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SB 29 starts 3rd year without permanent super

The first day of the school year has come and gone and School District 29 has headed into another year without a permanent superintendent to lead the district.

This marks the second year that District Administrator Michael Johnson will lead the 26,000 students in the district stretching from Bellerose to St. Albans and Queens Village to Rosedale and also covers Cambria Heights, Laurelton and parts of Jamaica and Fresh Meadows.

“We hope to have a new superintendent in place by December, if the C-37 committee goes off without any problems,” said Nathaniel Washington, president of School Board 29. “The first meeting should take place in the first week of October or end of September.”

He said the next C-37 selection committee should go off without a hitch because the residents have had enough time to vent their frustrations at not having a permanent superintendent.

Washington does not foresee any problems with the committee choosing candidates and said he thinks Harold Levy, the schools chancellor, will not reject the choice of the search committee.

He said Johnson has had his chance to show the community what he can do, but in the end the final decision on who should run the district is made by the Board of Education.

At this point Washington does not expect the school board to appoint Johnson as a temporary or interim superintendent, but it might have to give him the new title in order to evaluate his tenure.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for Levy, said the chancellor has been in the district talking to the community organizations and clergy about the new search committee. He said there was talk of starting the search process up in April, but the parents were not sure they could commit to the job during the summer.

“At this end we are supporting Johnson and so are the parents,” he said. “We want to get the process started and want to get the situation rectified as soon as possible.”

He said Levy did not think the search committee’s previous choices were up to his standards.

“My expectation is that we finally resolve the situation before the end of the year,” said Leroy Comrie, school board member and former president. “The C-37 superintendent search committee was blocked over the summer.”

He said Levy told the school board during the summer vacation it could not mobilize the parents to run a successful search committee. Comrie said Levy was able to encourage the President’s Council — an organization of all the district’s PTA presidents — not to run the search over the summer.

The new C-37 committee will be the third one mounted by School Board 29. Levy said the first one committed improprieties and violations and disbanded it. He then rejected the names selected by the second committee, saying none of the candidates’ qualifications matched those of the Johnson.

Levy has publicly said Johnson is one of the stars in the city school system and is his choice to run the district.

Comrie said the whole situation is unfair to all of the parents involved, disrespects the parents and is unfair to the community.

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 whom will be submitted to the board. The board then 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 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 Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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