May 2, 2011
After being criticized by parents for bungling the roll-out of parent council elections, the Department of Education is taking heat again for making parents jump through hoops to vote.
For the first time, the website where parents go to vote for candidates in their district is password protected. Although the city sent passwords home in elementary and middle school students’ backpacks, some parents who have children in high school said they never got the information. Without it, they can’t cast their votes in the Community Education Council elections and, if they’re running for a seat on the council, they can’t see who their opponents are.
A Department of Education official said the department’s Office of Family Information and Action decided to put the list of candidates’ names and profiles behind a password for privacy reasons.
President of the Community Education Council in District 1, Lisa Donlan, said she and other parents have not been able to log-on. Although she is running for office Donlan, whose son is in high school, said she can’t access the list of 12 candidates running in her district.
“I don’t have a password,” Donlan said. “That’s the only way you can get in and that’s the only way you can see the candidates, so people like me are hysterical over that.”
Voting for CEC candidates is a two-step process and it’s the first part that’s behind a wall. In this step, any parent with a child in public school can vote for candidates in their district. Their votes are purely advisory and are meant to inform the parent association presidents, treasurers, and secretaries who cast the final determining vote.
Noah Gotbaum, the president of the CEC for the Upper West Side, said OFIA has mismanaged this year’s parent council elections from the start.
According to Gotbaum, the applications given to prospective candidates, as well as the city’s website, contained inaccurate information for weeks about what kinds of parents are eligible to run.
“They should have taken some of the money they’re wasting on this phony straw poll and put it into recruiting candidates,” he said. “That never happened.”
Over 500 parents have nominated themselves for 325 seats on parent councils across the city, according to the website InsideSchools.