BY JOE MARVILLI
The Presidents’ Council of District 26 held its legislative breakfast last week, going over multiple concerns dealing with their children’s education.
Parents, teachers, school administrators, elected officials and government representatives filed into the Bayside Diner on March 7 to discuss the educational issues affecting D26. Student safety, high-stakes testing and student privacy were some of the biggest topics discussed during the meeting.
President Kim D’Angelo expressed her apprehension about pedestrian dangers around schools, especially during drop-off and dismissal when there are double-parked cars and other traffic violations. She said the only thing that improves the situation is summons-issuing patrol cars that visit the areas regularly.
D’Angelo was also critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio for leaving the schools open during some of the snowstorms Queens has experienced this winter. While he would ask for New Yorkers to stay home and off the roads, schools would remain open.
“A child’s attendance record should not suffer from a parent’s sound and reasonable decision to put safety first,” she said.
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) responded that there should be a compromise where the school is open, but kids are not penalized if they cannot make it in due to the weather.
A long-term problem that has come up year after year is the emphasis on high-stakes testing to determine how well the students are learning. The stress on teachers and students to do well on these tests has hurt creativity and freedom in the classroom, according to D26.
“With so much riding on our children’s test scores; federal funding, school report card grades, principal ratings, teacher evaluations, it is impossible to keep the stress out of the classroom,” D’Angelo said.
Weprin said that unlike former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the current administration and its School Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, are working to take focus off the test.
“During the campaign, the Mayor, and now the Chancellor, are talking about de-emphasizing the standardized test as the be-all, end-all to see if a school is succeeding,” he said.
United Federation of Teachers D26 rep Mary Vaccaro was also happy about the change.
“We’re really excited this year that teachers are starting to feel a little more relaxed in the classroom,” she said.
The Presidents’ Council was also worried about the privacy of their children’s data. The New York State Education Dept. is planning to put all of the students’ educational records into a data-sharing plan called inBloom. The data would be stored in the cloud and would be available to third-party vendors. Parents cannot opt out of this program.
“NYSED has turned a deaf ear to the voice of the parents and intends to share student data with inBloom as early as July,” D’Angelo said. “Never mind opting out, we think parents should have to opt in to inBloom.”
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said that while the Assembly passed a bill against inBloom, the program is part of federal guidelines. Therefore, there are many questions over how much can be done at the State level.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.