3:04 p.m. |Update
The first day of the 2012-13 school year wraps up, as schools dismiss students for the afternoon. SchoolBook still wants to hear how your day went, and what are your expectations for this coming year. Keep the conversation going with us, by posting your comments or getting in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2:27 p.m. |Update
The school tour continues at Staten Island Technical High School, where the chancellor met with robotics students and their basketball-throwing robot.
The robot, which resembled a shopping cart crossed with one of those machines that spits out tennis balls, was controlled by two juniors at a laptop with a remote control. Muhammad Azeen, 15, a member of the robotics team, said the two drivers “are the best we’ve got.”
The robot shoots free-throws, and challenged Walcott to a contest. Walcott needed a backboard; the robot didn’t. But Walcott was able to sink a shot on his third try, and the crowd went wild.
Students say they’re working on getting the robot to dunk next. The machine’s name is Trenatzet, which is Russian for 13. The school teaches Russian and this is the 13th year of the robotics team.
Shawn Fodor, 16 and a junior, said he’s happy to meet the chancellor. “It’s amazing and it got me out of a couple of classes,” he said. “And any chance we have to showcase our work is a plus.”
After mastering the robot’s “reverse” and “forward” controls, students awarded the chancellor with a robotics team bandana.
“Of all my visits,” Walcott said, “I was probably most nervous knowing I was coming here going against a robot in basketball.”
“I’m a really determined individual,” he added. “I’d be here for hours if I didn’t make a basket.”
1:12 p.m. |Update
Eagle Academy middle school used to share a building with a co-ed school, but it now has a space of its own in a renovated building that used to house a parochial school. This will enable it to expand to grades 6-12.
“This is what the community has given to you. We need this,” said Principal Kenyatte Reid as he showed the students a new counseling suite and empty classrooms smelling of fresh paint.
A few rooms are still being renovated as part of the $14 million project, which will be completed next year.
The chancellor asked students if they were excited about the move.
“I wanted to know how it feels to be in new chairs and everything,” said Damoni George, 13, as he looked around.
Ronald Colquhoun, 12, said his parents wanted him to attend an all-boys school, which is why he enrolled as a sixth grader two years ago. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not, but after a while I liked it,” he said.
Ronald said he will miss sharing space with another public school, though, because “I’ll miss the girls.”
“Middle school saved me, gentlemen. I was a reluctant reader,” Reid told the boys. Reid is entering his third year as principal and previously taught at Satellite West, where he was a student, too.
Reid said there’s growing demand for all-boys schools and that he should have no trouble filling seats. He said he currently has a waiting list.
12:32 p.m. |Update
Introducing members of the eighth grade class at Eagle Academy for Young Men III in Springfield Gardens, Queens, the next stop on the chancellor’s tour. Thanks to new facilities, these students can also stay through high school.
12:10 p.m. |Update
Senior Nathaly Abreu said she’s feeling unsure about starting her final year at University Heights Secondary School in the Bronx. She wrote to SchoolBook that she isn’t nervous anymore – like she was in ninth grade – but her excitement is “clouded by uneasiness and uncertainties.”
The college application process looms on her horizon.
“It is not only the start of a new year, my final one, but it is also the end of a high school mindset and the beginning of our independent lives, starting with the pre-college work that senior year holds,” she said.
11:35 a.m. |Update
The principal at Young Scholars Academy, Danika Lacroix, says special education reform is working at her school. She said she enrolled five new students with special needs just today.
Walcott said he saw a “lot of learning taking place” at Young Scholars, and he pointed out that special education students were learning alongside their peers.
“I can’t tell who’s who and that’s how it should be,” he said.
He added that he wished he could stick around for the baked chicken, which was wafting through the halls. But alas, onward to Queens.
11:10 a.m. |Update
At Young Scholars’ Academy, Chancellor Walcott helps first graders with a spelling lesson. He reminds them that “Walcott” has two T’s.
10:56 a.m. |Update
From Harlem to Brooklyn, the whirlwind tour continues. The chancellor arrives at Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration, a kindergarten through fifth grade school in Bedford Stuyvesant.
10:35 a.m. |Update
At Harlem Village Academy High School, Walcott visited a ninth grade english class where a banner over the whiteboard reads, “Is man a victim or an agent of his fate?” The teacher, Teddy Redding, said this is the question of the year.
Over the summer the students read The Other Wes Moore, about two black men with the same name but very different fates. One is in jail for armed robbery, while the other is a scholar.
“No matter what situation you’re in you can always work hard,” said Keneecha Obasa, 13.
The students also debated the role of fate, because both Wes Moore’s had lost their fathers.
Walcott knew the book well, as did his companion for the morning tour, Ed Lewis, founder of Essence Magazine and a board member of Harlem Village Academy.
10:28 a.m. |Update
A group of students at Harlem Village Academy High School learn the importance of good posture on their first day of school.
Harlem Village is one of the city’s 159 charter schools championed by the Bloomberg administration.
Walcott, asked by a reporter if charters are better than traditional schools, said, “This is not a competition between charters and non-charters. It’s to get all of our students ready for college and careers.”
10:10 a.m. |Update
Next stop, Harlem Village Academy. Say hello to a new batch of kindergarteners.
9:40 a.m. |Update
At the New Settlement Campus, parent Vanessa Felette was with her five-year-old daughter Linessa, who’s starting first grade at the Mount Eden Elementary School.
Linessa wore a white blouse and a purple backpack. She said she’s happy to start school because she’s going to be “meeting the new students and meeting the teacher.”
Meanwhile Timothy Sigerson, assistant principal of MS 327, greeted his students. A trio of girls smiled when they saw the tall, cheerful Sigerson. When asked what they are looking forward to in ninth grade, two of them said science. The building has state of the art science equipment, a pool and a health clinic.
9:33 a.m. |Update
Walcott reminds reporters that 55 new schools are open today, bringing the total number of schools in New York City closer to 1,750. It’s “an amazing feat,” the chancellor said. Close to 600 of these schools were opened under the Bloomberg administration.
9:24 a.m. |Update
The New Settlement Campus also houses Middle School 327, the Comprehensive Model School Project, which is expanding to high school grades now that it has the space.
Mayor Bloomberg and the chancellor stopped off at a ninth grade math class.
“Math I always thought was easy,” the mayor said. “There’s a right or a wrong answer. It’s objective. You either got it or not.”
He then explained to the class how things were different when he graduated high school in 1960 and told them what a slide rule is.
9:08 a.m. |Update
While at New Settlement Campus, the mayor, chancellor and principals union president Ernest Logan announced a new mobile texting program for parents. They say it will allow families to get information about schools and programs, such as information on the school calendar, lunch menus and tips to log onto ARIS Parent Link. Families can enroll by texting “nycschools” to 877-877.
8:30 a.m. |Update
Chancellor Dennis Walcott is making the rounds to five schools this morning to welcome back students and staff. SchoolBook’s Beth Fertig is with him, talking to nervous and excited students, parents and educators along the way.
First stop: The New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx. The campus is a new building for nearly 1,000 students in three schools, including the new Mount Eden Children’s Academy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the chancellor here and stopped in on a kindergarten class.
The chancellor will also be visiting Harlem Village Academy High School in Manhattan, Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration in Brooklyn, Eagle Academy for Young Men III in Queens, and Staten island Technical High School.
Beth Fertig, Stephen Nessen and Yasmeen Khan contributed reporting.