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Parents want liaisons back

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklynites are demanding that parent liaisons be rehired for local public schools.

Before the school year began, the city Department of Education (DOE) eliminated positions for one of the two district family advocates assigned to each of the 32 school districts in the city. The downsizing, which was a mix of firings, resignations and retirements, was the result of a $200 million cut to the department’s bureaucratic costs.

District 15’s Community Education Council (CEC), which is a volunteer group of parents advocating for schools in Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park, conveyed its outrage about the firings in a letter to Martine Guerrier, the DOE’s chief family engagement officer.

“The members of CEC 15 are profoundly disturbed by the layoff of Ms. Deborah McCabe from her position,” the letter notes. “While we all understand budgetary constraints, we are especially baffled by her discharge given that the remaining district family advocate assigned to our district has far less experience than Ms. McCabe.”

A DOE spokesperson declined to comment on “individual personnel decisions.”

The CEC is doubly angry that officials from the DOE’s Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy did not seek their input before deciding which family advocate to let go.

But a DOE spokesperson argued that it would be “inappropri­ate” for officials to discuss personnel matters with parents.

The rep did say, “We are working to make sure that every district has a DFA and every district receives the support and help they need.”

Parents say district family advocates provide an invaluable resource by being the connection between parents and schools.

The community superintendent for District 20, which spans Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton and Borough Park, apparently agrees.

“I know how important parental involvement is,” Karina Costantino said when discussing the family advocate layoffs at a recent meeting of the district’s CEC.

The family advocate laid off from District 20 “will be missed,” Costantino said.

There’s also complaints about the timing of the firings.

District 15’s CEC says it’s “unable to fathom the reasoning behind laying off Debbie and other district family advocates at the beginning of the school year – a time when the services of DFAs are perhaps in greatest demand.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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