School Board 24, PTA seek harmony

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Members of School Board 24 and district parents tried at a session this week to begin mending a long-term conflict which has prevented the board from holding meetings at any of its schools for the past two years.

After the meeting, SB 24 President Louise Emanuel downplayed recent press reports that she had resigned from the board and withdrawn her resignation within a three-day period last week.

Seven members of the school board met Monday evening with four parents from the presidents’ panel — which is made up of the presidents from every PTA in District 24 — for a quarterly meeting.

Conversation rapidly focused on resolving a longstanding conflict between the school board and parents which dates back to the board’s controversial decision two years ago not to renew the contract of Superintendent Joseph Quinn.

Following the decision, the presidents’ panel had sent a letter to the school board withdrawing its welcome mat from the schools, which halted the parents’ practice of hosting the board’s monthly meetings at schools throughout the district.

Although the school board is permitted to meet at any of its schools, the board complied with parents’ wishes and chose to meet at its district office in Glendale, where the meetings are still held today.

The office sits on the southern edge of a district which covers the communities of Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale, Elmhurst and Corona, a location parents and board members alike felt had deterred many parents from attending meetings.

Longtime board member Linda Sansivieri described the boycott as an extreme response to a difference of opinion.

“There have been times when parents and the school board have disagreed, but we’d never been boycotted,” Sansivieri said. “I would like to see that we go back to the schools.”

Parents who attended Monday’s meeting said the conflict preceded their terms on the presidents’ panel and they were not familiar with the specific circumstances that initiated the rift. They promised to encourage the panel to settle its dispute with the school board and to cooperate for the benefit of the children.

“If we continue living in the past, we’re not going to get anywhere,” said Aida Santana, vice president of the presidents’ panel.

Although Quinn’s contract expired last June, the board is just now assembling a C-37 committee to search for his successor. For the past year, Quinn has served as acting superintendent through an appointment by Schools Chancellor Harold Levy.

Following the meeting, Emanuel responded to a published report which indicated she had submitted a letter announcing her resignation from the board on June 12, only to withdraw it three days later.

Emanuel said she expressed her intention to resign last week via in-house school board correspondence which was not meant to be made public. The announcement had no official significance, she said, as school board members can effectively resign only by submitting a letter to the state, which Emanuel did not do. Emanuel reversed her decision in a subsequent letter to board members later in the week.

Emanuel offered no reason for her temporary resignation, but she explained her change of heart by saying, “I have no reason other than the fact that my constituency discouraged my resignation.”

One board member who chose not to be identified speculated that Emanuel resigned in protest after conversations with other members revealed she would not retain the presidency, which went to 12-year board veteran Patricia Grayson in a 7-1 vote at last Thursday’s meeting. Grayson’s term begins July 1 and will last one year.

When asked what direction she intends to take the board in the upcoming year, Grayson responded tersely “C.P.R. — courtesy, professionalism, respect.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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