Dennis Walcott, New Superintendent of Schools
Dennis Walcott is a 1980 alumnus of the Graduate School of Social Service.
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, GSS ’80, returned to his alma mater in July to address approximately 200 principals and assistant principals during the Council of School Administrators Education Leaders Institute, sponsored by Fordham’s Graduate School of Education.
He told those in attendance to challenge him if they ever feel that he was not dedicating all his energy toward the 1.1 million students in the New York City School system.
“I’ve always wanted to be a principal in one of the toughest schools, where students are not engaged at all, where student learning may not be what we would like it to be,” he said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road, in everything that you guys do on a day-to day basis. It’s how you set the tone for what happens in your building and your community.”
Walcott noted that he remembers his third-grade teacher, “Mrs. Long, because she worked with me to make sure I was reading at grade level,” but he can’t remember the name of his principal in elementary school.
“Take that charge,” he said, “and say, 'I want these students to remember my name. I want them to remember that I was a very dynamic principal committed to making sure they were college- and career-ready.’”
Walcott also spoke of his days as a student at Fordham, where he earned a master’s degree in social work at the Graduate School of Social Service in 1980.
“I vividly remember taking a night class, and then going home to Queens at 10:30 and standing on the [platform of the] No. 7 line at Queensborough Plaza in December, with the wind cutting through my body, and asking myself, 'Is this all worth it?’” he recalled.
“What you’re doing is all worth it. The struggles that you face are all worth it. They’re worth it because we’re committed to the cause of making sure our children are educated and are able to contribute to society.”
Walcott was appointed chancellor of the New York City Department of Education in April, after having served as the city’s deputy mayor for education and community development since 2002.