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Education Council Takes Concerns About Charter School Hearings to Speaker Silver

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Last week we reported that District 1’s Education Council passed a resolution protesting the Department of Education’s handling of a state-mandated hearing at Manhattan Charter School. In what they said was a recurring problem, the DOE scheduled the hearing, to consider a renewal of the LES school’s charter, at the same time as the monthly Education Council meeting.

In a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the CEC also contends they, as well as P.S. 142 (co-tenant of manhattan Charter’s building on Attorney Street), were not advised of the hearing in a timely manner. The CEC also said it was investigating reports that P.S. 142 parents were prevented from entering the hearing room and not advised of the procedure for signing up to speak. Finally the Council suggested the DOE might not be accurately relaying feedback received at public hearings to the State Board of Regents, and they called on the DOE to publicly release details of charter school applications. You can see excerpts from their resolution in our previous story.

In the letter to Speaker Silver the CEC asserted that the DOE has…

…violated the letter and the spirit of the law requiring full public notice, participation, and transmittal of the views expressed at these hearings. We respectfully request the assistance of Speaker Silver and our other elected representatives to hold DoE officials accountable for their disregard for the NYS education law and contemptuous treatment of parents and the community, and to ensure the integrity of the mandated public process…

The Lo-Down contacted Silver’s office for a response. They released the following statement:

The spirit of the school governance law is to ensure that parents play a more meaningful role and have every opportunity to be included in the education decision making process.  Parental input is an important and vital step in strengthening and improving our schools. The Department of Education should be going the extra mile to make sure that parents have the ability to review and comment on the use of their school building.

Senator Daniel Squadron is also out with a statement on the matter:

As we made clear in the school governance law that passed this summer, community input and parent involvement are critical, and CEC 1 has made good suggestions for ensuring it.  I urge the Department of Education to respond about the feasibility of coordinated scheduling and transcription.  And, while I believe the CEC already can communicate directly to the State Education Department and the Regents, I urge the Commissioner and Regents Chair to give due consideration to the CEC’s views.”

Last week DOE official Michael Duffy said, notice of the hearing was “done in the usual and customary manner, which included notice to the Community Education Council 1 (CEC1) and to elected officials, among others.” Later, Manhattan Charter Principal Genie DePolo also weighed in. Responding to the CEC’s contention that P.S. 142 had not been properly advised of the hearing, she said both Manhattan Charter School and the Charter School Office notified the principal five or six days ahead of the meeting.

In its letter, the CEC notes that Silver holds regular meetings with parents on the West Side, where there’s a well documented school overcrowding crisis. District 1’s CEC – saying overcrowding is becoming a concern on the East Side as well – asks Silver to institute similar meetings in our neighborhood.

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