Before Albany granted New York City control over our own schools, accountability was so limited that patronage, chaos and corruption were allowed to run rampant. The lack of oversight allowed:
· jobs to be sold
· for people to hold jobs they didn’t show up to for years on end
· money to be stolen directly from schools
· school board members openly admitting they would never send their children to schools in the districts they represented
· the hiring of drug dealers and gang members, including as school safety officers
The headlines and excerpts below – only a small portion of the scandals that plagued schools before mayoral control – make clear why New York City schools need mayoral control and the accountability it provides.
Excerpt: When investigators charged last week that teachers and principals in 18 of New York City's 33 school districts had helped students cheat on standardized tests, it came as no surprise to veteran school officials that several of the implicated districts had long histories of corruption.
After the city school system was decentralized in the 1960's to give more control to community school boards, the hiring of school administrators and even teachers in those districts became a highly politicized process, with some board members serving as unofficial proxies for neighborhood political leaders who used them to dole out patronage jobs and other favors.
Patronage hiring has been less common since 1996, when the State Legislature took away the hiring powers of the community school boards and broadened the powers of the schools chancellor. But even with increased power, Chancellor Rudy Crew has had difficulty rooting out corruption in the city's 1,100 schools.
Excerpt: The Board of Education leasing scandal expanded yesterday as investigators focused on two new multi-million dollar deals involving a school official who quit and then got huge fees for managing the projects. Officials said probers are examining records on Bronx and Brooklyn renovation jobs totaling more than $11 million each.
AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE LATIN KINGS: No tolerance for gangs in our public schools ( for the New York City School District) 97
Excerpt: Our findings make clear that as a member of the Latin Kings, Officer Roman faces an irreconcilable conflict between his loyalty to the Kings, on the one hand, and his duties as a school safety officer on the other.
Excerpt: A Brooklyn rabbi stole $6 million from the Board of Education by putting 81 no-show employees on the board payroll in a 20-year scam that benefited his religious school, Special Schools Investigator Ed Stancik charged yesterday. Rabbi Hertz Frankel principal of the 4,000-student Beth Rachel all-girls school in Williamsburg pleaded guilty last Friday to a felony charge to commit mail fraud.
Excerpt: Mulukuntee Krishnappa entirely abandoned his duties as the DSF inspector assigned to the window installation portion of the P.S. 55 contract. Indeed, he concealed this dereliction by submitting fraudulent documentation. Without ever inspecting the site, he approved final payment, and misrepresented that the work was timely, satisfactory, and performed by the contractor.
To the five bulleted items to which highlighted excerpts are given, as a former member of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Committee I can reply to all five items.
The one main thing left out by Mayor's press office is that of student performance which has virtually remained the same during Mayoral Control as to before Mayoral Control. It is interesting that the United Federation of Teachers said that during the Bloomberg administration, but has done an about face under a mayor the union now supports for re-election.
1 - The New York Times article only mentions Bronx School Districts 9 and 12. In district 9 there was a scandal by IBM to the tune of millions of dollars for a tracking system which was faulty, and brought out by the school board who had to be removed at all costs.
2 - This is the same time that the Croton Water Filtration Plant is proposed for the Jerome Park Reservoir at a cost of $600 million dollars. Mayor Giuliani would later say that he expected this project with cost overruns would cost $800 million dollars. Under the same administration Mayoral Control was given the cost of the Croton Water Filtration plant projected cost is now over three billion dollars and still growing.
3 - Gangs in the public schools Oct. 1997- The process of hiring employees failed the school system, and hopefully more safeguards were put in place that are not mentioned. Gangs are still prevalent in the public schools if not more than the report date. Police issues were not under control of school board members, and after school programs were gutted in the late 1990's and early 2000's if not more so under mayoral control.
4 - Scam stealing $6 million dollars - this was done at a private school not under the jurisdiction of a school board, and should have been monitored better by the State Education Department.
5 - Fraud and incompetence on window replacement. Either the central or local school boards inspected work done by contractors, or had oversight of contractors or sub contractors. That was the job of the Division of School Buildings, to be replaced by the School Construction Authority.
The old Board of Education voted on contracts one at a time so that any information could be heard about any contract that was to be awarded. At one such meeting Item seven was a contract for $50,000 dollars to repair the windows at Jamaica High School. A few items later was a contract to replace the windows at Jamaica High School. I said why is the board spending $50,000 dollars to repair windows that they are replacing a few months later. BOE President Bill Thompson agreed, and thanked me for noting that.
With the Panel For Educational Policy contracts are lumped together as a group to vote on so it is almost impossible to find out what the PEP is voting on.