Linda Quarles is one of two Brooklyn representatives on the Citywide Council on High Schools. We had the chance to ask some questions about her involvement with the council and one goal she’d like your help with in achieving during her time on the council.
What is the Citywide Council on High Schools and how did you get involved?
The Citywide Council on High Schools is one of 36 school boards in NYC. We serve over 400 high schools and 300,000 students in the NYC public school system. I chose to run to bring a parent voice to the critical education crisis we are currently facing in NYC. We have 2 representatives per borough, and I was elected by families with students attending high school in Brooklyn.
The CCHS played a hand in families being able to know what their child’s lottery number is in the middle and high school application process. Can you share a little more about this and why it was so important?
I was not personally involved as this was before my time (I started serving in July of this year), but the CCHS did advocate for this. It was important from the perspective of equity and transparency to families. As you know, the HS admissions process is complicated and can be very stressful for families. Lottery numbers have traditionally been unknown; meanwhile’ families were taking it upon themselves to FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] their lottery number. This meant that only families with the knowhow to do this would have this important piece of information as they navigated the already confusing HS admissions process. Making it available upfront to all families was an important step in providing transparency to the process. It’s still a very stressful and imperfect process and some might argue that knowing your lottery number may make it more stressful, but at the end of the day, families are on level footing on at least that one aspect.
You recently posted in the Applying to High School in NYC Facebook group that you were introducing some efforts to try to get zoned schools for all districts. You said you had no idea if this was possible or what would be involved at the district level. What are the benefits of zoned schools in all districts?
Today, there are some families that have a zoned high school that they are guaranteed a spot in, and can list on their applications. So, this means that if for some reason (e.g. they have a very poor lottery number or have other criteria that give them a low level of confidence that they will be placed in a spot at a preferred school), they can at least be assured they will be placed in a school in their local neighborhood.
Meanwhile, there are many parts of the city where families do not have any zoned schools assigned to them. In this case, and we have seen this happen, you could be placed in a school you are completely unfamiliar with, in a far away neighborhood with a very long commute. As you can imagine, that can be distressing for families and kids.
The moderators turned off comments on that post. What was the general consensus of the feedback from parents?
It was overwhelmingly in support of this idea. Nearly all were in support both before the comments were turned off, and then 100% of the people who privately messaged me after the commenting was turned off. The few that were opposed say that not all zoned schools are great schools, which is not untrue, but it is not a reason not to try to give equal access to a zoned school for all.
I have also spoken to some school principals and administrators in low enrollment schools who would love to have their schools become zoned schools.
For parents who want to help with this effort, how can they assist?
Please bring your voice. I am working on a resolution on this that I will bring to the CCHS next year and we will have room for public comment – we welcome hearing the feedback from families. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express any feedback about HS and HS admissions, and attend our meetings on the second Wednesday of every month. In addition, if you have experience with opening/identifying a zoned school in your local neighborhood, I would love to hear from you how this was accomplished.
What other things do you think need to be addressed in the high school application process?
We need more screened schools and other ways to decrease the stress burden on families and kids.
Any tips overall for how parents can get more involved and better advocate for their children?
Serving on your local PTA or SLT is always the best way. Write to your local electeds and express your needs to the NYCPS, Chancellor Banks, and anyone who will listen!
Anything else you’d like to make sure we share with families?
We love family engagement. We live in the greatest city in the world and we should not settle for anything less in our kids’ education!