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School Board 30 member resigns after fight to stay

Citing his frustration with the Board of Education’s bureaucracy, a member of School Board 30 who fought in court to retain his seat resigned last week after only nine months of service.

In a letter dated last Thursday, Astoria attorney Theodore Kasapis said he thought community school boards “have become essentially obsolete” with a 1996 law that removed much of their authority.

“I don’t believe the school board should be in existence anymore,” Kasapis said in a phone interview. “There’s so much money wasted on the school boards instead of the students who need it.”

Reaction to his resignation was mixed among other members of the board, some of whom claimed he was leaving because of the backlash he endured after making comments some described as racist at a board work session in December. Others noted that he had missed a number of meetings and already could have been facing expulsion from the board for his poor attendance record.

Kasapis denied their allegations, citing his support among school advocates from minority neighborhoods in the district. He also said he never missed more than one meeting in a row and therefore was not at risk of losing his position for attendance purposes.

Then-Chancellor Rudy Crew had removed Kasapis from the school board shortly after his 1999 election for leaving what were considered to be threatening messages on the answering machine of fellow board member Jeannie Basini.

But State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia reinstated him in March last year, ruling that Crew and the Board of Ed had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in removing Kasapis for leaving messages he described as “desperate and silly.”

Kasapis said he supports replacing the Board of Ed with an executive department of the city and setting up smaller three-member supervisor boards in place of community school boards.

His resignation, which was effective at 1 p.m. Friday, came only a few months before the end of all board members’ three-year terms.

School Board 30 President Giovanna D’Elia said she was surprised to learn of Kasapis’ sudden resignation.

“If that’s the way he feels, that’s fine,” D’Elia said. “It’s up to the individual, really, how much you want to give. I still feel that I’m very essential in whatever I do as a liaison between the parents and the superintendent.”

Others were less tempered in their reactions. Basini, who filed the complaint that originally led to Kasapis’ removal from the board, said “he basically made no contribution to the board other than to be rude during meetings and provoke other board members.”

Basini and board member John Ciafone had accused Kasapis of making comments they construed as racist during a private December work session for board members.

They claim Kasapis said his neighbors would be unhappy if students from PS 111 — a largely minority school — were moved to other schools around the district.

Kasapis denied their claims, saying he does not recall having said anything that could have been construed as racist.

“If you talk to people who know me, the last thing they’d ever call me is a racist,” he said.

Kasapis and Ciafone are longstanding rivals from dueling Astoria political clubs whose arguments at public meetings have prompted audience members to urge the board members to get along.

Kasapis noted his support for Queensbridge Community in Action, an advocacy group that called on the district to investigate why minority students from a Long Island City housing project received disproportionately low test scores.

“I’m sorry to see him go,” said Yvette Grissom, a parent organizer with the Queensbridge group. “It seems like he always asked the right questions of the board when we were there presenting any of our issues.”

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

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