"We're looking for recommendations for future governance," said Emil Pietromonaco, the UFT representative for Staten Island and moderator of the forum.Most speakers, including state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) Ð the most vocal opponent of standardized testing Ð said they were in favor of keeping mayoral control but having it modified so local schools and administrators have more of a say in education policy.The state Legislature gave Bloomberg control of the school system in 2002. The law has a sunset provision that goes into effect in 2009, at which time the Legislature can extend mayoral control, make changes to it or eliminate it."I think, in the end, it makes sense to keep mayoral control," Weprin said. "It ended the finger pointing" between the mayor and the now-defunct Board of Education, which was responsible for appointing the chancellor.But he said the state Legislature never would have voted for mayoral control "if we knew that the chancellor was going to be putting in place this haphazard bureaucracy.""Changes have confused and alienated principals, teachers and parents," Weprin said, referring to the restructuring of the school system in the fall and changes to the school bus system last year. "We need to do [mayoral control] with some restrictions. ...It's crazy the stuff the mayor has changed."Weprin said Bloomberg "turned our schools into test prep factories," eliciting applause from the crowd. "My son is learning less because they're testing more. It's the test prep that is killing our schools right now."David Quintana, a parent from Ozone Park, said mayoral control has not led to "improved student performance" and ignores feedback from parents.Rob Caloras, president of Community District Education Council 26 in Bayside, said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein should be more responsive to the concerns of parents and advocates."Our voice has been ignored or not sought," he said.But Melody Meyer, a DOE spokeswoman, said Klein created a senior-level position whose "entire operation is set up to be responsive and hear the input from parents."She also disputed Weprin's characterization of schools as test prep factories, saying that test scores are just one way the DOE evaluates schools. State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), who helped draft the law that gave Bloomberg control of the school system, agreed with Caloras, saying that she first learned that Far Rockaway High School was closing from the media instead of the DOE.State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said she had similar problems.She said she e-mailed the DOE to find out whether PS 244, slated to open in September, would be a K-3 or K-5 school, but was told the DOE was unsure."I think we have to take a look at better solutions," Stavisky said, which included more community input.She also said the chancellor should be "somebody with true vision who knows what it means to be a teacher" Ð a swipe at Klein, a lawyer without a teaching background."We in government like to say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' " Stavisky said. "I'm here to say it's broke."Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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