Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sorry. The DOE Says You Weren't Invited

A few days ago, word appeared that the DOE’s proposed revisions to the Chancellor’s Regulations A-660 (which provide guidelines for governance of PA’s and PTA’s) contained the following provision under the section Parent Association Bylaws Minimum Requirements:

Other than the principal or his/her designee, outside observers and speakers are prohibited from attending unless the PA bylaws specifically allow attendance by invitation of the association after the vote. A PA must vote to invite an outside speaker for a specific purpose at a particular meeting.

Leaving aside the incomprehensible English wording of the first sentence, this regulation effectively states that outside speakers and perhaps even observers could only be admitted to a PA/PTA meeting if pre-approved by the membership in a prior meeting. From my vantage point as a high school PA President, this rule rates a veritable 12 on the 1-10 scale of my absurdity meter.

In the last twelve calendar months, our PA meetings have welcomed outside speakers and visitors/observers from Con Edison, Columbia Presbyterian, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer's office, State Senator Jose Serrano's office, Making It Count, Students or Soldiers? Coalition, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Citibank, AXA Financial Advisors, NYPD 25th Precinct, Bucknell University, and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO).

Each of these visitors has a purpose, either to address real issues in our school building, provide political leverage to help our issues get addressed, or simply to educate and inform parents. Many of the details for these presentations are worked out between monthly meetings as our Executive Board works to create meaningful meeting agendas.

Speaking for myself at least, there is ZERO chance we are ever going to comply with anything as ridiculous as this. Furthermore, I'm willing to take the same accountability position as the Mayor -- if parents have a problem with what I and my Board are doing, they can vote me (us) out. That’s certainly a lot more accountability leverage than we have with our Schools Chancellor.

It’s not as though parents who volunteer their time as PA/PTA officers aren't doing enough already. Now they have to be micromanaged by some disconnected bureaucracy and treated like children incapable of acting on their fellow parents’ behalf. Just more of the haughty disdain the Chancellor and Mayor have repeatedly expressed toward public school parents.


KitchenSink said...

Agreed. That rule sounds utterly ridiculous.

Chaz said...

This is very consistant with how the DOE treats Parents and teachers...With contempt.

Anonymous said...

The alleged quote attributed to A-660 does not exist in the proposed document. Playing dirty pool does not enhance your argument!---Murray Berger

Anonymous said...


Your accusation is not appreciated here. Up until very recently, the DOE-issued regulation had precisely that language. They only agreed to back off after intense pressure from parent leaders. You should realize that the regulations that are drafted so poorly are done so by the DOE General Counsel's office and the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy
(OFEA), both of which have dozens of paid staff, while those of us trying to preserve our rights are parents who have jobs are raising families.

In fact, Murray, you should know that the DOE refused to provide a copy of the old A-660 with changes marked so we could see what the hell they were changing. They could not even provide a copy of the previous A-660 until I found a parent leader on Staten Island who gave it to them.


Steve Koss said...

I also take more than a little issue with Mr. Berger's accusation. In point of fact, my "alleged quote" came directly from the DOE website, from a download of Chancellor's Regulations A-660.

If Mr. Berger cares to take the time to check out his facts, I suggest he go to the DOE website (http://schools.nyc.gov/RulesPolicies/ChancellorsRegulations/default.htm) and download it for himself. I just did it again this morning, and the exact text I quoted is still present in the document, on page 54 ("Parent Association Bylaws Minimum Requirements," Section II.D.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the limitiations set forth in the A-660's as described here........Attachment #8 of the A-660 discusses Quorum. As of now the mandate is atleast the President, 3 executive board members and 10 parents at-large ( cannot be on the executive board)and teachers, while considered to be part of a PTA are not considered for quorum.

To be able to vote to have a guest( name date, topic etc.), you need to have quorum. Under current mandate, many schools cannot achieve this. Some actually have executive board members vacate their seats to be a parent at large to make quorum and conduct business. If the president is not there, no quorum. If three board members are not in attendance, no quorum. There are three core officers to be able to create a PA/PTA but 4 to have a meeting.

There also has to be a meeting to be able to ammend by-laws to invite or allow guests, again quorum issues.

Bottom line is that many PA/PTA's are unable to conduct business under the current A-660 guidelines that took effect immediately without proper time for the community leaders to offer input. The input has been offered and is still ongoing, yet these measures are still the governing PA/PTA's and many if not most schools are in violation and cannot conduct business. What say you Mr. Berger?