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Parents ‘optimistic’ about new administration

New York Teacher

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When Alicia Hyndman talks about the need for universal prekindergarten and better after-school programs, she’s talking about issues close to home. Her son attends Cardozo HS and she has a 4-year-old daughter whom she’d like to enroll in pre-K in September. She is thrilled that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda is aligned with the goals she has for her own children. And she feels it’s all within reach.

“I definitely feel more optimistic,” said Hyndman, the president of the District 29 Community Education Council in Queens. “He’s still holding true to universal pre-K.”

She likes the mayor’s funding proposal for pre-K, too. “I really hope taxes get raised for the program,” Hyndman said. “Otherwise, the money disappears from the state budget, and there is no accountability.”

Hyndman was among some 60 parent leaders and volunteers who gathered at UFT headquarters in Manhattan

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on Feb. 24 for the quarterly meeting of the citywide Community Education Councils with union leadership, a place for parents to give voice to their concerns about the school system and its policies. The new tone set by Mayor de Blasio — a former school board member whose youngest child still attends Brooklyn Technical HS — has made a big difference in how they see the future.

“Change is definitely coming down the pike,” said Gloria Corsino, the president of the Citywide District 75 Council. “I don’t think anything happens overnight, but the mayor doesn’t lie about what he needs to do, and he’s installed good people in his administration.”

Of the new administration’s approach to parents, Shino Tanikawa, the president of the District 2 CEC in Manhattan, said, “It absolutely feels different.” Tanikawa said the goal of parent leaders like herself is straightforward: “We want parent involvement in a meaningful

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way — bring us to the table in developing policy.”

Tanikawa is going to get that opportunity: The de Blasio administration has invited her to sit on the panel that will review the city’s school utilization Blue Book, which has been used to determine school closings and co-locations.

Catalina Fortino, the UFT vice president for education, and Sterling Roberson, the UFT vice president for career and technical education high schools, took the parent leaders’ questions on pre-K, the Common Core and the city’s handling of snow days. The parent leaders were also eager to discuss career and technical education programs in schools. Anthony Harmon, the UFT director of parent and community outreach, told them about an opportunity to join the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council for Lobby Day in Albany on March 5.

Katie Unger, a representative from the mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, fielded questions from the parents about the challenges of rolling out universal pre-K — everything from teacher qualifications to classroom availability. When she didn’t have an answer, Unger diligently took names and numbers so she could get back to them.

It was a welcome change from the previous administration as far as WillieFlora Gaines was concerned. Gaines, the president of the District 28 CEC in Queens, said she doesn’t miss Mayor Bloomberg’s “sarcastic” tone, and although she was disappointed by de Blasio’s decision to keep schools open on bad-weather days, she said confidently, “It will get better, and he’ll be fine.”

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