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ABBOTT CHIEF REFUSES PARENTS' REQUEST TO ENFORCE PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT REQUIREMENTS

NEWARK, October 11, 2006 -- Parent leaders from Camden, Newark, and Jersey City were disappointed at the refusal of Gordon MacInnes, the State's top official for urban school reform, to take action to enforce compliance with state and federal laws requiring parental involvement in the urban or "Abbott" districts. Despite MacInnes' acknowledgement that active parental involvement is an important factor in the success of the highest performing Abbott districts, the Assistant Commissioner at the NJ Department of Eduation (NJDOE) refused the request of leaders of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee (SEOC) to notify all Abbott district superintendents of their responsibility to maximize parental involvement in their schools.

MacInnes attended a negotiation session over SEOC's longstanding complaint that the Abbott Division of NJDOE is ignoring parental participation mandates in the Abbott v. Burke rulings and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The session was held at Essex County College and was attended by over 30 SEOC leaders, members and staff, along with representatives of the NAACP-Newark and Education Law Center.

During the session, SEOC parent leaders asked MacInnes to use his authority to enforce compliance with state and federal laws on parental involvement by sending a letter to the Abbott superintendents emphasizing the importance of parental involvement, and asking the Superintendents to report the number and position descriptions of staff assigned to the job in their districts. MacInnes declined to send the letter and did not offer to undertake any alternative actions.

MacInnes did agree, however, to meet again with parent leaders to discuss improving parental involvement in the 3 districts represented at the table. He also agreed to transmit SEOC's invitation to Acting Commissioner Lucille Davy to address SEOC membership about parental involvement at its annual conference on November 11.

Before the negotiating session, SEOC president Tina Cintron welcomed MacInnes and parent leaders Lorenzo Richardson, Mary Ann Adjepong, Pauline Bey, and Melinda Anderson briefed MacInnes on the research evidence, state and federal laws, and the Department's own public statements in support of parental involvement. The parent leaders shared powerful stories and the results of action research in 48 schools that revealed little or no compliance with state and federal parental involvement requirements.

"Mr. MacInnes' refusal was mindboggling," said Lorenzo Richardson parent leader from Jersey City "especially because he says he is pro-parental involvement and he knows that the status quo just isn't working." SEOC president Tina Cintron also expressed the group’s frustration, adding "We aren't asking him to write legislation. We are just asking him to hold the districts accountable for what they already are supposed to be doing." After the meeting, SEOC leaders agreed that this would not be the end of their campaign. "We won't rest until parental involvement is a reality in all of the Abbott districts" said Pauline Bey of Camden.

For more information about SEOC's parental involvement campaign, contact: Elizabeth Weisholtz at 201-333-5700 x 546.