By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Laurie Windsor, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) of School District 20 in Brooklyn, who is entering her fifth term in office, said keeping the lines of communication open between local schools and the communities they serve is an important part of her role.
“Keeping those community ties is important,” Windsor told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an interview on June 21. “I like to keep the schools informed about what’s going on in the community. And I think it’s important to let the community know what’s going on in our schools,” she said.
Windsor sits at the head of an 11-member unsalaried board that serves more than 30 elementary and middle schools in the southern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. School District 20 also includes parts of Borough Park, Sunset Park, and Kensington.
She was recently re-elected to the CEC having earned the highest number of votes, 49, of any school board member in the city. Forty-nine might not sound like a lot of votes, but the voting system in CEC elections is vastly different than that of a general election. The votes are cast by special “selectors,” the president, secretary, and treasurer in the PTA in each school in the district. The election took place in May.
Windsor said she enjoys good working relationships with most of the PTAs in her district. “I visit the schools as often as I can. And I know many of the PTA leaders personally. We grew up together. We’re all people who grew up here and stayed here,” she said.
Windsor was born and raised in Bensonhurst. She is a graduate of PS 186, New Utrecht High School, and Baruch College. She and her husband Andrew live in Bath Beach with their three children, Andrew, Lauren, and Matthew.
Community education councils are the successors to the old community school boards, which were panels of elected representatives that wielded enormous power in the city’s school system under decentralization. School boards had the power to hire and fire district superintendents and principals. After the state education law was changed 10 years ago to give the mayor the power to run the school system, school boards were abolished and replaced by community education councils. The councils are made up of nine members elected by PTAs, two members appointed by the borough president, and one non-voting student member. Parents of school children are eligible to run fro council seats.
The only power the state has given to the CECs is to rezone schools. “The state law says that our only responsibility is rezoning. It is really our only power,” Windsor said.
But Windsor said she sees the CECs as valuable parts of the school system, serving as liaisons between parents and the educational hierarchy.
“We’re lucky here in District 20 because we have really good schools. Our schools are doing very well, especially when you consider all of the changes the state has made. There are new state exams. There is a new Common Core curriculum. It’s a lot to deal with. But District 20 always does well and adjusts to whatever changes are made. We adapt to whatever system is in place,” Windsor said.
Windsor is busy these days attending school graduation ceremonies. Last month, she and the CEC hosted a town hall with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at PS 204 in Bensonhurst.
When she is not working on CEC issues, Windsor is involved in her community. She serves as vice chairman of Community Board 11 and is a member of the board of directors of the HeartShare School, a school for autistic children in Bath Beach. She is also a member of Ragamuffin Inc., the non-profit organization that sponsors the Ragamuffin Parade for children in Bay Ridge each year. “I like to be active,” she said. Her husband is a former president of the Bay Ridge Community Council.