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This week nearly 300,000 students will return to Queens public schools. They will be met by hundreds of dedicated teachers who will work against the odds to give them a quality education.

The 2008-09 school year will be pivotal in the city's public education system. The law that gave the mayor control of the public school system is set to expire July 1, 2009. If this happens, control of schools will revert to local community boards. The Department of Education will no longer run the school system on the mayor's behalf.

Although we have often championed the importance of local input, we shudder at the thought of schools returning to the authority of local boards. From 1873 through 1969, all members of the Board of Education were appointed by the mayor. Then in 1969, a new law created locally elected community school boards that answered to the five members of the BOE, appointed by the borough presidents and two members appointed by the mayor. The chancellor was selected by the board.

In 2002, a law was passed creating the DOE.

What should happen now? A return to the days of yesteryear seems risky. Some communities will have strong boards, others not. But we agree that under the current system there is a lack of community input. The City Council has time to come up with a plan to retain the centralized DOE while defining a way that communities can have input.

Addressing this issue should be the Council's highest priority.

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