Sunday, February 1, 2009

Maria's testimony on school governance

Good Morning. My name is Maria Dapontes-Dougherty. I am the President of District 30 Q Presidents’ Council and also currently the Corresponding secretary of CPAC.

I have been an involved parent and advocate for our parents and especially the students in the NYC public school system for the past 12 years.

When mayoral control first came upon us I was enthusiastic and hopeful. I truly believed that holding one person responsible with the active participation of parents, teachers, administrators and Board of Education personnel would lead to the success of our massive education system. I WAS WRONG. The years of mayoral control of our schools have been a nightmare.

I will begin with the topic of parental involvement, which is the closest to my heart, and of which I truly believe that the strength of the home school partnership is the key to the success of our children. Under mayoral control parents are philosophized and politicized as a vital component of the system, but are blocked any time they voice an opinion or try to participate. Schools cannot be run exclusively like a business, in, as the "products" of this business are the future minds of our country. They are our children!

The new regulation Chancellor’s A655 on School Leadership Teams tried to decimate the parental voice, parents spoke out that these changes were against NYS law and no one listened It took a legal complaint and a recent decision by State Education Commissioner Mills to confirm what parents already knew that parents must be involved in setting schools’ goals and strategies for meeting those goals. Currently SLT’s are dysfunctional and DLTs are orchestrated by Tweed. Teachers and parents have become the required bodies present and nothing else.

District 30 in Queens has been one of the most overcrowded districts in our city. This year class sizes went up in all grades except for the 7th grade. Statistics show the city plans to build only about one half of the new seats we need to eliminate overcrowding and reduce class size. Since mayoral control we have opened one school, which was overcrowded on day one. This school being built was a result of the previous administration. Lockers for the children still sit unused in as there are not enough for the overcrowded building in which they sit.

We saw the past Capital Plan from this administration showing new seats that never happened. SCA could not find proper spaces, but somehow was able to place Charter Schools. Our legislators found spaces and strongly supported us, but were ignored. We now see the same seats in the new plan, but hold no hope. We still have overcrowded classrooms in aging buildings. Reports show that this administration has created the least amount of seats across the city for our children. Nothing has changed, but the DOE and the mayor continue to spin-doctor.

Tweed touts accountability, but it does not exist. They flip flop their opinions on who is responsible for our schools from whether it be the auspices of the state or the city, at their whim, and whichever fulfills their choice at the moment. A critical example would be the cell phone lawsuit. It is a sad day when parents whose post 9/11 children are traveling across the city are denied the right to communicate to their children, because the mayor has a pet peeve about cell phones. Ah an example of the spin doctoring: The phones are used for cheating. Hmmmm cheaters existed long before the mayor’s ban and will still exist long after. A cheater is a cheater no matter what era we are in.

Since Mayoral control our Schools Safety Agents are under the jurisdiction of the NYPD. We have children that are being policed and arrested. The NYCLU has fully documented these unacceptable actions in its "Criminalizing the Classroom" report. CPAC seeked advice on what the rights and responsibilities of Safety agents were and we were told that the NYPD would have to answer. The Chief of School Safety of the NYPD refused our requests. We have instances of 5 year olds being handcuffed and arrested and are not provided with the framework of rules that affect our children.

The system is not transparent and there are no checks and balances. The PEP, theoretically the body that would facilitate accountability, transparency and checks and balances is powerless. It is comprised of mayoral representatives and Borough President appointees that are fired if they do not agree with the mayor’s beliefs. This is not an example of a democracy; it is a dictatorship.

CECs, Presidents’ Councils, and CPAC are powerless. These bodies are micromanaged and their valuable input is dismissed. Our legislators are ignored. Our Superintendents have a title required by state law, but are sent to schools across the city and are powerless in the districts they represent. The press is influenced by our wealthy and powerful mayor and his cronies. The revelation of the power of data is only a tool to doctor the numbers to the benefit of the administration and the unknowing public.

I participated in the original hearings on mayoral control and remember how important it was to the members of that panel that parents and the community be engaged. Years and countless reorganizations later our system is more dysfunctional. Graduation rates are still dismal. Classrooms are still bursting at the seams. The bureaucracy, cronyism and entrenched interests we believed would be dismantled have been replaced by SSOs, multimillion dollar no bid contracts and partnering with private groups that only care about profits.

I plead that you bring the “public” back to public education.

Please send your testimony to


NYC Educator said...

Great column, with so much to think about here. Thanks for putting it up.

Saif Ali Pervez said...
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