Parent councils that are meant to serve as watchdogs over public school districts continue to be so understaffed that the Manhattan borough president is recruiting volunteers online. A member of Scott Stringer's staff contacted GothamSchools today to ask for help finding volunteers to fill two slots on Manhattan Community Education Councils. Those councils were created in 2002 by the same state law that gave control of the city's schools to the mayor, to ensure a forum for parent input in the new governance structure. The law gives CECs oversight of districts' academic and financial performance, zoning, and education and capital plans. Finding volunteers could be difficult. In 2007, Stringer himself released a report, titled "Parents Dismissed" (pdf), that cataloged council members' dissatisfaction with the level of training and support offered by the Department of Education. A survey conducted by his office found that 71 percent of council members had seen a colleague resign during the school year out of frustration. That frustration has persisted through changes in the DOE's parent outreach initiatives: Right now, 26 of the city's 34 councils currently have vacancies, according to the DOE's press office. Altogether, there are currently 66 openings for parents who want to get involved. Thirteen of those vacancies must be filled by borough presidents, and the Public Advocate has another slot to fill. (Borough presidents are actually permitted to appoint people who are not public school parents, the only way non-parents can join the councils.) Interested in joining a CEC? Contact your district's council for information. Below the jump, information from Stringer's office on how to apply for the Manhattan spots.
PHOTO: Hayleigh ColomboBrooklyn mom blogger Louise Crawford posted Learn NY's statement ##http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/only_the_blog_knows_brook/2009/01/learn-new-york-educational-advocacy.html##on her web site##, but other parents are refusing. Learn NY is ramping up its dogged campaign to bring public school parents on board its effort to preserve mayoral control of the city schools. Its latest technique: asking parent-bloggers to post a canned introductory letter directly to their web sites. The group, which includes a set of four high-profile board members, some anonymous rich donors, and one seasoned political hand, was formed last year as the premier campaign to lobby for mayoral control when it comes up for renewal this spring. (The law could be scrapped, bringing back the old school board, revised, or kept intact.) Part of Learn NY's argument for keeping mayoral control is that, though some very vocal parents loudly criticize the system, a silent majority of non-loud parents support it — or would, if they properly understood what mayoral control is. The blogosphere campaign is part of its effort to find those parents and educate them. An earlier effort involved shooting off an arsenal of e-mails to parent e-mail lists. The campaign is hitting some snags. After e-mails went out to parent list-serves, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, denounced the group on the public school parents list serve she runs. Another blogger, David Quintana of Queens, who received an inquiry from Learn NY today, declined the offer and passed it on to press contacts. Quintana's blog includes a clock excitedly counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds left in the Bloomberg administration.
Meet the Department of Education's new chief lobbyist, Micah Lasher. At the Post's Daily Politics blog, Liz Benjamin reports that Lasher, a 27-year-old political whiz kid fresh off a stint in Rep. Jerry Nadler's office, is now the DOE's executive director of public affairs. That's the position held by Terence Tolbert until his sudden death at the beginning of November while he was on leave working for the Obama campaign in Nevada. Lasher has already updated his Facebook profile (above) to reflect his new job. As the DOE's top lobbyist, Lasher is now responsible for pushing the DOE's agenda in Albany. At the top of that agenda, of course, is convincing lawmakers to preserve mayoral control before the 2002 law giving control of the city schools to the mayor expires at the end of June. Lasher will also have to work some magic if the city's schools are to escape relatively unscathed in this year's budget fight. (Fortunately, he has experience working magic; he published a book on the subject when he was just 14.)