2002-03-16 / Front Page

Feds: OK To Cancel School Election

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

The U.S. Justice Department has given the final approval to a plan to postpone school board elections in New York City for one year.

That approval will allow the city to move the school board election to May of 2003, leaving current school board members in place for another year – and leaving open the possibility that the board may be eliminated or modified in some way.

Advocates of postponing the election cited two reasons: The nine-million dollar cost of an election that typically draws only three or four percent of eligible voters and the fact that several plans to eliminate the school boards entirely are in the legislative hopper.

"I hope that this will give the legislature an opportunity to devise a better system for ensuring community representation without a direct election," election board commissioner Douglas Kellner told reporters. Kellner said that just 80 candidates had filed petitions for the 288 open positions on the 32 local school boards.

The Justice Department got involved in the process because it has a mandate to review all plans that impact on elections in Brooklyn and the Bronx in order to insure that minorities are not unfavorably impacted.

Supporters of the boards sat that they are a crucial avenue of communications between parents and the bureaucracy while detractors say that they are ineffectual and a waste of critical funds.

"There is clearly a feeling that there must be a better way," says Steve Sanders, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

Steve Greenberg, the president of Community School Board 27, which covers all of Rockaway and Broad Channel, as well as portions of the mainland, told The Wave that, although he does not plan to run for reelection, he favors keeping some form of the local boards.

"Who will speak for the children of Rockaway is the local boards go," he asks. "You know that a borough board will not look out for our interests, and a central bureaucracy will certainly not. We provide a vital link between the parents and the central board."

Legislative sources say that a new plan that will give control of the school system to the mayor and will retain some form of local input will be worked out before next year's school term.

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