“A Holiday Appeal to City Council: Make Us Your New Year’s Resolution.”
Each year as the newest version of Mayoral control unfolds, parents reach out to the City Council; each and every council member is the de-facto Division Of Family and Community engagement. Parents and advocates like myself reach out to your offices, to Senators, Assembly members, and District and Community leaders. We ask you to help us engage with the DOE. We invite you to hearings, ask you to support us, and demonstrate again and again how we — parents and students — are being infantilized by the DOE.
You listen. You support us. You tour our schools and witness our outrage and grief at the dismemberment of our communities as the DOE slashes and burns to create education that fits a model that suits its needs.
For us — students, parents, teachers, administrators, volunteers — school is home. The building itself is the center of our lives, be we parents on an SLT, middle schoolers venturing out for the first time alone to a new building, or newly arrived high schoolers lost in a new country or city and living with cousins in Hunts Point.
The mission of the Division Of Family and Community Engagement is, “dedicated to creating and supporting partnerships between schools, families and the community. As a central resource for family engagement, the Division of Family and Community Engagement strives to involve and inform parent leaders and families as essential partners in helping students achieve college and career readiness.”
Sadly, the Division’s theoretical mission differs significantly from the reality of the DOE’s activities
Let’s analyze the mission: “Creating and supporting partnerships between schools, families and the community.” The DOE may believe that it’s creating and supporting partnerships, but the facts tell a different story. The DOE is breaking down and dividing partnerships, communities and schools.
When parents of children who have been inside a school building from Pre-K to 5th Grade, (seven years) speak at CEC meetings (an exercise in talk therapy only as conveniently CEC’s have no power—part of the Division Of Family and Community Engagement), testify at PEP meetings or beg anyone who will listen to know, really know, there is not room for one more student, let alone an entire phasing in grade — Charter or TPS — our begging is for naught.
By denying eyewitness expertise of real parents who volunteer inside school buildings every day and by declaring an alien “book” located somewhere in a vault as the bible of actual space in a school building, the DOE infantilizes parents. It would never occur to any parent I know to reach out to the Division Of Family and Community Engagement; the Head of the Division — the Mayor –demeans parents. Community Education Councils are powerless.
Why would a department within the organization have a separate and opposing mission? In deed, there is no support of parents, schools, families or parent leaders. If support existed:
- I wouldn’t be a volunteer advocate for at-risk schools.
- Middle and Elementary schools would be one because the DOE would have listened to engaged parents and communities when they report that three years of middle school isolation is bad Education Policy.
- There would be Pre-K in every school, and the DOE would fight in Albany to make that happen.
- Co-locations of any kind would not exist because the DOE would listen to parents, engage communities and understand that eight schools in a building is a ridiculous notion and, in fact, counterproductive to learning.
- If the Division of Family Engagement were engaged, its staff would understand that school is home, and these homes are being torn limb from limb.
“As a central resource for family engagement, the Division Of Family and Community Engagement strives to involve and inform parent leaders and families as essential partners in helping students achieve college and career readiness.”
Again, perhaps the DOE wishes it were achieving this goal. Using visual aids to impress and data to astound, the DOE reels off countless examples of its involvement with parents
But parent leaders and families are not essential to any part of the construct of Education policy on any level at any time. If we were essential, if parents mattered here’s what today would look like:
- Every school would offer free pre-K.
- K-8 schools in every borough would use whole buildings with play areas and reasonable lunch times.
- Strong local community schools at every level would be nestled in neighborhoods; Pre-K to High School within walking distance.
- Jamaica, Columbus and Robeson High Schools would be thriving places where students could relax and learn from teachers and administrators who were doing one job only: educating our youth.
“…Helping achieve college and career readiness.” There are many Traditional Public Schools graduating students who conform to the above demographic, but most do not. Students are not college and career ready. According to the Pathways To Prosperity project [Harvard Graduate School of Education February 2011], “The United States now has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.”
New York City is part of the industrialized world. As I travel to boroughs with high concentrations of “failing” schools I learn about whole populations of invisible students who arrive Over The Counter and disappear via discharge, or who simply wander because they’ve been turned away from nine schools.
Harvard goes on to report,
“ We fail these young people not because we are indifferent, but because we have focused too exclusively on a few narrow pathways to success. It is time to widen our lens and to build a more finely articulated pathways system—one that is richly diversified to align with the needs and interests of today’s young people and better designed to meet the needs of a 21st century economy.”
The DOE and its Division Of Family Engagement is actively sabotaging college and career readiness and completing the task of failing the neediest as they prepare to fail in life.
Writing this particular blog gives me no pleasure. My words will do nothing, no-thing, to help ease the pain or end the harm being done to the children, families, young people, teachers or communities.
Council members, you cannot possibly know and will probably never discover the damage to our youth of this dismantling of learning. That policies and methodologies of this scope are legally allowed to continue is a testimony only to the failure of the Federal, State and City governments to serve their citizens—a job that is clearly not even a priority.
Adults in this city feel traumatized and powerless to effect change for the sake of our children’s education. There’s not a single word to describe it and no Division within the hierarchy of the DOE can help…
Perhaps it’s time for significant New Year’s resolutions: for the sake of our children.