act now.
With that, I’d like to bring forward the woman who has done an absolutely outstanding job of preparing the whole school system for opening day – let’s see if I can get this step out. And – here’s a challenge – there we go. And she has responsibility – I’d just like to put this is perceptive – a lot of people have important jobs, she has responsibility for 1.1 million children. And she is the most qualified person in this city to have responsibility for 1.1 million children. And this will be her first full school year as Chancellor and I can tell you, I hear it from parents, I hear it from teachers, I hear it from principals, I hear it from elected officials – no one in this city is better for the job. And people are excited to see what Carmen Fariña can do – our Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña: Thank you. First of all, it’s a thrill to be here. I love all of our schools but I am fond, in a very special way, of PS 307. I appointed this principal. I helped, I think, bring together a community and really ensure that this is a school – one of our first learning partner schools – but also, just for those of you who think pre-k is just fun and games, the children who come here are going to be learning Mandarin Chinese as one of their topics of conversation. And, because we expect everything from our pre-ks – we think this is a very special place where learning takes place and we expect them to be able to achieve great things.
I think the one thing I want to say – because I know that there are a lot of people who are going to be speaking to other issues – I love September. This is my 49th year as an educator – I haven’t said that publicly too many times. But every September, I don’t sleep at least three nights prior to the beginning of school, because I am convinced that every year is the possibility of creating a whole new city and, most importantly, lives are changed by kids who go to school.
Any parent of a four-year-old that hasn’t registered is avoiding me, because if I meet them in the street my first question is, “And how old are you?” I went to the playground the other day with my youngest grandson. And my daughter says, mom, “Do us a favor, don’t embarrass us. Please don’t talk to parents about the age of their children.”
The reality is for parents this is wonderful. But I also want to say, as a side note, nothing ever caused me more concern than the safety and welfare – whether I was a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. And I can assure you that I’m looking at the pre-k as if every child was my grandchild. And I really believe that this is an opportunity to put all our children in a safe environment where they’ll have an additional year of education – and in the long run, all our kids will be college-bound.
So I’m thrilled to be here today and really excited for September.
Mayor: We’ve done this before.
Chancellor Fariña: Okay. Habla español.
Mayor: There you go. Close enough. Couple more speakers. I just want to say I noticed Elba Montalvo is here – and there is a group that got together even before action was taken in the Albany budget season – a group of incredible educators and community leaders who wanted to make pre-k a reality. We had a working group of extraordinary professionals who worked really hard. I see Elba Montalvo, I see Nancy Kolben, and others who have been really foundational to this effort. So I just wanted to give them credit for having laid a lot of the groundwork here. So you can give them a round of applause too.
I don’t see Jennifer Jones Austin, who was the co-chair of my transition and also played a crucial role in this effort – we thank her.
Now, again, I mentioned elected officials were front and center – they helped us achieve what we needed from Albany in terms of resources. They helped us spread the word. They helped us get parents signed up. It’s been a real team effort – elected officials played a crucial role – and none was more front-and-center than our public advocate. She has been an extraordinary booster of schools that she saw as a councilmember needed her help. She got in there and she made a huge difference. She is a proud graduate of PS 39 in my old neighborhood. And then – where’d you go after that?
Public Advocate Letitia James: IS 88 – Park Slope.
Mayor: IS 88.
Public Advocate James: Fort Hamilton
Mayor: Fort Hamilton High School. Thank you – the whole way through. And that is part of why she is such an extraordinary advocate for public education. I’d like to welcome our public advocate, Tish James.
Public Advocate James: So, welcome, everyone, to Vinegar Hill. This is Vinegar Hill – across the street is Farragut Public Housing. And I want to thank all of you for coming to this wonderful venue and I’m so happy that the mayor selected PS 307. As the former councilmember who represented this district, PS 307 is where these children learn STEM. They have a cultural exchange program with a school in Chinatown, where they’re learning Mandarin. That mural across the street, which is a mural I worked with them—they painted. This is all about excellence, a rigorous curriculum, and it’s all because they have a wonderful, wonderful principal, and I’m so glad—
Yes, yes, yes, I’m so glad that we, that the chancellor saw it fit to appoint the greatest principal in the city, and that is Ms. Davenport. Where are you, Ms. Davenport?
We love Ms. Davenport in this neighborhood, right? So I’m so happy to stand here this afternoon with Mayor de Blasio and, of course, my very good friend, and someone who I love and adore, Chancellor Carmen Fariña and other elected officials, and officials in the administration, as we prepare to more than double pre-k seats through the city of New York. Not only is New York’s UPK program groundbreaking, but parents and guardians can rest easy knowing that these high quality programs will be safe and provide benefits that will follow children for the rest of their education and adult life.
UPK is a women’s issue. It’s a working and middle-class person’s issue. It’s a family issue. Access to quality pre-k and Head Start programs allow low-income parents and parents without access to opportunity – it provides them with quality childcare options, helping to close the education gap, and it eases economic stress on middle-class parents and families who might otherwise pay thousands of dollars for such a program. The reason why I am so happy about this venue is that most of the children who excel here in these four walls are children who come across the street, who have a number of challenges, through Farragut Public Housing. No one can tell me that children who are not given an opportunity to rise up can exceed, and Principal Davenport and her wonderful team have demonstrated that time and time again. In the first year of UPK expansion, 30,000 more children will have the opportunity to enroll in a high quality, full-day pre-k, bringing it to a total of – ready? – 50,407 seats in UPK programs.
The UPK program is the product of inter-agency collaboration, all working together to ensure that pre-k providers are able to ensure their sites are safe and I really want to applaud Deputy Mayor Buery for doing all that he has done. The city’s health department has increased its early education and childcare teams. The FDNY, under the leadership of Commissioner Nigro, has established a task force devoted to pre-k inspections, and DOB has increased its inspection staff to review UPK sites. Finally, I want to commend the administration on its quick action to address violations as we move towards September, including more frequent oversight of programs, a new program performance improvement initiative that will identify childcare centers that need assistance meeting compliance standards and, in the long term, launching an annual inspection schedule.
Let me just also say that there was a recent report that was issued, and as a result of that report, let me just say, that I have been assured, and everyone in the city of New York, that the report primarily has nothing to do with safety. The person with the charge, the child pornography charge – they immediately terminated that employee. That was basically old news. And a full inspection determined the agency did everything right in screening, background checks and addressing the problem. And the agency went on to implement even more rigorous policies after that. And this was proved – and all of this, obviously, was acknowledged and the individual who is the author of that report, obviously, was informed of all of that. And that’s why I stand with this administration, because I know that they are dedicated to excellence, nothing less, nothing more, but pure excellence. Thank you.
Mayor: We’ve got two more speakers I’d like to bring up, then I’ll give you a moment of Spanish, then we’ll do on-topic, then we’ll do off-topic. First, I’d like to bring forward – again, so many elected officials all over the city have participated, at every level of government, with great energy. One of the most vigorous we’ve ever seen, and she certainly has shown it again in the pre-k effort, is the Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and I do want to congratulate everyone who’s been involved with this effort. As somebody who has been in government for a very long time, I remember when Hillary Clinton was first lady of her state. And in that particular state, her focus was on early childhood education and she found a group called HIPPE. And I remember when I was on the City Council, I funded them to come to the West side of Manhattan, where I was in the City Council, and then went door to door trying to get young people, young parents in particular, in the developments – in the NYCHA developments – to go to early childhood education programs.
Fast-forward to Mayor de Blasio and his focus on early childhood education. I think what’s exciting about that is that the Hispanic Federation, Child Care Inc., or whatever in the world Nancy Kolben’s organization is called now, I still call it Child Care Inc., has been focused on this issue for about 40 years. And it’s very exciting to see it implemented in terms of all the studies stating early child education is the way in which education should begin.
And second, I want to say that as somebody, as the mayor knows and others know, that goes to every event known to human kind – I have been to every family day in Manhattan since they started and I’ve been to every street festival and had a table and every block association, and every gathering of Manhattanites. And at every single one is somebody with a pad – a very nice clipboard – and signing up people for pre-k.
So, I think I’ve meet everyone in Manhattan who are signing up people for pre-k. And that’s a credit to all the work that people here have done – because I think that’s an ancillary, positive impact of this effort. These people are really dedicated – they are so nice. We’ve had them in our district office – they’ve come and given seminars and advocated for people to join up. And in doing so, they learn what the challenges are – which they bring back to their supervisors. And they spread the word of something called “community organizing”, which is certainly a hallmark of this mayor’s advocacy and term as mayor and something he has done in the past.
So, I just want to congratulate – not only on the early childhood efforts, but on the ancillary efforts. Because when you meet parents and talk to them and get them signed up, then you learn where some of the other issues are, both for the program and for that family, and you relay that. That is called you know – dotting the ‘I’ and crossing the ‘T’— it’s also called “cross collaboration” in terms of agencies.
I told the mayor recently he got the biggest compliment – agencies talk to each other, Gale, and they never did in the past. You couldn’t have a better compliment. And certainly in terms of this effort, agencies talk to each other and then that’s always what’s best for New Yorkers.
So, on many levels, congratulations on this effort – we look forward to the 50,000 – 53,000 families this year and then working out any kinks – there are always going to be kinks in the system – between ACS and DOE and challenges thereon. But we’ll work them out and I look forward to continuing to do that in Manhattan. I’ve heard of the other boroughs.
Mayor: I want to thank – we – as I said, some elected officials will be coming – I just want to thank and acknowledge Councilmember Daneek Miller from Queens for joining us. Thank you, Daneek.
Finally – the final word – as it should be – goes to a teacher. Kathleen Mooney again teaches pre-k at this school and is someone we’re proud of because she is reaching children at this crucial moment in their lives and setting that foundation for them. This is a real expert. Let’s bring forward – with our greatest appreciation – Kathleen Mooney.
Kathleen Mooney: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. I’m used to speaking in front of groups of people – however, those people are usually about three, four, and five-years-old. So, bear with me, please. My name is Kathleen Mooney. I’ve been a public school teacher in New York City at PS 307 – the Magnet School for STEM Studies – going into my ninth year. I’ve only taught at PS 307. I’ve always been an early childhood educator and this will be my fifth year as a pre-k teacher and I can certainly say I’ve found my home in pre-k. Pre-k is a wonderful opportunity for children who have never attended school to learn complicated cognitive, social, emotional and language skills – skills they will acquire and use to succeed not only in kindergarten, but for the rest of their lives.
In addition to high academic expectations, from the very first day of pre-k, children are provided highly structured opportunities to develop their social, emotional and language skills. Through teacher and peer modeling, frequent opportunities for practice, a great deal of positive reinforcement and patience, students slowly begin to take ownership of their development. This includes conflict resolution, taking turns, following directions, sharing, listening, developing positive relationships with peers and adults, and, most importantly, learning to love school.
As a pre-k teacher, what I look forward to the most this year – and every year – are the months of March and April. This is the time of year when you get to see all those little light bulbs turning on in their heads – of each of the children. It’s usually around then that they begin to really take ownership of their learning. They are exploring independently, they’re making individual choices about what they wish to learn about or do more of, and they are really beginning to develop a strong and positive sense of themselves. They’re resolving conflicts, choosing independently which appropriate strategies and language to use, they’re articulating their thoughts and feelings not only to the adults in the room, but to each other – and they’re doing it all the time. It’s very exciting and gratifying to witness and be a part of.
I’m thrilled that pre-k is opening up to so many children this year and even more excited that this opportunity will be given to so many more children next year. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor: Thank you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you.
Thank you to all – not just all the pre-k teachers – but all the teachers, all the staff – everyone who makes this school work. I want to thank you as you get ready for another great year. En español.
Okay. I’m going to start with on-topic. We’re going to go to off-topic. On topic. Let’s go – back – Kate.
Question: [inaudible] CBO’s don’t fully report [inaudible] until October 1. Can you explain where these enrollment numbers come from? Are they from calling the CBO’s [inaudible] already enrolled in the computer system –
Mayor: Yeah. We’ve changed – I’m going to have Richard come up – we’ve changed the whole approach. We do not take a passive approach – this is an active outreach approach. I appreciate Gale Brewer for giving you the on-the-ground view of what that has meant at the grassroots. We have reached out to parents. We’ve had enrollment specialists. We’ve been in constant touch with the community-based organizations. So we’ve been working literally individual by individual to nail the enrollment and make sure people are in the right place – and that’s where we came up with that number.
Deputy Mayor Richard Buery: Thank you. That’s right. All I would add is that our numbers are based on young people who have enrolled in one of the online data systems, primarily – so, the Department of Education system, the ACS system, and the DOE system for [inaudible]. So, basically, you have young people enrolled in those systems. We count them. We also then make sure they are not duplicates, in case a parent were enrolled in more than one place, so that we have a unique number of enrollees. [inaudible] the mayor said, part of this is about our – the incredible work of our outreach team, who are going out and making sure that [inaudible] are able to report back data to us as quickly as possible.
Mayor: We’re very proud that center was open. That was a space that came online – became available to us – from the Catholic church very late in the process, but still in an area where there was incredible need. So we were able to get that one in play in time. I don’t think at this point we expect any other – yeah, I think that’s probably the last major piece. That being said, for next year, the process has begun already because we’re going to be acquiring much more space – and in some cases, even building pre-k centers – to accommodate what we expect to be 65,000 to 70,000 students per year going forward.
Question: Can you talk a bit more about [inaudible] report? [inaudible] making sure that all the staff have had background checks? Because that seems like one of the things [inaudible].
Mayor: Well, I’m going to turn to our health commissioner, our investigations commissioner, our ACS commissioner, to talk about this, because they are really the experts. I just want to say, I think that the fundamental reality is there’s a massive health and safety effort under way. That’s a different question than the nuances of contracting – I think if you look at the history of contracting by the city of New York, for better or for worse, a lot of contracts took a while to be finally achieved. I want to do better on that, by definition, because I just don’t like so much bureaucracy. But the real question is – are we addressing the health and safety concerns? And they are being addressed. The second there is a problem they are addressed, because we’ve put so much focused effort, so many personnel, on resolving each issue. So, let me start with Dr. Basset.
Commissioner Mary Basset, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone. You know, when it’s September, I think every adult thinks about school starting. For me, I began my path to [inaudible] at a neighborhood daycare center – a nursery school in Dyckman Houses. And my kids went to a community center for their daycare. So, the last thing that we want people to worry about in community sites is the health and safety of their kids while they’re there as they begin this important foundational step towards big school. We have been working tirelessly to address aggressively the violations in schools, reducing the number of serious violations. The last data that I looked at yesterday, we had only five sites, as the mayor mentioned, that had violations that needed to be addressed immediately. The question was about the criminal background checks. Now, every staff member – not just people in the teaching role – but anybody who works in contact with children has to have a criminal background check. If, during our inspections – which can occur either as random routine inspections in the course of a year or in response to a complaint that is made to the program – if during any these inspections, we find people who don’t have their paperwork in order, for whom we can’t find paperwork, we ask that person to go home. And we don’t allow them back until they get their paperwork in order. So that’s the process by which we ensure that we have checked the criminal background checks. I don’t know whether others want to say –
Commissioner Mark Peters, Department of Investigation: Let me say one or two quick law enforcement facts – to what Dr. Basset just said. First of all, prior to sites opening, as Dr. Basset mentioned, there are health department, buildings department, fire department checks. There are criminal background checks done. In addition, there is a plan in place now – once the pre-k centers open, there’s a plan in place coordinated by all of those agencies and several others to continue a rigorous set of spot inspections, including unannounced spot inspections in which we will demand to see all the paperwork and all of the proof on site that each person there has been fingerprinted. Where those spot inspections – which will be numerous and vigorous – determine that somebody doesn’t have their paperwork, they will be sent home. More to the point, if we find a pattern of people not having their paperwork, we will recommend that the site be closed. Indeed, there’s already been one instance where Dr. Basset and I, working together, have closed a site because of patterns of getting paperwork wrong. So, sites have been closed in the past. If it happens again, it’ll happen. There will be rigorous inspections, including spot inspections, to check on fingerprints and other permanents.
Mayor: Thank you. I just want to – before I call up ACS Commissioner Carrión – I just want to note – I want to thank Mark Peters and the Department of Investigation because they have been a part of this from the beginning, on the front end of the process. We literally said we wanted the Department of Investigation to work with everyone to raise the standards to the highest, to apply their special ability to figure out how to make each action by government appropriate and strong. They’ve been partners – and you just heard an example there of that kind of cooperation Gale Brewer mentioned. Health department, investigations department jointly deciding that one of these programs was not meeting our standards, had to go. As you all know, there are many, many programs that wanted to become a part of our pre-k effort. So another fact that [inaudible] understood – that has to be understood in this discussion is, remember back months ago, when we put out a call for seats all over the city, we got many more seats made available to us than we ultimately would need. We’ve had to ability to say, if any program is not up to snuff, that we will pass it over and go on to the next one – and that has given us even more latitude to hold a higher standard. Commissioner Carrión.
Commissioner Gladys Carrión, Administration for Children’s Services: Good afternoon. As many of you know, the state agency that is responsible for [inaudible] is the Office of Children and Family Services. We’re working very, very closely with them to expedite the clearances in the work that the state has to do. So we work collaboratively to create a process that will expedite all of these clearances and get the information back to us that we need.
Question: Mr. Mayor, what, if anything, is the practical impact of the city not – or your administration not – submitting the contracts to the comptroller’s office? Am I understanding there’s zero impact?
Mayor: At this moment, based on everything we’ve seen, there’s zero impact. We have made very clear – I had a good meeting with the comptroller and his team – I said if you’ve got any specific situation you want to bring to our attention, Commissioner Nigro, Commissioner Peters, Commissioner Dr. Basset, Commissioner Carrión – everyone’s ready to follow up – the chancellor, the deputy mayor. Show us where there’s a specific problem. The two instances cited in the press release, as you heard, one had long since been resolved. And the others have been resolved in the same time as the report was made. So, the fact is we don’t have an example that’s been provided to us by the comptroller’s office of something where there’s a specific danger we have to address.
Question: [inaudible] putting out this news after you’ve already had this meeting and had this conversation with him?
Mayor: I don’t know what to make of it. If the question is health and safety, I think it’s quite evident we’re focused and we’ve got a lot of serious professionals on it – and people who are experts. I mean, I respect all of my colleagues in government, but if I want to know about fire safety, I’m calling Dan Nigro. If I want to know about how to investigate a difficult situation, I’m calling Mark Peters. If I want to know about health, I’m calling Dr. Mary Basset. So I would say the professionals have made clear that these issues are being addressed.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there are some who would say that Scott Stringer’s press release and comments [inaudible] scare people about sending their kids to pre-k [inaudible]. They’re worried about health, safety – things like that. I wonder what you would say to parents about and, secondly, why you think Scott Stringer would want to scare parents a week before school starts?
Mayor: Well, I don’t know why any public official would want to leave parents with the misimpression that there’s a danger when there isn’t a danger. I would say to parents – first of all, I’m a parent myself and it’s the most important role I play, is that of father – I am holding the standards here that I held for my own children. And I’ve said that to everyone who’s a part of this – and again, these are people who’ve devoted their lives to protecting people and protecting children. It’s personal for every one of them. So, we are adamant – I think you heard the steely resolve in Dr. Basset’s voice and certainly in Mark Peters’ voice and Gladys’ voice – any time we find a problem, if we don’t like what we see, we will shut down a center. If we see a problem, we’re going to resolve the problem. If it’s a lasting problem, that center is no longer part of our program. So, I think the bottom line here is the safety of our children is paramount. We didn’t come here to educate our children and not attend to their safety. We came here to keep them safe and to educate them, to give them the kind of education they haven’t gotten before. And I think what parents have felt all over the city is that this was a moment they were waiting for, where kids could finally get the kind of education they need for the 21st century – and I don’t think anyone should stand in the way of that. But any legitimate problem will be addressed immediately – and by the way, as Dr. Basset said before we came out here, we want parents to tell us if they see something. A part of this is if there’s any concern, we absolutely need parents to raise it to the health department, to the DOE, to ACS, because we’ll act on it immediately.
Question: Follow up – do you think that Scott Stringer is trying to wound you politically in what has really become your signature issue and something that’s getting not only local attention, statewide attention, but national attention?
Mayor: I can’t conjecture as to his motives. I can only say that the reason it’s gotten citywide attention, statewide attention, and national attention is because people have come to the conclusion that we have to educate our children better – and there’s an incredible consensus around that. And that’s why we are absolutely resolved to get this right from the beginning and that’s why all of these professionals have been working on it.
Question: Mr. Mayor, two questions. First, [inaudible] substantial amount of contracts have not yet been submitted to the comptroller’s office. Do you have a time frame as to when that will be completed? And the second question is, are you definitively saying that all staffers in these pre-k sites have received a background check?
Mayor: I’m going to go over the background check in a second – you’re going to hear from the people responsible for it. But let me get you an updated number on the contracts and that requires me pulling out the step for Gladys Carrión, because I think you need to know a little more about the numbers of our pre-k program – and if you have followed it over the last year, know that pre-k is both the Department of Education and Administration for Children’s Services. The report you were given yesterday does not present all the numbers. Gladys, would like to add?
Commissioner Carrión: Sure. So as a system as a whole, we have submitted over 50 percent of the contracts. And ACS, for instance, has submitted over 98 percent of its contracts – and they already have been registered. So we need to put this in perspective. Our contracts – we have been submitting contracts to the comptroller’s office and ACS contracts are pretty much completed. And we have over 50 percent of DOE contracts. So as an entire system, we’re really moving as expeditiously as we can. You all need to understand that prior contracting process has always been very onerous and very lazy and a lot of delays – for a variety of reasons, that’s been the case. We are in a much better place than we were, for instance, last year in registration of contracts for UPK. So, we want to do better. We understand how important it is. But we are doing all of the clearances. It is our intent to make sure that every teacher must be cleared before they are in the classroom. Under state provision, a person, a teacher, can be in the classroom and not have their clearance completed – it must be submitted – but can only work under the supervision of someone that has been cleared already. But it is our expectation to have everyone cleared before they start working in a school or in a community-based program.
Mayor: Tell them the total number – tell them the total number of your contracts that were approved [inaudible].
Commissioner Carrión: About 130 of our contracts have been approved already.
Mayor: Why don’t we add, on the question of the – 130.
Commissioner Carrión: 132.
Mayor: So, about 98 percent.
Commissioner Basset: Commissioner Carrión is correct that we – regarding the background clearance question. So we require everyone on site to have criminal background checks. We look for them when we inspect them – either in response to complaints or in response to – as part of our annual inspections. People, who have submitted their criminal background check applications – had their fingerprinting done – can work under the supervision of somebody who has had their clearance approved. So they – people are either working under the supervision of somebody who’s been cleared or they have their paperwork already approved. Is that clear?
Question: [inaudible] how many people have had –
Commissioner Basset: We are working to accelerate, in a collaboration with [inaudible], which is the state agency responsible for background checks, to ensure that all of them are processed in a timely fashion. We’re working tirelessly to make sure that they’ve all gone through the system. But as I said, people can work under the supervision of somebody who has a background check. We’re working tirelessly to get them all processed. They have to have been submitted.
Chancellor Fariña: I want to be clear that this issue of contracts not being signed by the beginning of school has traditionally always been an issue. And as deputy chancellor under the former administration, I can tell you that we certainly started school with a large percentage of contracts that we knew were going to be signed ultimately but were not signed at that time. So, this is not new. It’s not news. It’s simply a matter of what the mayor said – of making it better as we go forward.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you said that the comptroller hasn’t specified any specific problems for you. But you haven’t submitted contracts, how could he have pointed out the issues? And the other thing is you seem to suggest that his oversight role is relatively unimportant in this whole process. I’m just wondering if that’s –
Mayor: This is not about personalities and it’s not about motives or anything else. This is just about facts. A huge number of contracts – as you heard from Gladys Carrión, almost all of her contracts approved – large number of DOE contracts approved, and a lot of others that are coming along. And what I’m saying is, if there was a specific trend of health and safety issues that was being brought back to us for action, of course we’d be acting on them. But that hasn’t been the case. I welcome it. I welcome it. If there’s specific issues that the comptroller finds from the one’s he’s gotten already, which are quite a large number, we’re going to get right on it. But I think – I want to get the cart and the horse right here – the comptroller’s role is to approve the contracts and it’s an important role, but way before that, all of these agencies were already working on the health and safety issues and they’ll continue to work on the health safety issues. So in the end, when I think about health and safety, I think about the professionals who do this work and I trust them and I want to take an opportunity – because Dan Nigro hasn’t had a chance. I want you to hear just what the fire department has done, because it’s really extraordinary.
Commissioner Dan Nigro, Fire Department: Well, explaining our role – of course, the Fire Department has one simple focus and it’s the health and safety of every single person in our city in every single neighborhood. So that includes, of course, the 50 plus four-year-olds who are going to enter UPK.
Mayor: 50,000 plus.
Commissioner Nigro: 50,000 plus, excuse me, who are entering pre-k. And our role is what? To inspect each and every facility to ensure that the facilities that our children and grandchildren enter next Thursday are absolutely safe. So to do that, we dedicated 100 professionals – all firefighters and fire officers, who inspect buildings professionally every day as part of their job – so we dedicated 100 professionals, plus all of our units, to do over 1,600 inspections to get ready for the opening of this expanded UPK program. In addition to that, next week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, we’re going to back to some facilities and spot check an additional 250. And we’ll keep 60 people in this task force and on already to go out and look into any and all problems that are reported. Because, as I say, the only role we have and the only focus we have is the safety of each and every person. And I can assure that the facilities they enter Thursday will be safe.
Question: [inaudible] the comptroller’s office has already rejected [inaudible] 12 contracts. What if they reject any of these hundreds of contracts once the school year has already started?
Mayor: Well, I’ll turn to Richard or Mark. Mark’s a lawyer, Richard’s a lawyer – I’m sure they could speak to this. Look, the notion here is we have an obligation to run these programs and to do them effectively and safely. If there’s a problem in the contracting process, we will go back and resolve that problem, but the programs are going to open based on all the effort that’s been put it in to ensure their effectiveness and their safety. So if we find a problem, we will go back and work on that contract and if there’s revisions necessary we’ll do them. Anything to add on that process?
Deputy Mayor Buery: I mean, I would just say, briefly, in part to repeat what the mayor said that – again, we welcome and are open to any feedback about anything that anyone finds about the health and safety of any provider. So of course if there were a legitimate reason for the comptroller to reject a contract, we would welcome the information and move forward. But it’s also important to remember the nature of that role that the comptroller plays. It is the purview of the city’s health department, the Department of Investigation, the fire department, etcetera, to ensure the health and safety of programs. It’s the purview of the Department of Education and ACS to ensure these are programs that live up to our quality standards. That’s not the nature of the comptroller’s review. And the reason why the comptroller should reject a contract would not be because they have a different opinion than the provider, it would be for reasons related to the fiscal integrity of the contracting process. It’s not about what we’re talking about. So that is a very important check, it is just not about what the fire department is about, and what the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is about.
Mayor: Let me ask Mark to add for a second.
Commissioner Peters: Just one – two other very quick points. One is that attitude of fiscal integrity – we have already begun putting steps in place to make sure of that. We are talking, after all, about spending a lot of money. Deputy Mayor Buery and I, working with all of the commissioners you see here, are putting together a task force that will not only be doing spot checks to ensure safety, but will also be doing data mapping and other work to make sure that the fiscal integrity of the programs is secure, because a program this size is one where you always have to do that. And then [inaudible], the staff at DOI and the staff at the comptroller’s office talk on a regular basis about a lot of topics. So that if they have concerns about specific pre-k’s for any reason, their staff and my staff talk all the time. To date, they have not reached out to us yet on the UPK subject at all to raise any concerns.
Mayor: We’re staying on. Let’s just finish on, then we’ll go off – anything on?
Question: This is a pretty huge display of support. And I was wondering if maybe everyone came together or was told to come together last night or if this was pre-arranged?
Mayor: The press conference is something we’ve been talking about for days and days to announce the enrollment figures in anticipation of next week. We wanted to make sure that a couple of additional commissioners were here to answer questions. So this is something we had planned in advance.
Question: [inaudible] that’s now five violations were supposed to be addressed in a 24 hour time period [inaudible]. Can you talk about at what point you decide whether you will be closing those programs?
Commissioner Basset: Sure. So, when we find a site, which has a violation, which we determine requires immediate action, the first step is to remediate it. Very commonly, this is for paperwork problems such as the background checks, which we’ve already talked about – which, incidentally, I should’ve pointed out, usually it’s not that these don’t exist, it’s simply that the paperwork has to catch up with the individual. Most of the time, these backgrounds have been done – we just don’t have the documentation of them. So, a remedial action has to be taken. If there’s been food left out at above the temperature that it should be stored at it, it needs to be discarded and the operator has to undertake to refrigerate their food. If somebody doesn’t have their background check on file, we need to tell them to go home until they get it. So that’s the remediation. Then we move on to ensure that this violation is completely and prudently addressed – and for that, there’s more time. But we don’t need any site at which there is a situation, which creates a hazard to children or to the people who work there without addressing it. If we can’t address it, we close the site – and this happens rarely – probably about 30 times a year. So it doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, and we can’t remediate the hazard, we close the site.
Mayor: I want to follow up on that. The – this is the same as would be true for any district public school. If we find a health problem or a safety problem, the goal is to go in and immediately address it. If it’s going to take a few days of a closure to address it, we do it for a few days. If something looks more lasting, we literally close the facility for the duration of the remediation. We believe at this point – you’ve heard the numbers – there’s a handful of cases left. We think we’ll resolve them. If for any reason, we’re not satisfied by Wednesday, we’re literally going to be able – or even earlier – to tell parents that we’re holding off for a couple of days in that specific site. If, in the next couple of days, we become convinced – today, tomorrow – that a site is not going to make it and is going to have longer-term problems, we’re literally going to pull the kids from that site and give parents an alternative site nearby. So we have a lot of leeway because so many sites have been put into play, but, for example, a one-day closure to fix a problem – we know of that in different public sites – that’s not unusual, that happens occasionally. That’s the kind of thing that might be necessary in certain cases.
Question: How would you characterize your relationship with Scott Stringer?
Mayor: I think we’ve worked together on a variety of issues and I think it’s been a professional relationship. Anything else on topic? On topic, going once, going twice.
Mayor: Well, I think it’s, in one way, a permanent feature. We believe that early childhood education is the key to success in education and to so many other things in our society. So to sustain this effort, this kind of inspection will have to happen every year. There’ll be a lot of continued effort to keep this strong. I do think it’s fair to say, in light of your question, some of this stuff – the first time, the second time you set the pattern in place and it becomes something that everyone learns to follow effectively. So I think we’ll be able to realize those efficiencies. But will we be making a long-term substantial investment into pre-k not just from DOE and ACS but from other city agencies? Absolutely.
Question: [inaudible] health and safety – you know, the outstanding issues. Are there any other issues with any of the other agencies – FDNY, DOB – that require remediation at a site before the school year starts?
Mayor: DOB, you want to come up and give the analysis?
Deputy Commissioner Tom Fariello, Department of Buildings: Of all the sites we had, 190 of the sites had hazardous violations – that’s our highest classification of them. We inspected all of those sites and we’re down to seven sites that have still – they haven’t remediated the work – and so we’re working with those to resolve that now.
Mayor: [inaudible] same pattern that they are likely, but in a couple of cases, if we don’t feel good by tomorrow, we have the option to pull them down or delay them a few days. On DOI, any outstanding issues? So, okay, on 1,100 plus sites – any outstanding issues?
Commissioner Peters: I believe there is a single site that we’re still talking with some folks about and either it will get fixed or the site will get pulled. But there’s only one left – I’m looking at my folks now, who are – yes – there’s only one site left that we’re still talking with folks about.
Deputy Mayor Buery: Sorry. I just want to make an important point that – to reiterate – we do expect the majority of those sites to be okay – but I will reiterate that in any case where we decide – and we will over the next day or two – that one of those sites cannot move forward, we immediately put the enrollment team to work to individually engage those families and to find another program that will serve them, to make sure that every child who has plans to go to school on September 4 will have a preschool to go to on September 4.
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you anticipate that opening day will be filled with glitches and snags, or will it be smooth?
Mayor: Thank you for providing two alternatives. I like multiple choice tests. I think it will be very smooth. I think this chancellor has done an extraordinary job – Commissioner Carrión has done an extraordinary job – getting their agencies ready to go. As Carmen Fariña said, 49 years on the job – I think she knows a thing or two about how to get the school system ready for opening day. We feel very, very good. I’m going to have her come up when we go to other topics – before we do I know she wants to say one last thing. But we feel very confident about a smooth school opening and a safe school opening. Melissa.
Question: Are you sort of irritated or annoyed that one of your fellow democrats [inaudible]? And did you ask him after your meeting yesterday not to [inaudible]?
Mayor: First of all, I have grown to the point where I don’t get irritated by other people’s actions. We have a job to do. I said to him very clearly – show me the problems that we can fix together because I want to fix them. And again, the phone lines are open – I welcome any and all knowledge. Mark Peters says it, DOI feels the same way – we want the information on anything that we can fix. I think we all have that job to do together. And if there is more information, I look forward to hearing it. Last call, on topic. Yes.
Question: What do you think are going to be the big challenges of the next [inaudible] high quality pre-k?
Mayor: I’ll start and then pass to Carmen. I feel the foundation is very, very strong at this point. There’s been a huge amount of communication. One of the things that has, I think, plagued our schools in the past is when there isn’t sufficient communication with parents. I say that as a public school parent myself. The outreach teams and everyone in these agencies has done really an extraordinary job communicating to parents how things are going to go, what it looks like, answering their questions and concerns, letting them know where they can call if there’s any kind of problem. Carmen will tell you – the moment a parent brings their child to pre-k is a very – it’s an amazing moment. It’s also a challenging moment for any parent – she’s taken some extraordinary measures to help make sure there’s really a great team ready to receive kids and parents. But I feel great about the foundation we have laid. I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement. I think there’s going to be a lot of energy – that so many more kids are going to get this chance and that it is something historic. Let me turn to the chancellor, then we’ll go to off topic.
Chancellor Fariña: First of all, there are always glitches. How do you move 1.2 million kids and say there’s not going to be a glitch? But I will tell you that just from the last week, these are some of the things we’ve done. I had an open meeting, during the vacation, for guidance counselors. We had close 400 guidance counselors come. We didn’t have room for anymore, so we’re having a second session. And I’ve asked guidance counselors to be the frontline people in all our elementary schools – greet parents, have boxes of tissues ready – not for the kids, for the grown-ups – and making sure that they hold coffee hours for parents to soothe them because a lot of them – [inaudible] separating from their kids – and a lot of our parents would love to have their children in school, but, most importantly, are also afraid to separate from them. I have a daughter who’s having real separation problems from her two-and-a-half-year-old, so she’s sitting in a parking lot with a zoom lens camera watching what they’re doing in the school, which I said, “We don’t do that.”
And that’s a true story – and he’s two and a half. You couldn’t have made that one up. [inaudible] reports every half hour. [inaudible] with every superintendent in New York City, asking them to make sure they meet with every principal, that they have a real clear plan on how to greet pre-k parents in the morning, at dismissal time, and answer any questions. So there are going to be an awful lot of people around the city – same thing with CBO’s. We’ve been sending messages out, written several letters on what are the right things to do. But I really to be sure, before they go to non-topic questions, that we don’t forget what this program is historically all about. It’s not about contracts, though we know those are important. It’s about the joy of learning that we’re bringing to four-year-olds. We’ve got to stay focused on that.
And I want parents to think about it. The first day in school your children are going to go and they’re going to learn a new thing – they’re going to learn how to play with each other, they’re going to have yard time where they’re going to have to learn how to share – some kids are not too good at that and it’s a lesson learned in school. So I really want to tell parents, once again, that as an abuela, I take, very seriously, everything. But I want to say that this is an opportunity not to be missed and, most importantly, to be savored. When your four-year-old comes home from school the first day, don’t ask them, “How did it go?” Say, “What’s the best thing you did in school today?” and then let them talk. Thank you.
Mayor: Yes. Amen. Okay. Off topic.
Question: Mr. Mayor, it seems an [inaudible] crime wave going on in this city [inaudible]. Given that [inaudible]?
Mayor: I think Commissioner Bratton and his team are literally the most advanced in the nation at crime statistics. This is man who brought us CompStat. I sat in a CompStat meeting a week ago and it is an extraordinary example of advanced intelligent public sector leaders figuring out what’s really going on and acting on it. And in fact, as anyone knows who’s seen CompStat or talked about it, it’s rigorous, it’s challenging – in fact, the leadership of the department challenges the precinct commanders to look under the hood of what’s going on and to see if there isn’t even more there. So it’s actually – I understand the concern you’re raising, because in some police departments around the country, there have been allegations that crime were undercounted. But under Bill Bratton, there’s a relentless search to make sure we got every crime classified properly and that we’re doing all the follow-up we need. So I’m very confident about the numbers. The numbers today – these are facts, these are from the New York City Police Department – not from a union with its own agenda – but from the New York City Police Department – we are at 30 fewer murders – as of midnight last night, 30 fewer murders than the same point last year. We’re very proud of that fact. Overall crime down 3.6 percent – 1,000 fewer robberies than the same point last year. Those are facts. There are a number of additional shootings – about 60 more shootings – six-zero – at this point last year – than the total time, same point last year, about 8 months – 60 more shootings. We take that seriously. We’ve added resources to address that. I also want to say I think the captains’ union – I commend the captains’ union, and the president, Roy Richter, for their clear statement of support for the Democratic National Committee. And, much more important – for the convention I should say – much more important, is their belief that New York City is safe and getting safer. We depend on our captains. We depend on all our police personnel. I think they’re doing a great, great job – and the numbers prove it. And I think the captains’ union made that very clear.
Question: [inaudible] this school is no longer a Learning Partner school, and, if so, can you explain why?
Mayor: Is this no longer a Learning Partner school and can you explain why?
Chancellor Fariña: No. This is absolutely a Learning Partner. And we added more – we have 73 – and we expect the number to grow. Absolutely.
Question: Mr. Mayor, your FOIL office has taken to responding to requests either by not providing a date when we’re going to get an answer or by saying it’s going to be 90 days in the future. And as someone who has done a report on FOIL law, I’m sure you’re aware that there’s a 20-day time limit. So I’m wondering if you were aware of that? Or, if not, if you could just please look into it.
Mayor: I’ll certainly look into it. I’m not aware of all the specifics. I do know we are trying very consistently to acknowledge FOIL requests and come up with an action plan for each one.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the Alumni Associations [inaudible] specialized high schools [inaudible] you guys should not change the admissions criteria because it’ll end up diluting the curriculum and making it not as rigorous. If you could respond to that and, also, why you haven’t [inaudible].
Mayor: I’ll answer and the chancellor, maybe the public advocate, might have something to say on this one. I will welcome the chancellor and the public advocate to follow me if they want to say anything. The – it’s just this simple – this is a society that’s supposed to be based on fairness. Our specialized schools don’t reflect the kind of fairness that any New Yorker would recognize by any common sense measure. The last figures I heard for Stuyvesant – I have great respect for Stuyvesant – it’s an extraordinary New York City institution – the last time I checked, black and Latino student enrollment was around 7 percent combined – 7 percent – single digits – combined, in a city that is over half black and Latino population. It doesn’t represent our city. If you’re asking me are there lots of talented black and Latino young people who would do very well at Stuyvesant and would uphold the noble tradition of Stuyvesant? Unquestionably. Could I fill Stuyvesant with people of all backgrounds and have a great and wonderful educational experience keeping the most rigorous standards? Unquestionably. You know what the problem is? Standardized testing. I have felt this for years – even before I became a public servant. You cannot judge people solely by a standardized test. And we as an administration – and the chancellor’s leading the way on this – we are moving away from anything that limits the measure of any student or any teacher or any principal based solely on standardized testing. We think it’s flawed. By the way, I mentioned a few days back, a quote from the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said that multiple measures are clearly recognized all over the country as the way to go. So we have to move away from the single standardized test as a way of getting things done. We cannot have the schools that are the jewels in the crown of New York City public education not reflect the totality of our people. We can absolutely find high-quality students from all backgrounds and we’re going to come up with a better way to do it. That’s what we’re going to have to achieve in Albany through legislation. In terms of our own schools, we are starting that process. Want to pick it up?
Chancellor Fariña: I would agree with the mayor but I would also stress that I believe in the high standards – and there’s got to be sure that whatever process we use, that the standards are still met. And one of the things we’ve done is we’ve put together a committee of people to study – both from the university field, experts in other areas – to come together and have a discussion. They’ve been meeting over the summer and they will continue to meet. And when we have some information, we’ll share it with you.
Mayor: Public advocate, you want to jump in?
Public Advocate James: I’ve represented Brooklyn Tech. Brooklyn Tech is not too far from where we are today. And I do know that one single test should not be the basis for one’s admission. A countless number of parents in Fort Greene, not too far in public housing, have indicated to me that they would love to go to Brooklyn Tech. They’ve missed it by one point, by two points – I think that’s totally unacceptable. To basically base one ability for success on one single standardized test is something over the years that I have rejected, I’ve abhorred. I think we can look at a wide range of ways to determine one’s success, particularly in standardized schools in the city of New York, particularly if we value diversity.
Question: The New York Times [inaudible] Andrew Cuomo?
Mayor: I don’t conjecture about any editorial board and what it does. All I can say is, I’m strongly supporting Governor Cuomo. I’m strongly supporting Ms. Hochul. I think – you know, Governor Cuomo’s done an extraordinary job. I delineated just what we’ve achieved together in eight months – pre-k, afterschool, increased school aid, funding for folks with HIV and AIDS to get affordable housing, new efforts to combat homelessness, new speed limits, speed cameras. It’s been an extraordinary record of getting things done for New York City. I think every New Yorker should be voting for Governor Cuomo.
Question: I was wondering if there’s any update [inaudible] possibility of police wearing body cameras? [inaudible] pilot program.
Mayor: Yes. The public advocate obviously has a view on this matter. And I want to say to her – she has very diligently represented in repeated discussions with me her concern that this be the way we go. Look, I think the commissioner said clearly. First, as a result of the settlement in the stop-and-frisk case, we were going to move to the pilot. The commissioner’s going to have a lot more to say about that and he’ll fill in the blanks on how that pilot’s proceeding. I do want to caution – there is no police department in the country anywhere near the scale of the New York City Police Department. So in terms of the build out, this has be done very smartly, because we have to see what works. And so the pilot is – I want to say this with the deepest respect for my colleague and her strong view – the pilot’s going to tell us a lot. It’s going to tell us whether it’s something we can use on a bigger or it’s something that’s going to take a lot more time to use on a bigger scale. We have to find that out objectively. But we’re absolutely committed to the pilot. We think there’s real promise there. And again, the commissioner will fill in the rest.
Question: [inaudible] pilot program?
Mayor: Well – look, obviously the settlement delineated a certain number of precincts will be tried. Part of the question is what scale you can actually reach in the short run. There’s very – I’ve gotten this briefing – very complicated issues in terms of data storage and, obviously, confidentiality issues – for example, in a domestic dispute. There’s real nuances here. They will be worked on. And again, this administration’s position is we want this pilot to move forward and we think there’s something important there. But I also want to caution – the reason’s it’s a pilot is – one – the settlement – two – to find out what works. Did I see one over here or not? Okay. Excellent. Thank you, everyone.