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Delay turns to standstill, maybe, for criticized parent elections

A day after this year’s troubled parent council elections were postponed by one week, some of their leading critics say the election process is completely on hold.

Yesterday, a group of parents filed a lawsuit asking for a restraining order to halt the elections. Chancellor Dennis Walcott immediately responded by saying he would postpone elections for a week.

After a meeting this afternoon between city lawyers and the lawyers representing the parents who sued over the election proceedings, the elections are now on hold “indefinitely,” according to Chris Owens, executive director of Advocates for Justice, the law firm that filed the suit.

The DOE disputed the account, saying that nothing has changed since yesterday.

“We continue to have discussions with interested parties regarding this matter, but we have not made any further changes to the process and we have a responsibility to ensure that Council members begin their terms on July 1st,” said Deirdrea Miller, a DOE spokeswoman, in a statement.

At a press conference today, elected officials called for the elections to be delayed further, contending that a week was too little time to undo the damage and that the Department of Education has neglected the parent councils, called Community Education Councils.

“The DOE doesn’t care to get it right,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “The CECs never get the support they deserve.”

De Blasio was one sponsor of the press conference at Tweed Courthouse, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and parents from CECs from around the city. The group recommended that the DOE take more time to investigate the election snafus and to consider handing oversight of the elections over to an independent entity.

At the press conference, Stringer amplified complaints that he laid out last week in a letter to Walcott. The DOE’s Office of Family Information and Action, he said, had done too little enough outreach, posted inaccurate information about candidates, and improperly assessed candidates’ eligibility.

Stringer went further today, accusing the DOE of deliberately mishandling the election. “They don’t want people to go to [Community Education Councils],” he said.

But that decision did not quiet some parents and elected officials, who believe a week is not enough time to amend an election process rife with problems. “We have time on the clock to get this right,” de Blasio said today, adding that more than a month of the school year remains before summer break begins.