An open letter about the botched CEC elections from Shino Tanikawa

There have been many problems with this year's process surrounding the election of Community Education Council members, as reported in news accounts  here and here.   The final outrage is the determination of the DOE to keep secret the names of candidates, which is of doubtful legality.
It is also known that there was a big push to recruit charter school parents who might be  more favorably inclined to the administration's policies.  
After sending this letter this morning to Ojeda Hall, head of OFIA,  Shino Tanikawa, Community Education Council member from District 2, received an e-mail reply saying Ms. Hall was going to call her today.  We will report back as to what is said and more importantly, done. 

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Shino Tanikawa
To: Ojeda Hall
Sent: Tue, May 3, 2011 6:57:26 AM
Subject: CEC election
Dear Ojeda,

I attended the CECD2 and CCHS candidates forum last night as a candidate for both Councils.  I would like to register my concern with you.

There was no communication prior to the forum as to what we were expected to do and what the format of the forum was.  The one e-mail I received from the OFIA gave me a link to the web site with information from two years ago (stating the forum format was up to the Presidents' Councils). 

There was no voter's guide for the CCHS.   Some copies of the voter's guide for the CECD2 had pages missing, which meant some candidates' information was missing.

The OFIA staff - all very lovely people whom I enjoyed meeting - were not given proper information as to the mechanics of the election. It looked as though they were thrown into hosting these forums without any training or background documents. 

And, the forum was held the night before the first day of the ELA tests.  Many parents were, I am sure, reluctant to attend an evening meeting (we had a decent turnout - a testament to the dedication of D2 parents).

On a broader level, I must say this whole process has been very poorly conducted.  The State law states the process must begin in January.  The first I heard about the election was late March and I, and many other parents, had to inquire about it before we received any notice.  Because of the late start, everything seems to have been done in haste with carelessness and thoughtlessness abound.

The voter's guide should be available online WITHOUT any login requirement.  We have been told repeatedly that the CEC is a public office and we must follow the Open Meetings Law.  Yet, candidates' information is not available for all to see.  This is simply not acceptable. Furthermore, candidates' school affiliation is not listed, unless the candidate mentions it in her/his statement.  Since there is only one member allowed to serve from any given school, the school affiliation, as well as ELL/IEP status of the child, is important information for the selectors. 

I have heard many accounts of parents trying to reach the OFIA without success.  I, myself, contacted the CEC office of the OFIA requesting that I be the first candidate to present at the CCHS forum so that I can cover the CECD2 on the same evening. I never heard back from anyone (I sent my note to Meg as well as the general CEC election address).  I am not the only one who has received no response. 

Most disturbingly, my colleague, Jaye Bea Smalley, who has been an effective advocate on the CCSE has been left out of the ballot despite the fact she submitted her application on time.  It would be a true travesty if she is not elected because nobody knew she was running again.  This also makes me wonder how many candidates are missing from the ballot. 

I am sure that it is not your intent to botch the CEC election process and your office is doing its best but I see that it does not have the human resources to do the job right.  I am keenly aware of what the Mayor thinks of the parents of traditional schools (as opposed to charters), but I was hoping he would still honor the spirit and the letter of the law by providing you with what you need to do the one thing that really matters to the parents in NYC.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve the situation.

Shino Tanikawa
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