School Board Member: Parents Should Choose What’s Best For Their Children

In this wildly transformative year, Board of Education member Joe Sokolovic provides insight into the issues and information he is weighing as his peers prepare to make a key vote on the future opening of city schools.

I have to begin my comments with the fact that, like so many others in the early stages of the virus I took the virus not as seriously as I should have and even compared it to the flu. As the numbers and information became clearer, and as over 132 fellow MTA workers perished of this deadly disease, my thoughts evolved.

I write this commentary from many perspectives.

As an essential worker sanitizing the NYC subways coming into close contact with over 50 workers on a daily basis with zero opportunities to learn from home.

As the husband of an educator.

As the parent of a child in BPS.

As a taxpayer.

As a decision maker.

So far 54% or 8,145 students families have chosen and 46% or 6,956 students families have elected to keep their children home. About 5,000 students haven’t been accounted for, for various reasons and if no response is given by August 20 2020 they will participate in distance learning. So far the caretakers of over 15,000 parents have been given a choice. A choice that the board will be voting on whether to take away.

How did we get to this point? In my opinion misinformation, misdirection and special interest groups preying on peoples’ fear. What types of misdirection? All types from the unlikeliest of sources. Below I’ll provide some brief examples of the misinformation stoking fear.

“There will be 28 kids in my Class!”

This was shouted at me publicly by a high school teacher and also posted on various Facebook pages. No. There will not be 28 kids in your class. Classes will be sorted in HS by A-L attending Monday and Tuesday, and M-Z on Thursday and Friday. This plan effectively cuts class size to 14 BEFORE accounting for the 46% of parents exercising their CHOICE to to keep their child home, effectively cutting the class in half again, so we are talking maybe 10 kids in a high school class. As far as K-8 with easier cohorting (keeping all students together all day) and having the teachers change classes, all student will attend each day in person school is in session. On off days all students will be learning remotely.

Kids may not be able to afford masks and won’t have any. Staff will not be provided PPE.

BPS has purchased 2 million masks and other PPE to be provided to staff free of charge and to students who forget to bring one or not have any for whatever reason.

I’ve been told I’d have to sign a death waiver.

No, there never has been or will there be a death waiver.

I’ve been told if my child gets sick he’d be taken away and nobody will tell me where he is.

No, a sick child with possible symptoms will be taken to an isolation room until a guardian can retrieve his/her child. If more than one child gets sick, social distancing protocols will be adhered to in the isolation room.

Parents are agonizing enough making a tough decision based on actual facts and it’s the responsibility of every civic-minded individual to provide that information so a parent can make an informed choice based upon what’s best for their child.

Parents should not be shamed as non caring because of either choosing in person instruction, or distance learning, no matter their reason for doing so. It’s hard enough on parents who are already agonizing on their choice. For the record, this parent is choosing in person learning for his child. For the record, while the risk is not, and can never be zero, I believe for my child and my family that the benefits of in person learning by our stellar staff far outweigh the risk–risk that can be mitigated with universal PPE usage. A great example is my aforementioned job that lost 132 of over 50,000 members in about the first ten weeks; these numbers slowed to near nothing since May due to universal use of masks and PPE.

Now as a Board member I have to take several thoughts into account and look at things from both sides the first side being safety. While many focus on the possible Covid deaths if schools reopen, I’ve seen few if any focus on the dire consequences of keeping schools closed. Again, below, I give a few examples.

What of youth suicide? How many kids’ changing behavior is noticed by school staff and/or fellow students, signs that will never be seen during remote learning? How many suicides won’t be prevented?

What of abused children? Over 151 referrals were made in the shortened school year to DCF possibly preventing a child from being abused. How many children are now subjected to a 24-hour day with their tormentor?

What of the special education student? Particularly one who may be on the autism spectrum and has gone from a world of their own to being nearly fully integrated into general education and socializing? That child is losing more ground each day and may eventually regress back to the beginning.

These are only some of the things that had to be considered when coming to my decision to allow, in the current circumstances, for parents to keep the right to choose what is best for their children.



  1. Thanks, it seems I lost my new dangled pencil.

    Yes, I will vote for what I deem equal and just. That’s why I was elected, who I was when I began, who I will be when I leave after this term, or should I chose to run again, another term. If the majority of voters don’t like my choices, I will lose my unpaid alL consuming volunteer position but walk away with the same integrity I arrived walked in with.

    No to vouchers! That’s a whole other aspect that some are pushing along with other public school killing suggestions. Not one of these examples will better the lives of our most impoverished, and vulnerable student populations. Some of the ideas I’ve heard.

    Community based learning centers/. Places for small numbers of children 10-12 students to get together and receive assistance distance learning. To be lead by a teacher. Sure sounds like a school you see the reopening plan to me.

    Learning pods. This new (to me anyway) high cost program costs $125,000, to be split, for up 9 students to be instructed by a certified educator.

    Private schools and tutors

    Charter schools

    Home school assistance firms

    Each of the above should not consume $1 of public funds for a parent choice because it will draw needed funds for our public’s schools and are mandated by law and morality to educate our:

    English Language Learners
    Special education
    Undocumented immigrants
    Students in need of other types of remediation

    The above mentioned entities do a great job of creaming (drawing the least costly to educate) and counseling out those they do not desire to educate.

    Public education is under attack like never before form the for profit reformers and those left behind either student and staff will suffer the most.

  2. Comrade, your list just seems like an alternative to public schools education., Charter and Private. While some with just smaller class size then the 30 students in one class in public schools. At the end of the day isn’t it about getting the best education for the students regardless what school that attend? I will agree on homeschooling I think it a joke in most cases. Home schooling is only effective if the parents are educators and highly involved.

    P.S, Comrade, so much for parents choice for what’s best for their kids and equal and just. I guess. 🙂

    “I will vote for what I deem equal and just. That’s why I was elected, who I was when I began, who I will be when I leave after this term, or should I chose to run again, another term.”

    That’s rich. You started as a Republican 🙂 Are you switching parties again or running as a R 🙂


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