Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An open letter about the botched CEC elections from Shino Tanikawa

There have been many problems with this year's process surrounding the election of Community Education Council members, as reported in news accounts  here and here.   The final outrage is the determination of the DOE to keep secret the names of candidates, which is of doubtful legality.
It is also known that there was a big push to recruit charter school parents who might be  more favorably inclined to the administration's policies.  
After sending this letter this morning to Ojeda Hall, head of OFIA,  Shino Tanikawa, Community Education Council member from District 2, received an e-mail reply saying Ms. Hall was going to call her today.  We will report back as to what is said and more importantly, done. 

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Shino Tanikawa
To: Ojeda Hall
Sent: Tue, May 3, 2011 6:57:26 AM
Subject: CEC election
Dear Ojeda,

I attended the CECD2 and CCHS candidates forum last night as a candidate for both Councils.  I would like to register my concern with you.

There was no communication prior to the forum as to what we were expected to do and what the format of the forum was.  The one e-mail I received from the OFIA gave me a link to the web site with information from two years ago (stating the forum format was up to the Presidents' Councils). 

There was no voter's guide for the CCHS.   Some copies of the voter's guide for the CECD2 had pages missing, which meant some candidates' information was missing.

The OFIA staff - all very lovely people whom I enjoyed meeting - were not given proper information as to the mechanics of the election. It looked as though they were thrown into hosting these forums without any training or background documents. 

And, the forum was held the night before the first day of the ELA tests.  Many parents were, I am sure, reluctant to attend an evening meeting (we had a decent turnout - a testament to the dedication of D2 parents).

On a broader level, I must say this whole process has been very poorly conducted.  The State law states the process must begin in January.  The first I heard about the election was late March and I, and many other parents, had to inquire about it before we received any notice.  Because of the late start, everything seems to have been done in haste with carelessness and thoughtlessness abound.

The voter's guide should be available online WITHOUT any login requirement.  We have been told repeatedly that the CEC is a public office and we must follow the Open Meetings Law.  Yet, candidates' information is not available for all to see.  This is simply not acceptable. Furthermore, candidates' school affiliation is not listed, unless the candidate mentions it in her/his statement.  Since there is only one member allowed to serve from any given school, the school affiliation, as well as ELL/IEP status of the child, is important information for the selectors. 

I have heard many accounts of parents trying to reach the OFIA without success.  I, myself, contacted the CEC office of the OFIA requesting that I be the first candidate to present at the CCHS forum so that I can cover the CECD2 on the same evening. I never heard back from anyone (I sent my note to Meg as well as the general CEC election address).  I am not the only one who has received no response. 

Most disturbingly, my colleague, Jaye Bea Smalley, who has been an effective advocate on the CCSE has been left out of the ballot despite the fact she submitted her application on time.  It would be a true travesty if she is not elected because nobody knew she was running again.  This also makes me wonder how many candidates are missing from the ballot. 

I am sure that it is not your intent to botch the CEC election process and your office is doing its best but I see that it does not have the human resources to do the job right.  I am keenly aware of what the Mayor thinks of the parents of traditional schools (as opposed to charters), but I was hoping he would still honor the spirit and the letter of the law by providing you with what you need to do the one thing that really matters to the parents in NYC.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve the situation.

Shino Tanikawa


Anonymous said...

I contemplated running but heard terrible things about the process and decided against it. Most of the parents I have spoken with weren't even aware of the elections and how they could vote. Very poorly planned.

Ellen said...

In addition to the mess created by a late and rushed round of elections, viable candidates have been dropped from candidate lists. Two were deliberately dropped from the CCSE list. Despite prompt notification of the mistakes and assurances by Mr. Napier of the OFIA staff, the names did not reappear on the candidates list distributed last night at the forum.
These elections should be stopped, now. There is no way that OFIA can plead ignorance about these elections. They ran the elections last year for the new CCSE, CCELL, CCHS and D 75 CEC. April and May come the same time every year. If this is not a deliberate effort to discredit the CECs and is a show of incompetence on the part of OFIA, shame on them.
If this is a deliberate effort on the part of OFIA to sabotage the CEC election process, what is the hidden agenda...CECs of compliant charter school parents who will toe the line on DOE thinking?
Ojeda Hall was hired because of her expertise in community organizing. Is this the same expertise that Cathy Black was supposed to show? Where are the transferable skills so vaunted in her resume?

Shino said...

Ojeda called me back to tell me the candidates' statements will be up on the web without logging in tomorrow.

I suggested that she meet with some of the parent leaders after the election since she was so keen on learning what the OFIA can do differently. She said she would like to.

Shino said...

This precedes my 5:45 PM post

I do have to give credit where it is due. She called me as promised.

She says there is no conspiracy and that her people are working around the clock on the election. I was diplomatic but honest about our deep rooted suspicion. She says she believes in parental involvement and she wants CECs to succeed.

She wanted to know what she could do to make us believe she wants to work with us. I couldn't tell her to get rid of Bloomberg so I told her to go out there and talk to parents - the ones I work with, not just the ones from faith-based groups and CBOs. I told her to come to the CEC and D2 PC meetings (I was keeping the conversation to D2).

I also said off the bat she has to put the candidates' information on the web where anyone can see the personal statements. She said she'll look into it and get back to me.

We will see how it all goes....

Ellen said...

Please let me add that this promise, to get it right next time, was also made last year when the elections for the new CCSE, CCELL and D 75 CEC were held. We were told, and I may be paraphrasing, that last year's elections were a dress rehersal for 2011. That OFIA would know what to do next year (2011)
If last year was the dress rehersal and this is all that can be produced for a grand finale, I am not willing to let then have a "do over" Can you imagine the chaos, confusion or consternation there will be in two years?
This fiasco is community organizing? Thank heaven they aren't in charge of FEMA. Or could they, in the words of their own patron saint Arne Duncan, be
looking to create a New Orleans style school system here in New York?

Too little too late, these elections should be rescheduled. I know that OFIA will say that they have to meet the mandates described in current law. However, the confusion they have created has caused irreparable damage to reputations and
to trust.
In other words, do it over...do it right!

Anonymous said...

One other issue with the whole CEC debacle is that while I could, in theory, run in two districts, as my child moved outside our home district for middle school, I apparently can only vote in the middle school district. So there is no mechanism by which I can vote for candidates in the district in which I have lived for 20 years and had a child for six years in elementary school, even though I am familiar with the politics and the schools in this district and barely at all with the district where my child attends middle school.

In addition--is it not unconstitutional that either I or my spouse can vote, but not both?

Anonymous said...

I finally received the notice with my password to get into the site to view the candidates and vote yesterday! Yes, on May 4. I blame not only the OFIA but our school for not making more effort to get this information out there. I am not usually a consipiracy theorist but this just reeks.