UPDATE: May 11:

Advocates for Justice, a public interest law firm, issued this clarification statement today regarding the education council elections:

May 12th deadline set for resolution of Parent-DOE talks

May 11, 2011, New York, NY --- Advocates for Justice , a public interest law firm, represents the New York City Parents Union and other parents in pending litigation regarding the various education elections within the City.  In an effort to clarify the status of these elections, Arthur Z. Schwartz, Esq., President of Advocates for Justice, released the following statement:

"The start of the second round of the various education elections, which our clients, including the New York City Parents Union, sued to stop, has been put off by agreement until Tuesday, May 17.  The New York City Department of Education has made no other commitments at this time.  We continue to talk.  To be absolutely clear, we continue to seek a totally new citywide parent advisory vote and we maintain that the first round of voting was not legitimate, specifically that parents were disenfranchised, eligible candidates were not included on the various ballots, and parent voters were not adequately informed about the vote and about their choices.

If we cannot reach agreement on this with the Department of Education by 9:00 AM this Thursday, May 12th, and if the Department chooses to press ahead with the second round of voting next Tuesday, we will return to Court to seek the stay we initially sought on May 9.

For now, we have no reason to believe that the Department of Education is not engaging in good faith."

May 10 post:

This year's community and citywide parent council elections have been fraught with snafus. So many errors in the process were reported that school's Chancellor Dennis Walcott agreed to extend the voting  period for another week.  But, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and members of many parent councils, one week is not enough time to correct the problems that have marred the elections so far. And, this afternoon, an organization called "Advocates for Justice," announced, after a meeting with Department of Education officials, that the "elections are on hold".

A press release from the organization states:  "All parties agreed that the discussion and negotiations pertaining to this matter will be kept confidential at this time, however, we did agree -- and it is public information -- that the election processes [for the councils] are on hold."

On Monday, Walcott issued a statement saying: "After reviewing concerns raised by parents and public officials about this year’s Citywide and Community Education Council elections, I have concluded that the process could and should have been handled better.  The councils play an important role in giving voice to parents and community members, and in order to ensure fairness, I am postponing the process by one week.  During that time, we will work to make sure that information about candidates is distributed widely so that the process is as inclusive as possible.  We expect that Council members will still begin their terms on July 1.”

Today, Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, along with a few dozen parents, held a press conference at DOE headquarters where they said one week was not enough time to sort out the problems in this year's election. Advocates for Justice issued its press release this afternoon.<!--more-->

Among the many issues, detailed on WNYC, GothamSchools, the New York Post, and on numerous parent websites and listservs over the past week:

  • Parent straw voters could not see the names of the candidates when they tried to vote, unless they entered an ID number which many of them  never received. The candidates name came online three days after the voting began, following a NY Post article about the problem.
  • Candidates reported their names did not appear on the ballots even though they were qualified.
  • At the District 1 candidate forum, attendees found there were only 12 candidates (for 9 elected seats), although the DOE reportedthat there were 44 candidates. According to District 1 parent Lisa Donlan, reporting on the NYCeducationnews listserv, an OFIA (Office of Family Information and Action) representative said that if an applicant had filled out the district section incorrectly, the candidates name went into the District 1 race by default.
  • Many of the candidate statements did not indicate where their child attends school. Since no school can have more than one parent elected to any of the councils, it was not clear to parent voters which schools the parents represent.

Citywide and District Community Education Councils are parent advisory boards that approve zoning changes and offer recommendations on Department of Education policies, particularly on how school buildings should be used. The councils, which replaced the old school boards, have little actual power and their monthly meetings are usually not well-attended. Each council has nine parent elected representatives and two appointees from either the borough president or the Public Advocate.

Stay tuned...this saga is probably not over!