Community Education Council 23 (CEC23) which covers Brownsville, Ocean Hill, and parts of East New York, has only four members out of six required to have a quorum and thus find themselves in the peculiar position of being unable to even restore quorum. The Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is likely to appoint impartial trustees to enable CEC23 to resume business, but that is just one of the issues that need tackling in the district.
Community Education Council 23 was meant to hold a special meeting at 12pm yesterday via Zoom, at the urging of Chancellor Carranza to fill its seven vacant seats, four of which have been empty since early October. However, ten minutes after 12 pm, the meeting was canceled before it began, with CEC 23 citing its by-laws that do not allow votes to take place during special meetings. Instead, votes are only to take place during Business and Calendar meetings.
“I did not expect them to cancel,” Osariemen Elcock, a former CEC member who was one of the four who resigned last October, citing infighting within the Council, says about today’s scheduled meeting. “I expected them to continue as expected. I expected a whole fight, a whole war. Parents are mad, and are tired of this nonsense.”
This is the latest in the turmoil that has been happening with CEC23. On Friday, Bklyner wrote about the Council’s dysfunction, which adds to D23’s academic disaster, in particular, its low test grades and reading proficiency levels.
“It was unacceptable,” says one parent leader in D23, who asked to remain anonymous due to her employment with the DOE. “We received the email saying the meeting was canceled at 12:10 pm. They had people holding. Why didn’t they let the people in [to the Zoom meeting] to tell them the meeting was canceled?”
Both Elcock and the parent leader suspect that the article Bklyner ran on Friday about CEC23’s dysfunction might have played a role in the canceling of the meeting. Another reason is that parents were not given enough notice about the need for the vacant seats to be filled. This echoes what the Co-President of the Education Council Consortium (ECC), NeQuan McLean, who is also CEC16’s president, about some wrong steps being taken in the days leading up to today’s meeting.
“The vacancies are filled by the members,” McLean explains. “It is supposed to be announced to the broad community. People are supposed to apply for that vacancy, they are vetted by the Department of Education, they go before the CEC to interview. And then the CEC members vote to accept or don’t accept the membership at the next calendar meeting. They’re also supposed to consult with the President’s Council.”
But the problem with the steps CEC23 took, is that they did not announce the vacancies within 60 days, and many D23 parents were not aware that the four members had resigned, according to Elcock. Both she and another CEC member who resigned, Diana Duncan, say only selected parents were told, which makes them suspect CEC23 were looking to fill the vacant seats with people they knew. But according to McLean, that move is allowed during vacancy fillings as opposed to general elections.
“The special meeting is to interview potential candidates,” he explains. “But that wasn’t said. If you look at the notice, the notice says voting all members. It’s in violation of the regulation, you can’t do that. You cannot vote and interview in the same meeting, especially if it goes against your by-laws.”
There was also the issue of giving 72 hours public notice about the vacancies, given the letter went out Thursday evening. Although it is questionable whether that means 72 business hours, McLean points out, what is iffy is how Monday’s meeting was set for noon rather than 6 pm, a time CEC23 usually held its meetings.
With Monday’s special meeting canceled, what is next for this district and its CEC?
“I expect the whole board to be dismantled,” says Elcock. “The DOE needs to look further into how things are handled.”
Duncan agrees. “The current council needs to remain dismantled until new members are vetted and elected by the parent body this Spring,” she says in reference to this year’s general CEC elections. “It does not do the community and students any good to have new members on with the same problematic president and influences. It needs a new board that reflects parent leadership from throughout the district as opposed to members from one school as were candidates that were slated to be interviewed and “voted” on today.”
Dismantling the entire CEC is not without possibility, says McLean.
“If you don’t fill the vacancies within 60 days,” he says. “Then the Chancellor steps in, gives instructions. If you don’t get those instructions done in 60 days, then he has the right to dissolve the council. Technically, because they did not complete everything by today, he has the right to dissolve the council, or give them an extension to get it together.”
Katie O’Hanlon, Deputy Press Secretary of the DOE, says there’s a chance for trustees to help the Council during this time. “As CEC 23 does not have enough council members to meet quorum, the DOE will appoint impartial trustees for the singular purpose of allowing the council to vote in new members. Once new members are voted in, they can reach quorum and the trustees are no longer needed.”
McLean adds that CEC23 is one that has trouble, and does not reach out to the ECC for guidance when it can.
“That is a district that is not being represented,” he says.
“We need help,” Elcock says, referring to the DOE overseeing the Council. “We never got the support we needed. We were ostracized and ignored.”
“I pray and hope that things get better,” she adds.
Bklyner reached out to CEC23 about Monday’s canceled meeting, but the Council did not reply.