Parents to DOE: give us a say

Another day, another town hall, another plea for the city Department of Education (DOE) to better involve parents in the school system.

That feeling of being shut out has led many parents to stop being active in their children’s schools.

“I speak to a lot of district parents and charter school parents who have a lot of difficulty filling their PTA and SLT meetings,” said Sheryl Davis, who has two children at the Explore Charter School in Brooklyn.

At the standing-room-only town hall, held at Borough Hall, parents were allowed to speak after sitting through 40 minutes of speeches from various politicians and reps for the DOE and teachers’ and principals’ unions.

Unsurprisingly, parents said they’re ignored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Raphael Rivas, a coordinator for the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said not enough is being done for students with disabilities or an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which the DOE designates to special needs students.

“Too many students who have a disability or IEP are graduating without a regular high school diploma,” Rivas said.

While the DOE continues to close large schools and replace them with small or charter schools, Rivas noted that students with IEPs are left out in the cold.

“They don’t end up in those [charter] schools,” he said. “If a large high school closes, they end up in another large high school.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio agreed that more must be done for parents and students.

“We have not taken the steps we need to take to involve parents,” de Blasio said.

The former Brooklyn City Council member announced that he’s creating a Parent-Advocate Coordinating Team, a “volunteer action team of parents and allies aimed at finding solutions to the issues that matter most.”

He encouraged Brooklyn parents to become involved in city and state budget negotiations.

“In the budget process, which is just beginning at the city level, parental involvement is going to be very important,” de Blasio said.

In recent years, parents, teachers and students held protests to push politicians to limit school budget cuts.

As of this writing, more protests were underway about Governor David Paterson’s proposed $1.1 billion in cuts for the upcoming school year.

“We are our children’s greatest advocates and if we don’t stand up and fight for them, no one will,” said Victoria Bousquet, who has two kids at Medgar Evers Preparatory School in Crown Heights and is a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), an alliance of parent organizations.