Marred by complaints from parents and the threat of a lawsuit, the Department of Education agreed to hold a second round of voting for its Community Education Councils, the nine-member parent panels that oversee each of the city’s 32 school districts.
The original election started May 1, and parents had until May 7 to go online and cast their votes. That session was voided, however, after myriad complaints and a lawsuit filed on behalf of parents citing numerous problems, including a shortage of candidates running, inaccurate information about candidates on ballots and that there was so little outreach about the election that few parents knew it was happening, much less how to go about voting.
“This is the fifth election, and they still can’t get it right,” said Marvin Shelton, Council president for Bronx District 10.
Community education councils are largely advisory bodies that were put in place to foster community involvement when Mayor Bloomberg took control of the DOE in 2002. CEC elections have been held every two years since and are overseen by the DOE’s Office for Family Information and Action.
Parent advocates argue the elections should be run by a body independent of the DOE, which they say has failed to keep parents informed and involved in decision-making.
“There needs to be independent oversight of the DOE, in total,” Shelton said, adding that parent participation overall has dropped since the mayor took over.On May 12, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott agreed to hold a new election, opening up another online voting period from May 18 to 25. “We place tremendous value on parent involvement in our schools and recognize that we should have done a better job managing the Community and Citywide Education Councils Elections,” he said in a statement.
Mona Davids, president of the NYC Parents Union, said the second election went better than the first. The DOE opened computer labs at each school so that parents who don’t have Internet access at home got a chance to vote, and parent coordinators at each school helped them through the process.
“It was a very good, positive step,” she said, but added that the DOE has been largely “incompetent,” in running the show.
“The problems that we had in this election should have been brought up two years ago,” Davids continued. “We did what we had to do, and it’s not perfect, but now we’ll work on making sure the next election will move much smoother.”