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Thomson seeks Board of Ed presidency

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Thompson, of Brooklyn, took over as head of the board in 1998 when Queens...

By Kathianne Boniello

Queens Board of Education member Terri Thomson tossed her hat into the ring last week as a candidate to lead the board when current President William Thompson steps down in April.

Thompson, of Brooklyn, took over as head of the board in 1998 when Queens Borough President Claire Shulman failed to reappoint then-president and Douglaston resident Carol Gresser to the group. Gresser led the board from 1990 until 1998.

In March 1998 Shulman named Flushing resident and Citibank executive Terri Thomson in Gresser’s place, and now Thomson said she is ready to assume leadership of the city’s top educational post.

“I think I can do the best job,” Thomson, a former Citibank executive, said in a phone interview Friday.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Shulman, said Thomson and the borough president had spoken several times over the phone in recent weeks but had not met to formally discuss the possibility of Thomson’s Board of Ed presidency.

Within the seven-member city Board of Education, two other candidates have been mentioned as possible successors to Bill Thompson: Bronx representative Sandra Lerner and mayoral appointee Ninfa Segarra.

Bill Thompson, a candidate for the city comptroller’s race, decided to resign from his post on April 1 to comply with a Conflicts of Interest Board ruling that has barred top city employees from raising campaign funds.

A spokeswoman for the Board of Ed said the groups’ bylaws allow for Vice President Irene Impellizzeri to serve as acting president when Thompson leaves until the board holds elections in July. The spokeswoman said the board could choose to elect a new president before its July meeting.

Each borough president appoints a representative to the Board of Education, located at 110 Livingston St. in the Brooklyn, while the mayor appoints two. Members of the board make $15,000 a year and the president of the board earns $20,000 a year.

During her eight-year tenure as president of the Board of Education, Carol Gresser clashed with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani several times, most notably in her support for former Schools Chancellor Raymond Cortines. Cortines resigned and was succeeded by Rudolph Crew.

Shulman, who crossed party lines to forge a bond with the Republican mayor, left Gresser in the cold when it was time to appoint a Queens rep to the board in 1998. The longtime borough president then selected Thomson, a businesswoman whose children attended parochial school, to the post.

Gresser, a former teacher whose children attended schools in District 26 in northeast Queens, is running for borough president in November. She said Bill Thompson’s resignation may give another board member the chance to shine.

“You need someone who is a very strong, take charge advocate for kids and their parents,” Gresser said. “It’s a great opportunity for someone on that board to step up to the plate.”

Gresser said the possibility that Segarra, Lerner or Thomson could nab the post was “pretty exciting.”

Thomson said if she were elected Board of Ed president, she would work with Schools Chancellor Harold Levy, a former corporate attorney for Citibank, to eliminate bureaucracy from the city’s educational system.

“Clearly education needs some help and some reform,” she said. “We need to push forward. Chancellor Levy has a strong business background and I think the lessons you learn in the business world have to do with accountabi­lity.”

In May 2000, Thomson was the swing vote in favor of Levy’s appointment as schools chancellor. Given Giuliani’s opposition to Levy’s appointment at that time, it was unclear how Thomson’s support of the chancellor would affect her chances to become Board of Education president.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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