1999-09-04 / Columnists

School Scope

by Howard Schwach

One might ask who is minding the store. Brenda Isaacs, forced to retire as Superintendent for political reasons by the Chancellor spent her last day on Monday running a Principal’s meeting. What she could tell them about the coming year when she was leaving the next day is problematic. She did a mitzvah, however, by staying one day extra.

That’s one down!

Ken Grover, the Deputy Superintendent, left a few days earlier for his new position as Superintendent of the Chancellor’s District for Manhattan and Queens. Why, you might ask, did the Chancellor give such a high profile position to a man who was responsible for instruction in a district where he considered instruction to be sub-par enough to force the superintendent to leave? Because the forced resignation had nothing to do with scores or instruction or anything else that could be considered reasonable.

That’s two down!

Joel Rosenzweig, the Assistant to the Superintendent and the man who ran the day to day activities of the district, left after close of business on Tuesday. He had one day in charge and it was uneventful, which is more than you can say for the previous years he spent in the district office.

That’s three down!

Rita Gerimitta, the person in charge of literacy programs at the district, (I never spell it correctly, but she’s gone now anyway), left last week to be the Deputy Superintendent in District 28.

That’s four down.

The loss of Brenda Isaacs to the district will be felt for many years. The pressure would have been lessened if somebody who knows what is going on were left to take over.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The local school board thought that they had a hand on the problem. They voted to appoint Matt Bromme, the principal of JHS 210 and an experienced educator, to take over on an acting basis. The Chancellor did not approve the vote.

That leaves the district up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.

There is nobody left at the district office with the experience to open a district with 38 schools.

Why did Chancellor Crew leave the district without a paddle?

There are lots of rumors, but nobody involved is really talking.

Some say that Bromme was not chosen because the Chancellor wants an outsider to insure that "any candidate from getting a leg up on the process."

Others swear that another candidate brought in such big political guns as Greg Meeks and Floyd Flake to remind the Chancellor that this is a minority district. This reportedly derailed Bromme’s candidacy. If this is true, it raises the specter of the last superintendent search process, when Isaacs won the job over Margaret Bradley. That controversy split the district in two and was divisive for years to come.

Sometime before you read this on Friday or Saturday, the Chancellor will meet with the entire local school board. At this meeting he will reportedly give them some names of people from outside the district to choose from.

Isn’t that nice of him? I wonder if he is so thick that he does not know what it takes to run a district this size? Probably not, because the school system he directed prior to coming to New York was smaller than this single district.

Nobody, not even the local school board, knows yet whose name is on that list.

The board has to take those names and make a decision. Do they get to interview the people? Do they get time to vet that person’s credentials? Nobody is sure. The board, however, has to meet and vote for the candidate and then send the name to the Chancellor for approval.

This has not, in the past, been an easy process. You’d think that Crew would OK any of the names because he recommended them. Don’t be so sure.

In any case, that could take a week or two, perhaps longer if the board members really get to look at resumes or interview the candidates.

Maybe Crew will give them one name and let it go at that. I would not be surprised. In any case, it will come too late to make this week’s column.

I think that I would submit my resignation from the school board if I were a member.

The new governance law took away the board’s ability to hire supervisors. The superintendent now does that chore. The Chancellor’s new policy takes away the board’s ability to set budget priorities. The board’s Office of Civil Rights literally took away the board’s ability to zone the district the way they would like.

The only power left to the school board was to be involved in choosing the superintendent, the educational leader of the district. Crew has just told our board that they don’t even have the right to choose an acting superintendent, nonetheless the real thing.

Why spend four or five nights a month at long-winded meetings? Why get yelled at and vilified by parents? Why go through that asinine election process?

There no longer seems to be a reason to serve on the board. It has become a sham, a device for politicians to say that there is community control, when in fact there is none.

 

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