“The city, the mayor, the governor, and the teacher’s union only pay attention when you take them to court,” said Mona Davids Founder and President  the New York Charter Parents Association and the New York City Parents Union

Founder and President of both the New York Charter Parents Association and the New York City Parents Union, Mona Davids is one of The African Journal’s (Theafricanjournalonline.com) honorees as we thank her for supporting the news outlet by all means. South African-born and Brooklyn-raised, Mona Davids 47, is also the owner of Social Impact Strategies, which is a communications and political consulting firm based in New York. Dr. Steve Perry, who is the Founder and Head of Schools, Capital Preparatory Schools said this about her: “Mona Davids is an activist who gets it done. Her ability to communicate a message and bring people together separate her from most. Mona Davids was essential in the establishment of our charter school in Harlem and the residual impact of her work helped us to get another charter school approved in the Bronx.” As an activist and education advocate for over a decade, Mona has successfully led campaigns to reform Education law and the Charters Schools Act. She has filed lawsuits against former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for various education issues, one including hiring unqualified Cathie Black as NYC Public School Chancellor. She has also filed a lawsuit to stop Governor Andrew Cuomo from punishing our children by recouping $250 million in funding as a penalty because the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Bloomberg failed to come to a teacher evaluation agreement. Mona, as lead plaintiff, joined parents in another lawsuit against the NY State Department of Education seeking to halt the disclosure of student and parent data to inBloom, a private corporation.  “A lot of work involves lawsuits because the city, the mayor, the governor, and the teacher’s union only pay attention when you take them to court,” she said. Mona is indeed a very busy woman who has also managed to be a very successful businesswoman. Let’s meet her

 New York City Parents Union

 I founded the New York City Parents Union in 2011 because I was deeply concerned about the divisions between charter parents and district school parents that resulted from co-locations in public school buildings and the charter lobby’s strategy to pit parents against each other. I would not have been successful in changing the charter school laws without the support of district school parents and the teacher’s union. Of course, the teacher’s union has their issues with charter schools since most are not unionized. But, my stance is, “permanent interests, not permanent enemies”. My interests have always been ensuring that every child has equal access to a high quality education and that every parent has the right to choose the school that best fits the needs of their child.

We brought charter and district parents together to fight for school funding, lifting of the cell phone ban in schools, against distributing Plan B birth control to students without parent permissions, and other issues. We hold charter and district schools accountable for the educational outcomes of students.

Mona Davids

New York Charter Parents Association

I am proud of my work and legacy as founder and president of the New York Charter Parents Association. There are charter schools that respect parents and work collaboratively with them to ensure student success. But there are also charter schools that disrespect parents’ right to be involved, push out low performing students, English Language Learners, and students with special needs. I’ve gone up against rich, powerful interests fighting for the rights of students and parents in charter schools — and I have been successful. The laws I changed empowering parents and protecting students’s rights continue to help families today. Even the charters schools and charter lobby leaders that opposed me in 2010, tout the laws I passed when promoting charter schools. They embrace all of the reforms today. Some of them are still upset and dislike me for holding them accountable. I honestly don’t care, that’s their problem. I only care about the students and families.

HOLDING CHARTER SCHOOLS ACCOUNTABLE TO PARENTS AND STUDENTS

Mona’s advocacy led her to found the New York Charter Parents Association in 2009 after her daughter entered a charter school and Mona learned that charters are not required to have PTA’s and, worse, refuse parents requests to establish one. Her advocacy for the rights of parents and students in charter schools led  her leading the charge to change New York State Education Law and the Charter Schools Act. Mona lobbied lawmakers to convene charter school hearings, for the first time ever, where she presented essential reforms to the Charter Schools Act. Mona also fought to require public schools receive matching funds to renovate their space when co-located with a charter school.

.A lot of work involves lawsuits because the city, the mayor, the governor, and the teacher’s union only pay attention when you take them to court. The courts are our only recourse when dealing with issues that impact our children since the powers that be refused to give us a seat at the table. We follow Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s advice and bring our “lawsuit folding chairs” to the table. We have been successful in filing lawsuits from stopping Governor Cuomo from taking $250 million from NYC schools to hold the DOE and teacher’s union accountable for educating our children. We have beat the mayor and governor at the highest courts in New York City when they try to stop us from fighting for the educational rights of NYC students. I am a South African, I don’t back down and I am not afraid of any man or woman. My track record fighting for the children and families in the school system is public knowledge and well documented.

 TIMELINE

In December 2010, Mona joined other public school parents in suing the New York State Education Commissioner and the City of New York for granting Cathie Black a waiver that enabled her to become Chancellor of the New York City Public School System. Mona joined public school parents in founding the Deny Waiver Coalition that launched a campaign against the absurd appointment of Cathie Black.

In May 2011, Mona founded the New York City Parents Union to fight for the rights of all parents in the public-school system. The New York City Parents Union announced its birth by filing a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) to halt botched Community Education Council elections. Parents and elected officials pleaded for weeks with the NYCDOE to redo the elections – to no avail. Upon receiving court papers from the New York City Parents Union, the DOE immediately halted the elections and negotiated with Mona to restart the elections and properly notify parents there was an election occurring and how they may vote for their parent leaders.

In June 2011, the New York City Parents Union and Class Size Matters filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg for violating the Charter Schools Act and Education Law for not charging charter schools rent “at cost” per the law. In March 2014, three (3) years later, while our case was still active, Governor Andrew Cuomo changed the law, allowing charter schools to have free space and requiring the NYC Department of Education to pay the rent for charter school private space.

In February 2013, Mona and New York City Parents Union members filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Governor Andrew Cuomo from punishing our children by recouping $250 million in funding as a penalty because the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Bloomberg failed to come to a teacher evaluation agreement. In May 2014, it was revealed via secret recording that the president of the teacher’s union purposely sabotaged negotiations knowing that our schools and children will lose $290 million in funding.  We successfully secured an injunction stopping Governor Cuomo.

In November 2013, Public Advocate Tish James, Class Size Matters, and the New York City Parents Union and their members as plaintiffs, including Vice President Sam Pirozzolo, filed a lawsuit to halt Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last-minute co-locations for district AND charter schools. NYPCU believed the co-locations for both district and charters were rushed without proper review. Majority of co-locations in New York City are for district schools, not charter schools. NYCPU believes all co-locations must be fair and equitable.

In December 2013, Mona as lead plaintiff joined parents in a lawsuit against the NY State Department of Education seeking to halt the disclosure of student and parent data to inBloom, a private corporation. NYSED and Commissioner John King contracted with inBloom to collect private, personal information without the consent of the parents. The outcry and outrage of disclosing sensitive student and parent data resulted in the NY State Legislature passing a law banning the NYSED from contracting with inBloom and disclosing student and parent personal information without parent consent.

In February 2014, Mona, the New York City Parents Union and its members as plaintiffs, joined parents  throughout New York State in a lawsuit demanding Governor Cuomo and the State of New York comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit ruling that stipulated our children were being shortchanged funding in the billions. Our lawsuit seeks $1.4 billion dollars immediately out of the $4 billion currently owed to our children.

In March 2018, the NYS Appellate Court dealt the teachers union and state government a huge blow by ruling Davids v. New York may go to trial.  The teacher’s union unsuccessfully filed two motions to dismiss which were denied and then appealed to the Appellate Court in their efforts to quash our lawsuit.  Parents and students were victorious and our lawsuit to hold teachers, the Department of Education and state government accountable for educating our students will move forward.

LEGISLATIVE SUCCESSES

  1. Protecting our students with special needs and passing Avonte’s Law, named after Avonte Oquendo, which requires  alarms on all school doors.
  2. Requiring charter schools to serve their fair share of Students with Special Needs and English Language Learners.
  3. Requiring every charter school in New York City to establish a Parent Association or Parent-Teacher Association.
  4. Requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide matching renovation funds to district schools that are co-located with a charter school to address the damaging separate and unequal facilities between district schools and the charter schools they are co-located with.
  5. Requiring every district a charter school co-located in a public-school building have a shared-space committee consisting of a parent and teacher from the charter school and other schools in the building. This committee must meet at least four times per year. No changes to the building space may occur without the approval of the committee.
  6. Prohibiting charter leaders and staff from serving on the board of their charters.
  7. Requiring charter school board members comply with the Public Officers Law and sign such disclosure and conflict of interest statements.
  8. Requiring all charter board meetings be posted and parents be notified of the time and place a minimum of 72 hours in advance. Charter board meetings are subject to Open Meetings Law and can be videotaped and recorded.
  9. Stripping the New York City Department of Education of the authority to authorize new charter schools because of their lax oversight of their charter schools.
  10. In 2013, outlawing the sharing of private student and teacher information with inBloom.
  11. Successfully advocating against Mayor de Blasio’s attempts at gaining permanent Mayoral Control of New York City Schools.

    Mona Davids

Capital Prep Bronx Charter School

Capital Prep Bronx Charter School (Capital Prep Bronx) is functioning well during the pandemic and remote learning and we have chosen to go full remote. Capital Prep Bronx chose this because there was and still is so much uncertainty. We have noticed schools, restaurants, stores all hastened to open up, only to at some point be shut down again for various reasons. We have felt that the consistency in the schedule and communication have supported in families and scholars acclimating to the remote schedule. We felt that if we focused our attention on delivering a robust online educational program families and scholars would slowly but surely acclimate and appreciate what we were trying to do. Which is simple keep the school community safe while ensuring learning occurs.

We also host regular biweekly parent town halls that provide a forum to update families on our academic performance and field any concerns or questions regarding the remote learning process. It was important for us to support families with technology so they can access the instruction and supports for them to engage as an active partner in their child’s learning. We have provided families with access to their scholars Google classroom , parents also have access to Power School our SIS where scholar grades, attendance, and report cards are housed. We also have a parent communication app Parent Square that sends messages between school and home. We feel that with all these systems of communication and our commitment to improve every day. The willingness on our end to listen to feedback and adjust has turned out families into fans.

We need teachers for this year. Science. However, we are interviewing now for next year 6-8th grade math, science, ELA, History illuminators as well.

African Community

Over the past 30 years the enclaves of Africans in the various boroughs
have become more populated, have become more economically successful,
the small businesses have been able to survive and thrive, the children
have been able to go to school and do well, go to good universities, and
get good economic opportunities overall.

The African communities in general are probably doing better per capita
than many other immigrant communities because there is such a focus on
education and on sacrificing for their children and helping their
children have a better life than the parents had.

There is a lot of progress in the community but when we come to our
current status it is a community that is often overlooked by the major
political and economic forces because it is not as well noticed, it is
not as visible, because the community members are not as civically or
politically engaged as some other areas.  So, it is a community that has
done very well but it’s kind of one of the best kept secrets in New York
City.

The key to each of the African communities wielding political influence
is to optimize the opportunities that are presented within the political
system that also provide less risk to the communities of being hurt. 
For example, this year in New York City elections for the first time,
everyone has the opportunity to vote for more than one candidate for any
given office and if the African communities have optimal turnout,
educate themselves as they always do regarding all the candidates and
come up with a strategy or a series of strategies to support certain
candidates while at the same time voting for multiple candidates using
Ranked Choice Voting, the weight of that organized small community will
be much greater than it has been in previous elections because we will
have more of a voice in the borough wide elections, we will have more of
a voice in the citywide elections, it won’t just be in the city council
elections where we will have influence.  We will be noticed across the
city.

Every group that takes this election seriously and that educates itself
as to how to vote in 2021 which is different than any other year will
benefit from being organized.  The African communities with their
history of economic entrepreneurship and educational excellence are no
different.  They can speak loudly and carry a big stick in the political
process since we have a new voting system in New York City.  If we are
successful there, it will open the eyes of other young people and other
people from outside of the community as to the possibilities that
political involvement provides to assist everyone in our communities and
not just benefit the few that understand what is going on.

How do you describe yourselves if you have to choose between those words: tough woman, combative woman, pacified woman. Explain your choice.

I describe myself as “Unbought and Unbossed”. I fear no one. I stand up for myself and am unafraid. I don’t care who it is, how rich you are, or how powerful you think you are. Nobody controls me, what I say or what I do. I have been a public figure in New York City for over a decade and have lived in this city for almost 40 years, I’m New York tough.

Bazona Barnabe Bado

 

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