Report On School Boards:
Task Force was set up as part of last year’s school governance
legislation, which dismantled the Board of Education, created the New York
City Department of Education and gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg the right to
appoint members to a new education panel.
June legislation also stated that community school boards would be
dismantled on June 30, 2003. The Task Force was formed to determine how to
hours of public testimony later, the Task Force presented its
recommendations, which follow the overall principles of accountability,
accessibility and partnership.
plan will now be voted on by the State Legislature, presented to the
Governor and sent to the Justice Department for approval. The State
Legislature can amend the proposal before it votes on it.
the recommendations are passed by June 30, the City’s 32 school boards
will be history, and a new system of local boards with parents as key
members will take over.
20-member Task Force – co-chaired by State Assemblyman Steve Sanders and
former Queens Board of Education member Terri Thomson – held public
hearings in each borough and accepted written testimony over the past year
to decide how to replace School Boards.
According to Thomson, the overriding feeling was “parents wanted a role.”
Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein consolidated the
City’s 32 community school districts into 10 “instructional divisions” early this year.
Source: Department of Education
significance of this plan is, really for the first time, parents will have a
significant role, ”Thomson said. “What we’ve heard throughout the
City, and especially in Queens, is that parents want to be partners and the
community wants to play a significant role in supporting the school system.
In a system of 1.2 million children, there needs to be a recognizable local
new system recommended by the Task Force includes 32 elected Community
District Education Councils, each with eight parent members, two business,
community or civic members appointed by the Borough President and one high
school senior appointed by the district superintendent.
least one of the parent members, the report states, will have a child with
new boards would carry out all of the responsibilities of current boards, as
well as hold monthly meetings with the district superintendent, do an annual
evaluation of the Chancellor, handle operating budget questions, provide
input during collective bargaining sessions impacting the school system, be
responsible for zoning issues, work on district safety issues, work with
elected officials, and have other responsibilities.
boards would elect their own officers, according to the report, which does
not specify how board members would be elected.
does state, however, that the elections will only be open to parents, and
that parents are only permitted to vote in one district.
said, “District level boards are important, this is an enormous school
system, the largest of its kind. It’s a long way from the parent to the
75, the City’s special education district, has never been represented by a
school board. It’s a situation that the Task Force wants to change.
recommendation creates an 11-member Special District Board, which includes
eight parents from the district, including at least one from each borough.
will also include one high school student appointed by the superintendent,
and two business or civic members with knowledge of special education
appointed by the City Council. Each member will serve two years.
said parent activists are “elated” about the possible formation of the
new board, and said, “These people never had a voice. This district had
its own name and its own superintendent, but never its own board. Now, for
the first time, parents will have a place to go.”
resident Patricia Cruz, president of the President’s Council of District
75, has a nine-year-old son in special education
“I live in District 27, my son goes to school in a District 26 school in a program run by District 75. That’s a major problem,” Cruz said. “I remember my district slamming the door in my face when it was time for my son to enter kindergarten and refer me somewhere else. There is such discrimination against our kids in these schools. There’s no one fighting for us. Now we’ll have a voice.”
Task Force also recommended that School Leadership Team formation change.
Currently, Thomson said, school leadership teams are comprised of half
staff, half parents.
recommendation states that the leadership team should be “50 percent plus
one parents,” Thomson said. She added, “Parents are the most important
stakeholders in the education system, and the leadership teams should
leadership teams were created in every school in 1996, and bring parents,
teachers and administrators together to perform three vital functions –
develop each school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan, align the school
budget to that plan and evaluate the quality of their educational programs.
Applying It To Instructional Divisions
the Task Force’s report, it refers to 32 community school districts, and
states that local government affiliated with each district is necessary. The
report states that one of the Task Force’s guiding principles was
“The importance of a local District level board to represent local
needs in a system that can be distant and unapproachable because of its
and School Chancellor Joel Klein came out with a plan this January, however,
that will in effect eliminate the 32 school districts, and create 10
citywide “instructional divisions,” each with its own superintendent.
Queens, there will be three divisions – Division 3 will include current
Districts 25, 26, 28 and 29, Division 4 will include current Districts 24
and 30, and Division 5 will include current District 27 and two Brooklyn
has been outcry against the plan, including claims that it is illegal
because State law mandates that there must be at least 30 school districts
in the City.
Board 11 formed a committee to fight the plan on the basis that it is not
legal, and Committee Chairman Melvyn Meer said, “This is a matter of
numbers. This new district will have 130,000 kids. The largest school
district outside of New York is in Buffalo, and it only has 40,000 kids.
What they’re proposing is unmanageable.”
Task Force’s plan answers those concerns, with Thomson saying, “By law,
the 32 districts must stay. The lines will still be in tact. It’s just
that one superintendent will cover more than one district . . . Our
recommendation does not conflict with that. There would be local governance
within each district.”
added, “Our mandate was to create a system to replace school boards. The
plan for instructional divisions is a separate thing. Our plan can be
adapted to that.”
disagrees, and said that having 32 parent councils does not make each
section a district. He pointed to State law, which defines a district as an
area represented by a superintendent.
district has a superintendent with an office with a staff, Meer said. “The
Mayor can give us as many parent councils as he wants, that doesn’t make
us a district.”
the report was still circulating through the system at presstime, and
hadn’t been seen by many school board members, State Senator Frank Padavan
had seen it.
support the recommendations and goals established by the Task Force,
especially those regarding the importance of providing for meaningful
participation by parents and maintaining the integrity and boundaries of the
existing 32 school districts,” Padavan said.
however, is still not convinced that the plan will work, and said, “A
superintendent is who parents call when there’s a problem that cannot be
solved by their principal. Under this new system, with or without parent
councils, one office is going to be inundated with phone calls, and nothing
will get done.”
said parents across the borough are afraid that the school system will
become inaccessible, and said Community Board 11 and the PTA Presidents
Council of District 26 are holding a forum to save their district at 7 p.m.
on March 16 at Middle School 158 in Bayside. The forum will feature Deputy
Mayor of Education Dennis Walcott, local elected officials and parents.
Mayor wants to create superdistricts,” Meer said. “That is not provided
for in the law nor in [the Task Force] report. That has to be addressed.”
thinks the new boards will keep local governance in tact, and said she hopes
that the legislature moves quickly, because if nothing is in place by June
30, the boards will remain for another year.
said there was mixed reaction to the performance of the boards during the
public hearings, and said, “I hope the legislature moves quickly so we can
get something new in place and move forward.”