2004-03-12 / Editorial/Opinion

Authentic Parent’s Voices, Not Lip Service

Authentic Parent’s Voices, Not Lip Service

Everybody involved with the new school governance plan makes the point that the parents of public school students are a vital component of any school plan. The elected Community School Boards will be replaced on July 1 with Community Education Councils. Those councils will be chosen not by the electorate, but by the three top members of each of the district school’s parent associations. We know that the former school boards were chosen by four percent of the electorate. Everybody complained about that. The members of the education councils, however, will be chosen by far less of the voting population than four percent. Do the mathematics yourself. Thirty-seven schools times three parents equals 111 parents who will elect the nine parent members of the eleven member councils. Two other voting members will be chosen by the Queens Borough President, while one non-voting high school student will be chosen by the Regional Superintendent. This is a plan that sounds good on paper, but has lots of realistic flaws. First of all, parent association officials are not allowed to sit on the councils. If a Parent Association (PA) president, secretary or treasurer want to run, they have to resign their PA position. That takes some of the best, brightest and most dedicated people out of the local PA’s. Secondly, the councils will have none of even the limited power that community school boards enjoyed at the end of their tenure. The one power left to the boards was in the area of zoning. That has been taken away from them on the grounds that they are "lame ducks" that no longer deserve the power. Supposedly, the new councils will get that power back. Read the brochure provided to those who want to run for the council, however, and you will find the following: "[Com munity Council members] approve zoning lines submitted by the community superintendent, consistent with the Chancellor’s Regu lations." That sounds too much like the power to be a "rubber stamp" for the superintendent. What other powers will the councils have? To hold quarterly meetings with PA/PTA officers; provide assistance to school leadership teams and play a role in the evaluation of community superintendents and local instructional superintendents assigned to the district. This sounds more like lip service than an authentic parental voice in education. We will have to wait and see if the members of the education councils, all of whom have been activists in their individual schools, will stand still for this type of treatment. It will be an interesting summer and early school year.

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