Issued on New Councils to Replace Community School Boards
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
the 20-member Task Force on Community School District Governance
Reform submitted its recommendations to the Leg-islature and the
Governor on what should replace the community school boards, which
go out of business on June 30th. Along with Terri Thomson, I had
the honor of co-chairing the Task Force, whose recommendations
were developed after hearing over 50 hours of testimony from nearly
300 witnesses at hearings held in each borough in the past two
When the Legislature voted to abolish the community school boards
as part of the legislation giving the Mayor accountability for
the school system and the right to pick the Chancellor, it decided
to wait for recommendations of the Task Force before acting on
additional legislation this Session to implement a new district-by-district
community- and parent-based governance structure. Assuming the
Legislature meets the challenge and enacts legislation in the
next few months on what replaces the existing school boards, and
assuming the Justice Department gives its approval under the Voting
Rights Act to the new changes, every community should have an
effective and meaningful role in certain local school district
decision-making, and be a focal point for debate and assessment
of how the new central administrative structure under the Mayor
and chancellor is working.
The Task Force recommendations are predicated on the principle
that governance structure should support classroom instruction
and insure that the school system is run in a way that reflects
partnership with parents, provides accessibility in each community
to address local concerns, has clear lines of authority at every
level, and is readily comprehensible. An unapproachable and impenetrable
bureaucracy is unacceptable.
Additionally, in fulfilling its mission, public school districts
must be organized in such a fashion so as to insure that parents
are real partners in the education of their children, and not
just placed in an organization chart as window dressing.
The Task Force has proposed the creation of a District Education
Council in each of the 32 community school districts. Each would
be comprised of 11 membersó8 parent members elected by the parents
of students who attend a public school within the district, one
of whom must be a parent of a child with special needs, educated
through an Individual Education Plan within the school District;
2 business, civic or community members appointed by the Borough
President, and 1 high school senior appointed by the superintendent.
The district superintendent responsible for the community school
district shall be the person interacting, collaborating and working
with that community District Education Council.
The councils will hold a monthly meeting with the district superintendent
to engage in a dialogue about the local schools and about progress
made toward the implementation of the districtís comprehensive
education plan, plus a separate monthly public meeting with the
superintendent during which the public may speak, so that parents
and the community have a voice and a public forum to air their
Among the councilsí other responsibilities will be: to review
the quality of the districtís educational programs and assess
their effect on student achievement; to submit an annual evaluation
of the district superintendent to the chancellor; to submit an
annual evaluation of the superintendent; and to hold public hearings
and provide comment to the district superintendent on the districtís
proposed operating and expense budgets.
Additionally, they will provide comment before collective bargaining
negotiations to the chancellor and Mayor concerning provisions
in union contracts that impact the schoolís quality of life; be
responsible for zoning of elementary and middle schools in the
district; hold a public hearing on the districtís annual capacity
plans recommended by the superintendent and based on data from
the Chancellor on enrollment/utilization of each school; and submit
the plan, approved by the council and the superintendent, to the
Chancellor for his review.
The councils will be required to have regular communication with
all parents and parentsí associations in the district; to share
information regularly with school leadership teams as may be necessary
and to provide assistance to them whenever possible; to provide
important information on student achievement and to seek input
from the parents on school improvement; and to give input to the
chancellor and the citywide Panel for Educational Policy on matters
of concern to the school district.
I believe that these recommendations, if enacted, would foster
an environment for meaningful parental and community representation
and input at the local community school district level and provide
a forum for vigorous discussion and assessment of the newly centralized
Sanders is chairman of the NYS Assemblyís Committee on Education.
You can e-mail him at email@example.com or phone him
at (212) 979-9696.
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