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Scandal Widens Amid New York City School Boards

November 29, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Investigations into drug use, sexual harassment and job-selling by members of the city’s community school boards are widening, and debate is rising over who should control the districts.

Mayor Edward I. Koch, Chancellor Richard Green and central Board of Education President Robert F. Wagner Jr. planned to go to Albany to lobby the Legislature today to allow a revamping of the current decentralized arrangement.

Bronx District Attorney Paul Gentile said Monday that ″evidence exists to bring indictments″ of those accused of demanding money or sexual favors in return for jobs. He is investigating two of the boards.

Wagner said the schools’ inspector general is investigating six district boards in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Green has suspended District 9′s board pending results of Gentile’s investigation into drug use by some members.

At least two members of unidentified local school boards in the Bronx have offered to cooperate with investigators, Green said.

Green, Koch and Wagner planned to urge lawmakers to bar politicians from running for local boards and using them as bases for power and patronage. They also want to return to the chancellor more power over principals of elementary and intermediate schools.

The school system was decentralized 18 years ago, putting control of the 800 schools for kindergarten through eighth or ninth grade in the hands of 32 locally elected district boards. The high schools remain under jurisdiction of the central board.

Since school elections produced very small voter turnouts, many boards were in many cases taken over by the politically connected.

The sex and money demands were the latest news to rock the school system, which is still grappling with the arrest of a Bronx principal on crack-buying charges and the accusation that some local school board members were regular cocaine users.

Gentile said board members in several districts have been accused of demanding sex for jobs or promotions.

In an affidavit, a school aide has charged that a former president of a school board in the Bronx blocked her promotion to a paraprofessional job after she refused alleged repeated sexual advances.

The official, Jose M. Cruz, dismissed Yolanda Picart’s charges as ″a woman’s revenge.″ He said in today’s Daily News that she was upset over not being chosen for the paraprofessional job.

The News also quoted unidentified sources as saying investigators are looking into allegations that some board members may have used school aides and district office workers as personal chauffeurs and handymen.

In a Manhattan district, a principal allegedly had to dip into his pension to pay a board member so he could receive tenure, New York Newsday reported.

Gentile said his hotline had gotten 50 or 60 calls about wrongdoing in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and that he was passing along information to the appropriate prosecutors.

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