New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks spoke at the Tweed Courthouse to present the Department of Education’s priorities in the Eric Adams era. 

The focus? Emphasizing community, keeping kids active as well as educated, expanding the gifted program and streamlining power to implement changes quicker.

During his speech, Banks talked about how there were genius people in the education system who are held back by bureaucracy. 

“It’s amazing, the most innovative, brilliant principals that I’ve spoken to anywhere around the system,” Banks said. “They figured out how to navigate around this bureaucracy in order to make things happen for their kid—that shouldn’t be necessary. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to put in place a level or a system that will be a level of autonomy.”

Earlier this week, after City Hall lifted the school mask mandate, Banks reiterated that New York City public schools were some of the safest school systems in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has emphasized eating healthy, but Banks wants to take it further than a day or two per week. He wants healthy eating to start before school and continue throughout children’s lives. He wants the system to prioritize wellness and how it impacts students’ success.

“This is something that the mayor talks about all the time—healthy food,” said Banks. “It’s really, really important that it’s not just about meatless Mondays or vegan Fridays, but it’s about educating our young people about how to eat properly. And you have to get to them at the earliest of ages in order to make that happen. 

“Because if we can educate them about how to take care of themselves, and what healthy whole nutrition really means, then we can make a huge difference over time,” Banks concluded.

Over the past two months, Banks traveled the city to assess the conditions of what he is now responsible for. He’s also been a part of panels discussing Critical Race Theory, he’s broken ground on new schools (such as Edward L. Grant School in the Bronx). He even visited his old stomping grounds to check up on changes from his childhood. The former charter school principal is now ready to remake the public school system in his own image. He doesn’t want parents abandoning the school system. 

Banks pointed out that the school system has lost 120,000 students the past five years. Most of those who left, however, were white and wealthy students according to a report by the Independent Budget Office.

He’s looking to bring all 120,000 students back.

“I spoke to somebody in here just the other day…a woman who’s been working with me for years, and she said to me ‘You know what, Mr. Chancellor? For the first time, I feel a real sense of hope,’” said Banks. “I feel an energy changing in this building. And I’ve been talking to people in the schools across the city and people are feeling a new sense of a new spirit. That is here. That spirit is real. 

“We are going to transform this system.”

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