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NYC’s education panel grows with new mayoral appointees and elected members

A close up of a man in a dark suit jacket with a white shirt and blue tie

Mayor Eric Adams

Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams unveiled on Thursday his newly appointed members to New York City’s Panel for Educational Policy, which has grown significantly in response to an updated state law. 

Adams appointed six new people to the newly expanded panel that signs off on major education department contracts and school closures or co-locations. State lawmakers last year required the panel’s expansion from 15 to 23 members when they granted Adams another two years of controlling the nation’s largest school system, in hopes of bringing more parent voice to the body. 

Those state-level changes called for the panel to grow from nine to 13 mayoral appointees. Four of these members must be public school parents, with at least one parent of a child with a disability, one with a child who is in a bilingual or English as a new language program, and one parent with a child in a District 75 school, which serves students with disabilities that require intensive support. 

The new law also required the presidents of the city’s 32 parent councils to elect five members representing each borough — four more than currently serve. The city’s borough presidents continued to have their previously allotted number of five appointees.

One of the mayor’s new picks already raised eyebrows: Khari Edwards was ousted from his role as a governor’s aide in 2009 after the state found him “immature and irresponsible,” and accused him of lying in testimony for an inspector general investigation, according to the Daily News.

A City Hall spokesperson defended Edwards, calling him “not only a dedicated public servant, but, more importantly, a caring parent of three, who has continued to demonstrate his commitment to New Yorkers since these allegations surfaced over a decade ago.”

Edwards, who has since launched One Brooklyn Health and It Starts Here as the vice president of external affairs at Brookdale University Hospital, “has a strong track record of serving his community,” the spokesperson said in a statement after this story initially published.

Adams made a previous misstep with a panel appointment: last year he tapped Staten Island pastor Kathlyn Barrett-Layne but quickly withdrew the choice after the Daily News reported she had a history of anti-gay comments.

Two of Adams’ previous appointees, Kyle Kimball and Karina Taveras, were not reappointed, according to a spokesperson for City Hall, who declined to say why.

Additionally, the council presidents only elected four members instead of the required five. The Staten Island seat “remained vacant” during the election process, according to a City Hall spokesperson. Typically, such vacancies must be filled within 60 days by another vote from parent council presidents in that specific borough, according to the chancellor’s regulations.

In this case, there is only one parent council in Staten Island, so its president will appoint someone to the position. (Parents can nominate themselves by sending their information to the education department’s Office of Family and Community Engagement, which will forward eligible applications to the council president.) 

With the expansion, the mayor’s appointees still make up a majority of the panel, which is often seen as a “rubber stamp” of the administration’s policies since mayoral appointees typically vote in favor of the administration’s proposals. Last year, dissenting voices were typically from the borough president appointees, as well as the panel’s elected member, Tom Sheppard, who has been reelected to the panel. One such vote — which was in part the result of the mayor failing to appoint enough of his members in time — was the panel’s rejection of the city’s funding formula. 

Under this new configuration, it’s possible the public will see more disagreement among members. For instance, members elected by the parent councils and borough president appointees could potentially band together against certain policy proposals, such as school closures or co-locations. But their votes would still fall short of the mayor’s majority. 

Also as part of the state’s changes last year, the panel must consider changes to school utilization, including co-locations and closures, in the borough of that school. That may lead to more frequent panel meetings. The panel, which typically meets once a month, has scheduled two meetings each in January and February. 

Below is a list of the new panel. Those in bold are new:

The mayor’s appointees

  • Phoebe-Sade Arnold, director of community affairs at Columbia University 
  • Lily Chan, parent of two English language learners and a brand manager for Revlon
  • Khari Edwards, head of corporate relations at Ayr Wellness and parent of three students
  • Anita Garcia, retired principal of Coney Island’s P.S. 329
  • Anthony Giordano, founder and managing partner at marketing firm Legacy Partners USA
  • Michelle Joseph, parent of a public school student who previously worked in District 79
  • Alan Ong, previous president of the District 26 parent council
  • Angela Green, chair of the panel and retired principal of Richard S. Grossley Middle School in Jamaica
  • Gladys Ward, executive assistant to the CEO of The Ministers and Missionaries Benefits Board
  • Gregory Faulkner, former chief of staff for New York City council member
  • Maisha Sapp, led program development for an organization called Blossom For Girls
  • Marjorie Dienstag, mother of two children who have graduated and a third child who attends a District 75 school
  • Maria Kenley, mother of a child with a disability

Newly elected members from the city’s parent councils

  • Naveed Hasan, parent of a public school student, who served several years on District 3’s parent council
  • Jessamyn Lee, parent of two public school students and a former teacher who worked with students learning English as a new language
  • Thomas Sheppard, the panel’s first elected member, parent of three public school students and former member of several parent groups, including District 11’s parent council 
  • Ephraim Zakry, parent of two public school students and has served on the Citywide Council for High Schools 

Borough president appointees

  • Queens representative Sheree Gibson, owner of a consulting firm and member of several parent boards, including former co-chair of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee
  • Bronx representative Geneal Chacon, parent of three public school students and PTA president at P.S. 277
  • Brooklyn representative Tazin Azad, mother of three public school students and member of several parent groups, including former vice-chair of District 22’s parent council
  • Manhattan representative Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, medical lecturer at CUNY School of Medicine and former president of District 4’s parent council 
  • Staten Island representative Aaron Bogad, parent of a public school student and member of several parent-led groups, including president of District 31’s parent council

Reema Amin is a reporter covering New York City schools with a focus on state policy and English language learners. Contact Reema at ramin@chalkbeat.org.

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