The nine-member School Board 29 in southeastern Queens was suspended last Thursday amidst allegations of incompetence.
Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy said he handed down the suspension because of the board's inability to complete the search for a new superintendent and the district's below-average student test scores.
"I have concluded that Community School Board 29 is unable to function in the manner needed to serve the best interest of the school children in District 29," Levy said in a letter to SB 29 President Leroy Comrie. "Most significant perhaps is the fractious and incompetent manner in which you have failed to fulfill one of your primary responsibilities, that of the selection of an educational leader for the district."
Comrie could not be reached for comment because he was out of town on a family emergency.
"I think this is outrageous," said Morshed Alam, the board's first vice president who has three children in the public school system.
Alam, a Democrat who is running for state Sen. Frank Padavan's (R-Bellerose) seat, said the suspension was politically motivated. He said he was angry because Levy never consulted with community leaders about the problems in the school board or the allegations.
"I don't think this is for the betterment of the children, but the betterment of politics for some interest group," he said.
Levy replaced the board with three trustees who will run the district until the first phase of the search for a new school superintendent is completed. They are: William Jefferson, a longtime Laurelton resident and retired investment banker; Fermin Archer, director of the office of zoning for the Board of Ed; and Rose Walker, borough deputy to the chancellor for Queens.
In addition, Levy also appointed Michael Johnson, principal of the Science and Skills Center, a Brooklyn high school, as administrator of the district. He replaced Michael Cinquemani, who was demoted to his former position of deputy superintendent.
The suspension of the board was the latest clash between the chancellor's office and SB 29, whose district stretches from Queens Village to Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens.
Cinquemani assumed the acting superintendent's post last year after former Chancellor Rudy Crew fired Superintendent Celestine Miller for not immediately reporting that an 8-year-old boy had gone to a Rosedale school carrying a loaded gun.
Near the end of 1999, Crew halted District 29's superintendent selection process - known as the C-37 process - because of alleged improprieties.
Levy's letter cited two serious problems that "compromised" the C-37 process. He said unusual scrutiny of Cinquemani's application, which led to inaccurate allegations concerning his resum
©2000 Community News Group
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