Board 29 names school for late community activist

By Adam Kramer

School Board 29 got busy last Thursday at a special public hearing following its monthly working session. The board officially named PS 37 after the late state Assemblywoman Cynthia Jenkins, named Rosedale resident Larry Smith to the board and certified criteria for its C-37 committee.

“The special meeting was held to get these three initiatives approved,” said School Board President Nathaniel Washington.

Any vote the board takes has to be done in a public forum to allow the community to respond. Thursday’s meeting was held at the school board’s district offices at 1 Cross Island Plaza.

Covering a large swath of southeast Queens, School District 29 stretches from Queens Village to Fresh Meadows and from Hollis to Rosedale. It also includes Cambria Heights, Rosedale, Laurelton, parts of Bellerose, Springfield Gardens and parts of Jamaica.

“PS 37, formerly the Springfield Gardens School, will now be known as the Cynthia Jenkins School,” said Washington. “The board voted unanimously to officially change the name.”

He said the community and Board 29 chose to rename the school at 179-37 137th Ave. in Springfield Gardens after the longtime political activist because of all she had done for the community for the past 30 years. Jenkins, the district’s first black Assembly member, died late last year. A staunch fighter for the education of the district’s children, she had adopted the school years ago.

“She was an advocate for the public schools like no other,” he said. “She fought for public education. She was a firm believer in the school boards.”

Morshed Alam, a School Board 29 member, said Jenkins fought to shrink class size and to get more money for public education.

“It is appropriate to honor her for her legacy,” he said. “She was always there for the children.”

Rosedale resident Larry Smith was chosen to replace former board member Leroy Comrie, now a member of the City Council.

Comrie’s term was scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2002, but School Board elections have been postponed. Smith will remain until the next elections — no date has been set for them — and then has the choice of running again for the seat.

“He was appointed based on certain criteria laid out by the board,” Washington said, “and had to have a child in the school system.”

He said all of the candidates for the position were asked a series of 13 questions and Smith gave the best answers. In addition, Washington said Smith has been an active member of various school groups and parent associations.

“He is a welcome addition to the board,” Washington said. “He is an independent thinker and team player.”

Now that the board is at full strength once again, it can turn its attention to the C-37 committee and the search for a District 29 superintendent.

At the meeting the board approved the preferred criteria necessary to allow the committee to begin looking at resumés. It has 45 days to submit its selections to the school board.

The school district has been in limbo since Celestine Miller was fired in February 1999 by then-Chancellor Rudy Crew for delaying to report that an 8-year-old boy had brought a loaded gun into a Rosedale school. She was indicted in November 2000 on bid-rigging charges involving computer sales to schools under her control.

After Miller left, District 29 had an acting interim superintendent, but Levy suspended the school board, which was reinstated after District Administrator Michael Johnson arrived on the scene in early 2000.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.