NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s incoming schools chancellor calls the tone of debate surrounding teacher layoffs, standardized testing and charter schools “poisonous.”

In his first major speech since being appointed, Dennis M. Walcott spoke of a need to calm tensions among the various stakeholders in the city’s school system.

He said both sides in the debate over teacher layoffs had contributed to the “polarized atmosphere.” He said he viewed his appointment as chancellor as an opportunity for both sides to “begin anew.”

But he was steadfast in supporting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to overturn a law requiring layoffs by seniority.

Walcott spoke Saturday to educators at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Bloomberg appointed Walcott to head the city’s 1.1 million-student school system on April 7, after publishing executive Cathie Black resigned.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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