Stories & Grievances
New York City's Chancellor Joel Klein Has Shut Parents Out of All Involvement in Public Schools Throughout the City
Joel Klein, working without a contract at the will of Mayor Bloomberg, has "convinced" the media to write glowing reports about how this is not so. But parentadvocates is based in New York City, we work in the schools. We have seen parents and teachers threatened and abused if they speak out about what is going on, and reporters at the New York Times, NY POST, and Daily News hang up when parents call with first hand accounts of fraud and corruption inside their children's public schools .
December 12, 2005
Parents Seek Greater Voice in Schools From Chancellor
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, NY TIMES
After months of complaints about the Bloomberg administration's treatment of public school parents, the chancellor's Parent Advisory Council has issued a demanding set of requests to Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, urging that the city publish a monthly account of how many schools have functioning Parent-Teacher Associations and that a "parents' bill of rights and responsibilities" be posted in every city school.
The advisory council, which includes representatives of all 32 local school districts, has direct access to the chancellor and top education officials at monthly meetings and could be the most prominent parent group in the city. Its bluntly stated concerns, described as "requests" in a two-page document, grew out of recent meetings with Mr. Klein in which parents' complaints boiled over and the chancellor asked for recommendations.
A spokesman for Mr. Klein, Stephen Morello, said the chancellor had received the advisory council's list and was preparing a response, but he declined to comment on any of the specific concerns raised by the parents.
The frustration among members of the advisory council largely echoes long-simmering anger among many parent members of the Community Education Councils, which replaced the 32 local school boards after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the system. Council members had said they felt marginalized, and about a year ago they formed a citywide association and hired a lawyer, but little has changed.
"Essentially, these requests boil down to asking people to do their jobs," said Tim Johnson, the chairman of the advisory council and a parent leader in District 2 in Manhattan, who noted that after the mayor won control, the administration hired a full-time parent coordinator for every school.
"They are spending probably 100 times what they used to spend on parent engagement," Mr. Johnson said. "We're just not getting any value out of that. How can you have a full-time, union person in the school as a parent coordinator and still not have a functioning P.T.A.?"
The council unanimously approved the list of concerns at a meeting on Thursday and sent them to the chancellor on Friday. The council asked him to reply within 30 days.
The list urges that performance reviews of principals include evaluating their support of school parent associations and parent-teacher associations. The council also urged that the administration enforce requirements that principals maintain functioning parent associations and committees of administrators, teachers, parents and staff members known as School Leadership Teams.
The lack of a parent association in a school can mean diminished representation for parents at higher levels. The president, vice president and secretary of each school's parent association vote for the nine parent members of the district's Community Education Council. In addition, each school's parent association has one representative on the district's President's Council, which in turn sends one representative to the chancellor's Parent Advisory Council.
In addition to a monthly accounting of functioning parent associations, the advisory council sought monthly tallies of members and vacancies on President's Councils and Community Education Councils. The advisory council also requested a monthly list of parent coordinator vacancies in each school district.
The advisory council also sought a raft of data regarding Community Education Council elections over the last two years, including basic information such as the number of candidates and the number of votes cast. The city has been unable to fill many seats on the councils.
Mr. Johnson stressed that many advisory council members supported the mayor's efforts to improve the schools but wanted a stronger commitment to parents.
"Parents feel shut out, they don't have a meaningful voice, they are treated with contempt, sometimes, at their school level," he said, adding that he hoped Mr. Klein would conclude that there was still much to be done regarding parent relations.
"I am waiting for him to say, 'We have done all these new things, let me list them. But it's a long way to go,' " Mr. Johnson said about the chancellor.
December 16, 2005
Parents and the Schools
To the Editor:
Re "Parents Seek Greater Voice in Schools From Chancellor" (news article, Dec. 12):
Unless the release of the information would violate children's confidentiality, the public has the right to know what is going on in our schools, including how much money is being spent and by whom.
We also have the democratic right to know the results of Community Education Council elections, including how many candidates there were and how many votes were cast.
Mayoral control of the schools does not give the mayor control of information that we have a right to know.
Brooklyn, Dec. 12, 2005
The writer is a former member of the District 21 Community Education Council.