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SB 29 seeks public comment on school plan

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The board, which runs the school district stretching from Queens Village to Rosedale...

By Adam Kramer

School Board 29 decided to hold a public meeting Thursday on the future of the district’s middle-school academies and the search process for an acting superintendent.

The board, which runs the school district stretching from Queens Village to Rosedale and Jamaica to Laurelton and includes parts of Bellerose, Cambria Heights and St. Albans, held a working session last Thursday.

SB 29 said all of its questions about the academies had been answered, but it wanted to allow the public to comment before it voted. In addition, the board said the plan to hire an interim acting superintendent would be discussed at the Feb. 8 meeting.

The plan is to change the five middle schools in District 29 by having three different scholastic academies at each school. The parents of incoming fifth-grade students would be required to choose one academy from each school and rate them in order of preference.

District Administrator Michael Johnson said the academies would eliminate the feeder pattern of the schools, which determines a student’s school based on their address.

“You throw us black people anywhere you want,” said an angry mother. “You wouldn’t do it in a white neighborhood. I do not want to put my kid on a bus when she lives only two blacks away from a middle school.”

Johnson said there will be an appeal process if a student does not get his or her first choice and the district will look at a wide variety of criteria to determine whether to grant the first choice. He has said some of the considerations the district will look at is whether parents work and the problems caused by sending two siblings to different parts of the district.

But based on research at similar academies introduced across the city and the country, Johnson said 65 percent to 75 percent of the student body would get their first choice of academies.

“I like the program and in principle it is a good program,” said Edwin Saurez, a parent and PTA member. “The problem is parents were not given the opportunity to opt out. They were not given a choice to say ‘yes’ to the academies or ‘no.’”

The district’s search for a superintendent took a major turn at the end of January when the board announced it was putting together a committee to look into the possibility of hiring an interim acting superintendent to run the district.

Nathaniel Washington, president of School Board 29, said the board would discuss the committee and hiring an interim acting superintendent at the Feb. 8 public meeting.

The district has been run for the past year by 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.

The public hearing was scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8, at IS 231 at 145-00 Springfield Blvd. in Springfield Gardens from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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

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