July 8, 1997

New York Schools Chancellor Reverses Veto of Local Board's Choice


NEW YORK -- After more than a week of intense political pressure over his veto of a local school board's choice for district superintendent, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew reversed himself on Monday and said he would accept the candidate.

Crew had provoked harsh criticism late last month when, for the first time, he used his new veto power over school superintendents to reject Claire McIntee, an elementary school principal who was unanimously selected by Community School Board 26 in northeast Queens County to be the district's top administrator.

The chancellor had asserted that Ms. McIntee lacked the breadth of experience to head the 16,000-student district. But local board members argued that she was best suited to meet the needs of their district, which has long had the top scores on citywide reading and math tests.

After his rejection of the board's choice, Crew and his staff were showered with letters and calls from a host of influential Queens politicians and from City Hall. State Sen. Frank Padavan, a Republican who sponsored the state legislation last year authorizing Crew to hire district superintendents, spoke to him Friday. Comptroller Alan Hevesi called Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, who in turn called a top aide to Crew. Claire Shulman, the Queens borough president, also appealed to Crew on Ms. McIntee's behalf last week, as did Steven Sanders, a Democrat who heads the state Assembly's Education Committee.

Crew's spokesman, Chiara Coletti, maintained on Monday that the chancellor had not been swayed by the officials, but instead by appeals from local board members. In a meeting last Thursday with the chancellor, the school board proposed a compromise: rather than the standard three-year contract, the school system would give a one-year deal to Ms. McIntee, 57, at the end of which Crew would evaluate her performance. Crew on Monday accepted the offer.

"This is a district that has earned the benefit of the doubt," Ms. Coletti said. She added that the mayor's office did not intervene directly on behalf of Ms. McIntee, who has been principal of Public School 94 in Little Neck, N.Y., for the last 13 years.

The Assembly district that includes most of District 26 is crucial political territory for the mayor, who carried it with nearly 80 percent of the vote in the 1993 election.

Ms. McIntee's supporters applauded Crew's change of heart.

"I think they realized they have to be a little more judicious," Sanders said of the chancellor's office, "and they need slightly more objective criteria in scrutinizing people."

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company