Beleaguered SB 29 searches for interim super

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School Board 29 has formed a committee to find an interim acting superintendent to run the troubled district until the stalemate between the community and Schools Chancellor Harold Levy over a permanent replacement is resolved.

The three-member committee of school board members will consult with the community groups that advise the district office on education matters to come up with names of candidates to temporarily run the 26,000-student school district, which covers Queens Village, St Albans, Laurelton, Rosedale and parts of Jamaica and Bellerose.

"The committee will look into naming an interim acting superintendent to bring stabilization to the district and see if it is worthwhile," said School Board 29 President Nathaniel Washington.

"We need some one at the helm and the chancellor is not budging," Washington said. "We need to break the chain of pain and jump-start the process."

District 29 has been caught in a war of wills between the committee of community members set up to find a new superintendent and Levy, who has installed his favored candidate as the district administrator

Washington said the existing superintendent search committee is still intact and the board does not want to reopen the whole search process from the beginning. The board just wants to get a person in place to run the district.

Washington said the board has the right to appoint an interim acting superintendent but had not done so because the members did not think it was necessary.

"But this (superintendent search) has been going on since February 2000 and we as a board decided to start an exploratory committee," Washington said. "We need stabilization and healing in the district."

School board members Morshed Alam, Christopher Afua and Rosa Browne were named to the committee to find the names of potential candidates by Washington.

The district has been run for the past year by Michael Johnson, who was appointed by Levy as district administrator to run the district. Levy has said he wants Johnson to be named the superintendent because he believes he is the most qualified candidate. He has described him as one of the stars in the New York City school system.

The school district has been in turmoil for nearly two years since its then-superintendent, Celestine Miller, was fired in February 1999 by former Chancellor Rudy Crew for delaying to report that an 8-year-old boy had gone into a Rosedale school carrying a loaded gun.

Since Miller's dismissal, the school district has been in limbo. 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, and its school board was suspended and then reinstated before Johnson arrived on the scene.

Levy has rejected the five candidates proposed by the community's search committee, and can only appoint Johnson if his name is submitted to the school board by the committee.

"There is no accountability to the general community under the district administrator status," said school board member Leroy Comrie.

He said he is in favor of the committee, but was concerned that the community did not fully know why the committee was formed.

"We are in between a rock and a hard place," Comrie said. "We need to complete the process of finding a school superintendent."

He said the committee will talk to the unions, the PTAs, district council, parents councils, and other district advisory committees to come up with interim acting superintendent candidates.

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

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