Levy rejects School Board 24 choice for super

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Schools Chancellor Harold Levy has rejected School Board 24’s choice for superintendent, a decision the candidate claims was fueled by his own outspoken criticism of the central administration.

Ronald Costa, a 35-year veteran of the district who has served as principal at PS 12 in Woodside for the past 12 years, was the only candidate the school board proposed to Levy following a protracted selection process that dragged on for more than two years.

But Levy informed the district in a letter dated Monday that he had rejected Costa due to a lack of leadership skills.

“While Mr. Costa is a veteran of the school system and an incredibly capable principal, he has not displayed the capacity for a districtwide appointment,” Board of Ed spokesman Kevin Ortiz said Wednesday morning.

But Costa said he believes Levy’s decision was in fact fueled by his role in a June 10 New York Post story exposing the central administra­tion’s practice of assessing a fee on computer purchases, which forced schools to pay more for the machines than they had actually cost.

“I had wound up losing 11 computers based on the monies that I was allocated,” said Costa, who blew the whistle on the practice in the Post story. “I have a tendency when I see something wrong to open up my mouth.”

But Ortiz denied his claims that the story played any part in Costa’s rejection.

“His assertion that this is retribution is absolutely ridiculous,” said Ortiz, who pointed out that the money from the computer fee earned about $6 million that was funneled directly into the classrooms.

District 24 covers schools in Glendale, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village and Woodside.

The next step for the Glendale-based School Board 24 is uncertain because Mayor Michael Bloomberg will assume control of the schools July 1 and is expected to select a new schools chancellor to replace Levy. The Board of Education has already held its last scheduled meeting, and the school boards will be dissolved in another year.

The board resolution to select Costa was approved April 11 with five votes in favor, none against, and two abstentions by board President Patricia Grayson and board member Robert Cermeli.

The superintendent selection process has embroiled District 24 in controversy since the school board’s refusal in 1999 to renew the contract of longtime superintendent Joseph Quinn, who has enjoyed immense support from parents in the district.

“I happen to think that Quinn, who’s in there now, is an excellent superinten­dent,” Cermeli said Wednesday. “From my point of view, I would hope that the board would consider Quinn and re-evaluate.”

But Cermeli said it is unlikely the board would now go with Quinn, who was among six candidates a search committee recommended for the post in March.

Quinn has served as interim acting superintendent since his contract expired.

Even Levy stalled the process with his response, which came 2 1/2 months after the school board submitted its nomination, although he was required by Board of Education regulations to decide within a 30-day window.

Costa, who served as a deputy superintendent for District 24 between 1987 and 1990, had 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 asked Quinn to stay on in his post.

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

Updated 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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