|Vol. 12, No. 25
||Dec. 30, 1999 -
Jan. 12, 2000
A Window of Opportunity in
Community School Board 10 made the
right decision by giving Superintendent Irma Zardoya a new contract. Even if it is only
for one year, the district's 40-plus schools have been saved from a rancorous
superintendent search during an already tumultuous period.
The school board needs time to recover from the divisive battle over the expansion of a
Riverdale middle school and refocus on issues of concern to the entire district. Though
the vote took place before Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew was dismissed by the central Board
of Education, had Zardoya been handed a similar fate, the resulting instability could have
seriously jeopardized progress in District 10.
Also, the new school board has only been in office for six months. The seven member
majority includes four new members. It's unreasonable to expect that any of those members
yet have a firm grip on the successes, problems, and challenges of a district with more
than 40,000 students. To get a handle on that, members need to visit schools, meet
parents, talk to teachers and principals. It is unlikely that they have yet done so,
especially since the board, over the last six months, has addressed little other than the
Riverdale school proposal.
Though the district is struggling with the same test score problems that districts
citywide are grappling with, Zardoya has a reputation as an effective and tireless
administrator, particularly among principals and parents, as evidenced by the strong
turnout by both at the public meeting where her contract was discussed. In a year, when
Zardoya's contract will be discussed again, the school board, if it has truly done its
homework, will be better able to evaluate her performance.
The board originally planned to vote to advertise for a new superintendent, but elected
Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez and others expressed their support, and the large turnout of
principals and parents at the board meeting was probably expected. Though the mixture of
politics and schools has led to corruption in the past -- promises of jobs for political
support, for example -- the type of political participation engaged in here is
appropriate. Ramirez' job -- and that of all elected officials -- is to voice the concerns
of his constituency. That is what he did when he called Board president Oliver Koppell.
And of course, it is the right of every parent, teacher and administrator to publicly
state his or her views.
Now that this matter is behind us, it is time for the board to widen its focus to include
issues relevant to the entire district. The hearing it held on school construction and
repairs earlier this month was a good start. Now the board must act. It should draft a
list of district priorities not addressed in the five-year capital plan -- and there are
many -- and badger the Giuliani administration and the central Board of Education until
significant funds for new schools and repairs are restored. It should also work closely
with the parents and administrators who know more than they should have to about crumbling
roofs, flooded gymnasiums, and playgrounds that no longer exist.
This is a no-brainer issue that can and should unite the board. Overcrowding plagues all
of District 10, the largest and second most crowded district in the city. It should be the
priority of all nine board members to press for a solution to a crisis which has gone on
for much too long. Unlike stagnant reading and math scores, there is no disagreement about
what it takes to build and repair schools. It simply takes money. The board, whatever its
other differences, needs to unite and fight for more of it.
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