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Woodside school principal nominated again to lead district

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By Dustin Brown

School Board 24 made a definitive choice in its protracted search for a new superintendent last Thursday, submitting only the name of PS 12 Principal Ronald Costa to Schools Chancellor Harold Levy for consideration as the district’s next leader.

But the process that has dragged on for more than two years will not conclude until Levy gives his approval, an outcome that is by no means certain.

“It’s historical in the past that Mr. Levy wants two candidates and not one,” said Board President Patricia Grayson in a phone interview Monday. “With this district, this process has had so many things thrown in to stop it and circumvent it and go around it that anything can happen.”

According to Board of Education regulations, the school board has to send between one and four names to the chancellor, who has the final say in the selection of a superintendent.

The board chose Costa from a list of six names submitted last month by the C37 search committee, an ad hoc body made up of parents, community leaders and school representatives that narrows down the pool of superintendent applicants.

Among those names was that of Interim Acting Superintendent Joseph Quinn, who has built up a strong body of parental support since assuming the post of superintendent in 1990.

But in 1999 the newly elected school board voted 5-4 against renewing Quinn’s contract, inciting the ire of parents who jammed the school board office last Thursday to witness the board’s latest decision in the matter.

“I wasn’t surprised because they’ve been trying to get rid of Joe Quinn for two years now,” said Marge Kolb Corridan of Woodside, a PTA member at IS 73. “It was obvious that they weren’t going to name him even though the search committee had him as one of their top candidates.”

Costa, a resident of Sunnyside, has a strong body of support himself, having attracted a large cheering section of faculty and parents from his Woodside elementary school to the superintendent candidates forum held last month.

But Costa, who served as a deputy superintendent for District 24 between 1987 and 1990, has already been rejected once by Levy. Although he was one of two candidates the board put forward to serve as interim acting superintendent after Quinn’s contract expired in the summer of 2000, Levy assigned Quinn to stay on in his post.

The board resolution naming Costa was approved with five votes in favor, none against, and two abstentions by Grayson and board member Robert Cermeli.

Commenting on the vote after the meeting had ended, Quinn stressed that the final decision has yet to be made.

“There is a C37 process, and part of the C37 process is that they make a referral to the chancellor — and the chancellor is the final arbiter,” he said.

Reached at his school Monday afternoon, Costa said he was humbled by the board’s decision.

“I’m not going to be the type of individual who sits,” Costa said when asked about his plans for the district. “I want to get out into the buildings. I want to see what’s going on.”

Before last Thursday’s meeting had ended, a number of parents and district faculty members who support Quinn stood up and lambasted the board’s decision.

Parents commended him for fostering a nurturing learning environment, leaving his door open to parents and effectively handling budget issues.

“I feel the children and the community and the teachers ... are going to lose someone very special,” said Zayda Gonzalez, a teacher at PS 81. “I just feel that maybe something went wrong here.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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