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School Dist. 28 parents skip training

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The governance legislation enacted by the state Legislature in 1996 requires each school to establish a leadership team comprised of parents and staff, said Guy Carlsen, an auditor for the comptroller's office. The legislation also requires the comptroller to conduct a performance audit of the entire Board of Education and each school district in the city at least every four years, Carlsen said.

School leadership teams are meant to increase parental involvement in the local school's decision-making process. Carlsen said the leadership teams are also meant to decentralize policy and give schools more autonomy.

The 1996 legislation also strengthened the power of the Board of Ed by weakening local school boards. The school leadership teams have begun to perform some of the tasks which used to be done by the school boards, including budget allocations for individuals schools and making the final decision on superintendents for each district.

The audit was conducted in 1999 and the report was completed in February 2000. It was released by the comptroller's office last week. District 28 covers central Queens and stretches from Forest Hills to Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill, Jamaica, and South Jamaica and has 25,000 students in 27 schools.

"Very few parents attended any of the district's training sessions on the development of school leadership teams," according to the audit report.

Attendance at several districtwide training sessions never exceeded 83 parents, which breaks down to about three parents per school, said Carlsen.

The report said administrators felt the lack of parental involvement was due to the diverse nature of the population. Forest Hills has seen an influx of eastern European immigrants in recent years, while Richmond Hill has a large Guyanese population and Jamaica is largely black. Oftentimes districtwide meetings held in one neighborhood are not well attended by parents from other neighborhoods.

Ron Levine, the spokesman for District 28, dismissed the report as out of date.

"All of our schools have very strong parent involvement programs," Levine said. "Our district is second to none in the area of parent involvement. We are beyond compliance."

He said back in June then-Chancellor Rudy Crew presented the district with the District Parent Training Award.

Shirley Huntley, the president of School Board 28, said she did not have a comment on the report because "we have nothing to do with the school leadership teams."

The report said district was doing a good job of getting the leadership teams in place, and that it has held a number of informative training sessions, Carlsen said.

The audit report also commended PS 196 in Forest Hills for setting up a 24-hour hotline with a recorded message that lists important dates involving the school and the district.

District 28 has set up a system in each school where a staff member other than the principal is responsible for the ordering and placement of schools supplies. However, the report said JHS 190 in Forest Hills does not have an adequate system in place, largely because in 1999 the school principal was out frequently will illness.

"There is confusion as to where items are stored or for what purpose they were ordered," the report said. "In the case of supplies, this lack of accountability could result in the reordering of items already in stock and the possibility of theft."

In the audit report the district responded by saying the study did not take into account the JHS building's layout, overutilization or large teacher staff.

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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