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Hours before first PEP meeting under de Blasio, no word on members

The Panel for Educational Policy, the city’s decision-making body for public school policy, is scheduled to meet tonight for the first time since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office. But three weeks into the new mayor’s tenure, no one is sure who its members are or what — if anything — they’ll be doing.

The January meeting fulfills the panel’s legal requirement to meet at least once a month. Chancellor Carmen Fariña is scheduled to attend the meeting, set for the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan at 6 p.m., and the agenda includes an opportunity for public comment.

But a slate of school siting proposals were recently yanked from the rest of the agenda, and the panel’s membership remains unclear.

The panel is supposed to consist of 13 members, including eight appointed by the mayor and five appointed by borough presidents. On Jan. 1, the city got a new mayor — Bill de Blasio — and four new borough presidents, and they haven’t been quick to make their appointments.

In fact, at least four appointees of previous public officials formally resigned, but the city barely acknowledged their resignations.

Two former members, along with their email addresses, are still listed on the PEP’s website as being active. Judy Bergtraum and Tino Hernandez, both mayoral appointees, resigned before Bloomberg left office.

And Patrick Sullivan, one of the panel’s most vocal members during the nearly seven years he served, said he got the Department of Education to note that he has resigned only after asking for his email to be removed from the PEP website, more than two weeks after he publicly posted his resignation letter late last year.

Sullivan said he didn’t know much about where the current administration was in its process of appointing new members. He said he had offered advice to de Blasio’s transition team but had not gotten any indication about whether it was being taken.

“I recommended that they appoint people on an interim basis so they can carry out their regular business, but also so the public can have a forum to air some of their issues,” Sullivan said.

The city hasn’t responded to questions about the new panel’s makeup. Asked if the department was aware that Bergtraum and Hernandez had resigned, a spokesman said “we will have more info for you later today.”

WNYC’s Beth Fertig also tweeted that appointees could be named in time for the start of tonight’s meeting.

Bloomberg used the PEP to approve dozens of school closures and new school co-locations per year during his tenure. The process, however, was seen as divisive to school communities who wanted more say in how decisions about school space were made.

De Blasio pledged to address that criticism as mayor, although he has been vague on how he would do that. He said he wants to retain the mayor’s decision-making control over the panel, but give parents more voice in the process.

Last week, the PEP makeup was a question that went unanswered by Fariña when she met privately with parent leaders from around the city, according to Tesa Wilson, who heads the elected parent council in District 14.

“There’s nothing at this point,” said Wilson, who said she met with Fariña and first lady Chirlane McCray on Thursday said. “No one knows anything about what’s going on.”

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