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Walcott discusses ed. plan with CB-13

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Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott laid out the mayor’s plan for education when he visited his old Cambria Heights stomping grounds for Community Board 13’s monthly meeting Monday night.

Walcott, the deputy mayor for policy, touched on the impact the city budget cutbacks would have on a number areas, ranging from education and police to parents playing an active role in their children’s education. Walcott, who hails from Cambria Heights, has always been active in his community and at one time was the president of the Cambria Heights Civic Association.

“The mayor this past Wednesday submitted his executive budget to the city,” he told the board and about 20 community members. “Now we begin the negotiating process with the Council to come up with a balanced budget by June 5.”

There will be a $4.9 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year 2003, he said, but the problem is not just a one-year-and-done scenario. In 2004 there is a projected $5.2 billion deficit and in 2005 the projections are showing a $5.5 billion gap.

“Our hands are tied behind our backs in terms of what we can do,” he said about the mayor’s proposed cuts, which have many people worried. The city does not want a tax hike, Walcott said, so the across-the-board cuts to libraries, after-school programs, senior services and all of the other city agencies are necessary.

Community Board 13 stretches from Glen Oaks to Springfield Gardens and from Hollis to Rosedale. It also includes Floral Park, Bellerose, Queens Village, Cambria Heights, Laurelton, St. Albans and parts of Jamaica.

The proposed educational cuts have caused concern in the district. Many are afraid that School District 29, which has been without a superintendent for the last two years, will continue its downward spiral.

“We need to mobilize parents to participate in the educational system,” Walcott said. “We have to send signals from City Hall that parents must get involved.”

He pointed out that the mayor’s plan for school governance would have parents at the local, district and borough levels disseminating educational information and that the plan encourages more parental involvement. He said as it stands, only 27 percent of community school board members have children in the city’s educational system.

An enormous amount of the responsibility for having parents become part of their children’s educational well-being falls on the principals, Walcott said. Schools also have to be more accountable for educating children and become more flexible about how they meet and communicate with parents.

Veering from the subject of education, community members told Walcott that for more than 20 years the community has pushed for the creation of a new police precinct to shrink the size and burden of the 105th Precinct, which is the largest precinct in the borough. Members of the board told Walcott their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and they wanted to know if he, as a resident in the precinct, could do anything.

The community should organize its views on what needs to be done and why it is necessary, Walcott said, then present it the information to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“Have the police commissioner come out to a community board meeting to discuss the issue,” he told the board. “You need to sensitize the administration to your needs.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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