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.
Boro Presidents: Parent Panels Need Better Elections
Monday, October 03, 2011
Four of the city's five borough presidents are calling on state lawmakers to force the city Department of Education to reform its Education Council elections, following widespread confusion during this year's vote.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer says the elections last spring prove there needs to be another system for managing the election of parents to the city’s 36 advisory panels. He said the elections went so poorly that fewer than 2,800 parents voted in a system with over one million students. And this was after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott ordered a do-over of the flubbed process, in which some parents had trouble getting on the ballot and others had difficulty voting in the on-line elections.
“We can make a very powerful argument to state legislators, we need a better election process,” Stringer said. “Perhaps an independent agency could monitor these elections.”
Stringer said he would begin talking to lawmakers soon, because any change in which agency runs the election would require approval from Albany. The councils have little power but the borough presidents say they could be more effective if the city reached out more to parents. In the short-term, they’ve proposed other changes such as abolishing the two-step process, in which parents vote for the candidates they prefer and the final choice is then made by PTA officials.
Jesse Mojica, executive director for Family and Community Engagement, says he's already taking steps to address some of these concerns. “My staff and I have met with Community Education Council members and parents in all five boroughs to listen to their concerns,” he said. “We are taking steps to ensure that the 2013 election is well-managed and better reflects our commitment to building stronger partnerships with our families.”
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Correction: In an earlier version of this story, WNYC incorrectly attributed a quote to Chancellor Walcott. The quote was from Jesse Mojica.