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SB 29 attempts to oust superintendent

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School Board 29 President Larry Comrie announced at Monday night's meeting that board members voted Jan. 22 to remove Michael Cinquemani as the district's acting interim superintendent.

On another front, community members voiced anger and dismay over a plan to build three schools on the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus.

Comrie said in a telephone interview Cinquemani's removal was unrelated to problems between District 29's so-called C-37 search committee and Board of Education over former Chancellor Rudy Crew's decision in December to halt the search process.

He refused to comment on why board members dismissed Cinquemani until after they meet with interim Chancellor Harold Levy Thursday.

"The (interim) chancellor wrote a letter on Jan. 27 saying the actions in removing Cinquemani are in violation of the processes of hiring a new superintendent," said Margie Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Board of Education. "They have no power in removing Cinquemani."

Cinquemani's ouster marked the latest trouble between the chancellor's office and School Board 29, which includes schools in the area from Queens Village to Laurelton and from Jamaica to Springfield Gardens.

Cinquemani was brought in as an interim acting superintendent when Crew fired former Superintendent Celestine Miller for delaying to report that an 8-year-old boy had gone to a Rosedale school carrying a loaded gun. He was the deputy superintendent under Miller and a former English Teacher in District 29.

Near the end of 1999, Crew halted the District 29 superintendent selection committee from taking further action because of alleged improprieties during the selection process. Feinberg said the selection committee has since been exonerated of any wrongdoing, but some incorrect actions were taken.

She said the selection committee can reconvene to interview superintendent additional candidates.

The selection committee consists of a representative from each of the 28 schools in School District 29 as well as voting and non-voting community members.

According to Comrie, the search committee's problem with the Board of Ed arose because the committee learned one candidate for superintendent had misrepresented his credentials.

Comrie said the Board of Education objected because the search committee discovered the information after inspecting personnel records, exceeding its authority.

The Board of Ed then ordered the committee to halt its search process.

Committee members are angry because they believe they did nothing wrong and want the Board of Ed to choose one of the five candidates they submitted to the school board, Comrie said.

"I am here on behalf of the parents who gave time, blood, sweat and tears for the C37 process," said Ronnie Rodgers. "By law we have a right to make decisions for our neighborhood. We want the C37 process to take off from where we left off. It is not fair for the community that 110 Livingston St. is making decisions for us."

Comrie said the school board received a letter Jan. 10 from Burton Sacks, chief executive for Community School District Affairs, which said the search committee had to reinterview existing candidates, reversing a Dec. 30 letter from the chancellor's office telling it to start anew.

He also said the Board of Ed's most recent letter to School Board 29 said the candidate misrepresenting his credentials still had to be a part of the interview process because he is qualified.

"Right now the most important thing for us to do is to stay focused and get a superintendent," Rodgers said. "We want someone who is permanent and can make decisions about our children."

Community members also expressed anger and concern over a plan to construct three schools on the Creedmoor campus, which lies within District 26.

One school would be run by District 29, another by District 26, and the third by Queens high schools.

Residents also voiced fears about busing their children to District 26 schools and that zoning laws may eventually change, transferring the District 29 school to District 26.

"This plan should be rejected because this will be a District 26 school," said Claudette Webb. "I am against sending our kids to other districts. We need to build schools in our district not Creedmoor."

School board member Steven Jones, a parent, questioned the safety of busing kids to Creedmoor because of the amount of travel involved and its status as a mental institution.

He also said"the possibility of after-school programs is not happening because once the kids get out of school they have to get on a bus to come back to District 29."

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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