By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Upper West Siders aren't usually shy about joining causes, but few parents have applied for seats on a local volunteer panel that guides school policy.
Community School District 3, which runs from West 59th Street to West 122nd Street, has received just 339 applicants for its Community Education Council, among the lowest amount citywide, said a Department of Education spokeswoman.
In the hopes of drumming up more interest, the Department of Education recently extended the application deadline to Friday, April 22. Applications are available online at Power to the Parents.
Community Education Councils — parent-run panels with 11 members — approve zoning lines, analyze how the district’s educational programs affect student achievement, and help select a community superintendent, among other duties.
CECs give parents a chance to tackle meaty issues like over-crowding and school budgets, said District 3 CEC president Noah Gotbaum.
But parents may be reluctant to apply because CECs have little authority — most of what they do is only advisory, Gotbaum said.
And when CECs do weigh in, some feel that the DOE ignores them, Gotbaum said.
"They don't take parents seriously," Gotbaum said. "We have the most skin in the game, but the DOE has done everything it can to emasculate the CECs."
A DOE spokeswoman disputed the idea that parent input isn't welcome, noting that the DOE extended the deadline to apply for CEC seats specifically in the hopes of attracting more parents.
"We are always looking for opportunities to increase parent participation in their children's education, whether it's at home, in their child's school, or representing their district as a CEC member," said DOE spokeswoman Deidrea Miller.
Gotbaum pointed to the recent bitter battle over whether to allow the Upper West Success Academy charter school to share space with an existing public school in District 3 as an example of how parents feel cut out of DOE decision-making.
The District 3 CEC led the battle against the space-sharing plan, but it was ultimately approved by the city's Panel for Educational Policy.
Another obstacle to parent participation could be the substantial time commitment involved in serving on the CEC, Gotbaum said. Members serve two-year terms on a volunteer basis, and attendance at monthly meetings is mandatory.
Gotbaum, a father of three who runs an investment management company, said serving as the CEC president has become a full-time job. "It's a hell of a lot of work, and to what end?" Gotbaum said. "It is yet another manifestation of the disaster of mayoral control."
For more information on the District 3 Community Education Council, check out its website.