The Community Education Council for District 25 vented its frustrations to city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein Monday night, blasting the city Department of Education for burying parents in incomprehensible policy and depriving them of any power.
Klein and Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier faced a series of questions and concerns from parents in an at times testy meeting, which ranged from school merging to parental involvement to new CEC election policies.
Frustration was apparent from the start of the meeting, held at District 25 headquarters at 30−48 Linden Place in Flushing, when CEC 25 board member Aileen Merulo criticized Klein and Guerrier for issuing official DOE policies in language difficult for the lay parent to understand.
“We are a group of parents who just wants the best for our kids and you make it so hard, so hard for us to understand what we can do and what we can’t do,” Merulo said.
Though Guerrier defended the DOE’s methods, Klein conceded that if parents are having trouble understanding DOE policy, changes should be made.
“Writing anything in legalese is stupid,” Klein said.
Parents from District 25, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Auburndale, Malba, Beechhurst, Pomonok and Electchester, also took aim at the DOE’s policy of grading schools based upon progress, which Klein unequivocally said was essential to moving the city’s schools forward.
“I don’t think our children and accountability for our schools can be mutually exclusive,” he said. “Before we did this, parents did not have any of this information.”
But CEC 25 board member Jane Reiff said by issuing the progress reports, parents are often misled about a school and can base decisions on where to send their child on an arbitrary grade that a school receives over a small time period rather than a school’s reputation and the programs it offers.
“If we could put all these things together so if a parent wants to look at a school, they can judge it based upon the whole picture, that would be great,” she said.
“We can look at it, but I don’t want to swamp the boat,” Klein responded.
Parents also confronted Klein on opening schools in existing schools, a practice that has become commonplace in District 25 and other sections of the city, which parents have said is leading to overcrowding.
Klein said it boils down to money.
“There’s nothing I’d like to do more than build more schools, I just don’t get the money to do it,” he said. “These are tight times. We’re all in this as a city, all of us, and we have to remember that.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@
©2009 Community News Group
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