On February 5, Governor Pataki signed a bill postponing New York City school board elections until next year, after the state legislature decides how to restructure the city’s school governance system. As far as he’s concerned, the elections originally scheduled for this spring have been called off.
But tell that to Ron Clinton. The Bushwick parent spent the bulk of last week collecting signatures to get on the ballot for a May 7 election. By last Thursday’s deadline, 79 other board hopefuls filed their petition signatures with the Board of Elections, too, running for some of the 288 seats in 32 community school boards.
Why bother? Because the postponement is actually not a done deal. Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx are under special federal civil rights scrutiny, and the U.S. Department of Justice must therefore determine that the change does not violate the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General John Ashcroft has yet to give the OK. And so, says city Board of Elections spokesperson Rick Peters, “everything is full steam ahead until we hear otherwise.” Calls to Ashcroft’s office were not returned by press time.
Until the Board of Elections gives a red light, Clinton told City Limits last week, candidates need to assume the election is on. “The situation is unfortunate,” he said. “But I have been working with the Board of Elections, and they are going forward with it.” To spread the word, said Peters, his agency posted announcements of the election inside the schools.
Still, most current school board members are not taking the May 7 election date too seriously. “Most of the people I know have not petitioned,” said School Board 3 president Roni Wattman, who did not file signatures on Thursday. “We’re waiting it out.”