NYC parents express doubts over Education Council election results, demand independent audit from DOE

Parents protest Education Council election results at Gracie Mansion
Parents from the New York City Chancellor’s Parent Advisory held a rally to protest the management of the Education Council Elections outside of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.
Sarah Belle Lin

A group of New York City parents say they smell a rat with how the city’s Education Council members are elected, and they’re demanding more transparency from the city’s Department of Education (DOE). 

Around two dozen people rallied on Tuesday to demand that the DOE permit an independent recount of all votes from the 2023 Citywide and Community Education Council elections, charging that the agency “failed public school families by not managing the 2023 elections with fidelity, transparency, and equity.”

The DOE’s Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Board and the Education Consortium Council organized the rally at Gracie Mansion on June 20 to discuss the outcomes announced on June 16 and of those elected to the 32 CECs and four Citywide Councils — bodies of volunteer parents who support their local district schools by making recommendations and providing input on various areas including student achievement, educational programs, building improvements, and the education budget.

There were 1,099 parents who applied for one of 357 seats up for this year’s election. Voter turnout across New York City was low — 19,130 parents voted across the five boroughs, a number the DOE reached by tracking only the number of votes casted, not the number of eligible parent voters for elections, according to DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer.

Shirley Aubin, who represented the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Board, and NeQuan McLean, president of the Education Consortium Council, led the calls for several demands to the DOE. Both believe that the DOE could have pushed for more voter turnout in this year’s education council elections.

The other demands, including an independent vote recount, being made are: a full, thorough audit of the practice of the DOE’s Family and Community Empowerment team who managed the elections, reinstatement of disqualified candidates who were “duly voted for by their community,” and equitable enforcement of the election rules and regulations.

FACE directors representing each borough did not respond to a request for comment about this year’s elections from amNewYork Metro. 

In a statement to amNewYork Metro, DOE spokesperson Styer, stated that: “Our dedicated Family and Community Empowerment (FACE) team successfully administered one of the country’s largest parent leadership elections and we are excited to welcome all the parents who stepped up for consideration. We take any reported issues seriously and those that arose during the election were investigated and considered based on regulations and state law. Additional concerns should be immediately raised to FACE, and they will promptly look into them.” 

Parents from the New York City Chancellor’s Parent Advisory held a rally to protest the management of the Education Council Elections and demand an audit of the election processes outside of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.Sarah Belle Lin

One person, half-vote – and disqualification

Two issues of the election process were the half-point vote system introduced in this year’s election, as well as an over-representation of specialized high school parents who voted for others in the Citywide Council of High Schools, a group of volunteer parents who advocate on behalf of all New York City public high school students and serves as an advisory board for the Schools Chancellor, during the elections. 

“The person that was in charge of high schools was let go, for good reason,” Aubin said. “But they didn’t reassign anyone to make sure that high school (parents) are going to come out and vote.”

McLean, who is also the president of the District 16 Community Education Council and a member of the Mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group, re-emphasized the rally’s intention away from the contentious discussions about the elections results where 40% of seats were won by 133 elected candidates endorsed by PLACE, a parent group that advocates for academic screening and merit-based admissions, as opposed to lottery systems, for New York City’s top-ranking specialized high schools. PLACE candidates also won all elected seats on the Citywide Council on High Schools.

“We’re not here to talk about the narrative of who won and who lost,” McLean said. “But we need to talk about the narrative of the injustice and the inequities that we’ve seen throughout this election.”

Instead, McLean and Aubin said the rally is an opportunity to present questions being raised about the election policies and procedures, one of which led to a Queens parent being disqualified.

Adriana Alicea, president of Community School District 28 Presidents’ Council, said in her speech at Gracie Mansion that she is “deeply concerned about the mismanagement of the election.”

The elections team had told Alicea that she accepted an endorsement from a political action committee (PAC) on her personal Twitter account, which the elections team called a “direct violation of the chancellor’s regulations.” DOE policy prohibits candidates running for either a community or citywide education council from soliciting or accepting any political endorsements.

While NYC Kids PAC lists Alicea, among others, as one of its preferred CEC candidates for District 28, Alicea, who works as a paralegal at advertising agency Grey Group, denied that she accepted any endorsements from the NYC Kids PAC and called her disqualification on that basis a flagrant violation of her First Amendment rights. 

“I thanked the PAC for the endorsement,” Alicea said. “By thanking them for the endorsement, I was simply acknowledging their support and thanking them for their consideration, not accepting their endorsement.”

Alicea said she was “unfairly disqualified” and reiterated the group’s demand to reinstate candidates who were voted for by their community, such as herself. She said she has always stood for “accessibility, equity, and community” and has very specific views about what school safety should look like and that the NYPD does not belong in schools. 

“I’m deeply troubled by the DOE’s decision to investigate a single candidate so thoroughly in an effort to silence me,” Alicea said. “This investigation was clearly politically motivated. It is inappropriate. It’s an abuse of power.”

Adriana Alicea, president of Community School District 28 Presidents’ Council, speaks about being disqualified from the Education Council Elections outside of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.Sarah Belle Lin

Aubin backed Alicea on her claim, saying that the DOE selectively “pick and choose which investigation they’re following and who to sanction or give a warning to.”

“You disqualify a candidate who has equity for an infraction that all across the city was happening,” Aubin said. “An equity voice, a minority leader, a person of color got disqualified for the first time in the history of this election.”

Alicea urged potential auditors to examine any communication regarding specific candidates, particularly those who were singled out or targeted for disqualification like she was.  

“We believe that these demands are essential to ensure the integrity of the election results and to begin to rebuild trust between parent leaders and the DOE,” Alicea said. “We urge FACE to take these demands seriously and to cooperate with any independent recount or audit.”

Alicea pointed to multiple complaints filed, complete with evidentiary support that were brushed aside by FACE as one of the reasons why the group is calling for an independent recount of the votes by a neutral party.

“There have been numerous reports of irregularities and inconsistencies in the election process,” Alicea said. “These irregularities and inconsistencies have cast a shadow over the results of the election. We are cannot be sure that the results accurately reflect the will of the voters.”


Paullette Healy, co-president of the Citywide Council for Special Education, said at the rally that she wasn’t able to fully appreciate the opportunity for more special education representatives. This year’s election allowed, for the first time, parents to vote for a District 75 representative on each community school district council.

Healy herself ran uncontested as a District 75 representative in her local District 20, but was seated elsewhere and not in her local district. She continues to be frustrated with the lack of response from the DOE about her election placement. Healy pointed to similar scenarios happening to other District 75 candidates who were seated in districts other than the ones they resided in.

“Instead of celebrating it, our District 75 candidates were mis-districted,” Healy said. “They did not show up on ballots when they were supposed to, for specific districts. They were not given the priority choices that were given, in terms of being seated at a local district.”

Healy added on to the demand for an independent recount by insisting that next year’s education council elections be conducted by an independent agency with no ties to the DOE. She called the DOE’s involvement a conflict of interest, since elected members will be advising on education policy with the DOE.

“I am here to ask that elections for parent elections going forward need to be done by a third party agency,” Healy said at the rally. “The DOE should have nothing to do with our elections. It’s already a conflict, yet we’re allowing this bureaucratic agency run the election. That’s like letting the Democratic Party run the local elections.”

Healy decried the low voter turnout, despite the multi-million-dollar cost of the election, and compared this year’s turnout to elections years prior, which she said were done in-person and more equitably.

Paullette Healy, vice president of the New York City Department of Education’s Citywide Council for Special Education, joins the protest against the management of the Education Council Elections outside of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.Sarah Belle Lin

Sheree Gibson, Queens borough president appointee of the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy, also joined the rally in support of the group’s demands. Gibson advocated for better citywide outreach to parents ahead of elections and an examination into why certain candidates were disqualified.

“We’re here asking why was decisions made that seems to disenfranchise certain districts in certain communities,” Gibson said. “History repeats itself because we do not ask questions of what happened.”

Gibson told amNewYork Metro that better outreach includes offering both in-person and virtual engagement and community meetings in neighborhoods across New York City to educate parents on what education councils do exactly. She said this engagement should have started last fall, ahead of the election kickoff this past January. 

“We could have started with having conversations, going to where people are to have meetings to explain about it,” Gibson said. “In the last cycle, every borough president had an engagement session so their people could understand what it’s about. We didn’t do that this cycle.”

Gibson suggested a poll for parents to share their ideas and feedback about the election processes with the DOE.

“There was lots of ideas that came out of the last cycle, about how to use technology better in this space, as well as doing things in person,” Gibson said. “If you are about parent engagement and empowerment, you can empower us.”

Sheree Gibson, Queens representative of the New York City Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy, joins the protest against the management of the Education Council Elections outside of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.Sarah Belle Lin