Last night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting was another unfortunate example of how the mayoral appointees on the Panel repeatedly show disregard for both the law and the public school community they are supposed to serve.
The public agenda issued prior to the meeting contained no indication that the Panel would consider the enormous controversy surrounding the state testing debacle, yet a fifteen minute session was added for a DOE staffer to present a defense of the administration's record in student achievement.
At the conclusion of the session, I made a motion to add a public comment session to the agenda to allow the audience to comment on the presentation. It is common for public comment sessions to be placed on the agenda following important presentations. It was clear the purpose of the presentation was to deflect the intense criticism of the DOE's educational record and would not address the concerns of the many parents who, after years of being told their children were doing better, are now being told their children are not proficient. I felt it essential that the parents in the audience have an opportunity to comment and share their perspective with the Panel. My motion was seconded by Bronx Representative Anna Santos.
Rather than hold the vote on the motion, Chairman David Chang said he would disregard the motion based on his authority over "procedural matters". Chang's action was a clear violation of Article 2 of the Panel's bylaws that require a vote of the Panel when a member seeks to add an item:
If a member of the Panel for Educational Policy requests that an item be placed on the calendar at a calendar meeting, the Chairperson shall take a vote of the Panel members regarding whether such item shall be added to the calendar. An item may be added to the calendar at the meeting by majority vote of those present. (Article 2, Section 2.4)The audience was outraged and began to demand a voice. After several admonishments and instructions to "behave", Chairman Chang adjourned the meeting.
A few comments to further explain how Chairman Chang violated PEP bylaws in order to suppress any parent response to the DOE viewpoint:
As the meeting agenda did not include a session for the Accountability Office to make its presentation, Chang's decision to allow the presentation violated the bylaws which restrict the meeting to items in the agenda unless a vote is taken to add an item:
At calendar meetings, business shall be the consideration of the resolutions, communications and other appropriate matters as described in the agenda accompanying the meeting notice. No other matters shall be considered except by consent of a majority of the members present. (Section 2.1.1)Chang should have asked for a vote to add the item along with a public comment session to hear responses. Instead, he allowed the DOE communication to proceed but demanded that parents wait until the end of the meeting to be heard. There were already five more items on the agenda, each with its own dedicated public comment session. Adding another session following the testing presentation would not have been out of the ordinary or an inconvenience to anyone, especially given the obvious interest in the issue. Given that PEP meetings have averaged four hours, Chang knew well that few parents would be left at the end of the evening. Why did he not allow even a vote on my motion? It would be interesting to know what exactly DOE General Counsel whispered in his ear before Chang ruled my motion "out of order".
News coverage in the Times here and News here. Videos here.
For the front-page story that likely led to the preparation of the DOE's defensive presentation on testing results, see the Times: Triumph Fades on Racial Gap in City Schools.