State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was greeted by a crowd of parents and demonstrators with signs that read "Down with King" and "It's freezing and we are here -- Just wait until Election Day" as he arrived Wednesday for an education forum at Mineola High School.
Inside, the auditorium, which holds about 700, was packed with educators and parents from as many as 15 Nassau County school districts. Tickets were needed for admittance, a requirement that provoked anger from some.
The forum was scheduled to end at 6 p.m., but the time was extended -- until about 7 p.m. -- to allow more questions.
In Garden City Park, scores of people began to assemble outside of Mineola High School 45 minutes before the forum's start.
Adam Greaves, 43, of North Bellmore said his message was meant for state legislators.
"We want change, and if the current members of the state Legislature don't want to make that change, we will elect new people," he said.
Greaves said he has a son in second grade and a daughter in fifth grade in the North Bellmore schools. He believes student testing is "ridiculous" and isn't convinced that the curriculum stemming from the Common Core standards is right for students.
"My kids are guinea pigs," he said.
Several of the demonstrators voiced discontent with being closed out of the forum and with limitations placed on approved speakers at Tuesday night's meeting.
"Despite the efforts to limit the speakers and limit the crowds, I think they are learning that we come here with one voice," said Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre.
Scores of protesters, standing across the street from the high school, chanted, "Students are more than tests."
Parent Jeanette Deutermann, of North Bellmore, spoke from a microphone on the back of a black pickup truck. Deutermann has been active in a parent movement to have children refuse to take state tests, known as "opting out." Hundreds of students on Long Island and in other districts across the state opted out of tests last spring.
"We will not stand for it. Our children will not take these tests. But they are not listening," she said of state education officials. "This is our way of getting our word out without getting inside."
Inside the jammed auditorium, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who was acting as moderator, asked the crowd to be polite as he opened the forum.
One 11th-grader asked King how the Common Core material can be effective if it doesn't provide an avenue of learning for students who can't keep up with the material.
King replied that the actual curriculum is set by local school districts. Later in the forum, he defended the Common Core, saying it was devised by experts and tries to ensure students are college-ready.
Antonia DiMaggio, 42, of West Hempstead, was among parents who spoke of their children's stress in trying to master the new material.
One of her elementary-school-aged daughters would cry before math tests "because she didn't want to get her teacher in trouble," DiMaggio said, referring to teacher job ratings that now are tied to student performance on state tests. "Why are we doing this to our children?"
About an hour into the two-hour forum, the crowd grew testy.
Christine Corbett, president of the Westbury Teachers Association, said to King, "You're living in a world of theory."
King replied, "What you're describing isn't true."
The auditorium rang with jeers and boos.
Back outside the school, Morton Rosenfeld, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers, drew loud cheers when he called for the commissioner's resignation.
"I'm mad as hell that I was shut out of that meeting in there," he said. "I'm mad as hell that teachers go to work with a knot in their stomachs every day."
Adam Greaves said he was there to send state legislators a message - end this or we will vote you out of office and vote in legislators who will do as the people want.
I guarantee you, your legislators are hearing this loud and clear now, Mr. Greaves.
Every time King shows up to preach the Gospel of the Common Core, he's getting booed.
Your legislators and your governor is taking notice.