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School Board 29 appeals suspension

In the five weeks since their suspension not much has changed for the nine-member School Board 29 in southeastern Queens. The board, suspended amid allegations of incompetence by Interim Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy, is appealing the suspension.

On Feb. 10, Levy suspended the board, in part because of its inability to complete the search for a new superintendent and the district's below-average student test scores. He said School Board 29 was unable to function in a manner needed to serve the district's children.

Leroy Comrie, SB 29 president, said he would not comment on the appeals process or future steps because board members decided not to talk to the press.

Levy replaced the board with three trustees to run the district until the first phase of the superintendent search is completed. At that point, he will determine whether to lift the board's suspension.

Morshed Alam, SB 29 vice president, a Democrat running for state Sen. Frank Padavan's (R-Bellerose) seat, said the board has applied for a hearing to argue and protest its suspension. He said the central Board of Ed will put together a three-person hearing committee to consider District 29's appeal.

"We will go to the judicial system if necessary," Alam said. "We will go all the way. We are right and did not do anything wrong."

According to Levy, the school board will be reinstated if it completes "extensive training." He said failing to complete the training will lead to more sanctions.

Comrie said SB 29 members have not received information on the training required by Levy.

The suspension was the latest development in a long line of problems between the chancellor's office and SB 29, whose district stretches from Queens Village to Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens.

Levy appointed Michael Johnson, principal of the Science and Skills Center, a Brooklyn high school, as interim district administrator. He replaced Michael Cinquemani, who was demoted to his previously held position of deputy superintendent.

Cinquemani assumed the acting superintendent's post last year after former Chancellor Rudy Crew fired Superintendent Celestine Miller for not immediately reporting that an 8-year-old boy had gone to a Rosedale school carrying a loaded gun.

Crew halted District 29's superintendent selection process near the end of 1999.

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