Parent and public participation greatly increased after the Covid pandemic forced the meetings of School Leadership Teams and Community and Citywide Councils online. I myself was able to present to as many as three CECs in one evening, when I no longer had to travel long distances to each meeting. And yet the Emergency Order that the Governor issued in mid-March 2020 has now lapsed that allowed these meetings to be held virtually has now lapsed.
The following is a letter the Education Council Consortium plans to send to the Governor, urging him to allow the continuation of virtual meetings, if an SLT or CCEC chooses to do so. Please sign the letter before Wed. June 30 at 7 AM.to support this proposal.
Two bills have been introduced in the State Legislature to amend the Open Meetings Law and allow online public meetings to continue, S7261 by Sen. Brad Hoylman and A8134, by Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. The Senate bill would allow public meetings to be conducted both in-person and online at the same time; the Assembly bill would require that a site is provided to the public to participate in an online, in case they do not have internet access at home. But neither bill has a chance of passing until the Legislature reconvenes, which won't likely happen until next year. The only one who would be able allow online public meetings to persist at this time is Gov. Cuomo.
As you know the Governor has lifted the COVID-19 restrictions. This means the Executive Order that enabled CCECs to meet virtually has expired. We believe the virtual platform has enhanced parental engagement and we should be allowed to continue virtual meetings if each CCEC chooses to do so.
The Steering Committee has drafted a sign on letter for members of CCECs, SLTs and DLTs to sign (see below). The letter also allows for other parents and advocates to sign at: https://tinyurl.com/OMLWaiver2021.
The sign-on form will be open through 7AM Wednesday June 30th.
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We, the undersigned members of Citywide/Community Education Councils, School Leadership Teams, and District Leadership Teams, request a wavier from the Open Meetings Law that requires these bodies to hold in-person public meetings.
Citywide/Community Education Councils (CCECs), School Leadership Teams (SLTs) and District Leadership Teams (DLTs) are part of the New York City public school governance structure intended to enable parents to not only observe important decision making processes at the school and district levels, but also to provide comments and feedback on issues that are important to students and families.
As permitted under Executive Order 202.1, these bodies have held public meetings remotely since mid-March 2020. Many have found that the number of attendees has greatly increased in remote meetings. It is not surprising that parents with school-aged children found it much easier to attend meetings from the comfort of their own homes without the need to arrange for child care or transportation. It also should be taken into account that the NYC Department of Education provided free internet-enabled devices to families who needed them, allowing more families access to virtual meetings and engaging in the school governance process.
Virtual meetings have also eased the burden on parent members of CCECs, SLTs and DLTs, who volunteer their time to serve on these bodies. For parent members who have children with disabilities, some of whom require specialized care, remote meetings have allowed them to fulfill their duties with more ease. The parents of New York City’s youngest students have found it more accessible to attend, when they no longer require childcare at home in order to do so. Members of the Citywide Councils have also benefited from remote meetings, which eliminate the need for traveling. For those members who do not own a personal vehicle, traveling by public transportation can often take hours within five boroughs of New York City. Overall, on many levels and for many reasons, parent engagement has increased dramatically with the inclusion of virtual meetings, something we hope you will continue moving forward.
We ask that you issue an Executive Order that exempts these bodies from in-person meetings and gives an option to continue meeting virtually. The NYC Department of Education has also noticed the increase in the number of parents participating in a variety of meetings and supports this request. Perhaps there may be a requirement that bodies opting to continue remote meetings conduct some minimum number of meetings in-person. We believe such an Executive Order will greatly enhance parents’ ability to engage in public schools and allow us to better develop future parent leadership, and are happy to partner with you in crafting a solution that meets the needs of parents across the five boroughs.
Thank you for your consideration.