Marshall wants educators to make parents welcome

By Kathianne Boniello

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall scolded educators across the borough Saturday who do not open their school doors and make parents feel welcome.

Marshall made her comments at School District 28’s sixth annual parents’ symposium, which drew a number of elected officials and hundreds of parents.

“You are the most important people in the entire school,” she told the crowd at the LaGuardia-Crowne Plaza Hotel in Elmhurst Saturday. “I chastise district superintendents and principals who make parents feel unimportant — that is unacceptable.

“Hopefully, that doesn’t exist in the great extent of District 28,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to be an important part of the school.”

Saturday’s event was all about the importance of School District 28’s parents. The district, based in Forest Hills, stretches from Richmond Hill to Jamaica and South Ozone Park.

District Superintendent Neil Kreinik addressed the crowd as he stood before a banner that read “One school, one community, one nation.”

“Over the last five years, with all of us working together, our schools have made great strides,” he said.

Kreinik said the district was making progress on a number of issues, including improving student achievement, getting a middle school on Metropolitan Avenue built and moving the district offices out of a school and into space on Sutphin Boulevard.

A number of speakers addressed the crowd, including Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, a Queens resident, Queens Board of Ed Rep Terri Thomson, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), city council members Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), and Jill Levy, president of the Principal and Supervisors union.

While Thomson praised District 28’s leadership and Katz pledged to help get sites for new schools in the overcrowded district approved and pushed through the City Council, Levy used her speaking time to bring the city’s current debate over mayoral control of the public school system into the mix.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been advocating abolishment of the city Board of Education in favor of his taking control of the city’s 1,100 schools and the education of its 1.1 million students. Any change in how the city’s schools are governed would have to be approved by the state Legislature.

Levy said the debate over school governance was a distraction from the problem of adequate public school funding, especially from the state.

“The conversation is not about the board, but Pataki,” she said. “He should drop his appeal of the CFE decision. That’s where we should be putting our energy. Pataki wants a new term. Why should we allow that to happen when he’s holding up the funding for our children?”

Last year State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse wrote a decision in the seven-year-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity case ordering the state Legislature to reformulate how it funds the city’s public school system. The CFE is a nonprofit group of parents and educators who brought the suit against the state.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.