A New Chief for Parent Involvement
July 26th, 2011
Probably no aspect of the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education changes has received as much criticism as the Department of Education’s attitude toward parents. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein wanted parents to help kids with their homework – and vote for the mayor – they saw real parent input as an inconvenience, possibly threatening their reforms.
Consulting with parents can create “gridlock,” Klein once said. “For every issue in which you think there is parent agreement … there are wide ranges of very different views.”
Bloomberg and Klein even went so far as to try to stop parents from baking cookies.
Today the Department of Education announced yet another retooling of the Office of Family Information and Action. Walcott made the executive director of the office a “cabinet-level” post and appointed Bronx native Jesse Mojica to fill it.
“When I took the job as chancellor, I made it clear that one of my priorities was to change the tone of the conversation and do a better job bringing families into the educational process,” Walcott said in the release.
A former member of the Panel for Educational Policy (good preparation for knowing how to sit in a chair and keep silent), Mojica has worked in the office of the Bronx borough president for two years. He has two children, one with autism, and has been active in autism groups. (here is an interview with him that appeared as part of the PBS Newshour’s series on autism.”)
Mojica will replace Ojeda Hall, a former community organizer, who has held the post since last summer – a period marked by widespread criticism of the office’s actions.
This spring the department repeatedly botched elections for Community Education Council. And in March, the family information office came under fire for trying to mobilize parents on behalf of one of Bloomberg’s key political goals: changing the system for teacher layoffs. Under criticism, a department spokesperson at the time said the effort was “not appropriate.”
In addition, employees of the office had sought out and cultivates parents who supporter Bloomberg’s policies, including controversial effort to shut failing schools. The office wanted parents who were “Happy Harrys,” not “Angry Sallys.”
At a January meeting of school parent coordinators, representatives of the family office repeatedly silenced any criticism. The phrase, ” “No negatives, only positives” became “like a mantra, repeated over and over again,” the Times reported.By Gail Robinson on July 26, 2011, 3:11 pm
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