New Yorkers eager to give Mayor Bill de Blasio a piece of their mind packed an education town hall meeting in Jackson Heights Thursday night. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
His shirtsleeves are rolled up. His jacket is off. Mayor Bill de Blasio is on his feet, working the crowd, answering questions for two hours at a town hall meeting on education, including some from teachers.
"We want you to stick around. We need you," said one person at the meeting.
For a politician who had been reluctant to go before the public in a town hall format, the mayor seemed at ease in front of this crowd. It helps that both of his children went to public schools. He can speak from personal experience about the system in a way his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could not.
"As a public school parent, I was very troubled that teachers were not being respected," de Blasio said. "Nothing is going to change the school system more than recruiting and retaining the very best teachers for the long haul."
Pointed questions did come from the crowd. New Yorkers asked about creating smaller classes, helping children with special needs and technology in the classroom. One parent, who is also a teacher, spoke about her frustration with a lack of physical education and art opportunities. She says there is too much of a focus on testing, even though the mayor promised to change that.
"President Obama said there should be no more than 2 percent of school time spent on testing. Yet since school started, I spent 30 percent of my time giving pre-tests and post-tests," the teacher said.
The event was technically open to the public, but people who wanted to attend had to register in advance with the local City Councilman, Daniel Dromm. It was a hurdle that kept some New Yorkers away who might otherwise have attended.