Parents must demand that the city Department of Education (DOE) involve them in school matters, according to education advocates.
A small group of community activists and Brooklyn parents attended a public forum to discuss mayoral control but instead decided to question why parents are often absent from these meetings.
“People don’t come out,” said Orlinda McInnis, chair of Community Board 17’s education committee. “My organization – we are trying to get parents involved.”
As a result of the sparse turnouts, there are “a lot of things going on in the schools that we don’t know about,” she said.
If parents fail to attend public hearings – especially those hosted by the DOE – it sends a message to education officials that parents don’t want to be involved in school matters and allows the department to make major decisions without seeking parental input, McInnis said.
“We can’t push the [Department] of Education if we don’t know what is going on ourselves,” she said.
McInnis wondered how much outreach was done for the mayoral control public forum, which was hosted by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s office, as only a handful of parents attended.
“This meeting – how many parents know about this?” she wondered. “I got the flyer two days ago.”
An aide to Gotbaum acknowledged that the forum should have been better publicized and noted that there will be another forum in Manhattan in the coming weeks.
Lyn Johnson, a member of District 16’s Community Education Council (CEC) in Bedford-Stuyvesant, discussed the need for significant parental input.
“Right now, the decisions are pretty much thrown at you. There’s no decision making from the parents,” he said.
“If you’re not listening to the parents in the public school system, if you’re not listening to the children, you’re losing out,” he continued. “Parents need to be involved. Parents know their children better than anyone else.”
But it’s not just about involving parents. He said teachers and school administrators should have a say in the decisions made at the DOE’s central headquarters.
“Educators should be involved because they’re going to actually be administering these decisions,” he said.