Under pressure from elected officials and organized parents, the Department of Education is delaying elections for district parent councils until next week.
For weeks, parent leaders have been simmering with anger over problems in the city’s handling of elections for district Community Education Councils. They have charged that the city did too little to recruit candidates, turned away some eligible parents, and hid the names of candidates behind password protection.
The criticism escalated today, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced plans for a press conference Tuesday to demand that the city halt the elections, which they called “deeply flawed and undemocratic.” At the same time, a group of parents, spearheaded by Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union, filed today for a restraining order to halt the elections.
This afternoon, the city announced it would delay the election proceedings by a week. “After reviewing concerns raised by parents and public officials about this year’s Citywide and Community Education Council elections, I have concluded that the process could and should have been handled better,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.
The elections happen in two phases. In the first, all parents can weigh in through an online “straw poll,” and in the second, members of schools’ parent organizations make official selections, using the the straw poll results as guidance. The first phase was scheduled to close on Saturday and the second phase was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Now, the second phase will be extended by a week, and parent association members will have an additional week to register their recommendation votes.
Walcott said the city would use the extra week to “make sure that information about candidates is distributed widely so that the process is as inclusive as possible.” Council members will still start their terms on July 1 as planned, he said.
But an extra week is not enough to fix flaws in the elections, Davids said. “They said they’re going to delay the selection. Well, that still doesn’t solve the problem,” she said. “We want the entire process thrown out and restarted again and done properly.”
Six parents signed on to Davids’ petition for a restraining order against Walcott over the elections, which was filed at 6 p.m. Judge Shirley Heitler set a hearing for 7 p.m. but the city announced its one-week delay at 6:30 p.m. and will meet with Davids and other parents tomorrow, according to Arthur Schwartz, the lawyer representing the parents. Davids said they would move forward with a more extensive lawsuit designed to have the election results discarded.
Last week, Stringer called on the city to redo the elections, but Walcott said at the time they would go on as planned.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of parent involvement in our schools and the Office for Family Information and Action will take all necessary steps to ensure that all of our parents have an opportunity to cast a vote in the CEC elections by May 7th,” Walcott said in a statement at the time.
Also last week, Walcott told Patrick Sullivan, a school board member, that the city had received complaints from 70 parents, according to an email from Walcott that Sullivan sent to reporters.