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Mayoral control slipping - Unrest could set the stage for DOE shake up

Parents are tired of having decisions about their children’s schools made for them and not by them. Members of District 21’s Community Education Council vented their frustrations to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum at the CEC’s meeting last week. They say that since Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed control over the school system, the city Department of Education routinely implements new policies, procedures and programs without asking parents for input. “The CECs virtually have no power,” said Yoketing Eng, the council’s first vice president. “We have the power to talk to whoever comes and sits down and we have the power to listen to frustrations when people come to talk,” he continued, “but when it comes down to it, the CEC really can’t do anything.” “Decisions are being made in our district without parents,” agreed Marcel Newton, the former president of District 21’s CEC. Eng cited the recent revamping of admissions procedures for gifted and talented programs as evidence that the DOE is not letting parents play a role in decision making. “A lot of parents felt there was no input from any of the parent representatives. We’re told this is how it’s going to be done. We will provide forums for you to vent but that’s it,” he asserted. Although parents question whether DOE reps truly consider their comments at public forums, the department insists that the meetings are a sincere attempt to better involve the public in the school system. Of the DOE’s decision making, Gotbaum said, “One of the things that bothers me the most is the lack of participation” from the public. Gotbaum said she organized a commission examining the effectiveness of mayoral control, and based on her findings will make a recommendation to the state legislature about whether or not mayoral control should be renewed after it sunsets in 2009. “I believe we have a real opportunity with this commission,” Gotbaum said. “We are hoping to have public hearings in the spring,” she continued, “to get more input [from the public].”

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