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District 29 parents slam Levy

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About 150 parents and residents of School District 29 packed the auditorium of PS 35 in Hollis last Thursday to voice their opposition to Interim Schools Chancellor Harold Levy's decision to disband School Board 29 at the first meeting of the appointed board of trustees.

Most of the audience, which included City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), demanded the immediate reinstatement of School Board 29 and decried Levy's action as heavy-handed.

Levy said he removed the nine-member board two weeks ago because of its inability to find a new superintendent and the district's below-average student test scores.

The public outcry dominated the first meeting of the district's board of trustees, who were brought in from the Board of Education's headquarters at 110 Livingston St. in Brooklyn.

"We feel that 110 Livingston St. is trying to take control of our district and has ignored the wishes of our parents, community, and elected representatives," Anna Thompson, a community resident told the meeting.

The three trustees are Fermin Archer, director of the office of zoning for the Board of Education; Rose Walker, borough deputy to the chancellor for Queens; and Joyce Johnson, director of community and business relations for the Board of Ed.

"This is an educated and intelligent community," Thompson said. "It is unfortunate that they could not find anyone in our community to serve as trustees."

District 29 covers schools in Queens Village, Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and parts of Jamaica, Bellerose and Hollis.

Spigner, who was one of the last speakers to address the crowd, said he had requested an appeal of the decision to disband School Board 29, and he urged the Board of Education to not move forward with the search for a superintendent until the appeal process is complete.

"We are going to do everything in our power to assure that our board is returned to their status," he said. "We are not without resources. We have problems - no doubt. They are not all the cause of the school board."

The board of trustees took only one action at the meeting, when it voted to spend $8,000 to advertise the available superinten­dent's position. District 29 has been without a permanent superintendent for almost a year.

Levy also appointed Michael Johnson, principal of the Science and Skills Center, a Brooklyn high school, as administrator of the district and as a replacement for Acting Superintendent Michael Cinquemani, who was demoted to his former 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 with a loaded gun.

Near the end of 1999, Crew halted District 29's superintendent selection process - known as the C37 process - because of alleged improprieties.

Peter Richards, a parent in District 29 and president of the Wayanda Civic Association, said the chancellor's action was "very harsh and heavy-handed. It's our district, it's our kids and we are the people and this is a democracy and right now they're not going by the democratic rule."

Paulette Patterson, also a parent in District 29, said: "I could not stand by and let someone run my household without my involvement, or discipline my children without my involvement. I'm not going to allow anyone to educate my children without my involvement. Since you are now the school board, where is our voice?"

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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