Today’s news:

Online polling for CEC elections is launched

In a bid to up parent interest, the city’s Department of Education will tweak the Community Education Committee (CEC) election process. Parents will cast e-ballots this spring.

CEC volunteers from the north, east and south Bronx are skeptical. CECs replaced school boards in 2003.

Since 2003, three parent association members from each school district have elected volunteers to the CECs. That won’t change in 2009; the process is state law. However, DOE will forward the results from its online poll to the official voters.

According to Martine Guerrier, chief family engagement officer for DOE, the poll will empower parents and draw attention to the city’s CECs. Guerrier is shooting for 20 percent parent turnout. A new DOE website boasting CEC volunteer bios and background – www.powertotheparents.org – will launch on February 23.

“CEC volunteers are the community representatives for parents and the general public on issues of educational policy and student achievement,” said Guerrier. “This spring, we want to make sure parents have an opportunity to weigh in.”

Feedback shows that neither parents nor first-time CEC volunteers know why CECs exist.

School District 8 CEC vice president and parent Norma Cruz doubts that the online parent poll will yield noteworthy results. School District 8 covers Castle Hill and Throggs Neck.

“Only the parents who already attend meetings are going to participate in this poll,” Cruz said.

School District 11 CEC president and parent Monica Major enjoys volunteering but agrees the system is broken. School District 11 covers the north Bronx and Morris Park.

“CECs are crucial,” Major said. “We are the intermediary between DOE and the community. There needs to be outreach.”

Major expects more parents to follow the CEC elections this spring. She’s spoken at community events and distributed fliers. But Major disapproves of an online poll.

“We have to remember that many parents don’t have access to a computer, or don’t know how to use a computer,” she said. “What about all our grandparents raising children? We need to have a paper ballot.”

During six-day the poll, DOE will open school computers to parents, Guerrier said.

CEC candidate applications are due on March 14. Candidate forums will take place from March 23 to April 6. Parents will poll online between April 6 and April 12. New CEC terms will begin on July 1.

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