Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Unprecedented Recruitment And Training For High Quality Pre-K Teachers In Preparation For Expansion

March 25, 2014

Mayor de Blasio: I would like to welcome everyone, and welcome, joining me today, our Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery, our budget director Dean Fuleihan, Josh Wallack, our Chief Strategy Officer at DOE, and Sophia Pappas, the Executive Director of the Offie of Early Childhood Education at DOE, and most importantly, a former pre-k teacher herself. And I think we're being joined, or have been – yes, Sherry Cleary, excellent, the Executive Director of New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at CUNY, thank you, and one of the members of our working group, thank you very much Sherry. 

The point we want to make today to me is very, very exciting. This is about another crucial building block in our effort to create a plan for full-day pre-k for every child in this city. Which, together with our plan for middle school for every – excuse me, afterschool for every middle school student, will fundamentally change the nature of our school system. So let me just start with that for a moment. The idea, when I talked about this on Sunday, the idea here is that we have to address the foundational dynamics of our school system. We can't continue on a pattern of making the same mistakes over and over, seeing the same failures over and over. We simply are not reaching enough of our children effectively enough. I talked on Sunday about our inability to get enough of our kids to grade level by third grade, which is the make or break year. I talked about the fact that even among those children who do graduate, the vast majority are not college ready. This is an unacceptable state of affairs. It's unacceptable in human terms for the children, for the families involved; it's unacceptable in terms of the future of this city. 

I've talked to a lot of leaders in different industries, and in particular the tech sector which is one of the most important emerging sectors in this city. And there's a broad agreement that we're not on pace to develop the workforce necessary for the 21st century. So, New York City has always been strong because we have the talent, because we had the workforce that matched the needs of the time. That's been true for centuries. That is becoming less true with every passing year. We have to address it. So I say first as a parent, that the state of affairs is unacceptable. And what I talked about on Sunday is that I do deeply appreciate and understand why so many of my fellow parents are seeking any good option they can find for their child. 

So, the individual cost is unacceptable. But the societal cost is equally unacceptable. We're not on the pace to where we need to be. And we have to make big bold changes, and that's why it is so important to not just dabble in early childhood education, or dabble in afterschool, but fundamentally provide these services on a wide level, on a broad level that reaches all the kids who need them. That's the only way you can start to fundamentally change the school system. 

Now, the question has been, if you understand the notion that – or if you accept the notion that we need broad-gauge change, the question has been how do you pull it off. I think the assumption running through the discussion has been, it hasn't happened before, so therefore there must be some good reason why it didn't happen. Well, we argue it's been a strategic reality. Previous administrations didn't focus on early childhood education. Previous administrations actually disinvested in afterschool rather than investing more in it. And so we lost an opportunity to start to turn the supertanker and make fundamental change. 

When we looked at this afresh, we not only found that it was possible to reach a lot more people, we found that we had all the tools we needed right here in this city. It was about marshaling those forces, it was about organizing them, and recognizing that if we had enough focus here at City Hall and at the DOE, at DYCD, at ACS, at all the agencies involved, that we could make this happen on a grand scale, and we could do it quickly. So, we've never accepted the notion of limits. We've never felt that it's something we had to do only on a small scale, or only reach the few. We felt from the beginning we could reach the many, and the more we got into the details, the more it was confirmed to us. So, since we walked in the door about 12 weeks ago, the machinery –at literally a dozen city agencies– has been moving intensely to make sure that we are ready to offer high-quality full-day universal pre-k this September for 53,000 New York City children. This September. 

Last month we rolled out our progress report on the availability of classrooms – reminding you our goal has been to find 21,000 classrooms, we ended up with proposals for 29,000, a further indication of the availability of much more space than many of the conventional observers had assumed. What we want to talk about now is a crucial, crucial piece of the equation. The piece that's the most necessary to educating a child, and that is our teachers. And any parent will tell you what I experienced, and Chirlane experienced, as Chiara and Dante were growing up – there are excellent teachers who make a profound difference in the lives of the children that they teach. Every one of us, every parent, can tell you about a certain teacher at a certain grade level who fundamentally improved the learning of that child, and the growth of that child. Every one of us has experienced it, and our goal is to make that the common reality for the children of this city, at each and every grade level. 

The report we're releasing today projects the needs for the teaching core that will make full-day universal pre-k a reality, remembering that we start with the goal of the 53,000 seats for this September, expanding the following school year up to 73,000. That is where we are going. And based on our research, we know we need a thousand lead teachers for the first level, to get us to 53,000, a thousand more lead teachers for the second year, to get us to 73,000. Now, we're going to help both our school system and our community based organizations find and recruit and train and the best-trained, most talented teachers available. 

I talked on Sunday about the fact that it is our job, in terms of fixing our schools writ large, to attract the best talent, and to retain the best talent. That is going to be central to our vision of pre-k as well. All pre-k teachers need a substantial level of educational achievement. We're going to make sure that we help them to continue to deepen their training and their education as part of our process. 

On an average year, we receive at the DOE more than 2,000 applications from early education certified teachers. So, just in any given year, over 2,000 applications come in from teachers who already have early childhood certification. The application process has been open for only one month so far this year. Generally, most of the applications come in closer to the end of the school year as teachers are preparing for the following year, but just after one month, we have seen a 55 percent increase in the number of early childhood education certified teachers applying to the DOE, compared to this time last year. So, there's already in any given year an ample supply of teachers who come forward, but because of the focus on pre-k, we've seen a 55 percent increase in those applications already. And we know that there's a lot more that will come in as we move forward.

We're going to use every element of the city government to build this plan, and to bring in the best talent for it. And we also understand that in the process, we're going to create a lot of opportunity for New Yorkers who want to work in this field, who want to improve their skills, who want to make a long-term career of it. So, we're going to help people who are graduating from our public universities, and people who work already at neighborhood-based organizations, to get the training and certification they need to further their careers in early childhood education. Again, picking up from what I talked about Sunday, the best thing for this city would be to have an ever-improving teacher core of truly highest-quality, best-trained individuals, constantly learning, constantly growing, who stay in the teaching profession for their entire career. That is the goal. And we want to create that dynamic in the pre-K effort as well. We want talented people to come in and know that they can remain in this profession for the rest of their career, helping us to build our early childhood education efforts.

Today, among the other the pieces that we want to talk about, we are announcing a really historic partnership with the City University of New York and its early childhood professional development institute. This is an extraordinary institution that takes the best home-grown talent and helps New Yorkers move into the field of early childhood education with a strong background, strong training. We’re going to devote from our pre-K effort $6.7 million to build this partnership, to ensure that we have a constant supply of talented teachers ready to help our kids.

And we’re creating to tracks to develop and deepen our early childhood education workforce. One for recent college graduates that provides intensive summer training, field work, and mentoring to help them get their certification by September 2015 – that’ll be for the following year – and helps them learn in pre-K classrooms starting this fall. So while we’re building the framework for this September, we’re already getting to work building out the much bigger framework for the following September. The second track is for people currently in our early education system, especially in our community-based organizations – to make sure they get the certification they need to become a lead teacher. They’ll get an advisor, they’ll get counseling, they’ll get tuition help and stipends to make sure that they can complete their studies and move up. We want everyday New Yorkers who are devoted to children to have opportunities to grow professionally, to help us achieve this plan, to get to the kind of job that also will be good for providing for a family. And this is going to create a strong career option, and a career pipeline in all five boroughs, because it’s neighborhood based.

And we’re going to then go further to deepen that pool of talented teachers who are going to be a part of this effort by casting our wide net. We’re going to use the teachnycprek.org website, again that’s teachnycprek.org. This website will be part of a talent search not just in New York City, not just in the tri-state area, but nationwide, to bring the best and the brightest pre-K teachers here to build this historic effort. There will be subway ads recruiting teachers this spring and there will be additional partnerships with other universities as we move forward.

Between all of these elements, we estimate, based on prior year history, that we’ll have a pool of qualified, interested applicants – as many as 7,000 to chose from as we build out this system. And because our central focus is on making this the highest quality possible pre-K effort, we’re going to begin putting in place coaches that will continue to work with each of our teachers. We’ll be reducing the ratio of classrooms for each coach and mentor so there’ll be much more personal attention and support. And we’ll be ensuring on-going professional enrichment to keep teachers growing and becoming better all the time on the job.

We are putting each and every piece of our plan in place now so that we’re ready when the funding is approved in Albany. As we’ve made clear, the classroom space is there – it’s ready. The teachers are ready. New York City is ready to make history. And we’re very proud of all the people who have been involved in this effort who are going to make sure we have the best talent available to serve our children.

A moment en español.

Estamos aqui para hablar sobre la parte mas importante de nuestro plan de ofrecer prekinder gratis, a tiempo completo para todos los ninos de cuatro anos: los maestros. 

Hoy, estamos anunciando un acuerdo historico de 6.7 millones de dolares con la universidad municipal CUNY para adiestrar a mas neoyorquinos a educar a ninos de prekinder. 

Con esto, tenemos el espacio para los salones de clase. Tenemos los maestros necesarios. Estamos listos para hacer historia. 

With that, I want to turn to our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, who is spearheading our entire pre-K and afterschool task force. He is doing an extraordinary job bringing all of the city agencies together to achieve this historic goal. I often talk to my colleagues about the fact that we have to think in terms of other great efforts in history where government served at its finest, where amazing things were achieved – I talk about the Marshall Plan, I talk about the D-Day invasion. So, given that we are planning to do something great and historic, I have now likened to Richard Buery to being our General Eisenhower, and being someone who’s going to bring all the strands together to make this historic effort work. General, please step forward – address your troops.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you for being the first person to recognize my natural physical resemblance to General Eisenhower.

[LAUGHTER]

Deputy Mayor Buery: I appreciate it. I assume that’s why you came up with that analogy. Yes, that’s right.

So, thank you Mr. Mayor, thank you everyone. I want to take just a moment to update you on just some of the work now underway across over a dozen city agencies to turn to these plans into reality. Last week, we expanded our UPK implementation working group to include not just the frontline agencies that run the program – the Department of Education and the Administration for Children’s Services – but the full network of city agencies that certify, monitor, and assist with UPK programs. This includes everything from the fire department, and the Department of Health, which, among other things, issue the permits required to operate a UPK facility, to the Department of Investigations, which monitors providers to make sure tax payer dollars are being spent wisely. It includes the Economic Development Corporation, which is actively looking at its project pipeline to see which space could potentially be developed for pre-K classrooms in the future. From issuing the RFPs to reaching out to parents to letting them know that new options are on the way, we are on schedule and on-target.

The bipartisan consensus we have in Albany on fully funding these programs is historic and we are going to be ready the day that funding is green-lit to help principals and providers lock-in the space, hire their faculty, and work with parents to find the right program for their child. When we do this job right, it will mean that tens of thousands of parents will have a high-quality, full-day prekindergarten program for their child in their neighborhood. This is history and we are ready for it. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you. [inaudible] your remarks. The – I just again want to thank all my colleagues because they’ve put in a really extraordinary effort. And I think what Richard has done leading this task force – a whole range of agencies that I can tell from my dealings with the task force are absolutely in common cause on this – understand the timeline, understand the need – it’s a great indication of government at its best. So I want to thank you for your leadership. With that let’s take questions. On-topic first.

Question: Mayor, on one hand you indicate that you already have thousands of applicants to be pre-K teachers but on the other hand you talked about a recruiting effort and ads on the subway. Does that send a mixed that you’re both ready and don’t have enough?

Mayor: No. And what we’re saying is, first of all, the response already is extraordinary. We want to make sure there’s a very strong base of talent available. We obviously want to make sure we get the most talented, the most effective teachers in place. And it’s a two-year process, remember. We want people to – for part of the first expansion, for this September. And there’s a second, very big expansion going into the next school year. So, no, it’s quite consistent. The fact is there’s a lot of interest, there’s a lot of energy. We want to keep building that interest and energy and we want to make sure we get the very best for our kids. John.

Question: On pre-K funding – last week or so, Governor Cuomo [inaudible] that he was not in favor of [inaudible] the money allotted to a city, like, say, [inaudible], but rather that it would be funded in terms of need. Is this here been part of your effort to demonstrate that need? What other steps [inaudible] to show exactly what you need in an effort to win more money from the Governor?

Mayor: Well, I think we’ve demonstrated the need in terms of the vast amount of interest among parents and families to get full-day pre-K for their children. We’ve been seeing that already in the sign-up process for pre-K. I think we’ve demonstrated he need in terms of the impact early childhood education makes on a child’s education. And, obviously, the tremendously deep need in terms of the current state of our schools, which is the number one indication that we are not succeeding and we have to succeed. For the good of the city, for the good of the state, New York City schools have to succeed. So I think it’s well established that there’s a tremendous need to fix our schools, that early childhood education is one of the foundational things we can do, that there’s a demand among parents. What we’re trying to make clear here is that the methodologies are moving forward aggressively and that they will be in place so we can achieve this this September.

Question: In what ways is the city working with the UFT to retain and attract teachers. This is a priority of theirs as well. And obviously they’ve said that [inaudible] a concern and why they might need higher wages and better working conditions.

Mayor: Well, I’m going to talk about that a little bit broadly and then Josh or Sophia might want to speak to the specifics in terms of this immediate recruitment. I think – the point I was making Sunday – that we really as a society need to talk about teacher retention because it is one of the issues we don’t talk about that is arguably one of the most essential to whether we’re going to succeed or fail. We have seen increasingly, in New York City, talented young teachers start to teach and then leave after just a few years. And that is undermining our school system. We have to create an environment where this becomes a lifelong career. And, yes, of course pay level is always a part of that equation, but I think there’s other things that matter quite a bit. When you talk about working conditions, I think about morale, I think about the issue of whether the school system is moving forward, and whether the teachers feel they’re part of an organization that’s growing and improving. I think people are – by the way, talent is attracted to talent – every great teacher we retain helps us to bring in the next and keep the next – so there’s a lot of pieces to the equation.

But I have to tell you, the early childhood piece is particularly important. I’ve talked to a lot of teachers about this. Ask teachers what it means to them professionally – and they will tell you they understand, if more and more children get full-day pre-K, they will then go into the grades above more prepared, which means teachers will be more effective at teaching them. The vast majority of teachers I’ve known – I’ve known quite a few – it’s a craft. They care deeply about their craft. They want to succeed. It’s frustrating to them whenever they can’t succeed or when their school is not succeeding. So the notion that something foundational is going to happen, that will actually allow them to do their jobs better – that’s one of the things that keeps people on the job. I think every one of us can relate to that. When you feel you’re surrounded by talented people, when you feel you’re a part of an organization that’s moving forward, when you feel you can do your job, you want to keep doing your job, you want to stay at that organization and stay in that field. That’s what we have to create here. So, a lot of times we’ve interpreted the pre-K effort through the prism of the individual children and families and that’s obviously the most important prism. But I think there’s another point that has to be looked at – what it will do to uplift the entire school system. If we can see over the course of just a few years that more and more kids are on grade-level by that crucial third grade make-or-break point, that’s going to lift all boats, that’s going to have an impact system-wide. And it’s certainly going to affect our ability to retain the best talent. So that’s what we’re trying to achieve. Do you want to talk to the specifics?

Joshua Wallack: Sure.

Mayor: Go ahead.

Wallack: I would just point out that currently we have a really strong infrastructure in New York City for pre-K that’s a mix between sites that are in public schools and sites that are in community-based organizations. It’s about 60 percent community-based organizations, 40 percent public schools. Obviously the public school teachers are part of the UFT but the teachers in the community-based organizations are not. And I think our goal is to build a comprehensive system, a unified system, that respects and honors the professionals doing this work and that invests in the systems that we need to retain all of them and help them advance over time. So we’re taking a holistic view of this and looking across the system and trying to retain the very best.

Mayor: And other point related – again, I spoke about this Sunday but it’s crucial – some of you were with me at St. Francis Assisi School in the Bronx with Cardinal Dolan – this is an effort that also includes our religious schools. And they are – the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, the Archdiocese of Manhattan – are crucial pieces of this equation. They have capacity, they want to serve a lot of children in need. So this is really about reaching across the whole spectrum – the traditional public schools, the community-based organizations, the religious schools. This is really a very broad mobilization to reach our children. And I would just say – one more point, and then take some more questions on this – think about it this way – this is about securing our future. Every day we don’t get this done we’re falling behind – I really feel that. If you have to do something – again, using the General Eisenhower analogy –  if you have to do something that’s really about our future economic security, if you have to do something that’s about mobilizing our society around a goal that we have to achieve, then everyone is welcomed into that process. That’s the vision we have here. Doesn’t matter what time of organization – if you can be part of the solution, you’re welcome at this table. Grace.

Question: On – a question about salaries. So, my understanding is that right now you’re – some preschool programming is under ACS and some is under the public school system, and there are different salaries for those teachers. Can you explain for us how that works if there will be sort of various tiers of salaries? And then, also, is the city’s recruitment effort also going to be including recruiting teachers for community-based organizations or are all the teachers that you’re recruiting just for the ones that are going to be in public school?

Mayor: Let me make the broad point about how we look at the talent pool and then any combination of you can speak to some of the specifics of Grace’s questions. We’ve said from the beginning – this is about quality. We’re not just trying to do universal pre-K, which is a name that’s been out there for a long time but a reality that has not existed. We’re not just trying to do full-day universal pre-K. We’re trying to do high quality, full-day, universal pre-K, which means it’s about getting the very best teachers. Now you do – you’re exactly right, there’s different structures here – because the DOE has certain differences from the community-based organizations and those realities will continue. But what we are trying to do in each and every case is focus on quality – you know, talented teachers, experienced teachers, trained teachers – and, obviously, make sure that we have the resources to give them the kind of pay that will encourage their presence in these programs. Let me start with that and then whoever wants – who wants to jump in?

Deputy Mayor Buery: I’ll be brief and then leave the actual experts to give correct information. One thing I do want to say, as the mayor just said, is that part of what we’re doing here is enhancing the resources available to all programs, including community-based organizations, so that they are better able to attract and retain and support teachers more effectively – so they can recruit more qualified staff. So that’s part of what’s going on and so we’re confident that community-based organizations will be in a stronger place to recruit the kind of talent that they need to deliver excellent services to children. You asked also about the teacher recruitment and who that’s for – it’s for everyone. One of the things that the Department of Education has [inaudible] last year that Sophia and Josh can talk more about, is actually opening the pool of teachers that the Department of Education is recruiting and allowing community-based organizations to go into that pool and to hire from that pool. So, all of the recruitment efforts will [inaudible] to the benefit of the Department of Education schools, but community-based organizations that are running pre-K as well. And the last thing I want to say, which I think is also very important here, that in many cases a lot of the teachers who are working in community-based organizations – in many cases either community, they’re often former parents, maybe they came up, in many cases, as volunteers – you know, Josh and I worked together at the Children’s Aid Society, where we ran a large early childhood program. And one of the amazing things about this work is really provides a pipeline for these community members to get credentials, to get masters degrees, to get certified, and to advance in their careers. So, this is, you know, when the mayor talks about this being one city, I mean, that's part of the powerful part of this initiative too. It's not only the direct and incredible services being offered to children and families, it's also this amazing workforce development opportunity being offered to community members, who now can become stable professionals, advance in their careers, so it's really an exciting project all around.

Question: Is there going to be sort of a danger of a two-tier system, I mean if the public schools are offering higher salaries by I think about ten thousand dollars a year, compared to community based organizations on average. Are you going to have a situation where, sort of, second-tier teachers are going to end up at community based organizations just because of the salary differences?

Mayor: Let me, I'm going to, again, let Josh and Sophia jump in. I would characterize it very differently. I think we are committed to quality across the board. That's part of the concept of everything we're doing here. We want all of these programs to be high quality. I think if you think about some of the items we talked about in the first part of this press conference, there's a constant training effort, coaching, retraining, there's a lot of pieces in place here to keep building the quality levels on all pieces of this equation. You guys want to jump in?

Sophia Pappas: Yeah. 

Mayor: All right, you get the step. All right. 

Pappas: So, in terms of the CBO recruitment, I really encourage you to go to teachNYCprek.org. It was developed at the Department of Ed, between me and the same office that handles teacher recruitment for K-12. And the whole point of it is to create one place where teachers who are interested in CBOs, public schools, or both, can go to express interest, but also tell us more about themselves, and the backgrounds that they're bringing to the table. Before that, even though we had a way for CBOs to access a candidate pool, if the candidates wanted to, we didn't have a way to reach out to people and say, we are focused on pre-k, we want the best and the brightest. And we also have to look at this as a continuum of development. So, we are focused on bringing really strong people in, but we also have resources devoted to making sure they have enough planning time, that they have professional development over the summer and throughout the school year to get better and better. We also want to focus on what a teacher candidate might see in a CBO versus a public school. Sometimes they might not know what's being offered at a CBO that may be attractive to them, like the fact that there are comprehensive services that might be available to families and communities. We've often heard CBO teachers say that that's one of the big reasons they choose to work in a CBO. So, we're looking at all of those things together, and as we talked about before, figuring out all different ways to attract and retain the best teachers across the system. 

Question: So would there be different requirements then, for the different positions, or do you still have basic requirements for this [inaudible]?

Pappas: So, we're committed to having a top-notch teacher for every pre-k classroom. Our goal is to have a certified teacher in every room, CBO and public school, eventually. In terms of the specific requirements, we're following state regulations, which basically mean that ultimately, if you're a pre-k teacher, you need to have a certification in early childhood ed. When you walk into the door, in both of those places, you have a bachelor's degree. For the public schools, you have to walk in with your initial certification. For the CBOs, in addition to the bachelor's degree, you have to be actively working on a study plan towards certification, and somebody on site must have the early childhood ed certification. So, could be someone observing and coaching the teachers. So, we're working within those parameters, but doing everything we can within the DOE, with CUNY and with others, to move everyone towards that certification. 

Mayor: And, I just want to – I want to preface my calling on Henry by saying that Chirlane and I were in the audience and we watched as we assumed that that was you pretending to play a harmonica, while there was a music track over it, and then in the middle of it, Chirlane turned to me and said, "No, he's actually playing a harmonica," and I just want to tip my proverbial cap to you for exceptional musical capacity. 

Question: I'm ready to, you know, form a band.

Mayor: It's a great way of life. 

Question: My question is, as you try to enhance pre-k, there are undoubtedly going to be some programs that don't measure up, that exist now. And I want to know how you're going to identify them, and are you going to cut them out, or are you going to try to bring them up? How are you going to handle the programs that are not up to snuff. 

Mayor: Let me offer the broad principles and then whoever wants to step forward, step forward and answer in specific. I appreciate the question because it gets to the ethic that we're bringing to this. This is mission critical. It's literally mission critical for the good of our schools. And, again, I'm expanding off the points that I made Sunday. We will never change that unacceptable reality if we don't move on all the fronts that I talked about. So, we're going to move on early childhood education, we're going to move on extending the school day through afterschool, on involving parents much more strategically and productively in their children's education, on teacher retention – all of these pieces have to happen in the course of these four years, with other pieces, like the community schools, which is another area that Richard's going to provide leadership on, where we build a model where physical and mental health services are available in schools. There's a whole host of things we're going to do to change the nature of New York City education. And this piece is mission critical. The early childhood education piece is the table-setter here. We get this piece right, and a lot of other pieces can move effectively. So it's not acceptable for us to have a program that's not working, because it undermines the whole strategy. The question is, certainly when it comes to the talent, we're going to recruit the best, but also constantly work to upgrade and train and improve the talent. That's the ethic running through that. But to the question about a specific program that's having trouble, who would like to step forward? Who's up?

Wallack: I can take the first stab. So, there's two pieces to this. First of all, I think, is the process that we go through to review the applications for the new sites that are coming on line. And Sophia and the team at DOE really undertake a comprehensive review, looking at the application, going on site visits to actually look at the site and talk with the directors and the staff as we talked about before, examining everything from facilities to operations to curriculum, and essentially accepting only the ones that meet our very high-quality standards. And then once we have programs on line, there's a whole set of things that we're doing to ensure quality, both beefing up, on one hand, the staff that we need to inspect and ensure that all these facilities are meeting all the codes and regulations they need to, but also adding to instructional coaches and other supports, to give the teachers and directors the support they need to continuously improve the programs and make them excellent. So, there's a whole set of systems and supports that we're beefing up as we ramp up to universal pre-kindergarten in New York City to ensure quality and excellence. Anyone want to add? 

Mayor: Wait, wait, maybe your roadie here…there we go.

Pappas: I didn't need a step when I taught pre-k. 

Mayor: There you go.

Pappas: In terms of the ongoing accountability, it is first and foremost, for my team, I think what's important to know is we're building on an infrastructure that is in place and making it even better. So, for the – in recent years, we have really focused more intensely on looking at the quality of the learning environment, the quality of child-teacher interactions, and using information from those observations to make decisions about what happens to a program. So, in a lot of cases, programs need more targeted support. They need us to be very specific about, these are the areas where you're strong, here's where you need to improve, and here's how we're going to partner with you to get even better. In other cases, once we've looked at all the information, and we're tried to improve a program, if they're not meeting our expectations still, we will use the accountability levers we have, to either not renew them, so they have to apply again, or to terminate those programs. And, we have not been able to do that to the fullest extent because we didn't have necessary resources. We have expertise. We have an intent. But hopefully we'll have resources so that we can have more coaches with a more manageable caseload, so we can have an entire quality assurance team, that's really devoted to collecting comprehensive information about programs, and making really smart decisions that are in the best interests of kids. And lastly, I will just say that my teams that are out, reviewing sites and proposals, the first thing we said was, we are not compromising quality. We are educators, and if you're not comfortable with a child, and a family, being in this program in September, we will not accept them. And that's the bottom line. 

Mayor: On topic.

Question: Mr. Mayor, obviously a lot of thought and preparation has gone into this program, to hiring the teachers, to getting the classroom space, and you are ready. But it always comes back to, we are ready when the funding is there. So, the budget in Albany is due next week. Where are we? Is the funding going to be there?

Mayor: Look, we're confident that this is going to end well. I said on Sunday, I honor the fact that Governor Cuomo has made very clear that he's focused on pre-k. The actions of the assembly and the senate were powerful. And, you know, in all the, sort of, narrative arc of the last few months, really, the most essential actions were the assembly and the senate in different ways affirming the same exact goal to fully fund this program. And that was a moment of bipartisan progress that was very striking to me. So we are confident of a good outcome in Albany and we are continuing everyday to build. There’s the sense here in this building – and certainly in the agencies involved – that we are right now working every hour of every day to get this ready for opening day in September, and that’s the attitude we take. So I think things are going to end well in Albany and we look forward to it.
Okay, other topics? Yes.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Okay, same topic – exciting. Bilingual? Fire away.

Pappas: You’ll notice on the teach NYC Pre-K website that when we ask candidates about teaching pre-K, we actually specify languages that we are encouraging to see in our recruit and that’s based on the languages that are commonly spoken in many of our programs. So it is definitely a priority to look for candidates who have those skills. We are looking for a pool of people that have a diverse range of strengths and certainly that’s one of the things we want to make sure is one of our priorities. But we also are really ramping up our ability for our teachers to meet the needs of children who speak other languages. So whether they already speak another language or they’re working with us to develop the child’s oral language skills and work with families, we are really focusing on students who come from diverse backgrounds.

Mayor: So just adding to that, I think one of the issues that we work on everyday in our schools system is serving our English language learners. And this area I care about a lot and I’ve said we have to continue to improve. The fact is that this age group – 4 years old or some cases 3 years and 9 months, 10 months, whatever may be that comes into Pre-K – they’re at the perfect moment for language learning. So as we’ve developed this curriculum, we’ve been very mindful of that. There’s going to be elements of the dual language mentality and strategy embedded in this curriculum so we can maximize the fact that we are providing a service in a whole new way at a perfect point in life for a child to learn, if they are not yet proficient in English to learn English while being educated more broadly. Yes.

Question: [inaudible] State Control Board today put out an announcement [inaudible] your budget and calling the taxi medallion maneuver [inaudible] Governor Cuomo [inaudible] I was just wondering if there is an update on that plan. [inaudible]

Mayor:  First, I want to thank you because up until now Dean Fuleihan has been the silent bob of this press conference. So I’m glad to see that he has a chance to speak. Would you like to jump in?

Fuleihan: As you know, we identify, often, many risks and there are, at various points in any continuum, any process, where we have to achieve certain goals – that’s one we certainly recognize, and we believe that we will be able to address that risk.

Question: [inaudible]

Fuleihan: Why don’t we get back to the exact timeline and the details on that.

Question: [inaudible] capital budget [inaudible] charge people [inaudible] and if you could, could you take about how much the city can save if we could keep that plastic out of [inaudible]?

Mayor: I don’t want to pretend to have facts and figures at my command I don’t have. We will certainly be able to get you information on that from our new sanitation commissioner, Katherine Garcia. But I can tell you the bottom principle – I have not seen the legislation either – let me hasten to add – so I don’t want to speak about this specifically – I can tell you the broad principle – the plastic are problem. And our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags. There’s a lot of different ways to do that. Certainly looking forward to seeing this legislation. But I can tell you, as societal goal, it’s something we have to work on and we have to work on quickly.

Question: [inaudible] exactly what happened with the [inaudible] Albany. [inaudible] not have the money soon 
enough. And then also, I’m curious why you didn’t mention that, if that was a priority, why you didn’t mention 
that in your budget presentation?

Mayor: You know we’ve talked about that priority several times in the last month publicly. But more importantly, there’s been a lot of communication with Albany about it. I think there’s also been some miscommunication, and we want to resolve it. This budget process – and I think Dean is one of the world’s leading experts on it – it’s very intense, there’s a lot of moving parts. It’s not shocking that some pieces might have gotten misunderstood or miscommunicated. Our job is to fix it and to fix it quickly. We think there’s a lot of shared ground on this one. You know, it is not a minor fact in this equation that when I first worked with Governor Cuomo in 1995, the issue we were both working on was homelessness. And he has an extraordinary record of achievement in addressing homelessness. And I think he understands the depth of the crisis we are facing and the need for these solutions. So, we are going to make sure that we communicate well today and in the days following, and we are hopeful we can get to a good place.

Question: More specifically, [inaudible]

Mayor: Again, I don’t want to get into what was over months and months of dialogue where miscommunication may have occurred. I’m simply saying that if there has been miscommunication, we are going to fix it. Anything else to add or –? No, okay.

Question: [inaudible] a story today about unclaimed money that you have –

Mayor: Yes, I am excited about that story. It’s the best news story I’ve seen in a long time.

Question: Are you going to claim it?

Mayor: You know I will.

Question: Why is there a private mailbox a few houses away from your home and why is there a cell phone bill or unclaimed money from a cell phone provider that –

Mayor: I don’t know about the cell phone part. The mailbox is something that Chirlane set up a long time ago because a lot times when she was working or otherwise away from the house, couldn’t get deliveries because no one was home. So she has a mailbox right there in the neighborhood at a UPS store.

Question: [inaudible] this week that the [inaudible]

Mayor: I haven’t seen that report. What I said the other day about this topic is, you know, what you will measure is our executive budget presentation in the coming weeks, which is where we’re going to talk about our vision for each agency, and how it’s going to handle its revenue issues and its enforcement issues. You know, for the last few years, I think I made abundantly clear, that I do accept the approach taken by the previous administrations on enforcement of small businesses. I think it was arbitrary. I think it was more revenue-focused than fairness-focused. There was not enough effort to educate small businesses. We are in the process of changing that. So you will be seeing different announcements from our agencies in the coming weeks or months but you’ll also see some of these things reflected in the executive budget.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Again, you’ll see it in the executive budget, but I’m not going to go further. I’ll say whatever the beginning of change is we’re making will be reflected in the executive budget.

Question: [inaudible] Eva Moskowitz just said that she welcomes your call to common ground [inaudible] charter schools [inaudible] public schools. But she said she’s going to continue [inaudible]. Do you plan to have any meetings with Eva Moskowitz? And also, have you come up with some news for the co-location specifically for Harlem Success Academy?

Mayor: I’ve said repeatedly that we are going to accommodate that school. Could not have been more clear about it. Our schools chancellor Carmen Fariña could not have been more clear about it. It's March 25th, and there is time to find a strong suitable location for that school, where that whole group of 194 can be together. We're very committed to that. And as soon as we have those details, we will make them public. We've had constant outreach to people who represent that organization, to let them know that we're working on getting the facts together for them. So, I feel good that we'll get to a good place there.

Question: Are you having meetings with lower levels now? Do you plan to have any higher level meetings yourself, perhaps?

Mayor: Again, I think a lot of times the question comes back to individuals, and personalities, and I – that's not what I'm focused on here. I'm focused on, let's fix the problem. We did not mean to leave the misimpression that we were not going to serve these 194 kids. We care about these 194 kids and their families. We're going to make sure they have a good school-home. And we're going to get that done. And there's going to be a lot of dialogue with a lot of people in the charter movement to find ways to work together. We will maintain the standards I've talked about over the last years, standards of fairness and equity in terms of the traditional public schools, and the charter schools. We're going to find a way to do co-locations in a different and more fair manner, but we're certainly going to work with the charter schools.

Question: There was a second security breach widely reported at the World Trade Center involving a pair of skydivers. I was wondering if you'd had any conversations with Commissioner Bratton about this, or if your team has been in touch with the Port Authority about some of these issues.

Mayor: Well, we – I know that both City Hall and One Police Plaza are concerned about this situation, and we are going to deepen our coordination with the Port Authority police to address it. It's obviously not an acceptable state of affairs, but we think it's one that, together, we can resolve. Thanks everyone. 

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