By Anna Gustafson
Queens Community Education Council leaders are irate over the decision by the city Department of Education to use only online voting in the upcoming CEC elections, a move they said will further marginalize parents already upset by what they say is their lack of power in the city’s educational system.
“We sent a letter to the Department of Justice complaining that by limiting the vote to the Web, they were violating the Voting Rights Act because there’s some statistics that suggest minorities don’t always have access to the Web,” said Rob Caloras, president of the Community Education Council in District 26 which covers 31 schools in Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Flushing, Queens Village, Floral Park, Little Neck, Bellerose, Glen Oaks and Douglaston.
“While the Department of Education says it is making efforts to increase the involvement of the education community in these elections, and they’ll say how important it is, their actions fly in the face of that because they’ve ignored district education councils to the best of their ability,” Caloras added.
DOE spokesman Will Havemann said this year’s election will be “more inclusive than ever.”Unlike two years ago,all parents will be able to participate in the country’s first exclusively online public electionin April. Parents’ votes will be considered in the May election by Parent Association and Parentâˆ’Teacher Association leaders, whose votes state law mandates determine the new council members. The nomination process for candidates and the election process have been moved online to the Web site powertotheparents.org.
CECs, of which there are 32 in the city, were created after Mayor Michael Bloomberg was granted control of the schools in 2002. They are charged with evaluating schools’ instructional programs, approving school zoning and advising city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. Up to nine parents may be elected to sit on a council and two individuals are appointed by the borough president.
March 19 was the last day parents could sign up to run for this year’s biennial CEC elections, but Havemann said Tuesday he could not yet release the final number of candidates.
CEC District 30 President Jeannie Tsavarisâˆ’Basini agreed with Caloras that the DOE ignores parents, which she said dissuades them from running for CECs.
Patricia Safina, the administrative assistant for the council in District 24, said only six parents now sit on the CEC, leaving five positions vacant.
“I think five years down the pike parents still don’t know that much about us, and what they do know is we don’t have a lot of power to change things,” Safina said. “So they have this ‘why bother’ kind of mentality.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by eâˆ’mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 174.