from el diario

Advocates say they haven't heard from the DOE's "chief parent"

This story originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario, which supplied the translation.

The city’s school system has a new person in charge of helping the parents of the 1.1 million children in public schools. The problem is that many have not heard of him since he was appointed last July.

After three months in his role as “chief parent” of the New York City Department of Education, organizations that defend parents’ interests said they have not yet heard from Jesse Mojica and do not have knowledge of his plans to improve the troublesome relationship between the department and families throughout the city.

Mojica was recruited in July by new Chancellor Dennis Walcott to occupy the $138,000 a year position as executive director of the office of Family and Community Engagement.

Placida Rodriguez, from the parent action group Make the Road New York, an organization based in Queens and Brooklyn, expressed her dissatisfaction at the little attention Mojica has paid so far.

“Basically I have had no contact with Jesse Mojica,” said Rodriguez.“I think he at least should have communicated with different groups,” she added.

Marilu Rodriguez, community organizer for the organization Cypress Hills Advocates for Education in Brooklyn, has not heard from him either.

“The only thing I know is that he is not focusing on the needs of our schools and our children, he only follows the DOE’s orders. And at the same time, not only has the DOE not made unfair decisions, but they are also manipulated by Bloomberg,” Rodriguez said.

The emerging hostility from these leaders towards Mojica is an unexpected turn from the enthusiasm that followed his appointment, which was seen as an opportunity for Walcott — who became chancellor in April — to initiate a different approach towards parents, many of which are discontented with their limited participation in the design of school policies.

“I worked with Mojica for years when he was in the Bronx, and I know he is a strong advocate for parents, but since he gained this new position I have not spoken with him,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, one of the city’s main organizations advocating for parents education policy.

Jose Gonzalez, a member of the United Parents of Highbridge, in the Bronx, also expressed some dissatisfaction.

“I know how dedicated [Mojica] is and that he takes parent’s rights seriously,” said Gonzalez. “But I think that there has been no action yet, it’s a lot of talk. At the community level, the local level, we see inefficiency in parental involvement.”

“We still have not seen visible progress and no benefits,” added Gonzalez, who is bothered by what he calls violations of parental rights by some school principals.

Millie Bonilla, of the Coalition for Educational Justice, said she knew Mojica’s work in the Bronx and “his capacity to help parents” and that they are in talks to set up a meeting.

Repeated requests for interviews with Mojica, made beginning in July and until last week, have been ignored or rejected by the DOE.

Last Wednesday, however, Mojica accompanied Walcott to a meeting in a high school in Manhattan, to discuss how to improve communication between the DOE and parents, particularly in light of discontent stemming from the policy to close low-performing schools.

When asked during the meeting about his apparent disconnect with groups of parents, Mojica defended himself saying that although he was appointed in July, he officially began working on Aug. 23, and assured that he has met with various groups of parent leaders in schools in four boroughs and that he has plans to visit other in Staten Island, which he has yet to visit, he said.

El Diario is New York City’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper. Read more education news from El Diario.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”