Queens parents are rallying behind a longtime superintendent who said was let go from his position, part of a broader shakeup of the education department’s bureaucracy by Schools Chancellor David Banks.
At a press conference in Astoria, Deb Alexander, a member of the Community Education Council for District 30, said parents are “furious” that the district superintendent Dr. Philip A Composto appears to have lost his job.
“The entire District 30 community is reeling from the shrouded, mysterious and nonsensical decision,” she said, adding that Composto has been superintendent for 14 years, and has worked for the school system for 40.
Composto did not immediately return a call for comment.
Several local lawmakers said they were disturbed by the opaque decision. “The real problem here is the way the city is doing this,” said State Senator Mike Giannaris. “They’re coming in, not consulting the community about something that’s going to have a great impact on their children, not giving us a reason for the decision they made.”
Since he was appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, Banks has been outspoken about plans to streamline the sprawling education department bureaucracy and redirect resources to schools. He has said he is eliminating the executive superintendent position created by former Chancellor Richard Carranza, and will have all superintendents reapply for their roles.
Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the education department, said the reorganization will consist of 45 superintendents “with significantly expanded responsibilities and accountability.”
“As part of the first stage in this process, leadership put 130 potential candidates through a rigorous interview process and advanced the two or three best candidates for each district that fit this reimagined role,” Styer said. “We are proud that we are putting the strongest candidates in front of parents and community members at public town halls and will receive their input on the final selection decisions.”
Asked about Composto at an unrelated press conference on Friday, Mayor Eric Adams said he trusts Banks’ judgment.
“He is reforming a school system that has been dysfunctional and that has been broken for so long,” Adams said. “One of the things he must do is he must put in place his generals that are going to be in charge.” He added that officials will have “community stakeholders” interview the top two candidates for each role. It is not yet clear who those stakeholders will be and how these interviews will take place.
David C. Bloomfield, Professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy, Brooklyn College & The CUNY Graduate Center, said it’s common for chancellors to select their own deputies and personnel, and noted that many have zeroed in on the superintendent level between the education department’s central office and schools.
“This is about the churn and politics of New York City education,” he said.
But Bloomfield said it’s crucial for the chancellor to explain in greater depth what criteria his team is using to evaluate candidates, “so that the public knows that quality leaders and not sycophants are being appointed.”
As state legislators consider whether and how to extend mayoral control of the city’s schools, parents have demanded more input and accountability.
At the rally in Queens in support of Composto, Community Education Council member Deb Alexander said 3,000 people have signed a petition in support of Composto, and hundreds of people attended a virtual rally Thursday night. “We love our superintendent, we want him to stay and we want an honest voice in this process,” she said.