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October 11, 2011
Editor's blog: Teaching kids the importance of news
This editor reflects on a visit to her daughter's fourth grade classroom this week to discuss the fate of newspapers, and why they're important. The students wow her with their creative, thought-provoking questions.
September 28, 2011
An outspoken parent quits a Queens district council in disgust
Charging that elected parent councils are "window dressing" that allow the city to avoid listening to families, a member of one of them quit publicly last night. Brian Rafferty, a member of the Community Education Council for District 24, announced his resignation at the council's meeting by reading a letter of protest he had written to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. "The Community Education Council serves no purpose other than to be a shield between the Department of Education and the parents of schoolchildren citywide," Rafferty wrote in the letter, which he also posted on Facebook. Rafferty echoed complaints that parents around the city have sounded for years about the weak role of the councils, which are seen as one of the few venues for parents to voice opinions about DOE policies, even though their only statutory function is to redraw school zone lines. Over the summer, after a disastrous set of council elections that had to be conducted twice, Walcott replaced the head of the DOE's family engagement office. But Rafferty suggested that little has changed since then. He said council members did not receive maps of new school zones until just before a recent public meeting about them, so members could not respond to parents' criticism. "We were as blindsided as the parents, and our job, as whipping boys for the DOE, was to take the brunt of the parents’ lashes without any regard to our own opinions on this," Rafferty said.
September 23, 2011
This week's healthy schools highlights
Healthy food is good for grades - Exercise spurs teenage boys to stop smoking - Fight for healthier kids with Fuel Up to Play 60 - 10 ways to pick, pack healthy school lunches - Udall tries to block starch limits in school lunches - Jamie Oliver lectures the UN on obesity crisis - Recess making a comeback in schools.
September 22, 2011
Bullying expert to headline Denver parenting institute
Learn more about the Parent Leadership Institute happening Saturday in Denver. It's free and open to all parents of Denver Public Schools students. Keynote speaker is well-known bullying expert and author Barbara Coloroso.
September 14, 2011
Ask an Expert: Making the most of volunteering at school
Three educators give parents tips on how to make the most of volunteering at school - if you want to do more than shuffle papers. Most experts agree that parent involvement at home - and - school are vital factors to a child's success at school.
August 29, 2011
Editor's blog: Volunteering at school
There are mostly pros - and only a few cons - to volunteering at your child's school. Read all about 'em in this week's Confessions of a Partially Proficient Parent. And share your own tales from the classroom front.
July 26, 2011
After rocky year, DOE replaces head of family engagement office
After less than a year on the job, Ojeda Hall, the director of the troubled office that oversaw this year’s botched parent leader elections, is out. The Department of Education announced today that Jesse Mojica, head policy analyst for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., will replace Hall as head of the Office of Family Information and Action next month. The position is also being promoted, so that Mojica will also be a member of Chancellor Dennis Walcott's cabinet of advisors. Mojica will make $138,000 a year, compared to Hall's $115,000 annual salary. Walcott’s decision to bring on board the education point person of a critic of the city’s education policies comes after a disastrous spring for the long-beleaguered family engagement office. Community Education Council elections were problematic from the start, and even on a delayed timetable elicited few candidates and votes. Some parents charged that the botched election process symbolized of the Bloomberg administration's dismissive attitude toward parent engagement. Walcott also expressed dissatisfaction with the process, but was previously unwavering in his support for Hall. Today, Walcott praised Hall but said he hoped that changes at OFIA would improve the relationship between the DOE and public school parents.
May 12, 2011
Bowing to pressure, city restarts parent council election
With their plans to postpone parent council elections failing to placate critics, city school officials have decided to start the voting process all over again. Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today that already-cast votes will be invalidated and the two-step voting process be pushed to next week. Parents will now be able to vote in the first part of the election, which is advisory, from May 18th to the 25th. The results from that election are non-binding and are meant to guide parent association leaders in their final vote, which will now run from May 27th to June 3rd. Pressure to stop the election and start from scratch came from a group of vocal parents who felt that the Department of Education's Office of Family Information and Action had done too little to publicize the election. They also accused OFIA of releasing inaccurate about who was eligible to run. Complaints mounted when the DOE initially password-protected candidates' information, preventing some parents who didn't have passwords from seeing it. From there criticism became contagious. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio held a joint press conference earlier this week to chastise the city for thinking one week would be enough time to fix the troubled election. A group of parents also sued the city this week, asking for a restraining order to halt the elections.
May 9, 2011
City extends parent elections but doesn't heed calls to start over
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.
May 4, 2011
Borough president asks city to redo "flawed" parent elections
Following complaints from parents about this year's council elections, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is calling on the city to postpone the elections for a second time. Calling the process "badly flawed," Stringer said that a series of mistakes made by the Department of Education's Office of Family Information and Action had undermined parents' confidence in the elections for members of the Community Education Councils. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Stringer asked that the city redo the elections. Walcott responded that the elections would take place, as planned, on May 7. "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," the chancellor said in a statement.
November 1, 2010
Department of Ed's parent office gets a prettier new name
The city is renaming its office that oversees parent groups, partly in response to concern that Spanish-speaking parents are tripping over its title. The Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy (OFEA) is now the Office of Family Information and Action (OFIA). Its role of overseeing communication with parents and parent groups is staying the same. A spokesman for the DOE said one of the reasons for the change is that Spanish-speaking parents were confused by it. Parents were reading the acronym OFEA and getting caught on the last three letters which, strung together in Spanish, are "fea," meaning ugly. Parent coordinators and district family advocates thought the name was distracting parents, the spokesman said. A second reason for the new name is policy-driven. The office and its new director Ojeda Hall want to focus on giving information to parents rather than organizing them.
July 22, 2010
De Blasio: City fails to engage parents on school siting issues
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, speaking today on the steps of the Department of Education When two courts halted the city's plans to close 19 public schools this year, judges ruled that the city didn't follow state law that requires it to engage parents and report the impact that the changes will have on students' educations. Now Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is arguing that the city is making the same mistakes when it decides to place multiple schools in the same buildings. In a report released today, de Blasio charges that the city did not give parents enough information about how changes to space usage would affect instructional programs or about public hearings on the changes. "They're just doing the minimum amount of parent outreach so they can say they did," de Blasio said today. De Blasio's office and the Alliance for Quality Education surveyed nearly 875 parents at 34 schools, about half of those that the city proposed moving into new, shared space last year. (Roughly half of public schools citywide currently share building space with other schools.)
June 21, 2010
City family engagement office rolling out new website for parents
While the city is busy looking for a replacement for its Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier, one of…
May 24, 2010
City says strapped schools can go without parent coordinators
Joining 6,400 teachers on the chopping block are 350 parent coordinators whose schools will no longer be required to employ them, Chancellor Joel Klein announced today. For the first time since the position was created in 2003, high schools will be allowed to go without a parent coordinator, Klein told principals today, saving up to 350 schools just over $40,000 a year each. Parent coordinators whose jobs are eliminated will be at high risk of layoff, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte. Elementary and middle schools are still required to keep a parent coordinator on staff. The instruction is a stark example of how budget cuts could undo some of Mayor Bloomberg's most ambitious education initiatives. The creation of the parent coordinator position in January 2003 was a central element of Bloomberg and Klein's early reforms. Klein also announced today that the Fair Student Funding formula the city devised to fund schools according to their students' needs no longer covers some schools' essential costs.
April 21, 2010
New rule: city can expel too-"aggressive" parents from PTAs
New York City is full of parents unafraid to say exactly what they think of their childrens' schools, but the Department of Education is finding that all too often, that passion is getting out of control. The DOE currently mediates parent-on-parent disputes two to three times a week, according to Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier. She revealed the statistic at a Tuesday meeting of the citywide school board, which approved a regulation giving the department the right to boot parents from parent associations if they verbally abuse or physically threaten other members. Guerrier said the regulation is needed because the department has little recourse against bullying that has caused intimidated and frightened parents to quit the parent associations at their schools. But members of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, which represents parent associations across the city, said the regulation's language is so vague that it could be used to curb parents' speech. "This vague and extremely broad language easily lends itself to abuse and inappropriately patronizes hard-working PA officers by treating them like squabbling kindergartners," CPAC members wrote in an e-mail to Chancellor Joel Klein. "To the extent there are actual threats to the safety of others, they can be dealt with under existing law." Reiterating their arguments yesterday, CPAC members asked the panel to delay its vote.
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