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Chancellor Black Criticized For Talking Back To Crowd During PEP Meeting

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Schools Chancellor Cathie Black is getting an earful for a remark she made during Tuesday's heated meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

It was just a few seconds at the end of a seven hour meeting, but Schools Chancellor Cathie Black's retort to an angry crowd early Wednesday morning attracted a lot of attention.

After saying "I can't speak if you're shouting," Black imitated the crowd's jeers.

"Cathie Black really needs to get the memo that it's time to respect parents' opinions and act on them, not just give them lip service, but actually act on them, and the DOE isn't always right," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

It was certainly one version of lip service. All night the chancellor had been heckled by the crowd, which swelled to about 3,000 people. It was a special meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy considering school closures and charter school placements. At 1 a.m. the crowd demanded the chancellor speak.

"We have studied...we have studied these very difficult proposals for the better part of two years. It has been an extremely difficult process," Black said.

The meeting also seemed an extremely difficult process for the publishing executive turned schools chief. Even the president of the powerful teacher's union, Michael Mulgrew, joined the crowd heckling Black and the the panel members, most of whom are appointed by the mayor and are seen as a rubber stamp for his policies.

"We're so frustrated. There's no one to talk to, no one listens to us. They're up there, we're talking for hours, they're just ignoring us. And you see that frustration," Mulgrew said.

The public advocate says the chancellor should respond to the concerns, not dismiss them with sarcasm.

"Cathie Black's comments at the end of the meeting really hit the wrong note because a lot of parents in the room felt they weren't being heard and then her comments only amplified that notion," said De Blasio.

Black will have another opportunity to face the crowd Thursday night. After voting to close all 10 schools Tuesday, the Panel will reconvene to consider closing 13 more.

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