Final Report of the Task Force on

Community School District Governance Reform

February 15, 2003

Co-Chairs: Assemblyman Steven Sanders
Terri Thomson

Task force members:
Jane Arce-Bello
Ernest Clayton
Jack Friedman
Yanghee Hahn
Virginia Kee
Hon. John Lavelle
Rose McKenna
Hon. Audrey Pheffer
Hon. Peter Rivera
Robin Brown
Robert deLeon
Hon. Roger Green
Renee C. Hill
Penelope Kreitzer
Gerald Levin
Cassandra Mullen
C. Bunny Reddington
Kathryn Wylde


The mission of every public school district is to provide an environment for its teachers to teach and for its students to learn. There must exist a relentless focus on advancing the things which will help facilitate classroom instruction and to insure that educational policies which are developed and adopted are done through a public and transparent process.

In fulfilling its mission public school districts must be organized in such a fashion so to insure that parents are true partners in the education of their children and that education professionals and decision makers are not isolated from the larger community and parents which they serve.

Quality public education is a vital concern to every resident of the city. Without a well educated, knowledgeable citizenry the entire fabric of our city suffers and the future of our city is diminished. Quality public education is also a vital concern to business leaders who understand that the future of their companies and industry is inextricably connected to an education system that provides students with the skills and intellectual capital for the 21st century jobs.

Consequently the organization and policies of a public education system is a vested interest for the entire city community.

For these reasons and others, public education has always and must always involve the public in the decision making process. In most instances parents and the surrounding community do not want to run schools but they certainly do want well run schools and they want and deserve both access to decision makers and a transparency of policy implementation so that the decisions which are ultimately made by those responsible can be informed by the various stakeholders. In the final analysis these policies must be understandable and effectively disseminated.

It is in this spirit and with these goals in mind that the Task Force On Community School District Governance Reform began its work in November 2002 and completed its work with a set of recommendations endorsed by the Task Force on February 12, 2003.

These recommendations are respectfully submitted to the State Legislature and the Governor in accordance with the law. It is the hope of the Task Force that a well considered and speedy adoption of a new Community Governance structure will be made by the State.


On June 14, 2002 Governor George E. Pataki signed into law a bill which revamps the entire New York City School Governance system. Among the many and comprehensive changes in the law (Chapter 91 of Laws of 2002), this legislation abolishes the elected local community school boards at the end of the current school year June 30, 2003.

During the preceding number of years, with notable exceptions, there has been a general dissatisfaction with the performance and at times the conduct of Community School Boards. Moreover the overly cumbersome and complicated method of School Board Election voting has also contributed to public apathy for Community School Boards and the process of electing members. With rare exceptions, school board election turnout hovered around 5%.

To help remedy this situation, over the past decade the State Legislature has taken several steps to engender greater public confidence in school boards including legislation which insures that school board members not be employees of the local school District or in other respects to insure that there exists no conflict of interest or personal gain that might be derived by a school board member. In addition, persons removed or suspended from a school board were limited in their ability to run for re-election.

In 1996 the State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law (Chapter 720), legislation which further circumscribed the powers of school boards by limiting their previous unilateral authority to make employment related decisions for that school District, including their power to hire a community school District superintendent. The legislation further specified powers granted to the chancellor regarding his abilities to intervene when community school Districts fail to meet performance or accountability standards; when school board members had acted inappropriately and also required greater financial disclosure by community school board members.

In 1998 the State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Chapter 149 which reformed the method of the school board elections by replacing the system of "Proportional Voting" to "Limited Voting". It was the hope of the State Legislature that "Limited Voting" which finally provided elections to be conducted on voting machines instead of paper ballots, eliminated the complicated tabulation and insured that the nine candidates who were successful were the nine candidates who secured the most total votes. These measures it was hoped would restore both an understanding and confidence in the voting structure.

Unfortunately, the Federal Department of Justice refused to give approval to this method of voting under its jurisdiction granted to it by the Federal Voting Rights Act and enforcement regulations. Consequently the original method of proportional voting continued.

Although Chapter 91 of the Laws of 2002 abolished the current structure relating to school boards and school board elections, the law did not abolish the 32 current community school Districts or alter their boundaries. The law anticipates some form of continued local school District governance to insure that communities and parents would continue to have access and input into local school District matters. To facilitate such a new structure of community representation the law authorized the creation of a Task Force on Community School District Governance Reform (Task Force) and established the composition of the Task Force to be comprised of twenty members - all residents of New York City. The Speaker of the Assembly was provided with ten appointments and the Senate Majority Leader was provided with ten appointments.

On October 31, 2002 the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader announced their appointments and designated Assemblyman Steven Sanders and Terri Thomson as Task Force Co-Chairs. The Law required that the Task Force convene five public hearings to be held in each borough of the City of New York and to conduct such other meetings necessary to obtain information to help assist in the formulation of recommendations as to how local community school boards will be replaced. The law further stipulated that the Task Force submit a final report containing its proposal and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature by February 15, 2003.

To that end and in furtherance of the provisions contained in the law, the Task Force convened five public hearings around the City: December 10, 2002 in Manhattan; December 12, 2002 in Queens; December 19, 2002 in the Bronx; January 6, 2003 on Staten Island; and January 16, 2003 in Brooklyn. All tolled, the Task Force completed approximately 50 hours of public testimony and received other written communications. All public hearings were recorded by a stenographer and were in compliance with the Open Meetings Law.

In addition, the Task Force held eight meetings - November 15, 2002; November 26, 2002; January 23, 2003; January 30, 2003; January 31, 2003; February 6, 2003; February 7, 2003; and February 12, 2003. All of those Task Force meetings also were conducted in compliance with the Open Meetings Law.

As a result of the hearings and meetings held by the Task Force, a series of recommendations are made to replace the current school boards consistent with the mandate given to the Task Force in Chapter 91 of the Laws of 2002.

It is the hope and the belief of the Task Force that if enacted into law and implemented, these recommendations will foster an environment for meaningful parental and community representation and input at the local community school District level and within their component schools. It is furthermore the belief of the Task Force that meaningful engagement of parents and the community is ultimately necessary for an overall system of school governance to be successful.


The Task Force, in its charge to recommend a proposal for a meaningful role for parents and the community in local school governance, was guided by a set of principles and goals:

The primary goal of any governance structure shall be to continuously assist in improving the schools so that all students may achieve academic standards and realize their fullest potential.

To accomplish this, the Task Force agreed on several important cornerstones:

Accountability and Transparency

  • That a new District board be focused on accountability and assessment, ensuring transparency of information about school District policies, planning and results as well as budgetary issues. The board shall strive to facilitate educational excellence and school improvement


  • That the new District board shall establish avenues of accessibility for parents and the community. It shall serve as an advocate for parents and provide effective two-way communication with the community


  • That the new District board should promote partnerships for education, creating a climate that engages the stakeholders and the local community, including business leaders and civic groups, working together to improve education.

Community District Education Councils

The Task Force recommends that a there be established in each of the 32 community school Districts a new District board to be called the Community District Education Council. They shall be comprised of 11 members from the following categories:

  • Eight parent members elected by the parents of students who attend a public school within the District. ("Parent" is defined as the child's parent(s) or guardian(s) or any person(s) in a parental or custodial relationship to the child). The timing and process for the election that is ultimately implemented needs to ensure that there are efforts to promote diversity and to reflect the unique composition of the District. The election process shall encourage the broadest parent participation and outreach, as well as maximize participation by providing for uniform timing across the City. In addition, one parent member must be a parent of a child with special needs, educated through an Individual Education Plan within the school District.

  • Two business, civic, or community members appointed by the Borough President, soliciting names from such organizations. These appointees shall be individuals with extensive business, trade or education experience and knowledge in order to make a significant contribution to improving education in the local District.

  • One High School Senior appointed by the Superintendent from among the elected student leadership of the high schools of the District.

The Task Force recommends the following:

  • Each parent may vote in one District only.

  • The District Superintendent responsible for the community school District shall be the person interacting, collaborating and working with that Community District Education Council.

  • The Community District Education Council shall elect a president, vice president, recording secretary and any other officers as it sees fit.

  • The Community District Education Council shall establish by-laws consistent with directives or regulations promulgated by the Chancellor or District Superintendent.

  • Each parent member may serve on one Community District Education Council only. All Community District Education Council members will serve for terms of two years on a staggered basis. However, the student members, will serve for one year only.

  • The Task Force also recommends that the current policies regarding travel-related stipends be continued and that the Community District Education Council be permitted to employ an administrative staff person, also pursuant to current practices. In addition, all current applicable laws and regulation regarding conflict of interest, financial disclosure and employment restriction and all other requirements will continue in force.

The Task Force recommendations for duties of the Community District Education Council are outlined below:

The Community District Education Council will:

  • Possess all responsibilities, duties, and functions, which apply to the elected Community School Boards in effect on June 30, 2003.

  • Review, comment and approve District's comprehensive education plan submitted by the Superintendent each year. The Community District Education Council shall use this vision and roadmap to focus its efforts on improving student learning and achievement.

  • Promote achievement of education standards and objectives relating to the instruction of students as promulgated by the District Superintendent, Chancellor, or State Education Commissioner.

  • Hold monthly meetings with the District Superintendent to engage in a dialogue about the State of the Schools and progress made toward the implementation of the District's comprehensive education plan. The Council will review the quality of the District's educational programs and assess their effect on student achievement. The Superintendent will provide relevant data to encourage informed and adequate public discussion on student achievement and the state of each school.

  • Hold monthly public meetings with the Superintendent during which the public may speak so that parents and the community have a voice and a public forum to air their concerns.

  • Submit an annual evaluation of the District Superintendent to the Chancellor.

  • Submit an annual evaluation of all other instructional or management supervisory personnel who have responsibility for more than one school within the District.

  • Receive from the District Superintendent the Capital Budget, Operating Budget, and amendments thereto; hold public hearings and provide comment to the District Superintendent.

  • Provide comment before collective bargaining negotiations to the Chancellor and Mayor concerning provisions in union contracts that impact the school's quality of life.

  • Be responsible for zoning of elementary and middle schools in the District

  • Hold a public hearing on the District's annual capacity plans recommended by the Superintendent and based on data from the Chancellor on enrollment/utilization of each school. Submit the plan, approved by the Board and the Superintendent, to the Chancellor for his review.

  • Be responsible for District safety plans and make amendments thereto.

  • Have regular communication with all parents and parents' associations in the District, providing important information on student achievement and seeking input from the parents on school improvement.

  • Provide input, as it feels necessary, to the Chancellor and the Citywide Board of Education on matters of concern to the school District.

  • Establish well-considered policies that focus on improving student achievement, consistent with central policies.

  • Marshal public and private engagement with and support for District schools.

  • Liaison with school leadership teams as may be necessary and provide assistance to the school leadership teams where possible.

  • In order to carry out their responsibilities in an effective way and to ensure that all Districts are served equitably, Community District Education Council members shall as required by the Chancellor participate in ongoing training and development.


The Task Force recommends that there be created a new board for the Citywide Special Education District. That board shall also be comprised of 11 members, consisting of 8 parents elected by parents of students attending a school in the Citywide Special Education District provided, however, that at least one reside in each borough; 2 persons with experience or knowledge of the disability community selected by the Speaker of the NYC Council; and one high school senior selected by the Superintendent. The members of this board will serve for two years on a staggered basis. However, the student member shall serve for one year but may be reappointed by the Superintendent.

All legal or regulatory qualifications and requirements that pertain to the member of the Community District Education Council will also apply to the board members representing the Citywide Special Education District.


The Task Force acknowledges that the most significant interaction between the parent and the school system often occurs at the school level. In 1996, the New York State Legislature's school governance legislation mandated that the Chancellor create effective school leadership teams in every New York City school by October 1, 1999. The School Leadership Teams (SLTs), focusing on shared collaborative decision-making, have three critical functions:

  • Develop the school's Comprehensive Educational Plan

  • Align the school budget to that plan

  • Evaluate the quality of their educational programs and assess their effect on student achievement.
As a result of the citywide public hearings conducted by the Task Force, it was the consensus of the Task Force that strengthening the school leadership teams was integral to the process of effective parental and community representation in the school District.

In addition to the current guidelines in The Chancellor's Plan for School Leadership Teams, the following are recommendations by the Task Force to strengthen School Leadership Teams:

  • Each SLT shall be composed of a 50% plus one majority parent representatives, as the most important stakeholders in our schools.

  • There needs to be high quality and ongoing training for all parents who participate on SLTs.

The Task Force recommends that all current responsibilities for the School Leadership Teams continue and emphasized the following duties:

  • Develop an annual comprehensive education plan for the school, which shall be submitted to the District Superintendent, and be available to the public.

  • Meet at least once per month during the school year at a place and time conducive to the parent members. The meetings shall be scheduled and publicized in a manner consistent with the open meetings law.

  • Align the school's budget to the education plan

  • The SLT shall develop the school's safety plan and submit it to the District Superintendent and Community District Education Council.

  • The SLT shall be the entity that interacts with the District Superintendent for the purpose of making a recommendation to fill a vacancy in the position of Building Principal consistent with the other provisions of the C-30 process.

  • SLT parent members shall provide an annual evaluation of the principal.

  • SLT parent members shall provide an annual evaluation of any other position in the school whose primary responsibility is to interact with parents.

  • In order to carry out their responsibilities in an effective way and to ensure, to the extent that it is possible, that all Districts are served equitably, SLTs shall be required to participate in ongoing training and development.


The Task Force set out to develop a new form of engagement and responsibility, one that has as its primary goal a focus on student achievement and a strengthening of the education system.

We wish to express our appreciation to Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for having established this Task Force and for giving us the opportunity to lead it. We are particularly grateful to Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno for appointing the other eighteen remarkable New Yorkers to this body. All served with enormous energy, dedication and intellect. All twenty members of the Task Force quickly coalesced, worked collegially with the single goal in mind of doing the very best to make recommendations that will improve the quality of education in New York City.

We can report, from our experience in conducting the forums throughout the city, that education is a passionate concern of people across neighborhoods, economic status and ethnic groups. The Task Force can state with conviction that interest in education is high even though there had been general discontent with the local community school boards and the complicated election process. Through fifty hours of public hearings throughout the City of New York we heard:

  • The importance of a local District level board to represent local needs in a system that can be distant and unapproachable because of its size.

  • The School Leadership Teams concept is valid but needs a renewed commitment.

  • The need for transparency of data and results and more information for parents about their children's schools.

  • As the most important stakeholders, parents want to be treated as partners in the education of the children and engaged in real decision making about their children's schools

  • Concern among parents of children with special needs that they lack a voice and a meaningful role within the school community.

Thus, the vision the Legislature had when it convened the Task Force reflected constituent belief that local school boards needed to be replaced, not eliminated. In fact, Chapter 91 did not abolish the 32 local school Districts or their boundaries. The law anticipates some form of continued local school District governance to ensure that communities and parents would have access and input into local school District matters. It was to facilitate the development of a new structure that the Task Force was created.

Without local representation, parents and local communities fear that they will be marginalized if not lost in the huge centralized system. Much testimony was heard by the Task Force from parents and other community stakeholders that a new system of local governance must insure that the public continues to have local points of entry and that unique neighborhood concerns about education be addressed. In that regard we believe that all City and education leaders should continue to be mindful of current education law with respect to the organization of school Districts. Existing Education Law (Section 2590-b.3 (c) (1) clearly requires that each community District: "Shall be a suitable size for efficient policy making and economic management; contain a reasonable number of pupils; be compact and contiguous, contained within county lines and to the maximum extent possible keep intact communities and neighborhoods; and bear a rational relationship to geographic areas for which the city of New York plans and provides services." We believe that our recommendations and comments support both the spirit and the letter of the existing State Education Law.

While we note that the legislative mandate given to this Task Force was quite narrow: "To develop a proposal and make recommendations regarding the Community School Boards and their powers and duties", the Task Force is mindful that its recommendations need to relate to the entire Education Law. While beyond the specific scope of this Task Force, there are areas of concern that were articulated to the Task Force that should be noted. As the Mayor and Chancellor unfold the tenets of their reorganization, we suggest it be recognized that for thousands of high school students a different path is available through the career and technical schools. The needs of these schools and their students must be accounted for with input on those policies by the public as well.

The local community governance structure cannot exist in a vacuum. It must be logically connected with and accountable to the rest of the citywide educational governance structure - the Chancellor, the new citywide Board of Education and the Superintendents. It is our hope that school governance and management structures will be cohesively aligned so that the entire public school system in New York City is finally coherent, accountable, transparent and representative.

The Task Force recognizes its important responsibility in formulating these recommendations. We believe that these recommendations will foster an environment for meaningful parental and community representation and input consistent with the provisions for overall school governance. The Task Force believes that nothing less than the meaningful engagement of parents, educators and the community in a partnership for education is necessary for an overall system of school governance to be successful. And the ultimate measure of success will be improved education results and an environment in which learning and achievement are valued.