Editorial: Mayoral Control Of The NYC Department of Education Must End
Anyone who has worked with children, parents, or teachers in the NYC public school system for the past more than 20 years like I have, as a Parent advocate as well as a researcher and writer about Constitutional rights and justice, knows that something terrible has happened. No one has any rights anymore.
Editorial from Betsy Combier, given to a hearing on Mayoral control held December 16, 2019 before the New York State Assembly:
Anyone who has worked with children, parents, or teachers in the NYC public school system for the past more than 20 years like I have, as a Parent advocate as well as a researcher and writer about Constitutional rights and justice, knows that something terrible has happened. No one has any rights anymore. For example: for 9 years I provided advocacy for 75 children given superintendent suspensions from their schools. What is true 100% of the time is that the children are black or Hispanic, and their "crimes" - if committed at all - could have been dealt with in a positive way, but never are. Most of these kids were in need of special education services which were never provided. In the 9 years that I volunteered to help parents with their suspension hearings I was the only white face at West 125th Street, in the hearings office.
Similarly, teachers are ousted from their jobs without due process, and the NYC Department of Education pushes them out as quickly as possible without any due process or reporting of the facts. Lives are destroyed for no reason except retaliation, vindictiveness, greed, and negligence on the part of the ruling elite, the political cronies behind the Mayor and his hand-picked Chancellor. We have ourselves to blame, and we can share the blame with the media, who refuse to print, post, or put on the evening news the terrible mess that has been created in New York City.
It is true that the New York City Board of Education was, in the 1990s, almost too corrupt. The school boards were full of sycophants who had no reason to be on the board other than to assure political interests their promised money wrung from local school district allocations. Unfortunately it is no different now, just the names have been changed, in my opinion.
The current New York City Board of Education is an entity known as The Panel For Educational Policy (PEP). A case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, "Kramer v Union Free School District 395 U.S. 621" makes all of the current establishment - with the PEP and the Community Education Councils (CECs) - constitutionally invalid due to the fact that all of the members are appointed (PEP), and only PA/PTA Presidents, Secretaries and Treasurers can vote for CEC members. (See also CIPRIANO v. CITY OF HOUMA, 395 U.S. 701 (1969); Equal Protection; and Fundamental Rights and Equal Protection Clause Analysis).
Education Law Title II, 52-A Section 2590 details how the voting rights of NYC citizens have been suspended from June 30, 2003 to the present day. Do we really want to stand behind this violation of our Constitution?
Neither the PEP or the CECs are elected by all citizens over the age of 18, as required by "Kramer". The PEP are supposed to review policy, and members have other responsibilites, as you can read in the BYLAWS. The NYC parent/teacher/child has, therefore, no right to vote for any representative in the NYC BOE. This is unconstitutional and shows the disdain that our Mayor and politicians in this city have for democracy.
In 2003, parents in the New York City school district were asked to look at the new PEP-CEC structure, and call Mr. Joseph Rich, Chief of the Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, in Washington DC with any questions or concerns. I don’t know how many other people called Mr. Rich, but I did. I was told by Mr. Rich, "I'll get back to you" when I asked him how my right to vote for the school board would be preserved. He never did return my call .
I will highlight the claim made in the last paragraph:
"As we have demonstrated above, Chapters 91 and 123 have neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language group."
My opinion: the City of NY didn't discriminate, but took the Constitutional rights away from everyone who has been given those rights (are citizens over the age of 18).
In order to find out how extensive the political “selection” process was, I ran for the CEC in District 1, where one of my daughters attended school, NEST+M. When I put in my name, there was no one running for this office, but quickly a parent was rounded up who was more politically aligned with the needs of the politicos in power at the time. He was “selected” and voted in by the limited voter group set up under Mayoral control. I spoke to many people who participated in the “selection” and found out exactly how and who ran this show. My politics did not fit in with the necessary political puppetry that anyone on the CEC must have.
The submission (broken into random sections) by Michael Cardozo, NYC Corporation Counsel, dated Oct. 31, 2003, that was submitted is published on my website Parentadvocates.org, in a post titled “New York City politicians Deny Constitutional Rights”. In my opinion, the Constitutional rights of citizens of New York City have been denied to everyone in favor of the selected few who have the so-called “correct” political standing. This standing is random and arbitrary, and depends upon the whims of the politicians in power at a moment in time from June 30, 2003 until the present day. Let’s end this travesty of justice and do what is right: end mayoral control, and put the vote by the people back into our governance.
Politicians elected by politicos who need the Mayor's money will not get off this train. We need the New York State Assembly to change this error-filled Mayoral control of the New York City school board. You must give the people back the vote, unhindered by political pressure and cronyism.
Betsy Combier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
Below is the article published on Parentadvocates.org in 2007:
Editorial from Betsy Combier:
Anyone who has worked with children, parents, or teachers in the NYC public school system for the past 5 years knows that something terrible has happened. No one has any rights anymore. For example: over the past three years, I have been asked to provide advocacy for 75 children given superintendent suspensions from their schools. What is true 100% of the time is that the children are black or Hispanic, and their "crimes" - if committed at all - could have been dealt with in a positive way, but never are. These suspensions will be the subject of an article to be posted soon.
Similarly, teachers are ousted from their jobs without due process, and the NYC BOE pushes them out as quickly as possible without any due process or reporting of the facts. Lives are destroyed for no reason except retaliation, vindictiveness, greed, and negligence on the part of the ruling elite. We have ourselves to blame, and we can share the blame with the media, who refuse to print, post, or put on the evening news the terrible mess that Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Joel Klein - he has no contract and therefore we cannot call him "Chancellor" - have made in New York City. Politicians elected by politicos who need the Mayor's money will not get off this $billionaire's train either.
It is true that the New York City Board of Education was, in the 1990s, almost too corrupt. The school boards were full of sycophants who had no reason to be on the board other than to assure political interests their promised money wrung from local school district allocations. Lydia Segal has detailed some of the corruption in her book and her writings. She used to work as an investigator under Edward Stancik, the man who was given the job of investigating NYC school fraud and corruption in 1990. He died in March, 2002 at the age of 47, and his position was taken by Richard J. Condon.
The current New York City Board of Education is an entity known as The Panel For Educational Policy (PEP). A case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, "Kramer v Union Free School District 395 U.S. 621" makes all of Mayor Bloomberg's current establishment - with the PEP and the Community Education Councils (CECs) - constitutionally invalid due to the fact that all of the members are appointed (PEP), and only PA/PTA Presidents, Secretaries and Treasurers can vote for CEC members. (See also CIPRIANO v. CITY OF HOUMA, 395 U.S. 701 (1969); Equal Protection; and Fundamental Rights and Equal Protection Clause Analysis). Education Law Title II, 52-A Section 2590-c details how the voting rights of NYC citizens have been suspended from June 30, 2003 to June 30, 2009.
Thus, Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein cannot ask the PEP or the CECs to do anything such as vote on policy, reform schools, terminate teachers, or anything else, because neither the PEP or the CECs are elected by all citizens over the age of 18, as required by "Kramer". The PEP are supposed to review policy, and members have other responsibilites, as you can read in the BYLAWS. This is what happened to Hipolito Colon, although Michael Best wrote me a letter saying that the PEP "shall exercise no executive power and perform no executive or administrative functions." The NYC parent/teacher/child has, therefore, no right to vote for any representative in the NYC BOE. This is unconstitutional and shows the disdain that Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein have for democracy.
In 2003, parents in the New York City school district were asked to look at the new PEP-CEC structure, and call Mr. Joseph Rich, Chief of the Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, in Washington DC with any questions or concerns. We called. We saw immediately that the new structure proposed by Bloomberg and Klein violated our 14th Amendment rights and prohibited us parents from having any say through voting on what happened in the district. I was told by Mr. Rich, "I'll get back to you" when I asked him how my right to vote for the school board would be preserved. He never did return my call with an answer.
Here is the submission (broken into random sections) by Michael Cardozo, NYC Corporation Counsel, dated Oct. 31, 2003, that violates the Constitutional rights of citizens of New York City from June 30, 2003-4 until June 30, 2009:
Michael Cardozo's introduction to his submission which removes the constitutional rights of NYC citizens
Pages index -11
I will highlight the claim made in the last paragraph:
"As we have demonstrated above, Chapters 91 and 123 have neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language group."
My opinion: the City of NY didn't discriminate, but took the Constitutional rights away from everyone who has been given those rights (are citizens over the age of 18). This is a crime. But someone might ask, "Well - what about the Community Education Councils, set up to encourage parental participation in public school education?"
Below is an article published in the NY TIMES that describes this lie:
A Lack of Interest (and Candidates) in New System's School Parent
By JULIE BOSMAN, April 28, 2007
The stage was set for the candidates' forum. Andrew Baumann, one of nine candidates on the ballot for a school parent council in southwest Queens, was the first person to arrive.
Andrew Baumann, with his son Anthony on a playground in Queens, is running for the parent council in his children's school district. And he was alone.
"Not a single person," Mr. Baumann said disgustedly of the recent nonevent in Community School District 27. "One candidate showed up. Me."
Elections begin on Monday for the 34 parent councils that replaced New York City's community school boards when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the school system in 2002.
The councils are intended to give parents a voice in running the schools, and to be even more representative of their interests than the old school boards, which were often criticized as rife with
political patronage and corruption.
But with parents fuming that the councils have no real authority, no power to institute policy and no influence with the Department of Education, the elections, which run through May 8, have been
foreshadowed by skimpy attendance at candidate forums. And in some cases, there is a distinct lack of candidates to run for vacant seats.
While there are nine elected seats on each council, in at least two districts only four or five candidates are on the ballot. (Two additional members of each council are appointed by the borough president.)
So few parents wanted to run that the deadline to become a candidate was extended this year. Two weeks ago, the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council — a citywide parent group separate from the district
councils — urged a boycott of the vote until the Department of Education "modifies the present election process" to do things like better inform candidates.
Unlike the old school board elections, open to all registered voters, current state law restricts this election so that only the top three officers of each school's parent association vote for council members. Parents serving on the district councils are ineligible to be officers in the parent associations of their own schools.
Many parents who have been elected to the councils say they feel out of the loop, disrespected by an education department that, they say, decides first and asks later.
And several council presidents said they were frustrated by a perceived lack of support from school principals, many of whom do not even know who their council members are.
"The principals feel they don't have to deal with the education councils," said James Dandridge, the council president of District 18 in Brooklyn. "It's like: `Who are you? You can't hire or fire me. You
have no pull.' "
The Department of Education says that it is trying to improve the councils, and has scheduled a meeting for May 22 between Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the council presidents. It also hopes to increase
voter turnout in the coming election.
"There clearly is more work to be done," said Tom Huser, the director of the councils at the Department of Education. "There definitely is some sense out there that we need to do a better job of bringing the
parents into the fold and reaching out to them as we plan programs and make policy for the department."
But in a sign of how useless even the most active parents consider the councils, some districts with long legacies of heavily involved parents have shown the least interest in the coming elections.
In District 2, covering the East Side and much of Lower Manhattan, only two people attended a recent candidates' forum, said Michael Propper, the district's council president.
"By and large, parents don't even know the council exists," Mr. Propper said, adding that he would not be running for another term this year.
Rob Caloras, the council president in District 26 in northeast Queens, a district known for its excellent schools and high levels of activism by parents, said that only five people were running for the parent council.
"It's kind of sad," Mr. Caloras said. "We've lost people who were on the council. They went back to the PTA because they feel it's much more important to be active in their children's schools than waste
their time here."
According to David Cantor, a spokesman for the Education Department, the first parent council election in 2004 attracted roughly 1,200 parents who signed up to run. In 2005, more than 1,000 parents signed
up; this year, there are 744 candidates.
In several districts, the list of candidates is unusually long. District 17 in Brooklyn has 67 parents on the ballot; District 7 in the South Bronx has 44 candidates; District 22 in Brooklyn has 34.
Frances Torres, a parent support officer in District 7, said that she had been doing "tremendous outreach" for months to recruit candidates. (A parent support officer is a staff job that involves providing services to parents.)
But some parents said even many of the listed candidates had no intention of serving on the councils. One parent in Brooklyn, Betsy Dabney, said she signed up on the ballot for District 17, in Crown Heights and Flatbush, at the urging of a parent coordinator, but was not briefed on many details of the commitment. "I'm not even sure how long the term is supposed to be," Ms. Dabney said.
Mr. Dandridge in Brooklyn said the Education Department was determined to show that the councils were improving and to put pressure on schools to recruit candidates. The result, he said, is parents who have little real interest.
"One candidate came to the first meeting and never came back," he said. "One candidate never showed up. They don't even understand what they're signing up for."
Some potential candidates have been deterred by the financial disclosure forms required of candidates, which ask for employment and personal investment information.
"A lot of people, as soon as they see that on the form, they get really turned off," said Calvin Diaz, an office administrator for District 9 in the Bronx. "Once people see that they have to put down how much money they make, they just feel that that's personal. And they get scared."
Mr. Huser said the Department of Education was working on changing the state law requiring financial disclosure forms. "We do recognize that it is both an unnecessary burden to serving on the council," he
The lack of interest in the coming elections is "an indication of how bad things are," said Tim Johnson, the chairman of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, the group that called for the elections to be boycotted. "I think over all, the Department of Education really doesn't want parents at the table advising them on much of anything. Nothing they do seems to get any attention."
Still, some parents defend the councils, saying that they have seen progress. There is a full council in District 31, which encompasses all of Staten Island, where parents have had a strong voice in their
schools. Rajiv Gowda, the council president there, said 28 people were running for seats in the coming election.
"We do have some power," he said, adding that his council passed eight resolutions in the last year.
But even after the elections are over, many parents expect to face the same problems of limited attendance and interest.
Mr. Baumann of District 27, who by day is the president and chief executive of New York Families for Autistic Children, said that to lure parents to the meetings in the past, he invited their children
to sing, dance and even recite poetry. Parents still grumbled that their attendance was pointless, he said, because the Department of Education did not listen to their complaints.
"The mayor and the chancellor really don't want us involved," said Mr. Baumann, who calls himself a reluctant candidate for a third term. "When you're running a big corporation, you don't ask the guys
on the loading dock what their opinions are. The way I see it, we're just pushing a box from one side to the other in a warehouse."
The problems that exist in the NYC school system also stem from the Department of Investigation not doing the work that they are mandated to do. They seldom investigate anything that an 'ordinary' citizen or parent of a public school child, reports, and when a teacher calls to ask for an investigation, if it is a teacher without political credentials, it is the teacher/parent/child who is investigated. They dont like people who call their bluff, either.
The New York City Department of Investigations is located at 80 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan, near the South Street Seaport on the lower East Side. The following is the DOI mission, as stated on the website:
" The New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”) is one of the oldest law-enforcement agencies in the country and an international leader in the effort to combat corruption in public institutions. It serves the Mayor and the people of New York City by acting as an independent and nonpartisan watchdog for New York City government.
DOI’s major functions include investigating and referring for prosecution cases of fraud, corruption and unethical conduct by City employees, contractors and others who receive City money. We are also charged with studying agency procedures to identify corruption hazards and recommending improvements in order to reduce the City’s vulnerability to fraud, waste and corruption. We investigate backgrounds of persons selected to work in decision-making or sensitive City jobs, and VENDEX those who do business with the City, to determine if they are suited to serve the public trust..."
In the Green Book - which is actually orange - 2005-2006 (the Official Directory of the City of New York), the description of responsibilities says:
"The Department of Investigation promotes and maintains integrity and efficiency in government operations. Through its Inspectors General and other investigative staff, the Department investigates and refers for prosecution City employees and contractors engaged in corrupt or fraudulent activities or unethical conduct. Investigations may involve any agency, officer, or employee of the City, as well as those who do business with, or receive benefits from, the City. The Department also analyzes and studies various aspects of the operation of City government to identify management practices, operations, and programs that can be improved. The Department provides the Mayor with recommendations for corrective actions to assist City agencies in the design and implementation of strategies to limit opportunities for criminal misconduct and waste."
Rose Gill Hearn, Commissioner, was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on February 18, 2002. Her salary is $162,800. She appoints the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District, a position currently held by a man named Richard J. Condon (212) 510-1425. His first Deputy Commissioner is Regina Loughran (212) 510-1426. Ms. Loughran's name is often the signer on the letters sent to complainants telling him/her that the complaint is without merit, but there will be no supporting evidence or any part of the investigation revealed for any reason. The public has to "trust" that the DOI is doing the job that the agency is mandated to do. The Chief Investigator of SCI is Thomas Fennell (212) 5101439), and his Deputy is Thomas Comiskey (212) 510-1461. The complaint hotline (24 hours) is, again according to the "Green" Book, 212-510-1500.
On page 225 is the following:
"The Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District is appointed by the Commissioner of Investigation and operates independently of the Department of Education. The office investigates corruption and other crimes, conflicts of interest, unethical conduct and other misconduct within the School District of the City of New York."
The distressing part of this scenario is that Ms. Hearn is the daughter of James Gill, the Attorney appointed by Governor Pataki in the late 1980's to investigate the NYC school system. His group, The Gill Commission, started the exposure of corruption in New York City that created the Special Commissioner For the NYC Public School System. I hope that Ms. Rose Gill Hearn will return to the original mission of the SCI, which is to investigate waste, fraud, and corruption wherever it may be.
This is what the Green Book says about the NYC Department of Education:
"The NYC Department of Education (formerly the Board of Education) was created by the legislature of the State of New York and derives its powers from State Law.
The thirteen member body designated as the Board of Education in section 2590-g of the Education Law shall be known as The Panel For Educational Policy. The Panel For Educational Policy is a part of the governance structure responsible for the City School District of the City of New York, subject to the laws of the State of New York and the regulations of the State Department of Education. Other parts of the structure include the Chancellor, superintendents, community school boards, principals, and school leadership teams. Together this structure shall be designated as the Department of Education of the City of New York." (p. 115)
"Joel I. Klein, Chancellor, salary $250.000
The Chancellor is the Chief Executive of the New York City public school system. He is appointed by the Mayor, and serves as Chairperson of the Panel For Educational Policy, Trustee of the New York City School Construction Authority and Member of the New York City Youth Board." (p. 115)
Whatever you want to call the "new" Board of Education or Joel Klein, the fact is that neither legally has standing to implement any law, rule, or regulation, and are currently violating the constitutional rights of students, parents, teachers and administrators who 'they' don't like, or who speak out against them.
In the New York City School District, the New York City Board of Education still exists, yet has been given the name "New York City Department of Education" to divert those who would sue. Legally, the NYC education establishment is still the New York City Board of Education and our sources inside City Hall have told us that Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent $2 million to change the stationery to "New York City Department of Education" because he wanted to make massive changes to the structure and activities of the NYC BOE, and did not want anyone to get in his way. We do not know whether private or public funds were spent on the new stationery.
We were told that Mike Bloomberg appointed Joel Klein as "Chancellor" - although he cannot be the legal holder of this title due to the fact that he has no contract - and Michael Cardozo as Corporation Counsel to prevent an anti-trust lawsuit similar to the one filed against (and prosecuted by Joel Klein) Microsoft and Bill Gates. That's the rumor. What is not a rumor is that both men worked together at the Department of Justice and both assisted in covering up the Monica Lewinsky affair for Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Another fact is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set up an education establishment that is a sham, has no valid standing to implement anything, and is not ever going to be exposed by Bloomberg colleagues Rupert Murdoch (owner of the New York Post and now the Wall Street Journal), Mortimer Zuckerman (editor-in-chief of U.S.News & World Report, chairman and copublisher of the New York Daily News), the New York Times, or the Unified Court System of New York State whose chief administrative Judge is Judith Kaye. Judge Judith Kaye's late husband Stephen Kaye was a partner of the law firm of Proskauer Rose. Another partner of this firm was Michael Cardozo, the current New York City Corporation Counsel, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at about the same time that he appointed Joel Klein, who worked with Mr. Cardozo in Washington DC at the Departent of Justice, and for Hillary and Bill Clinton, as they helped to coverup the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The NYC BOE's lack of concern for the needs of students is legendary. Over the past 7 years I and other parents have called to report corporal punishment of children by administrators, and BOE personnel at all levels, but have been pushed into the Office of Special Investigations which is under the Chancellor and whose mission is to protect him. Parents dont have a voice anymore, as Howard Schwach, Editor of The Wave, agrees:
June 24, 2005
From the Editor’s Desk
By Howard Schwach
It was a sad evening.
It’s the last meeting of the District 27 Community Education Council in a year where everything has changed in public education.
The meeting is being held at PS 114, the school with arguably the greatest parent involvement in the entire district.
Those who have been involved with education for any amount of time will know that, even five years ago, such a meeting of Community School Board 27 would have been fraught with excitement and important, often contentious business would be done that night.
Principals and assistant principals would be named. Zoning regulations would be changed. Curriculum would be discussed. School-based health clinics would be discussed. Election of officers, often taking several ballots and the clash of two or three factions, would be held. Perhaps, a new district superintendent would be chosen. Decisions would be made that would impact the district’s schools for years to come.
The auditorium would be filled with hundreds of parents and community activists. The district’s television studio at MS 202 would be taping the meeting for future showing on public television.
Spotted here and there would be people with flowers and balloons, waiting to congratulate those who were to be appointed as administrators, or those who had achieved tenure.
Speakers would be lined up out the door, waiting to speak on important issues impacting their home schools.
The atmosphere at those meetings was electric.
There was always a good story for a journalist and the daily papers regularly covered District 27 meetings.
Last week, at the Community Education Council, Bloomberg’s successor to the Community School Board, there were five parents in attendance. They were far outnumbered by the region and district staff in attendance.
The agenda consisted entirely of paeans to Dr. Kathleen Cahsin and her staff, vetting of her evaluation of regional and district staff and a disingenuous speech about how the scores in the district were so wonderful that fewer summer school seats would be needed than first contemplated.
What changed from ten years ago to now?
At one time, the Community School Boards (CSB) had the power to impact the schools. The Community Education Councils have no power whatsoever except to rubber-stamp the decisions made by the Regional Superintendent and her staff.
That is what passes for parent involvement in the Bloomberg era, a plan that was given life by our state legislators, who thought they were doing the right thing, but effectively brought parental involvement to an end in this city.
I know what you’re going to ask. How can I support the Community School Board concept when those boards were so corrupt?
Well, they were and they weren’t and we had both kinds here in District 27.
Having lived through it, covered it extensively and having been closely aligned with the Gill Commission in 1989, I believe that I have a unique perspective on what actually happened, and what did not.
Of course, being in the system as a teacher, staff developer and programmer did not hurt the formation of that perspective one bit. As an insider, I had the “beat” on the other reporters, who were all looking at it from the outside-in.
1989! Was it that long ago? Nearly 16 years, almost a quarter of a lifetime.
Most of the people who were involved are now gone or have moved off the public stage.
Today, their names are largely unknown and perhaps they should stay that that way. Most of those involved have paid the price. Others have moved on and restructured their lives.
On October 23, 1989, a bombshell was dropped on the district by Austin Camprielio, the chief council for the Joint Commission on Integrity In the Public Schools, better known as the Gill Commission for its chair.
Camprielio sent out a memo that date that swept through the district’s schools like a wildfire.
“No member of Community School Board 27 is to be permitted in the district offices until further notice,” the memo said. “No records, tapes, or other mode of storing information may be removed from the district office except by school security personnel acting under the Chancellor’s direction.”
That same day, James Gill issued a statement that summarized the hearings he was to begin that day.
“What will unfold [at the hearing] is the worst type and most sinister form of nepotism, cronyism and political influence. What you will hear is not merely evidence with respect to somebody asking a person in the system to hire a relative or friend without reference to merit — it goes beyond that. It has to do with a situation where board members, in conversation with the superintendent of a school district tell that superintendent that either he will hire relatives, cronies and political supporters or that superintendent will not be reappointed.”
That superintendent was, of course, Colman Genn and the school board was ours.
The night before the Gill Commission held its hearings, I was at a fundraiser at St. Camillus for some of the school board members. I knew of the coming hearing because I had been contacted by Gill Commission investigators several months earlier due to the stories I had written for The Rockaway Journal and for The Wave.
I had worked with the investigators developing their cases.
I was sitting in the room when Colman Genn revealed that he had worn a wire during conversations with school board members.
I still have the hundreds of pages of transcripts that came from those conversations.
In my mind, however, the whole sordid deal can be summed up by a conversation I had with a school colleague, and friend, about a week later.
“How do we become administrators now,” she asked. “Who do we have to deal with now to get the job?”
Two board members were indicted on counts of bribery, coercion and conspiracy in Queens Supreme Court. They were also indicted in Federal Court on charges of extortion and mail fraud.
Although both faced 25 years on the charges, they pled to lesser charges and received sentences involving only community service.
The Community School Board concept, with the power to impact the schools may have died with that board and with the others that sold principal jobs and took money from those who wanted to become administrators.
After that board was suspended, however, a group of community trustees was appointed.
Many of the trustees were then elected and the school board that came from that election and led by Steve Greenberg was one of the best in the city.
We threw the baby out with the bath water and now parents throughout the city are suffering for it.
More than half of these who sat on last year’s District 27 CEC decided not to run again.
They were smart.
Only the three major parent association officers at each school are allowed to vote for CEC members. They are arguably the most involved parents in the school. More than half of them opted not to vote in this year’s election. That alone should tell you something about the CEC’s.
It is sad that parents no longer have a real say.
Perhaps it is time for the state legislature to take a look at what it wrought by giving the mayor his head. Then, they should rectify it.
From the New York Times, April 18, 2007:
April 18, 2007
California: Ruling on School District
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A state appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that a law designed to give Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles partial authority over schools is unconstitutional. The ruling was a second legal blow to the law, which sought to shift some powers from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s elected seven-member board to the mayor and a new council of more than two dozen other mayors. “The citizens of Los Angeles have the constitutional right to decide whether their school board is to be appointed or elected,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.
...so do the citizens of New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Klein and Mr, Cardozo.