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Renewed mayoral control has a parent council rethinking its role

Nothing in the renewed mayoral control legislation that passed yesterday altered the role of district parent councils, but that hasn’t stopped one council president from starting to rethink his role under the new system.

Jim Devor, president of the Community Education Council in Brooklyn’s District 15, said that the renewed attention to parental involvement and a new parent training center offer parent councils the chance to redefine themselves. Many council members around the city have felt marginalized and have a strained relationship with the city education department. According to Devor, the councils could now become “conduits” between the Department of Education, the training center and parent associations and parent-led School Leadership Teams.

“We could see ourselves as the barefoot doctors for parent training,” Devor said.

Devor said that CEC members should be among the first to avail themselves of the training the new center will provide and can then reach out to their parents and schools and effectually pay the training forward.

Little is known yet about the details of the $1.6 million dollar parent training center created in the mayoral control re-authorization bill. The legislation calls for the center, which will be operated by the City University of New York, to train parents in all five boroughs on how to effectively work both in their schools and also on the district- and city-wide levels. The center will also assist parents in communicating with teachers, school administrators and Department of Education offices. The legislation additionally mandates that the center will “conduct outreach and recruitment” to increase the diversity of parent-led council and leadership teams in schools and districts.

Given the new center’s as-yet vague mission and relatively small budget, Devor said he suspects it will be difficult for the new training center to make deep inroads with parents on the ground level throughout the city. The already-established parent councils could act as arms to assist in distributing the center’s training message to parents throughout their districts.

Community Education Councils are officially charged with evaluating district superintendents, approving district zoning plans and reviewing their district’s capital plans.

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