CUBE Addresses New Education Paradigm
The reorganization of the New York City Education Department became official earlier this month when 10 regional offices replaced the 32 Community School District offices. Although it was promised that parents would still have a say in their children’s education, several members of the Rockaway community have formed a parent advocacy group called CUBE (Community United for Better Education).
The idea for CUBE began in February when former School Board 27 members Steve Greenberg, Ernest Brown and David Hooks called a meeting with concerned Rockaway parents, after the three became worried about the, then, upcoming changes.
Chairperson Jesse Velez discussed CUBE’s main goal with The Wave.
"Education is what we’re really emphasizing right now, that’s to improve the quality of education of the children of Rockaway," said Velez.
CUBE is currently centering on three things.
"[We want to] be a resource to PTA’s," said Velez. "[We want to provide them with] whatever it is they need – whether it be information or contacts.
"[We want] to participate in training PTA’s and PA’s (Parent Association’s) and school leadership teams in how to do [things] effectively. We have quite a bit of experience on our team that we can actually help them to better serve the parents there.
"The next thing is just providing our expertise in the different areas that we have [experience] in and give them the necessary council, or working with them together, to see special projects or special activities come about."
Velez uses R.E.A.L. (relationships, equipping, attitude, leadership) to summarize his beliefs. The first is relationship building.
"We need to develop relationships with the different, various organizations – PTA’s, presidents and so on," said Velez.
During their July meeting, as part of their relationship building, members of CUBE discussed contacting the new officers of the PA’s in Rockaway’s schools. Relationship building also includes developing linkages with other agencies in the Rockaway area.
"The next is ‘E’ – equipping…We want to give the equipment to the PA’s and PTA’s and the parents to deal with [all] kinds of meetings and getting parental involvement," continued Velez.
Equipping means providing the different types of training to help the associations and parents better run their organizations.
Valez also pointed out that parental involvement in a child’s education in Rockaway is at an all-time low.
"Even if your school has 100 parents and five or ten come out [for PA or PTA meetings] it’s still only 10 percent – it should be at least half or better of the parents being involved in some way," he said.
The ‘A’ in R.E.A.L. stands for attitude. "We have some very bad attitudes in Rockaway – extremely bad attitudes – negative attitudes," said Velez. "If you’re always emphasizing the negative, you’re going to produce negative. We have to raise up the attitudes of the Peninsula. I know there are a lot of people doing work on the Peninsula and they’re struggling to keep their attitudes. It’s sad when you put in a lot and you get nothing in return.
"I think if we help build relationships, give people the tools they need and help keep a positive attitude we’ll do very well.
"The L is for leadership – to provide leadership and leadership training to parents as well as the PTA’s and the PA’s – and we’re open to teachers too," he said. A lot of our parents are teachers."
The training, could include, such topics as PTA Leadership Training. Again, using the resources of its members who have the experience, CUBE will run the training sessions on a pro bono basis.
At the July meeting, Velez encouraged attendees to bring others with them in August.
One of those who attended the July meeting, and wants to bring some of his peers to the next one, is 11th grader Edwin Marcano of Beach Channel High School.
Marcano, who is Velez’s nephew, starting attending meetings at his uncle’s request in May. He soon found himself more interested in what CUBE’s members had to say than he imagined he would.
After June’s meeting, he returned to school hoping to speak to his fellow students about what he learned at the meeting. Not only did he speak to other students, his English teacher was so impressed with him that he was invited to speak before the whole assembly that same day.
"I learned how to look at the school in different ways and how to analyze teachers differently," said Marcano, about CUBE’s meetings. "I was speaking to younger kids and kids my age. I was just motivating them, asking them about different things we could do together to help out the school."
Also at July’s meeting was Daryn Copper-Cobbs, who recently moved from Nassau County to Rockaway. Copper-Cobbs, a teacher at an early childhood center in St. Albans, just enrolled one of her children in PS 106 and is looking at Middle Schools for her other child.
"What I have been listening to, it doesn’t make me worried, it makes me feel that there are people here who are of the same mind I am in terms of trying to get our children a quality education and trying to get the parents involved in the community," said Copper-Cobbs, who said Nassau County’s schools always had a lot of parental involvement. "Because, it takes the parents and the schools to help the child to be successful academically and socially."
The other members on CUBE’s board are Leona Canton (Vice Chairperson), Isaac Parsee (Recording Secretary), Alla Nesmith (Treasurer) and Jeanette Brown (Parliamentarian).
To contact CUBE you can call 646-267-0834. The group meets on the first Monday of each month. Their next meeting is August 4 at 7pm at 1603 Central Avenue in Far Rockaway.