Mary Somoza

Community School Board Member District #2




January 10, 2001


Dr.Maureen Weinberg



Dear Dr. Weinberg,


    Thank you for your letter of January 3rd addressed to  Superintendent Shelley Harwayne and members of the School Board.


    There is tremendous concern among District 2 parents regarding the math curricula. It has been almost a year now that parents in the District have addressed their concerns to me both privately and at school board meetings. The District held a math forum at P.S. 89  in April 2000.  It was probably one of the best attended meetings that, in my history as a school board member and a parent in District #2 (since 1989)I was fortunate to have been a participant. In my perception, parents wanted answers to their questions regarding the math curriculum, not another “math night” presentation by the district.   The panelists were not a diverse group, but only advocates and interested parties and promoters  of the TERC and CMP curricula.


    From what I have heard from parents over the last several months, there is an enormous amount of private tutoring being provided by parents to bring their children up to speed in math.  In that District 2 is socioeconomically diverse, it was not surprising to me that some parents who approached me could afford tutoring services, however they were indignant at having to provide this service to their children. They feel unable to help their children, despite the fact that most of them are professionals and very well educated.  Having no books with which to work, parents feel inadequate in their ability to help their children and are looking for outside professional help.   Of course, parents who do not speak English, or who cannot afford between $60 to $120 per hour for math tutoring, and are not skilled in advocating for their children are left without recourse.


    Working with several parents who had requested a diverse math forum, with experts for and against the TERC curriculum, the Board formed a math committee to organize a truly open math night.  I have worked on that committee over the past months, but unfortunately my colleagues on the Board chose on Tuesday, January 9th at the working session to disband the math committee. Despite my constant reminders that we are elected to serve our communities, our parents and children, and not the District office, the rest of the Board has chosen to ignore the multitude of complaints they have heard from parents over the last six months.  


    On one level I understand their lack of involvement in addressing parent complaints. Five of the nine members of the Board do not live in District 2, but in communities as distant as Staten Island, Queens,the Upper West Side and the Lower East Side. Those five Board members hold full time jobs as well as having children in District 2 schools, which leads one to wonder exactly how much time they  have to dedicate to their role as a school board member, and to involve themselves in community issues.


   On Tuesday night, one of the above mentioned board members, who is a corporate lawyer, stated that he could not help his child with his homework, that he could not speak the same math language, there is no text book to guide him, and he is spending “a fortune” in tutoring.  He had not attended the last three board meetings where many parents came to voice their complaints, and yet he felt qualified to call for a motion to disband the math committee.  I simply do not understand the reasoning behind this.


    I am quite disenchanted with our school board.   It is incidents like this, and others that have resulted in previous board decisions of  “inaction” that make me want to conclude that perhaps school boards should be disbanded. If they become too “political” or contain too many folks with personal vested interests, well, perhaps there should be another type of system or a revamping of the present qualifications for community school board members. 


    The President of our school board is the chief of staff for a member of the state assembly, so one wonders where the politics begin and where representation of constituents of the district - parents, children and community take precedent. This will certainly be my last term on the school board, but in the meantime, I will do my best, as perhaps the sole voice on the Board, to address the concerns of district 2 families who are finding the math programs deficient. 


     I will be available to you should you need any advice concerning the home-schooling of your child.  I sincerely regret that I cannot be of more help, I will however keep bringing your concerns and those of other parents on to the agenda at the school board meetings and I will continue to voice any ongoing math concerns.   


    Please let me know how Jessica is doing, I don’t doubt that you are doing what is in the best interest of your child.





Mary Somoza


c.         Shelly Harwayne                        Assemblymember Christine Quinn                             CSB #2 Members                 Assemblymember Steve Sanders

Chancellor Harold O. Levy           Assemblymember Deborah Glick                                    Dep. Chancellor Judith Rizzo            State Senator Tom Duane

            Burton Sacks

            Dr. Irving Hamer

Trudy Irwin


Enclosure:  Letter from Dr. Weinberg