Town Meetings Cut, Then Quadrupled, in New York Common Core Kerfuffle

Common Core has aroused passion in New York State, as Education Commissioner John King decided to cancel upcoming community meetings on the state’s new Common Core curriculum in Williamsville after a testy town hall exchange. Parents and teachers, who were looking to voice their concerns about the curriculum, were not happy with this decision.

King didn’t get his way for long, though — his cancellation of four meetings was reversed. Instead, there will be a series of 16 meetings.

At a Williamsville public event, parents and teachers hoped to raise questions about the effectiveness of the state requirements. The town hall-style meeting was one of four across the state that King canceled after he faced criticism and shouting during the question-and-answer period of a similar meeting in Poughkeepsie. King said a special interests group is responsible for disrupting the first meeting, according to Denise Jewell Gee of The Buffalo News.

People are angry with King for calling them a special interest group.

“To call parents a special interest group, it’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. There are a lot of groups out there that are organizing, but the groups are groups of parents, first and foremost,” said Molly Dana, a West Seneca parent who was helping to organize a protest ahead of King’s Williamsville appearance before the event was canceled.

According to the New York State Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA) web site, the Poughkeepsie event was not intended as a “protest rally” or to become “a forum for insult, personal attack, or overall disregard.” The association had organized the forums along with the New York State Department of Education.

“This was to be an opportunity for information to be shared, for questions to be asked and facts clarified and for members to share their experiences and concerns,” PTA President Lana Ajemian said, adding that the “intent was not realized.”

At the Poughkeepsie meeting, King gave a 90-minute presentation on the Common Core standards, videos of the meeting show. The question-and-answer period devolved into angry shouting by some audience members who said King did not allow enough time to pose questions or explain concerns.

Western New Yorkers for Public Education, a group of parents and teachers, criticized King for canceling upcoming meetings. The group had been organizing a protest that was supposed to take place right before the Williamsville meeting. The organization was expecting 75 people to show up.

Dennis Tompkins, a state Department of Education spokesman, said it is not true that King was avoiding listening to criticism of state Education Department policies. According to Tompkins, King had spoken to parents, teachers and school board members during visits to schools throughout the state.

Tompkins also said that the Education Department plans to reach out to parents and teachers through its website, engageny.org. The department also has held training events for teachers and administrators.

Defending his decision to cancel four upcoming forums, King said the first meeting in Poughkeepsie made it impossible to have constructive dialogue, according to Jon Campbell of Democrat and Chronicle.

And then, just as quickly, the cancellations were reversed.

The New York Education Department announced that it will host 16 forums across the state on the newly implemented Common Core standards, writes Jon Campbell in Lohud Blogs.

According to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, these state-sponsored meetings will take the place of four New York State Parent Teacher Association meetings abruptly cancelled.