In 2004, Fedkowskyj - now the Queens member of the city's Panel for Education Policy - was elected to the Community Education Council (CEC) for School District 24, just as the Department of Education's (DOE) school boards were being phased out in favor of the local education councils, following Mayor Bloomberg's mayoral control school reform.
At the time, Fedkowskyj, who lives in Middle Village with his wife and three children, had two kids in public school in Queens. Fedkowskyj said he wanted to help the school system through a moment of unprecedented change.
"I took a particular interest in public schools and public school education being that my children were in public schools and that gave me an opportunity to reflect on what was going on," said Fedkowskyj. "Having children in the system gave me a more vested interest, not just in my children but in all the children in New York City."
Through his election to the CEC, Fedkowskyj immersed himself in local education policy decisions. Though CEC's function strictly as advisory boards, said Fedkowskyj, their advice helps the DOE determine the specific needs of a given school district. During his time on the District 24 CEC, Fedkowskyj and his colleagues helped secure extensive capital plan funding for the district, including monies for the construction of additions at five area public schools.
This work led to Fedkowskyj's 2008 appointment, by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, to the city's Panel for Education Policy. The 13-member unpaid panel is briefed on all major education system developments and helps craft citywide education policy. Fedkowskyj, who meets with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and others, said his appointment to the panel gave him an insider's perspective on the workings of one of the nation's most complex public school systems, and brought him one step closer towards affecting real change.
"Now I'm closer to the source which enables me to provide meaningful input on policy," Fedkowskyj said.
Since joining the education panel, Fedkowskyj said his priorities have expanded to focus on capital plan funding to provide schools with the resources - from labs to gyms to more seats - to improve the quality of education.
"Some people look at this as spending, but I look at it as investing," Fedkowskyj said. If the city doesn't invest in its public school system, "we're going to come up short on our children."
Fedkowskyj, who has a day job as an accountant and can serve on the panel until he no longer has children in the city public school system, will have his hands full in the coming months as DOE prepares a new five-year capital plan.
"It’s at times frustrating and time-consuming, but the reward comes when you see you're making a difference and impacting the decisions the DOE rolls out," said Fedkowskyj. "We don't get a second chance to make it right for our children."