NYC schools won’t oust incumbent district bosses after all

New York City’s Department of Education has pumped the brakes on plans to axe popular incumbent superintendents before consulting with families.

The reverse-course comes after The Post reported on backlash from parents fuming that they weren’t consulted on the presumed ousting of beloved school bosses, and mounting public pressure from state and local representatives.

“The central pillar of this administration is parent and community engagement,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks in a statement on Monday.

“After listening to community feedback we are inviting all incumbent superintendents to be interviewed as part of the community process.”

Finalists from each district will meet with parent-led councils — many of which are scheduled for this week — with the opportunity for members, families and employees to hear from two to three candidates in addition to the incumbents, ask them questions and provide feedback.

Banks will make final hiring decisions after incorporating the feedback of parents, union leaders, elected officials and community members, according to a DOE press release.

“It will say a lot what the Chancellor decides, based on the feedback he receives,” said Deborah Alexander, a parent member of Community Education Council 30. “I would hope that whatever decision the Chancellor makes, if it is in direct contradiction with the community, we’d get some explanation as to why.” 

Community members rallied behind Superintendent Philip Composto in Queens after the DOE suggested it would remove the veteran.
NYC Kids Rise

One of Banks’ first moves as chancellor was to open all superintendent positions up to 130 internal and external candidates, as part of a citywide shakeup intended to expand their responsibilities and put the most effective leaders in charge of the city’s 45 school districts.

The DOE ensured it would “engage in a process that involves the community,” but suggested last week it could oust some beloved superintendents before that stage — including 40-year-veteran Superintendent Philip Composto in Queens. A petition in his support had reached close to 3,000 signatures on Monday.

“We only wanted Dr. Composto to get a fair shot,” said Alexander, one of the parent leaders in that district, “and the idea that parents were being left intentionally out of the process to comment on our long-time superintendents — that’s what was so disheartening.”

Senator Deputy Majority Leader, Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, debates state budget Bills during a legislative session in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol, Thursday, April 7, 2022.
NY Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris praised the DOE for listening to the community’s complaints.
AP/Hans Pennink

Insiders said sitting superintendents who were previously left off the Community Education Council’s lists of finalists started to get calls back over the weekend, including Composto on Sunday.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” Desmond Blackburn, Deputy Chancellor of School Leadership, who oversees superintendent hiring and support, told parents at a meeting of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council. “We’re trying to do this never before thing to include community, parents, you name it, in the selection of a very crucial person to every child’s education — and that is the superintendent.”

“And because it’s never been done before, there’s no exact roadmap,” he said. “But we’re committed to going over and through the bumps on the road to get us there.” 

At least one state legislator was impressed with the administration’s response to the public backlash, coming less than 24 hours before Mayor Eric Adams is scheduled to head to Albany on Tuesday to ask for an extension of mayoral control over the city schools.

“It’s definitely a great development,” said State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who took part in a press conference Friday to protest Composto’s removal. “It’s always good when government listens to complaints. I appreciate the city did so in this case. They appreciated that parents felt left out.”

“It’s important to criticize government when it does something wrong. But it’s also important to praise government when it does something right and corrects a mistake.”

Additional reporting by Carl Campanile.