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N.Y.C. Mayor Pushes School-Decentralization Plan

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Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York wants the city school system to begin dismantling much of its central administration by September.

Mr. Giuliani intends to push the central board of education to divest its headquarters of certain powers, which would be transferred to borough offices and local school boards, William Warren, a mayoral press aide, said last week, confirming a report in The New York Times. Some offices and divisions in the central headquarters would be closed.

The changes suggested by the Mayor are largely in keeping with an unreleased draft plan on school decentralization put forth by Edward N. Costikyan, an adviser to Mr. Giuliani on school reform. Mr. Giuliani told a Times reporter who obtained a copy of the document that he endorsed its "spirit and direction'' and intends this summer to place a high priority on getting several of its recommendations approved by the school board.

The governance of the unwieldy system, which was partially decentralized in 1969, has been a perennial issue. Past recommendations for improving school governance in New York City have not garnered the necessary support in the state legislature, however.

The new draft plan, as described by the Times, has captured attention because it suggests that Mr. Giuliani can accomplish significant changes by working through his allies on the board of education.

Chancellor's Focus

Robert Terte, a spokesman for Schools Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines, said the chancellor has repeatedly stated that his focus is on teaching and learning, which he does not believe are affected by governance issues.

The Costikyan plan reportedly would eliminate the central board's high school division, which manages the city's high schools, the school-safety force, the meals program, building maintenance and leasing, pupil busing, bilingual education, payrolls, internal auditing, teacher certification, and warehousing. Employees who work in those departments would be transferred to borough or community-district offices or offered early retirement.

Mr. Costikyan, a lawyer who has been active in city politics, also is said to have recommended that the often-criticized budget system be changed to put schools' needs first. The Mayor and Mr. Cortines squared off earlier this year over the budget when Mr. Giuliani moved to appoint a monitor to oversee the board's finances. (See Education Week, April 20, 1994.)

Death of Mayor's Ally

In May, Mr. Giuliani made two appointments to the school board that retained his four-vote majority on the seven-member panel. He named Ninfa Segarra and Irene H. Impellizzeri, who were originally appointed by borough presidents, as his representatives on the board.

The board's majority was shaken, however, by the June 30 death of one of its members, Michael J. Petrides, an adviser to the Mayor who was named to the board by the Staten Island borough president.

In addition to the two mayoral appointees, each of the five borough presidents names a member. New board terms began this month.

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