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NEW YORK (PIX11) — Alaira Ashford says she removed her daughter, who has dyslexia, from New York City public schools because she didn’t feel heard or supported.

“I fought for a long time. I went through the proper channels. She got evaluated and everything. Still, the school was not able to provide her with the proper education. And I was very involved,” said Ashford.  

Ashford was the PTA president in hopes of advocating for children like hers, but she noticed the low parent turnout at meetings.

“Where are the parents? I tried morning meetings, afternoon meetings, night time meetings, and the parents are not involved,” Ashford said.

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks is hoping to address both of those issues, announcing that parents can now apply to join their local Community Education Council and encouraging families to vote in upcoming spring elections for that council.

“If we really want to change this education system, we need new ideas, fresh ideas, fresh thinking and you don’t do that by just listening to the same people over and over again,” said Banks.

Banks said council members help shape policies and programs at city schools by providing direct input to the Department of Education on key issues like: curriculum, budgets, new schools, re-zonings, school closings and co-locations.

“The school community can grow and blossom when the parents are more involved in the funding, events. Just getting them to come in can be helpful,” said Katrina Boston, who teaches special needs students in grades 3-5.

The chancellor said he understands that not all parents have time to attend meetings. New this year, those with children in District 75 schools, which provide special needs education, will get to appoint a representative to advocate on their behalf. Kinia Gonzalez runs a program which in part provides resources for parents of special needs children. She says parents should see these representatives as important allies.

“Go ahead send an email. Now, with this person being a representative of District 75, you’d be able to have a voice. Say hey, this is what I’m seeing with my child, I can’t be at the school all the time but I need these changes to be made,” said Gonzalez, the director of the Leadership Education Achievement Pathways Program at JCAA.