CEC 24 criticizes DOE for community engagement ‘farce’

CEC 24 criticizes DOE over community engagement
Superintendent Madelene Chan during the town hall portion of the reinterview process Tuesday, May 24. (Photo by Julia Moro)

Leaders of the District 24 Community Education Council (CEC 24) recently criticized the Department of Education and Chancellor David Banks for their lack of transparency and community engagement amid the recent push to reinterview superintendents across the city. 

Earlier this year, Banks announced that each superintendent would have to reapply for their job, guaranteeing community input during the rehiring process. However, CEC2 4 members and parents feel that if the DOE were truly making an effort to listen, they would hear loud and clear that they don’t want to lose their beloved administrators. 

CEC 24 Vice President Henry Choi said this process has been “some massive failure on the part of the [DOE].” 

“There has been really no community outreach to understand whether there is a want or need for superintendents to be replaced,” Choi said. “We’re very disappointed in Banks’ repeated messaging that community involvement and parent voices are very important and we don’t see that. It’s one thing to verbally or in a press release state something and then to see the actions of an institution don’t line up with their messaging.”

CEC2 4 President, Michael Conigliaro, said that he is not worried about losing current District 24 Superintendent Madelene Chan based on her job performance, but the bureaucracy and politics. 

“My experience with Dr. Chan during my tenure on CEC 24 has been nothing but stellar,” Conigliaro said. “To lose her would be a detrimental loss for not only the community but more importantly our school children, who are thriving in District 24, through both her leadership and all the great work performed on a daily basis.”

During a town hall Tuesday, May 25, CEC2m4 members were able to ask the three candidates, including Chan, prepared questions. However, according to CEC 24, what was meant to be an opportunity for public engagement, was instead a show. 

Before the meeting took place, CEC 24 requested the chat feature on Zoom be open for discussion, comments and questions, but the DOE denied this request.

“For the DOE to label something a ‘town hall’ — the definition of a town hall is listening and engaging with the public — if you silence the public then they should have just called it something else,” Choi said. 

Conigliaro said that the DOE is masquerading these town halls as community engagement when in reality it’s a waste of time. 

“The public has been disengaged from every town hall up to now,” Conigliaro said. Not being able to have access to a live chat during the interview process is certainly not adhering to the community engagement process.”

In District 30, western Queens parents were similarly outraged when their long-time superintendent, Philip Composto, was ousted from the interview process. Then, once he was brought back in after a major community outcry, parents were barred from speaking during the CEC 30 town hall.

As part of the CEC24 town hall Tuesday night, members sent out a Google form for parents to vote on who they would choose to be superintendent. Of the 269 responses, 247 voted for Chan. 

Choi also sent out a petition against the DOE’s effort to replace Chan two weeks ago — there are 1,500 signatures with numerous parent comments.

“Over the years, parents have realized how blessed we are in District 24 to have a superintendent so knowledgeable and responsive to parent concerns,” D24 Parent Charles Vavruska commented in the petition. “I am thankful my daughter got an excellent education in District 24 schools and I can attest that Madelene Chan was instrumental in ensuring that she did.”

It is clear that this community is satisfied with Chan’s performance as a superintendent and leader in District 24 schools.

Choi mentioned that he’s not extremely surprised that the DOE is bungling this process.

“There have been numerous hiccups and bad behavior by the DOE. There has been a whole spectrum of failures,” Choi said. “It happens with regularity and it’s been accentuated with the new administration. We were hoping with the new administration that a lot of these things would be cleared up. But in this brief era of the new chancellor, we don’t see any progress.”

The next steps include closed interviews with the candidates, CEC members and other groups; however, their role is strictly in an advisory capacity and the chancellor will ultimately make the final decision, with or without recommendations from the public. 

The DOE did not respond to QNS’ request for comment by deadline.