City Council member Robert Jackson advocated for more community involvement in local public schools at a public education forum on Monday at Teachers College.
The forum on Monday, hosted by the 142nd Street Block Association, aimed to discuss enhancing education options in Harlem, but ultimately focused on plans for reforming the greater public education system.
Jackson, who is running for Manhattan borough president, said that “if it wasn’t for community school boards, we would never have had the campaign for equity … and won billions of dollars for the children of New York.”
“Individual education development for children has to be about community,” Brian Perkins, director of the Urban Education Leaders Program at Teachers College, said.
Panelists also questioned why charter schools receive more donation money than public schools and how effective standardized testing is in tracking student progress.
“It’s not just about equality, it’s about equity,” Perkins said. “Giving equal resources to unequal needs is not going to do it.”
Standardized testing is “all political, it’s about money, resources, real estate,” Geoffrey Eaton, president of the Mid-Manhattan National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said.
Possible solutions, the panelists argued, would include engaging parents more frequently or creating a more individualized educational model.
“We need to get more parents involved in schools, bringing resources to those parents who may not have the education themselves,” Eaton said.
Other panelists included C. Ed Massey, president of the National School Boards Association, and Anne Byrne, secretary-treasurer of the NSBA.
“There’s got to be a way for the community to take that governance and make it their own,” Byrne said, critical of the lack of a school board governing New York City public schools.
Although only around 10 people attended the forum, Massey said that he hoped the thoughts exchanged at the forum would be part of a wider debate on reforming public education. Karen Horry, who organized the event, said the event was filmed and would be distributed to members in the community.
Horry, a former teacher and a member of the Community Board 10 education committee, said she organized the forum because “all kids have the ability to learn.”
“I’m just an activist for the community,” she said.
The next steps, Horry said, are to compile the panelists’ ideas and present them to relevant local resident groups and education activists.
“When the community members govern their schools, student achievement is higher,” Byrne said. “When you have people dictate at you from up high, who don’t know the community … then you are not going to move forward.”
Attendees noted that the message of the forum would have to reach a wider audience to take hold.
“We have to have more community leaders, students, come to these events,” Franklyn Grenaway, who works at the Harlem Village website, said.
An earlier version of this story identified Horry as the chair of the CB10 education committee. She is actually a member of the committee. Spectator regrets the error.