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Sobol Urges Independent Systems in New York City

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The central bureaucracy of the New York City school district should be dismantled and its powers dispersed among 32 to 64 smaller, autonomous districts, the state commissioner of education has recommended.

The New York State Board of Regents discussed the plan to radically reconfigure the governance of the city's schools during a special session last week. The board was scheduled to consider the proposal further and possibly include it in its legislative agenda for 1990.

Commissioner Thomas Sobol has abandoned the state's traditional hands-off attitude towards the nation's largest district "out of concern about the desperate state of education in New York City," said J. Robert Daggett, executive assistant to the commissioner.

The scandal-plagued district has been the subject of numerous reform proposals over the past year. A commission created by the legislature will soon begin an examination of the decentralized governance system set up in the city 20 years ago.

Mr. Sobol's proposal is intended to give the so-called Marchi Commission "something to chew on, something different than the minor proposals for change that have been advanced in the past," Mr. Daggett said.

The commissioner's plan would retain a central board of education solely to distribute funds among the autonomous districts, he said.

New boards in each of the city's five boroughs would offer instructional and administrative services similar to those provided by the boards of cooperative education services throughout the rest of the state. The borough boards would be elected by the districts within their boundaries and hire a superintendent subject to approval by the state commissioner.

The local boards, which could correspond to the 32 existing community districts or could be even smaller, would control the city's high schools and would make their own hiring, contracting, and policy decisions.--ws

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