2009-02-27 / Letters

Thompson Addresses Mayoral Control And The DOE

Dear Editor,

As Miriam Rosenberg notes in last week's issue of The Wave, many parents in Queens and across this city feel shut out by the Department of Education.

I testified last week before the New York State Assembly's Education Committee chaired by Assemblymember Catherine Nolan. In my testimony, I stressed that as President of the Board of Education I worked to bring accountability to the education " system, laying the groundwork for more centralized management and clearing the path toward mayoral control.

In doing so, we prioritized two things that are currently missing from the current administration's approach - transparency and parental involvement.

Mayoral control of the schools, when exercised wisely, is a means of bringing efficiency, transparency and accountability to decision-making. However, it was never intended to be a green light for unchecked executive power.

The current administration has sought to avoid debate and public scrutiny, while fundamental decisions regarding education reform have been made by executives with no education background. As we look ahead to the sunset of mayoral control we should reauthorize the law, but we must reform and strengthen it.

The Department of Education has failed to ensure that School Leadership Teams have an effective role in influencing school policy. State Education Law must require that all parents receive brochures at the start of the academic year explaining these teams.

Additionally, the law should require that schools post online their Comprehensive Education Plans, the blueprints for establishing goals and identifying how they will achieve them. Plans must be made available in a school's general office, and parents should be informed by letter where they can review the documents.

Furthermore, Parent Teacher Associations must be nurtured, and so the Department of Education should publish monthly tallies of schools with functioning PTAs.

This failure to involve parents in the education policy process has reinforced a widespread perception that the department is arrogant and outof touch.

As the debate over extending mayoral control continues, all of us must work to make sure that the Department becomes more transparent and accountable.

With greater authority and control also comes greater responsibility - responsibility to parents, responsibility to the taxpayers who help to fund out schools, and finally - and most importantly - responsibility to our kids, whose educational achievement and advancement are directly tied to the future economic growth and prosperity of our city.

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