Who Will Fill The School Board Void?
By Howard Schwach
Representatives appointed by the State Legislature continued their deliberations last Thursday at Queens Borough Hall with the second in a series of hearings that will decide on the extent of the role that parents will play in the city’s public schools after the 32 community school boards are abolished in June.
The 18-member Task Force on Community School Governance Reform has the task of coming up with a plan for replacing the local school boards by February 15. It is presently holding hearings in each of the five boroughs.
Steve Greenberg, the President of Community School Board 27, which covers all of Rockaway and Broad Channel, as well as several mainland communities, is opposed to the demise of the school boards.
"It really bothers me that all of the school boards have been painted with the broad brush that paints us as crooks," Greenberg told The Wave earlier this year. "We’ve done our best for the parents, even after the governance law gave us little to do."
"We’ve always been advocates for the children in this district," Greenberg added. "Who will fill that void when we are gone?"
"Ultimately," he said, "people are going to be upset when they realize that there are no longer any local contacts for them to go to when they have problems with their child’s school."
Greenberg testified last Monday at the Manhattan hearing of the task force.
He reportedly testified before the task force that the fact that the boards will be disbanded in June is already having affecting the time that District Superintendent Matt Bromme is spending within the district as well as his relationship with the local board.
"Bromme spends two or three days each week at the Tweed Courthouse under the orders of the chancellor and the mayor," Greenberg testified. "It is clear that his allegiance is now to the chancellor and the mayor rather than to the local community."
"On June 30, Bromme’s contract is up and he knows that it is not the community school board that will have to renew his contract," Greenberg added.
Greenberg would like to see an election for whatever group the task force chooses to replace the school boards. He thinks that the process that first brought him to our local school board when the elected board was suspended might be an answer.
"Every school in the district should choose a person to serve on a selection committee," Greenberg said. "Those committees could then review the resumes of those who want to sit on the local board and decide on the board’s makeup."
He says, however, that the task force seems to be focusing on School Leadership Teams (SLT) as the vehicle for parental input. There is presently an SLT in each public school in the city.
Those teams, comprised equally of teachers, parents and administrators, have the ability to deal with budget and staffing questions. Many critics of the SLT’s argue, however, that school staff and administration controls those teams to a great extent because most parents are too afraid or too timid to anger their child’s teachers and principal.
"The main thing I liked about the hearing," Greenberg told The Wave, "was that the task force seemed genuinely sensitive to the need for local input."
Greenberg urged the task force to set up a procedure where the local entity would choose the superintendent.
"There has to be some accountability on the part of the superintendent to the community and not to the chancellor or the mayor," he said. "But I am afraid that is just what is going to happen."