By Michael Morton
Padavan wrote the legislation that created the new groups, called community district education councils, and he said his visit to MS 172 was the first time he had spoken at a school about the change. During the meeting, he told audience members that the old system simply did not put the right people in charge of schools.
“If there's one thing I've heard during my years in office, it's that parents want to be empowered,” Padavan said. “This wasn't the case throughout the city of New York, regrettably.”
Padavan said many of the school boards were paralyzed by factional infighting.
“Some of those school board meetings, my colleagues told me, were like riots,” he said.
While school board members are not required to have children in the school district they represent, members of the new councils must meet such a prerequisite. Responding to an audience question, Padavan said the change was meant to address a complaint he has heard often: “They don't even have kids in the school, what do they know?”
In Queens, the plan will eliminate school boards for District 24 in Glendale, District 25 in Flushing, District 26 in Bayside, District 27 in Ozone Park, District 28 in Forest Hills, District 29 in Rosedale and District 30 in Jackson Heights.
Under the old system, members of those school boards were elected in general citywide elections. The councils, however, will be chosen largely by the president, secretary and treasurer of every parent or parent-teacher association in each district, a group referred to as the parent selectors under the plan.
The selectors for each district will vote to select nine of the 12 members from among those parents running for the positions. Two additional members with voting rights will be appointed by the borough president and must be residents or business owners in the district in question. The final spot will be filled by a high school senior appointed by the superintendent, though the student will not be allowed to vote.
Among other criticisms, people opposed to the elimination of the school boards have said that the selection process for the new system is not democratic enough. But outside of the MS 172 meeting, Padavan said the citywide votes for the school boards were costly and inefficient, and that it was the unanimous view of the Legislature that general elections for the new councils would not be feasible.
A key element of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to reform the school system, the disbanding of the school boards was supposed to take place late last year. But the plan first had to be approved by the Justice Department under the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
When the Justice Department authorized the plan in December, it also permitted the creation of citywide councils for special education and for high schools.
Employees of the Department of Education are not allowed to run for the councils, nor are members of parent and parent-teacher associations, though the latter may resign to do so.
Candidates for the councils must submit their applications for the voluntary council positions by March 16. After public forums, the members will be chosen by the parent selectors by May 11 and then receive training from the Department of Education. School boards will be allowed to operate until June 30, with the councils taking over the following day.
At the Glen Oaks meeting for District 26, Janice Sackel, the PTA president of PS 191, said she did not have the time to resign her post and run for the district's council. But while she felt there was not enough of a voice given to educators in the makeup of the councils, she said she supported the change despite the effective work School Board 26 had done.
“I don't think the school boards were terribly effective,” she said.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.