Scenes from the DOE's back-to-school family picnic

The weather couldn’t have been better for the DOE’s first-ever back-to-school family event, organized by the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy and held Saturday on Central Park’s East Meadow. GothamSchools stopped by in the early afternoon and saw performances by high school drumlines and dance teams; families collecting information from a host of tables manned by DOE offices and community organizations; long, long lines for cotton candy, balloon animals, and boxed lunches; and lots of kids just having fun.

I heard some complaints from attendees who were disappointed by the somewhat sparse turnout and who questioned the DOE’s choice of location — a grassless part of Central Park that had turned to mud after Friday night’s storms — and the quality of the materials it was handing out. But for a first try, particularly from an administration that hasn’t always been welcoming to families, the event was heartening. Although more families appeared to be attending for fun than to find out about special education or high school options, several DOE representatives told me they had handed out all of the materials they brought, and attendees who did stroll by the tables clearly appreciated the opportunity to question DOE officials in person.