School Board 25 decides to keep leadership intact

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With little fanfare, Community School Board 25 elected what is likely its final slate of officials at its annual meeting July 31.

The shape of the board changed little since three of the four leading members simply shifted positions, and the fourth held onto the same role.

Arlene Fleishman defeated Vincent Dwyer to become president, Catherine Tsai prevailed over David Rothstein to become vice president, Sheney Ho won out over Kenneth Cohen to keep her position as secretary and Judith Bergtraum became treasurer without contest.

School Board 25 covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Kew Gardens Hills and Bay Terrace.

A provision of the school governance legislation, which handed over control of the city’s schools to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in June, eliminates school boards by June 30, 2003. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to approve the provision.

Unlike two Queens school districts which have written to the Justice Department saying their elimination violates the federal Voting Rights Act, the leadership of School Board 25 raised no objections to their threatened dismissal.

Fleishman, who has served as president of the board 12 times over 25 years, said she was ready to leave the board.

“I’m one of the members of this board who truly believes our time has come,” Fleishman said. “We really have no role at this point.”

Fleishman said the school boards had lost their role in 1996. That year the state Legislature rewrote the governance law of school boards, stripping the bodies of their powers to vote on school budgets as well as to choose principals and curriculums.

Fleishman said that she would like to see the school boards continue to exist only if they were granted the powers they had prior to 1996.

Bergtraum, who has been on the board since 1996, agreed with the president of the board.

“This is in my blood. I love it,” she said. “But I think it’s time for a change.”

Others, however, said they thought the board still had an important role.

“In my opinion, until the school board is totally disbanded we still have a purpose,” said Rothstein. “We still have a voice.”

School board members emphasized the need to spend the upcoming year harping on parents to become more involved in their children’s schools.

“I’ll try to do my best to deliver a message to the parents,” said Tsai. “It’s our last chance.”

In addition to voting on officers, the board listened to Deputy Superintendent Harvey Sherer describe the state of summer school in the district.

Sherer said the summer was going smoothly and attendance rates in the district were higher than the city average.

“We’ve had no urgencies,” he said. “We’ve had no gang wars.”

At the end of the meeting, Sherer, who is retiring and will be replaced by Dorita Gibson, spoke about his years working with the board.

“This district is what I have seen as a model of decentrali­zation,” Sherer said. “District 25 always had a reputation for getting things done and getting them done honestly and openly.... I want to say on a personal level I’ve enjoyed this.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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