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Manhattan Borough President: Ed Dept Should Suspend Parent Elections

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

The city's local parent elections are so botched that the Department of Education should suspend them, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said.

Stringer wrote a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott saying he's heard numerous complaints from parents who tried to run, or vote, for the community education councils.

"How do you drop candidates from the ballot?" he asked. "How do tell people they are not eligible to run when in fact they are? How do you put out a voter guide and the candidates are missing from the guide?"

There are 32 community education councils for the local districts and four that represent citywide parents of children in high school, special needs and English Language Learners.
Jaye Bea Smalley, co-chair of the citywide council on special education, is running for re-election and logged-in to vote online Sunday but saw she wasn't even on the ballot. When she called the Department of Education, she said she was (incorrectly) told she wasn't eligible to vote because she has a daughter in pre-K, which disqualified her (her daughter is in kindergarten). Smalley also has an older son.

"If I was running for Congress, a major public office, this would just absolutely be such a scandal and it would be halted," she said. "This is a statutory office governed by law. ... It is really no different."

Smalley sent an email to WNYC she said is from a parent who said she was able to vote twice, using the student identification numbers of two different children.
Parents are actually only able to vote once regardless of how many children they have in the schools. Smalley says she complained to the department's Office of Family Information and Action and sent a letter to the chancellor.
Community education councils are elected every two years. They vote on any local zoning changes for school catchment areas. They also serve as liaisons between schools and the department of education. But many parents have complained that the Department of Education ignores their input.
This year's elections drew only about 500 candidates for 325 seats throughout the city - less than in 2009, when about 560 candidates ran.

The city's Department of Education said the names of all candidates are now online and visible to everyone, after initially being impossible to view without a password.

But Stringer said he also heard complaints from parents who had trouble voting online because they didn't have their child's student identification numbers.

"Borough President Stringer and I are both passionate about doing what’s right for students and we will continue to work together to increase parent engagement in our schools," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

"I cannot stress enough the importance of parent involvement in our schools and the Office for Family Information and Action will take all necessary steps to ensure that all of our parents have an opportunity to cast a vote in the CEC elections by May 7th."

Public school parents have until Saturday to choose their favorite candidates. Their votes are considered advisory because community education council members are actually chosen by PTA leaders who get to vote starting next week.

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Comments [2]

Anni from Manhattan

Brad from UWS - your feelings are quite understandable. CEC members spend SO many hours each month in meetings, doing research, speaking with parents or the DOE or elected officials or the media. And for what?? They all seem to know that their function is just to be the window dressing of 'parent involvement,' without any real impact. We know we are just pushing the same rock up the same hill, but we can't not. Having ineffective members or empty seats is completely unacceptable. Thank you to all who run.

May. 06 2011 09:06 AM
Brad from UWS

I considered running until the whole Brandeis fiasco, in which the District 3 CEC, CB7 and our elected representatives on the Upper West Side came out unanimously opposed to the co-location of a Success Academy Charter School in the Brandeis complex on West 84th Street, and it was approved by the Panel for Educational Policy (the mayor's appointees -- the majority of the panel -- in favor, and all the others who were present opposed). That episode showed me that the DOE may SAY they want parent input, but they will do what they want regardless of the strength of community and parent feeling. Why bother?

May. 05 2011 06:33 AM

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