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Panel Backs Expanding Number of Districts in New York City

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A New York State panel examining the governance of the New York City schools has issued final recommendations calling for the number of community school districts in the city to be increased from 32 to 50.

The New York State Temporary Commission on New York City School Governance--known as the Marchi Commission after its chairman, State Senator John J. Marchi, a Staten Island Republican--conducted the first systematic examination of school governance in the city since the system was decentralized more than 20 years ago.

The panel's final report, issued April 4, adheres closely to the preliminary recommendations made in a draft report issued in January. (See Education Week, Jan. 30, 1991.)

The 300-page report calls for every school in the city to have a democratically elected council made up of equal numbers of parents and teachers--in addition to supervisors, other school staff members, and students--to make decisions on curriculum, budgets, and personnel.

It calls for the community school districts to have independent financial officers who would issue a report every year. Each of the six high school administrative districts recommended by the commission--one for each of the city's five boroughs and one to govern the city's alternative high schools--also would have an independent financial officer, as would the central administration.

The community school boards' involvement in personnel matters would be limited to hiring a superin0 tendent, approving the superintendent's recommendations for principals, and recommending a candiate to the chancellor to serve as financial officer.

Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez was "dismayed" that the commission did not give the chancellor the authority to set the specific "performance standards" for district superintendents, according to Robert Terte, a spokesman for the chancellor.

Mr. Fernandez also "strongly dis0 agreed" with the proposal to increase the number of community school districts, fearing that "it would enmesh the system in a power struggle for years to come," Mr. Terte said.

Each school and community district, as well as the central board of education, would issue annual "accountability reports" on a wide range of educational outcomes.

If school districts did not achieve the desired results, the central board would offer technical assistance to the district. If a second annual report were to show a lack of improvement, the central board would be required to take action to correct the problems, report publicly what actions were taken, and then report the results.

The panel also recommended that the central board be increased from seven to nine members, four of whom would be appointed by the mayor.

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