Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week accomplished a rare feat. He managed finally to get control of the educational structure in New York City.
Under the terms of a bill signed into law by Governor George Pataki last Wednesday, Bloomberg will have the sole power to appoint the Schools Chancellor, who will serve at the pleasure of the mayor, although his contract may be extended two years beyond the mayor's term. The chancellor will head a 13-member Board of Education seven of whose members will be appointed by the mayor and five by each of the five borough presidents. The borough presidents' appointees must be parents of children currently attending New York City public schools.
Under other provisions of the law the chancellor will have the power to appoint community school district superintendents and hold them accountable for the performance of their districts' schools. No longer will community school boards be able to block the appointment of a chancellor's candidate for superintendent.
The city's 32 community school boards will be abolished in June 2003. In the meantime a 20-member task force, 10 members of which will be selected by the state Senate and 10 by the Assembly, through public hearings will develop a proposal denoting ways for parents and community members to continue to have a voice in the operation of their neighborhood schools.
The mayor will also have sole control of the School Construction Authority, with two members of the SCA Board appointed by the mayor, and the chancellor serving as the third member and chairman. The law also extends the Wicks Law exemption for two years and requires the approval of the mayor and City Council of the five-year SCA capital plan and any exemptions.
In assuming control of the schools, Bloomberg actually pays the system a compliment. One of the first rules for any savvy businessman is: don't waste time and money trying to fix the unfixable. If the New York City school system were truly irreparable, Bloomberg would not stick his neck out trying to repair it.
With the school system accountable to a sitting mayor for the first time in 33 years, Michael Bloomberg will in turn be accountable to us--the people who pay the taxes.
Publisher Says'Thank You'
Last night the Gazette passed a historic milestone. Staffers and friends of the paper gathered at Riccardo's by the Bridge in Astoria to celebrate the paper's 20th year of publication and its 13th under the leadership of owner, publisher and editor in chief Tony Barsamian.
"There are so many people who made this day possible I don't think I can ever thank them all" Barsamian said. "Tony Corbisiero, who owns Riccardo's, made this wonderful party happen through his generous hospitality. This is just the latest example of how much he does to accommodate all the groups who meet here."
The Gazette is a success, Barsamian continued, because of the people who work there. "Every week these people come in, do their jobs and get the paper out," he said. "No matter what kind of a curve ball comes at them, they hit a home run every time. Julie Wager, John Toscano, Denise Gallo. Vinny DuPre, Linda Wilson, Ed Husser, Asah Iman, Susan Cleary and Susan Meyers, Seth Wharton, Tom Cogan, Noah Miller--they all make the paper read well and look good because of the stories they wrote and edit and typeset and the ads they design and produce. Bob Balogh and Richard Gentilviso are two of the most outstanding reporters in the newspaper business. Florence Koluris and Bea Mayrick keep the paper going with the ads they sell. Luis Arias runs GN Printing-superbly. Calling Melissa Cipolla and Debbie Gianquinto my assistants doesn't begin to describe how much they help me get everything I have to do done. No one could do the classified ads better than Vickie Lallave. Every time I need to send someone off on another involved and vital errand Anthony Lombardo is there."
Barsamian noted that Borough President Helen Marshall had presented a citation to the Gazette for its service to Queens and in turn thanked her for her support. Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and former city Comptroller Alan Hevesi also drew Barsamian's appreciation for their efforts on behalf of the paper, including providing some of the most exciting and significant stories to run in its pages.
"And I'd really like to thank my wife, Maria, for letting me do this," Barsamian concluded. "Without her support I wouldn't be standing here today."