Win in Legislature, Setback in Court for Fernandez

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New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez has won his fight to abolish the city's board of examiners for teachers, but has lost a court battle to gain more authority over the hiring of superintendents.

Mr. Fernandez also in July named 80 schools that will serve as models for implementation of site-based management in the city.

The state legislature approved a bill eliminating the 92-year-old licensing board in June. Susan Amlung, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said that elimination of the board "will have a tremendous positive impact" on the city's teachers.

Previously, candidates for teaching jobs in the city had to take two written exams, one for state and one for city certification. The city's exams were scheduled irregularly, according to Ms. Amlung.

Beginning Jan. 1, candidates will need only to take a written exam for state certification and submit to an interview with officials in the chancellor's office.

"This is something we've been working very hard for for many years,'' Ms. Amlung said.

The abolition of the board of examiners was also a top legislative priority for Mr. Fernandez, according to a spokesman for the district.

But the chancellor suffered a setback July 5, when a state court in Queens ruled that he had exceeded his authority by issuing "Circular 37." That directive would have made the choices for superintendents of the city's 32 local school boards subject to Mr. Fernandez's approval.

"The court sympathizes with Chancellor Fernandez's motives," wrote Judge Herbert A. Posner in a five-page decision. "However, the law is bigger than any man and as praiseworthy as Circular 37 may be ... [it] must be declared invalid."

The directive was invalid, the court ruled, because state law gives local boards the power to hire and fire superintendents. The chancellor may only set minimum criteria for experience, according to the decision.

Dennis R. Coleman, president of the New York City School Boards Association, called the decision "a great victory for decentralization."

A spokesman for the school district said its lawyers will appeal the ruling.

Mr. Fernandez last month announced the selection of schools that will participate in site-based management. Eighty of the district's more than 980 schools will take part in the program, starting in September; another 47 may begin to participate as early as next February, after they modify their proposals.

Over all, said a spokesman for the district, "the chancellor regarded this as a very good start."

The spokesman added that some schools in Dade County, Fla., where Mr. Fernandez first implemented site-based management, were "initially hesitant" to participate.

He also acknowledged that there was some "outright opposition" to the plan.

Some principals have said site-based management hampers local control and diminishes their authority. But the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the principals' union, has officially endorsed the concept.

Vol. 09, Issue 40

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