The meeting, held at MS 74 in Bayside, set up the council's infrastructure and administration for the upcoming school year. The 12-person council, made up of parents, educators and one student representative, spent much of the meeting adopting by-laws and electing officers.
The 10 council members present voted to have the public meetings on the third Thursday of every month at 8 p.m., following the lead of the now-defunct school board that the council is replacing after Mayor Mike Bloomberg phased out the boards as part of his overhaul of New York City public schools.
Like the school boards, the councils will play a largely advisory role. According to the Department of Education's Web site, the councils' role "is to reflect the needs and wishes of the community regarding the education of its children."
In addition, the DOE said the councils will have a voice in setting educational policy for the district and in the school officials assigned to the district as well as in approving zoning lines submitted by the community superintendent. Members of the council will serve for one year, though starting in the spring of 2005 council members will serve two-year terms.
At the CEC District 26 meeting, Cynthia Cousins was elected president, Sandra Gonzalez first vice president, Yen-Shia Chou second vice president, John Padden recording secretary and Bona Sun treasurer. The other members of the council are Rich Olson, Xiang-Lan Cho, Mona Fabricant, Melissa Dorfman, Susan Downey and Jacqueline Montgomery, who was absent.
Chou and Fabricant were appointed to the council by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and the rest are parents of children enrolled in District 26 schools. In addition, one high school senior from the district will be appointed to the council in the fall by Anita Saunders, the Region 3 community superintendent.
Saunders presented a progress report to the members to update them on recent events in the district, including the number of students registered for summer school and attendance rates at PS 46, PS 173 and MS 74. She told the council members that District 26 had the highest English and Language Arts test results in the city and reported that district principals were now in professional development sessions for the rest of the month.
"You seem like a terrific group," Saunders said, and wished the council well.
Bruce Feis, the chief financial officer of the DOE, gave a brief overview of the school budget that is still awaiting state approval. "The budgets do have some cuts in it," Feis said, citing last year's $30 million budget surplus from the year before that made the budget seem bigger. There is no such surplus to bolster this year's budget.
"It's a tough year, made much more difficult by the state level," Feis said.
Some parents stopped by the public meeting to greet the new council members and to offer some advice.
"We're counting on you to be an independent voice for our kids," said Gail Cohen, co-president of the President's Council, an umbrella group of Parent-Teacher Associations from local schools. "Don't be afraid to ruffle the feathers of the DOE. Sometimes we have to stand up."
Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2004 Community News Group
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