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School Bd. 29 complains it is shut out of ed plans reforms

“They have not sent us any literature on this process,”...

By Michael Morton

School boards have been kept out of the loop during the process to replace them with Community Education Councils, members of Board 29 and their supporters told a meeting Saturday at York College.

“They have not sent us any literature on this process,” said Nat Washington, outgoing president of the board.

Board 29 covers Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, Rosedale, Rochdale Village, Hollis, Cambria Heights and parts of Jamaica and Fresh Meadows.

The meeting was sponsored by Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and organized by Board 29 and the council of district parent-teacher and parent association presidents. The purpose was to give candidates for the School District 29’s new education council a second chance to explain why they wanted to run because the first public forum on March 31 was not publicized well enough by the Department of Education, organizers said.

But organizers said when they called the Department of Education, the department refused to give them contact information for the candidates.

Jeany Persaud, chairwoman of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council and a Laurelton resident, said she thinks the department does not want the board to be involved in the process to pick the council candidates.

“They don’t want them to influence anybody or endorse anybody,” she said. But Persaud approved of Washington and the board holding the forum and said that with their experience, board members should help train the new council members.

For his part, Washington said Board 29 had accomplished much and told candidates, “I want you folks to carry on the legacy of School Board 29.”

But when Washington warned candidates that they faced a difficult challenge and that school boards were often scapegoated, he drew a stern rebuke from state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), who was seated in the audience.

Of Board 29 holding the forum, she said, “I thought it was very big of them,” but she also criticized Washington for his negativity. And she said while school boards were created in good faith, “it didn’t work.”

During their allotted time, 13 candidates spoke to an audience of more than three dozen people about the lack of books and computers in schools, overcrowded classes and the lack of consistency in applying the curriculum.

“The main thing we have to do is identify our problems and present it properly to the people in charge,” said April Jones, who has two children in IS 59 in Springfield Gardens and two in PS 134 in St. Albans. The candidates were also all unanimously opposed to having police officers posted in schools.

A third and final candidate’s forum for District 29 will be held Saturday at New Covenant Church of Christ in Queens Village from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The candidates will be chosen May 10 by the highest-ranking officers of each parent-teacher and parent association.

Before the candidates spoke, Comrie addressed the forum and asked community members to help him compile a list of schools that were not getting their proper book allocations or had broken or improperly installed computers.

Comrie said principals were wary of getting in trouble with their supervisors in the Department of Education.

“A lot of these principals are scared to share the information.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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