Education Advocacy Group Forms
In reaction to plans for school boards to be disbanded in June, parents and community members held their second meeting, on February 24, to form an advocacy group that protects the interests of Rockaway's children and schools. The meeting came just days after a State Legislative Task Force recommended the current 32 Com-munity School Boards should remain, yet under a different name with some changes in their make-up.
"In my opinion the good news is, that if this goes through, that at least there is a local community presence," said Steve Greenberg, president of District 27's school board. "That people can have an opportunity to go to somebody, and say that I have a problem and have a conduit to their superintendent."
Greenberg explained that the Community District Education Coun-cils would have 11 members with eight parents (elected by other parents in the district), two business or civic members appointed by the borough president's office and one high school senior selected by the superintendent's office.
New council responsibilities include evaluating district office personal, holding public hearings for capital budgets, and providing comment be-fore collective bargaining negotiations to the chancellor and mayor concerning provisions in union contracts that impact quality of life in the schools.
Despite the report, concerns remain-ed that better organized schools could elect more people to the boards.
"Those schools that are organized and have a position on whatever is necessary, they're going to do well," commented school board member Ernest Brown.
These worries led those at the meeting to continue forming the advocacy group.
"That is where a group like this becomes important," said Greenberg. If you have 50 people who are interested you can bring a forum between the eight people running. Now at least the parents can have a place to see who these people are."
Sonya Webber-Bey, a concerned mot-her, said the new group must bring more people into it.
"This gives us an opportunity, as a community, to come together and see if we can stick together," said Webber-Bey.
"We [also] need other voices to come to our meetings."
School board member David Hooks told the group be prepared to "ask intelligent questions and get intelligent answers."
"Learn the administrative side of the table so that if [you] are sitting in the room with a district superintendent, and they are trying to pass a fast ball by [you], [you] say 'no you don't. We're just as informed now as you are,'" said Hooks.
A five-member steering committee - Alla Nesmith, Jesse Velez, Leona Canton, Isaac Parsee and Olivia Crum - will work on such things as bylaws to govern the group. The full group hopes to make the trip to Albany for Lobby day in March to talk directly with their representatives.
Jesse Velez explained why he volunteered for the steering committee.
"I believe there's a need for leadership when it comes to leading parents, and I think that it's missing right now," said Velez, who has four children in the school system and one about to enter. "We have a lot of people doing things, but it's not unified. I think I can help at least pull people together.
"I envision [this] as a group that's going to get parents united to get the things that they need for their children. Not so much as what they want, but what they need."
The full group will meet again on March 10 at 7pm at 1603 Central Avenue in Far Rockaway.