Community District Education Council 22 (CEC 22) held a virtual Town Hall meeting with Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks on Tuesday evening, April 5th via Zoom.
Chancellor Banks, who was appointed by Mayor Eric Adams on January 1st, is best known as the Founder, President and CEO of Eagle Academy, a network of charter high schools for boys. While some who oppose charter schools worry that the chancellor is too entrenched in independent public school education to lead the largest traditional public school system in the Nation, others believe his innovative approach makes him a trailblazer in educating boys of color in particular.
After members of CEC 22 gave the chancellor a warm welcome, he jumped right into the Q&A, prepared based on input received from the community over the course of several weeks. Many inquiries pertained to COVID-related issues, like when parents would be allowed back into schools, what is being done to make up for lost learning and what interventions are being put in place to help students cope with the emotional trauma they have faced.
In terms of lost learning, Banks explained that there is a robust summer program being developed for students in Grades K-8 that are still struggling to catch up, which will help them learn in “new and exciting ways.” The program will have seats for 110,000 students, will include field trips and will extend to 6 p.m. He also said that there are 210,000 open positions in the Summer Rising student employment program that will help kids realize their full potential. In regards to the emotional well-being of students, the chancellor said that “there is a lot of work to be done” and that he and his team are working closely with several educational organizations to assess a number of interventions to determine the best approach. “Every school should feel like a good place to kids and that a hug from a friend or a word of encouragement from a teacher could be a very powerful thing.”
Banks said that the DOE has good intentions in terms of providing quality special education to all students who need it, but said that they are still experiencing a teacher supply shortage that he has been working diligently to sort out over the past couple of months. He briefly discussed the importance of taking a different, more phonetic approach to literacy, launching a new unit to support foster children, expanding the Halal school food program to reach more students and reducing class sizes.
After all of the analyses are complete, Banks said he will have a better idea of what will work to reduce overcrowding. He is exploring staggered schedules, building new schools and regrouping students or adding teachers if necessary. He also said that each school will likely require a custom approach, not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Having raised four children himself, the chancellor explained that he knows what parents are up against and assured families that he will be a true partner to them and will be committed to working with them to make amazing things happen.