July 12, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Angry parent coordinators afraid they’ll lose their jobs if disgraced former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner is elected mayor of New York City, protested today outside the controversial candidate’s Park Avenue South apartment, saying among other things, that “A vote for Weiner is a vote against women.” (Watch Video)
“I was around when the position was created,” said Deborah Walker, former borough director of the Office of Family Engagement. “I understand the importance of the position. These parent coordinators do amazing work. They actually go out into the community and get resources for parents. They understand the struggles of the parents. They are also able to bring the community into the school to support the school.”
If elected, Weiner proposes eliminating the post of parent coordinator in public schools on grounds that they are a waste of money.
But the parent coordinators and their supporters from Local 372, DC37, AFSME and the NYC Parents Union who gathered outside the mayoral frontrunner’s Manhattan pad on Friday, charge that Weiner has no clue about what the city’s 1400 parent coordinator’s actually do.
“I don’t think he has any idea of what we’re charged with doing, and that’s an insult in itself,” PS 219 Parent Coordinator Anthony Gordon told LaborPress. “But he lied to the public, and he feels that he can just come back? I’m insulted that he wants to eliminate parent coordinator jobs and he doesn’t even know what we do.”
Josett Pacheco, a parent coordinator at PS 19 in Corona, Queens since 2004, said that city employees like her act as indispensable liaisons between schools and the community at large.
“We bring them together,” Pacheco said. “We work with outside organizations. We work with senators. I don’t know, I think without my role in that school, those parents would be lost – not because the school is not doing its job, but because they need that person there.”
Mercedes Guzman, PTA treasurer at PS 96 Scholars Academy in Manhattan, agreed, saying that parent coordinators are “essential” to both schools and parents.
“They are very important to us to understand what’s going on in the school,” Guzman said. “They bring us information and resources that parents need on a day-to-day basis. Anything from help with food pantries, to what schools a child is going to pick next year.”
The position of parent coordinator was created 10 years ago with the help of Title I monies which the Bloomberg administration pushed to fund the newly created posts.
Parent Coordinator advocate Karen Smith said that the move might just be the one good thing that Mayor Michael Bloomberg ever did in office.
“And what’s needed is more support for the role and more empowerment of the position, and stop letting principals and others have parent coordinators do things out of their titles,” Smith said. “That’s what is needed. But it is a great position and we need to maintain it.”
Brooklyn Democratic Committee Member Chris Owens conceded that in at least some instances, parent coordinators – which reportedly earn less than $40,000 annually – have become the tools of autocratic principals.
And we don’t want to see that happen,” Owens said. “If that’s what Anthony Weiner wants to change, we’re happy to say, ‘Okay, change that.’ But we want to see parent coordinators in schools because we understand that if there isn’t somebody there to bridge all of those gaps that take place between the administration and what happens in the parent world, then parents lose. Parents need that extra step.”
Weiner’s camp did not respond to requests for comment.
While parent coordinators and their supporters hammered away at the importance of the position, the signs they carried skewered Weiner directly and the 2011 scandal that revealed he had sent lewd photos of himself to numerous women while serving in the U.S. Congress.
“Penis for Mayor,” one sign declared. While another warned “Don’t let the sexting perv be mayor.”
“Nobody realizes how much work we do as parent coordinators,” said Judy Milo, a parent coordinator at PS 122 in Astoria, Queens. “We’re the reason why there’s parent involvement in the schools now."