Thursday, September 20

Liveblogging the City Council hearing: Community members testify

Wow. A ton of people came out to testify today. We'll be here all afternoon. I'll try to summarize most folks' main points:

Joan McKeever Thomas, UFT parent liaison for Staten Island: "If the DOE's proposed changes [to the regulation governing School Leadership Teams] are institutionalized, many SLTs -- which show and continue to offer so much promise -- would become rubber stamps for the principals."

Randi Herman, first vice president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators: "A meaningful role for parents and the community cannot be left merely to the discretion of this mayor or any successive mayor. It must be part of the law. ... Even then, vigilant oversight is needed by [the City Council] to ensure that the spirit as well as the letter of the law is being carried out." (From written testimony)

Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan representative on the Panel for Educational Policy: "The changes DOE is proposing will result in parents being more reluctant to participate since decisions about how to allocate their school's budget will be made before they are engaged by school administrators in the development of the [Comprehensive Education Plan]. Ultimately, the proposed changes to A-655 threaten to weaker rather than strengthen SLTs."

Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children's executive director:
"District Family Advocates and their supervisors have no authority whatsoever over the principals; they are not even in the same chain of command. ... We have no objection to District Family Advocates, to the extent that they may help parents work their way through the often impenetrable bureaucracy. Our objection is that parents with complaints are being funneled to the District Family Advocates, rather than to DOE officials who have the authority to respond to their concerns. This structure does not promote parent engagement; it promotes parent disenfranchisement."

Shana Marks-Odinga, Alliance for Quality Education: "Without sufficient details, parents and other stakeholders at the school-based level were unable to participate in the [Contracts for Excellence] planning process in a substantive, meaningful way. In this first year, we were operating under a short timeframe, but this process did not allow for real deliberation. ... Public engagement around the 2008-9 Contract for Excellence should begin in October 2007 to ensure a meaningful process."

Jim Devor, acting president of the Association of CECs: Under the proposed SLT regulation, "most of the major decisions will already have been made" by the time parents enter the process.

[At this point, the meeting had run so long that we had to move so another committee could use the Council Chambers. That space was internet-less which is why this entry is so late!]

David Quintana, member of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council: "Most parent coordinators serve a function as 'principal coordinators' ... they are overinflated [and are] not serving the purpose they were intended to."

Tim Johnson, CPAC chairman: "To parents, [the parent engagement initiative] looks and feels like yet another reorganization. ... It doesn't change anything on the ground for parents. ... We haven't seen the commitment from the chancellor that our issues are as important as those of other stakeholders."

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters and NYC Public School Parents blog: One reason for the chain of command issue Kim Sweet described is that "district superintendents are no longer in district offices. Now, they're working with schools outside their districts and are not empowered to intervene" in the schools they supervise.

Susan Shiroma, president of the Citywide Council on High Schools, to Robert Jackson: "I implore you that the voice of high school parents not be lost. ... I can't find president's councils that represent high schools."

And to finish the (very, very long) hearing, Robert Jackson: Is the DOE "really trying to eliminate the coordination of parents' voices? Sometimes I wonder."

Whew. Whatever improvements come out of the initiatives Martine Guerrier discussed earlier, all the testimony I heard today suggests it will take time and hard work for the DOE to earn back the trust of the most involved parents.

1 comment:

David M. Quintana said...

Great job on the live blogging, Philissa... you caught the essence of each persons comments so well...