By Matthew Fischetti
Jessamyn Lee is the newest Brooklyn Representative for the Panel for Education Policy – the citywide board that replaced the formal Board of Education.
Lee has served as a public school English Second Language teacher for over eight years, the Parent Teachers Association Board for her children’s schools and the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory council. She also served as District 14 President Council President – a group of PTA presidents representing North Brooklyn.
“When I became a public school parent, I wanted to contribute to my school communities, and then eventually, the larger community in any way that I could, because I feel like I have a couple of different lenses on things because I do have this sort of institutional knowledge from my background working for the Department of Education,” Jessamyn said in a recent phone interview.
When asked about her primary focuses, Lee said that stopping colocation of charter schools was among her top interests.
“I feel like what we’re seeing in New York City, and what we’re seeing really nationally is a momentary drop in public school enrollment. And my main priority is looking at building utilization, which is tied to enrollment numbers to ensure that our public schools remain public schools.”
Lee told the Brooklyn Star that one policy she would like to see changed is that soft spaces – meaning Speech pathology, counseling and other services – would be included in building utilization stats. The figure is often used to make the case for potential co-locations of charters.
Lee said that the lack of soft spaces being included in building utilization rates can alter the numbers. She highlighted how her own son is in a specialized program for Autistic students and although it only has around 19 students, a general education class could hold upwards of 30. Due to the disparity, Lee said that the current models don’t account for that disparity and could incorrectly label a classroom as being underutilized
“When we’re talking about English language learners and special education students, in particular, the preservation of those soft spaces are necessary for the implementation of their mandated services and supports.”
In her interview with the Brooklyn Star, Lee also highly criticized the Mayor’s education cuts, which have been estimated by the Comptroller’s office to total $469 million.
“I obviously, stringently and stridently, oppose the Adams administration’s cuts to the DOE’s budget. I find them indefensible.”
Lee encouraged readers to learn more about their local Community Education Councils in order to get more involved.
“A lot of what I’ve learned over the years is that what it takes for the average person or the typical person to kind of exercise some political power in this city is sort of directly tied to their ability and willingness to sit through long meetings that cover a lot of dry material,” she said.
“But the parents are empowered and they can and should reach out to their city council members and their state assembly members to advocate for our public schools.”