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Parent councils sent resolutions on a road to nowhere

Over the course of the last year, an elected parent council passed four resolutions, but the Department of Education never got them.

The Community Education Council in District 1 sent each of the resolutions to staff members at the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy and then waited for a response. For council members, the resolutions, which are non-binding, are their main avenue for talking to the chancellor. Now the Office says that it never received the resolutions because the CEC didn’t follow the correct protocol for submitting them.

“No resolutions were received from CEC 1 last year,” wrote Martine Guerrier, who heads the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, in an email to council member Lisa Donlan yesterday.

The communication breakdown between the two bodies is not an isolated incident. Several councils said they’ve never received a single response to the resolutions they’ve passed, confirming for many members the sense that the city is ignoring them. At the same time, the Office says that parent councils have disregarded the system set up specifically to handle their resolutions.

Jim Devor, a member of the CEC in district 15, said he first learned that his council’s resolution had been declined when he read it on GothamSchools on July 9. Four days later, the DOE still had not contacted the council with its decision, he said.

“Common civility would have dictated a formal reply actually directed to the Council and/or its members,” Devor wrote in a strongly worded email to Klein. He added that the lack of response reflected “a thinly veiled contempt” for the council.

A day after Devor’s email, the DOE’s legal counsel, Michael Best, wrote a formal response.

Devor admitted that he hadn’t followed the protocol, which involves sending the resolution to a specific address. Instead, his CEC’s resolution went out to a vertical slice of the DOE’s hierarchy, from Klein to Guerrier.

Guerrier introduced the resolution response procedure a little over a year ago with the intention of streamlining the communication between the chancellor and the parent councils and improving response time.

“This is not something that someone in a dark room thought of. It was made through consideration,” said DOE spokeswoman Nicole Duignan. “It really only works if CECs use it.”

She added, “How about the CECs actually try to use it? It would be interesting if they used it.”

But some council members said that even when they do follow the procedure, they don’t hear back.

Monica Majors, a member of the parent council in District 11, said that in the last year her council had passed four or five resolutions with no response from the DOE.

“We believe we’re following the procedure,” Majors said. “They don’t even send you a receipt. I don’t even know where they [the resolutions] go.”

The president of the parent council in District 10, Marvin Shelton, said his council had passed a resolution last April concerning mayoral control. “We sent it to the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy,” he said. “We got nothing back that I know of.”

Occasionally, the process works. “I do recall at least some of our resos have been acknowledged in writing,” wrote Michael Markowitz, a member of the parent council in District 2, in an email today.

In District 1, the parent council has received a reply to its latest resolution, said Donlan, but is waiting on two others. Donlan said she that though she sent the resolutions to people who work for the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, Guerrier wrote to her that the office hadn’t received any.

“None of it makes any sense,” Donlan said. “The whole thing just shows what they’re really about is containing any sort of conversation.”

Duignan said that council members from District 1 hadn’t used the correct process for submitting their resolutions.

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