Today’s news:

Mayoral control of schools must include accountability

On March 8, state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) held a Town Hall meeting at the Queens Children’s Center in Glen Oaks on mayoral control of city schools. Those in attendance heard former Assemblyman Steve Sanders talk about the city Education Law, which he authored as former Assembly Education Committee chairman in 2002. Weprin distributed his three−page Five Point Plan for School Governance.

Attending the meeting were parents, educators and United Federation of Teachers and civic association leaders, plus state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose), City Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) and Bob Friedrich, who is running for David Weprin’s Council seat. Governance of city schools is important this year because the law that set up the present system in 2002 was designed to expire June 30. The state Legislature will either have to leave it as is, end it or change it.

Weprin explained his Five Point Plan, which he believes must make the mayor more accountable. The comment was made that Mayor Michael Bloomberg ignores parts of the law. The five points were to keep mayoral control, restore the role of local school districts, have broad−based accountability for teachers and principals, focus on technology and foster parental involvement.

He said principals were given power but no resources, while parents lost the old district network, in which they could solve problems.

Weprin said there were too many mayoral lackeys in the city Department of Education. Padavan, who helped write the current law, said he had fought to keep functioning school districts, strong school boards and viable superintendents. Today, the mayor and city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein eviscerated these entities and do what they want.

Sanders spoke of the lack of accountability of the now−defunct city Board of Education, as created in 1969, which had the mayor, chancellor and BOE in conflict over policy. He said we have to make the law more specific so the mayor cannot weaken school boards and give superintendents the authority and resources needed to operate.

Today’s Advisory Panel on Education Policy is supposed to be a city BOE that votes on important issues and makes policy. Today, no person in the higher DOE echelons has any teaching experience. Sanders said the law must be made more specific, give the 32 districts more power and give parents an avenue to get answers and help.

Next, the audience asked questions.

Susan Windland from PS 266 and a Community Education Council District 26 member, believed problems should be fixed before they become a problem. When PS 266 was built, there were no educators involved, so the auditorium was made too small.

Rob Caloras, chairman of CEC District 26, was annoyed there is no mechanism to make the mayor obey the education law, so the district had to sue the mayor. It was said the DOE in Albany should have sued the mayor for the district. Sanders repeated that the law has to be made more specific and there has to be an oversight mechanism.

Barbara Silberman, a special UFT Queens representative, said she decided to speak to express amazement that the mayor just does what he wants to do, parents’ voices have been muted and there is a lack of action by the state DOE.

Harbarchan Singh, a Community Board 8 member, said the chancellor now seems to be listening to people because the old law is ending and a new one could be passed.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: We had a big snowstorm a few weeks ago. City Sanitation Department workers worked 12−hour days and did a good job clearing streets. Two plows came down my block behind each other, making sure the whole street was plowed. At night, salt spreaders came through to make sure the slush did not freeze and leave dangerous black ice.

But on the second day, the plows kept coming down my block. Then on the second night, when the street was dry, the salt spreaders came again. Salt was not needed. There were piles of salt, but the spreaders kept spewing out salt onto the gutter and sidewalk corners. Why?

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