Updated 07/01/2009 07:56 PM
New Board Of Ed Urges State Senate To Revive Mayoral Control
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On the first day of summer school, the city's Board of Education met for the first time in seven years in Lower Manhattan, unanimously voted to retain Joel Klein as schools chancellor and all but one member voted for the immediate return of mayoral control of public schools.
The Board of Education, made up of five members appointed by the five borough presidents and two members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, took control of the public education system at midnight Wednesday, when the State Senate's failure to renew the law for mayoral control forced the seven-year-old system to expire.
However, by a vote of 6-0 and one abstention, the board also urged the State Senate to immediately approve an extension for mayoral control. Board members noted that the State Assembly had already voted to renew the system.
The mayor congratulated the board and the borough presidents for their actions today, but said the State Senate needs to take urgent action to renew mayoral control.
"The Senate has through its inactions handed our city a current governing structure not too dissimilar from the governing structure of the Senate, one made up of multiple and conflicting lines of authority, certainly the flaw of gridlock," said the mayor. "The temporary school board has attempted to sidestep all those consequences. But as prudent as its actions today have been, bear this in mind. These are band-aids, not solutions.”
Borough Presidents Helen Marshall of Queens, Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn and Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx echoed the mayor's sentiments, saying that mayoral control should be preserved.
"This was a place where none of us wanted to be," said Diaz.
“This is the continuation of mayoral control within the confines of the reality of constituting a new Board of Education. That is the lens that we’re looking at,” said Stringer.
The borough presidents gathered at 8 a.m. in Gracie Mansion and made their appointments in little more than an hour.
The board includes three deputy mayors - Dennis Walcott, who was appointed by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and Edward Skyler and Patricia Harris, who were appointed by the mayor.
Three borough presidents appointed their own staff members. Scott Stringer of Manhattan appointed his general counsel Jimmy Yan, Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn appointed his chief of staff Carlo Scissura and James Molinaro of Staten Island appointed his first deputy borough president Edward Burke.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed Dolores Fernandez, the former president of Hostos Community College, who then abstained from the vote on pressing for the renewal of mayoral control.
Once the board assembled, Walcott was unanimously elected its president. After holding three votes, the board moved to adjourn until September 10.
"Everybody was in the right spirit, came together," said Klein after the initial morning meeting. "We're all concerned about the schools, keeping them operating as effectively as we can. All the borough presidents pulled together and there was constructive engagement... making sure the work goes forward for the kids."
Critics of mayoral control and Bloomberg said that the new board is exactly like the system is was supposed to replace.
“This is a fraud, this is totally a sham step,” said Jane Hirschmann of Time Out From Testing. “This is exactly like the panel on education policy, the mayor has gotten the borough presidents to do his bidding, the is no transparency, we the stateholders are not the table. Parents need to be at the table. They are not meeting until September 10? Why, there’s no business to do over the summer?”
The borough presidents told NY1 that they needed to preserve mayoral control to prevent chaos in the public school system.
Asked this morning whether he would support Klein, Markowitz said, "I think there's no question that for the immediate future, for the stability and the continuity of the system, I don't see any other thing but to do that. We're hoping, of course, that this will be only a few weeks or a few days."
Stringer and Marshall have expressed wishes to alter the structure of mayoral control in the future.
However, the State Senate is still struggling over which political party has majority control, and is not likely to address the issue of mayoral control at this afternoon's special session.
On Monday, the Senate's Democratic conference said that mayoral control was not a "noncontroversial issue" and therefore not a legislative priority.
If the State Senate does not renew mayoral control by May, the elections will be held to fill 32 community boards that will in turn have great influence over the Board of Education.