NEW YORK (Aug. 2)
A meeting between New York City School Chancellor Harvey Scribner and the four Jewish organizations which sent him a letter of protest last week over the appointment of Luis Fuentes to superintendent of schools in local District One on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, will take place tomorrow morning at the school board offices in Brooklyn.
A spokesman for the American Jewish Congress told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Scribner called the meeting with the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Labor Committee, the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League and the AJ Congress to discuss their complaints. A general discussion of quotas and preferential hiring in the schools also will take place, according to Robert Kohler, New York regional director of the ADL.
Leonard Stevens, special assistant to the chancellor, explained that there was as yet “no basis for an investigation” of Fuentes, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic and anti-Italian remarks while serving as principal of PS 155 in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn. Fuentes took office yesterday after being appointed to the position last month, by what has been called a “militant extremist” community school board.
Under the decentralization laws passed by the state legislature, the community school board alone has the power to hire and fire the district superintendent. But the chancellor has power over the school boards, if non-compliance with the law can be proved. Michael Rosen, legal counsel for the chancellor’s office, explained that under the grievance procedure, the chancellor has several options open to him in a case where the school board has acted illegally. Most severe of these is removal of the entire school board. Final power rests with the New York State Commissioner of Education, Ewald B. Nyquist, who could remove Fuentes from office, according to Haskell Lazere, director of the New York chapter of the AJ Committee.
The ADL is currently engaged in research on the legal options in the matter. Kohler said that the ADL may possibly enter into litigation. Other measures are also being considered by his group and the other three organizations. Both he and Lazere said they had no idea what Scribner’s position would be at tomorrow’s meeting, and said they would wait until after the meeting to plan further action.
The Brotherhood in Action, an intergroup relations agency, is currently working to bring about some type of resolution in the dispute, according to Frank Arricali, executive director of the group. A meeting between Fuentes and the protesting Jewish and Italian groups is in the planning stages. Other individuals, including Albert Shanker, president of the United Federation of Teachers, have voiced disapproval of the Fuentes appointment. Shanker called on “all those who oppose bigotry to speak up” against the appointment.