New Community Councils
Hold Great Promise for City Schools. . .
July 1 began a new era in New York City school governance and
parental involvement in decision-making about their local schools.
The demise of the local Community School
Boards after 34 years heralds the birth of thirty-two new Community School
District Education Councils, each primarily comprised of parents of children
who attend local public schools. It is important to note that while the school
boards have been phased out, the thirty-two local community school districts
remain intact and are critical components of the school system’s governance
Each of the new Councils are comprised
of eleven members, nine of whom must be parents, plus two members—residents of the district—appointed
by the Borough President.
The three-decade-old system
of Community School Boards was unfortunately marked in too many instances
by ineffectiveness and, at times, corruption. Too many persons elected to
these positions used the School Boards to represent their own personal or
political agendas rather than represent the best interests of the local schools.
It is true that the vast majority of persons who were elected and served
on the School Boards were well meaning and dedicated individuals. Still,
the system as a whole was widely viewed as a failure; average voter turnout
for School Board elections was only four percent, and ultimately the public
as a whole lost confidence in the system. The
structure of community representation needed to be reformed.
mostly parents on these new Councils—parents chosen by the elected parent leadership
in each school district—we can be reasonably assured that the Councils’ primary
objectives will truly be the real needs of the schools. Moreover, the powers
of these Councils have been beefed up with new oversight responsibilities,
including annual evaluation of the school district superintendent. There
is also now mandatory training for new Council members to ensure that each
member and Council will be ready and appropriately prepared for their important
In addition, parents of children
who attend special schools for students with disabilities will also have
a parent-oriented education council, so that the special needs of their children
will be properly addressed. And finally, high schools too will now have borough-wide
parent councils, to provide critical parental input in our secondary schools.
History, of course, will be the final judge as to how well this
new form of parent and community representation will work, how successful the
Councils will be. In the end, any system of community participation is only
as good as the participants make it. I believe, however, that if the Chancellor
provides the necessary support for these Councils and ensures that policy-making
is the result of real dialogue with them, then the parents and Councils will do a great job in improving
our local schools.#
Steven Sanders is chairman of the NYS Assembly Education Committee.
You can contact him at 201 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003 (e-mail:
email@example.com; tel.: (212) 979-9696.)