Shannon Waite, Ed.D., GSE ’05, ’15, a clinical assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), has been appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to New York City’s 13-member Panel for Educational Policy.
The panel, which is made up of one community leader nominated by each borough president and eight nominated by the mayor, was created in 2002, when control of the schools was transferred from the New York City Board of Education to the Mayor’s office.
Waite, who joined GSE’s division of educational leadership, administration, and policy (ELAP) in September 2016, is a former director of principal pipeline recruitment in the New York City Department of Education. She was appointed to the panel on March 23.
As a member of the panel, Waite will advise the mayor on issues such as curriculum, staffing, school closings, openings, and mergers. The latter is something she is intimately familiar with, as a parent of a kindergartner at P.S. 185 in Harlem. Although Waite had previous experience working in the city’s education department, working on behalf of P.S. 185’s P.T.A. and senior leadership team on the department’s plan to merge the school with another school was revelatory, she said.
“In the early fall, we started having these conversations about what this means for our school, and knowing that the Panel for Educational Policy was the place where those decisions would be made, we developed our own strategy for advocacy and the things that we thought would best serve all students—not just ours, but the ones we were also going to be inheriting,” she said.
She sees her role as an advocate for students and hopes to bring transparency to the panel’s work. Her barometer will always be whether something would be good for her daughter, Zoё. The panel holds monthly public meetings and is a venue for parents to air concerns about the education department’s plans.
“I’m a fan of making sure the people who are being impacted feel like they are invested in the process, because they’ve had an opportunity to authentically participate in the process. That in and of itself encourages transparency, because then it’s not like smoke and mirrors.” It’s not a group of angry people coming to a panel meeting saying, ‘There was one meeting, and it was last night,’” she said.
“It’s, ‘There were several meetings, we were all there. We may not have all agreed, and we’re still here to protest because we don’t think what you’re saying is in the best interest of our particular kids, but we understand that you think that overall, it’s the best decision for the community, and we were able to participate in the process.’”
GSE Dean Virginia Roach, Ed.D., said the appointment is good for the city and good for Fordham.
“Dr. Waite’s participation on this important citywide committee reflects her strong commitment to all children in New York City as well as her deep understanding of the major education policy issues facing the city today,” said Roach. “Indeed, she brings these qualities to the Graduate School of Education and enriches our work as a result.”
Waite also expects the role to have a positive influence on her work at GSE, where she teaches aspiring principals.
“It’s important that all of our pedagogical and educational philosophies are grounded in theory, but I’m a practitioner. I take from all of my experiences. Being a part of the panel will give me another lens through which I can help train my future school building administrators,” she said. “Because again, the students that I prepare in the Fordham ELAP program could be teaching Zoё.”