Community Education Council (CEC) presidents are no longer meeting with schools Chancellor Joel Klein each month — and some Brooklynites could care less.
“They were a waste of time,” said James Dandridge, president of District 18’s CEC, which advocates for public schools in Canarsie and East Flatbush. “You never had any results coming out of it.”
There were several problems, Dandridge said. One, many CEC presidents opted to discuss issues affecting their districts and not the entire city. Two, the chancellor attended only part of the meetings.
“What I found was that individual council members would basically discuss the issues from their district,” Dandridge said. Also, “The chancellor always had a timetable where he was looking at his watch because he had another meeting.”
The meetings were imperfect but they should continue, said Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC representing Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.
“Did anything come of them? I would say no. We got a lot of, ‘We’ll look into it,’ and, ‘We’ll get back to you,’” Spinelli said. “But it was an opportunity to at least talk directly to the chancellor or to one of the deputy chancellors.”
Explaining its reasoning for ending these meetings, the city Department of Education (DOE) told this paper, “Many CEC members indicated to us last year that the citywide CEC meetings were exclusive and offered insufficient opportunity for meaningful dialogue between CEC members and DOE officials. In fact, CEC representatives from the Bronx, southeast Queens and Harlem declined even to attend these meetings.”
The DOE has replaced the forums between Klein and CECs with new “borough-wide meetings,” which will feature DOE officials and, in some cases, Klein.
The DOE said, “We organized the borough-wide meetings to be more inclusive and relevant than the citywide meetings. We hope they’ll help to foster stronger and better communication between DOE officials and parent leaders across the city. Already this year, Chancellor Klein has attended the Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan meetings. He’ll continue to attend the meetings as his schedule permits.”
Some Brooklyn CEC presidents believe these meetings will be unproductive.
“It’s the same thing,” Dandridge said. “When you don’t get results, it’s a waste of time.”
During the meetings with the chancellor, “CEC presidents had substantial input in [planning] the agenda,” explained Jim Devor, president of District 15’s CEC, which represents Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park.
For the borough-wide meetings, “no one knows what the agenda is. There’s no reaching out to anybody to try to set the agenda,” Devor said. “And there’s no assurance that the chancellor will appear. I’m not overly enthused.”
“It’s a very poor substitute because they have someone come in and do a little PowerPoint presentation and a little question and answer and then send people on their way,” Spinelli said.
Laurie Windsor, president of District 20’s CEC representing Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Borough Park and part of Bensonhurst, urged her fellow council presidents to give the new borough-wide meetings a chance.
“See what comes out of it before we say let’s go back to having the meetings with the chancellor,” she said.
The borough-wide meetings are private meetings between the DOE and CECs and are not open to the public.