2001-04-21 / Letters

City Schools in Crisis

City Schools in Crisis

Dear Editor;

Far be it from me to question our elected representatives. After all, they are there because WE elected them to speak for us in city hall, Albany, or Washington. We use the term "representatives" when we refer to our elected people in the Senate, Council, Assembly, Congress, etc. The word politician can have a negative connotation. There is a joke going around on the internet that states "Only in America do we use the word politics to describe the process so well: Poli in Latin meaning many and tics meaning bloodsucking creatures."

This is not to say that I ever refer to our elected officials as Politicians. I have gone on record to say that I am concerned over the impact of term limitations. The prospect of Bill number S3880 was drafted by Velella, Goodman, and Maltese on March 26—one day before bus loads of parents, school board members and educators arrived in Albany to lobby for more education dollars funneled towards city schools. Two of the buses were filled with parents from District 27 who also lobbied the Albany legislators on the importance of retaining their elected school boards. Never was bill S3880 mentioned to them as they went from office to office of the state capital halls.

Bill S3880—called the New York City Education Reform And Accountability Act will amend the education law set up in the early 70’s that gave communities a voice in their local schools. Bill S3880 calls for the elimination of Community School Boards, the elimination of the Board of Education and the elimination of the Chancellor. The bill transfers all the power and responsibility of the public school system into the Mayor’s hands. It will replace the chancellor with a mayor-appointed Commissioner of Education. This commissioner will appoint deputy commissioners in each boro.

What does this mean to parents and community people? It means that you will lose your voice in local schools. You will not be able to elect local people to represent your views in your neighborhood schools. Parents will not have the convenience of local monthly meetings where they can voice their concerns. Instead they will have to go to Manhattan to a citywide body and compete with parents from other boroughs on the education their children are receiving. Constantly we see instances where the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens are treated with less importance than Manhattan as far as police, sanitation, and other services. This is what will happen when the school districts lose their local boards.

All over the country and other parts of New York State communities have local school boards to govern their school system. These school boards control the budget, policies, and staffing of the schools. The perception statewide is that the schools in the suburbs do better than the ones in the city. Could this be because of the localized control of the schools? Smaller class size is recognized as producing better results. Shouldn’t this same philosophy be transferred to school district size? A school system with over 1 million kids and over 1000 schools should remain divided into smaller, more manageable pieces. Neighborhood schools for neighborhood kids governed by neighborhood policies. What is good for the Bronx is not necessarily good for Woodhaven or Ozone Park.

When was the last time or even the first time you met the school’s chancellor in the supermarket or in the park? Probably never! But the 9 elected school board members in each district shop in the same supermarkets as you, walk down your streets, worship in your churches and synagogues. You see them around the neighborhood. They are accessible and answerable to your needs—because your needs and their needs are most likely the same. Our elected representatives in Albany need to be told that you deserve what every other resident of New York State and across the United States has—a Community School Board elected by YOU and answerable to YOU.

DONNA MARIE CALTABIANO

Community School Board 27


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