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For a broker of mayoral control, opposition from constituents

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

In the part of the city represented in Albany by the man who helped give control of the city schools to Mayor Bloomberg, both community boards are asking lawmakers to take some of that power away.

Community Board 1, one of two boards in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s downtown Manhattan district, passed a set of resolutions last Tuesday that advise lawmakers to alter mayoral control in the city dramatically. In addition to calling on lawmakers to empower district parent councils and place checks on the mayor’s authority, CB 1 endorsed the recommendations put forth in March by the Parent Commission on School Governance. The Parent Commission, which draws its members from across the city, is calling on state lawmakers to slash the number of mayoral appointees to the city school board and shift more power to parents.

CB1’s set of resolutions got a couple of press mentions last week, at the same time as another community board resolution against the current form of mayoral control slipped under the radar. Members of Community Board 3, which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, voted unanimously (with one abstention) to endorse the Parent Commission’s recommendations.

Together, CB 1 and CB 3 make up the entirety of Silver’s 64th Assembly District. With just eight weeks until state lawmakers’ deadline to decide what to do about mayoral control, the resolutions place Silver in the difficult position of having brokered the deal that gave Bloomberg control over the schools but representing politically engaged constituents who wish he hadn’t. Silver has said he thinks mayoral control should be renewed, but with some changes to give more voice to parents.

Leonie Haimson, a founding member of the Parent Commission, said the group did not begin with a grand strategy of putting pressure on key lawmakers. Instead, members are seeking to have the commission’s recommendations considered by community boards and school district parent councils throughout the city. “We’re doing outreach as quickly and efficiently as possible given that we have only a short time,” Haimson said.

But with parents on the commission who have ties to the downtown Manhattan community boards, the group was happy to have its first endorsements come from the Assembly district of one of the key decision-makers in the school governance debate.

“We were not ignorant of the fact that these are in Shelly Silver’s district,” Haimson told me.

Haimson said members of CB 1 have asked for a meeting with Silver to explain their objections to mayoral control as it currently exists. And the Parent Commission’s recommendations are already on the agendas of several district parent councils, with other community boards also considering putting the recommendations up for an advisory vote, she said.

The complete resolutions from both community boards are below.

Community Board 3 Resolution:

Whereas mayoral control is sunsetting June 30, 2009

Whereas the Parent commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control has presented a comprehensive structure for parental input

Whereas under mayoral control there has been a lack of parental and educator input in the New York City education system

Be it resolved, that Manhattan Community Board 3 endorses the principles, goals, and proposals of the Parent Commission, to create a governance system distinguished by an educational partnership between the Mayor, parents and educators who together would endeaver strive toward consensus in the effort to improve our schools.

Community Board 1 Resolutions

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