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SB 29 reluctantly reopens superintendent search

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The members of School Board 29 took the only action available to them when they voted April 25 to convene another C-37 superintendent search committee in hopes of finding someone to lead the embattled school district.

Even though the board decided to start the superintendent search process for the third time in the three years, many in the southeast Queens district — including board members — are not sure restarting the search is in the best interest of the community.

“I don’t think it is a good thing, but we don’t have any other options,” said Leroy Comrie, a school board member and candidate for the City Council. “I don’t want to see it continue forever, but we don’t have any other legal option.”

At the April 25 public session at PS 132 in Springfield Gardens, the board passed a resolution to restart the superintendent search.

He said the previous C-37 committee did not submit any more names after the original five, which Schools Chancellor Harold Levy rejected. Comrie said the committee laid out a valid argument against submitting more names.

The search committee, he said, did not think that the chancellor did a fair assessment of the original five candidates because he wants to appoint District Administrator Michael Johnson as superintendent. Levy has publicly stated that he views Johnson — whom he appointed more than a year ago to temporarily lead the district — as a star in the Board of Ed and would only pick a candidate whom he considers better than Johnson.

Nathaniel Washington, president of SB 29, said the law prohibits the board from choosing a superintendent without the C-37 committee first submitting the names of candidates.

He said the board is mandated by law to follow the C-37 process, which calls for it to advertise the position for 20 days. Then the C-37 committee has 45 days to choose 10 candidates, four or five of whose names will be submitted to the board. The board has 30 days to review the candidates before submitting names to the chancellor and then Levy has 30 days to approve or reject the nominees.

The board, which represents the school district stretching from Bellerose to St. Albans and Queens Village to Rosedale and also covering Cambria Heights, Laurelton and parts of Jamaica and Fresh Meadows, hopes to hire a person to head the district by the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year.

Adrienne Rogers, a longtime community member and chairwoman of the last C-37 committee, said the committee is vital to the community because it is the only time that the residents have any sort of voice in choosing their educational leader.

But she said starting another search is a “waste of time” if Levy continues to reject every candidate that the committee chooses.

“I don’t believe we should start the process over again without a clear, definite timeline,” said Earl Simons, who sat on the two previous C-37 search committees and is a City Council candidate for District 27. “Just to have a C-37 committee to have a C-37 committee makes no sense.”

He said that other actions and options need to be taken to get the situation settled. Some of the previous C-37 committee members will remain and some new members will be added from the pool of PTA presidents and community leaders in the district.

The school district has been in limbo since Superintendent Celestine Miller was fired in February 1999 by then-Chancellor Rudy Crew for delaying to report that an 8-year-old boy had gone into a Rosedale school carrying a loaded gun. Miller was recently indicted on bid-rigging charges involving computer sales to schools under her control.

After Miller left, District 29 had an acting interim superintendent, but Levy suspended the school board, which was reinstated after Johnson arrived on the scene.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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