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Leonard Stavisky honored with new name for PS 242

“I’m absolutely thrilled the school board, as well as...

By Alexander Dworkowitz

In what may be its last official act, School Board 25 voted to name the district’s newest elementary school after the late Leonard Stavisky, the Flushing senator known for his support of education.

“I’m absolutely thrilled the school board, as well as the community at large, recognized Leonard’s unique contribution to education,” said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), his widow.

The nine-member board voted unanimously to name PS 242 for Stavisky at its Jan. 8 meeting. School District 25 covers schools in Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace and part of Fresh Meadows.

PS 242 opened in September 2001. The 350-seat school is located at 136-11 31st Rd. in Linden Hill, a short walk from where Leonard Stavisky used to live.

Although School Board 25 will meet during the remainder of the school year before the school board system is abolished, its president, Arlene Fleishman, said the vote was likely the last official act of the institution.

In 1996, the state stripped school boards of their power to vote on budgets, curriculum and personnel. In December, the boards lost their power to write report cards as well, leaving them only with the ability to name schools.

Born in the South Bronx in 1925 and educated in the neighborhood’s public schools, Leonard Stavisky served in the state Legislature for more than three decades, starting as Flushing’s assemblyman in 1966 before becoming a state senator in 1983.

Working as an assemblymen and later as a member of the Senate’s higher education committee, Leonard Stavisky participated in several key pieces of state legislation.

During the fiscal crisis in the 1970s, Leonard Stavisky co-authored the Stavisky Goodman Law, which mandated that New York City could not significantly cut education in times of monetary tightening.

Leonard Stavisky, who taught as an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, also helped sponsor bills which established bilingual and school breakfast programs throughout the state.

“The feeling that I had last night [at the school board meeting] was that there were the education activists of the 1970s and the 1980s coming together,” Toby Stavisky said. “Leonard brought them together in the 1970s and he brought them together last night.”

As a result of his efforts, Leonard Stavisky was awarded the John Dewey Award by the United Federation of Teachers.

“His priority always was education,” said Fleishman, who had known Leonard Stavisky since the 1970s. “There were many times when the district had to turn to him.”

Whenever Fleishman had a problem with the district, “the three words I would use was, ‘I’ll call Leonard,’ because that’s how forceful he was,’” Fleishman said.

Fleishman recalled Leonard Stavisky’s coming to the aid of School Board 25 on many occasions. He helped bring discretionary funds into the district and fought to make sure the ninth grade remained a part of the district’s middle schools, Fleishman said.

“Our parents were terrified of their children at that age going into high school, and we still have our ninth grade,” Fleishman said. “It’s all these little things that don’t get the big publicity that he was there for.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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