Beth Fertig is the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at SchoolBook.org. She has covered education in the city for more than 15 years. Beth is the author of Why cant u teach me 2 read? Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test (FSG Books) which grew out of a radio series on the low graduation rate for special education students. Follow her @bethfertig.
City Struggles to Find Parents to Fill Ed Council Seats
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The city is having trouble finding enough parents to run for seats on local Community Education Councils.
As of Friday, only 341 applied for a total of 325 seats, according to the Department of Education.
The councils consist of nine elected members and two appointed by the borough presidents, plus a non-voting student. District 16 in Brooklyn, which includes Bedford Stuyvesant, is one council that's had a notoriously difficult time attracting members.
Pegye Johnson joined last year but there are still just five seats — not enough for a quorum. She said she's frustrated because her council didn't get enough members to hold regular meetings.
"We could have held them at different schools, given awards to children who have achieved you know, a little standing of grade improvement," she said. "We could have done a lot."
Johnson isn't daunted, though. She's been trying to spread the word in Brooklyn and hopes to attract PTA leaders now that there's no longer a conflict of interest (for a while PTA presidents weren't allowed to serve on CEC's). She suggests many parents are daunted by the time commitment.
Despite local efforts by Johnson and others, a Department of Education spokeswoman, Deidrea Miller, said it still doesn't have enough applicants in District 16 for all nine elected seats.
Miller said District 3 on Manhattan's West Side has the fewest number of applicants, while District 1 in Lower Manhattan and the citywide council for high schools has the most. She declined to give numbers until the application period is over.
The deadline to run has been extended until April 22.
The Community Education Councils were created in 2002 after the state abolished the old community school boards and put the mayor in charge of the schools. They have only advisory powers, which is one reason why some believe parents are less interested in running.
Incoming Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said he hopes to increase parental involvement throughout the city.