YONKERS - Yonkers Mayor Michael Spano is pushing to gain more of a say over the city's public schools, and while the state Senate has agreed that Spano should have "mayoral control," the move isn't set in stone just yet.
Spano asked for more oversight after the district spent $44 million in state aid that it didn't have, a revelation that prompted the sudden retirement of Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio.
The mayor's request comes as the state attempts to get its budget in order. State lawmakers are looking at financing and other changes that need to be made in schools across New York. Spano says mayoral control is just one way to help the city's financially strapped district.
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"If we are even to get some kind of governance reform that allows the city to have more control over the finances and maintenance, and some of the non-scholastic parts of the Board of Education, that certainly would be helpful to the taxpayers," Spano says.
The Yonkers School Board has signed an agreement allowing the city's financial team to provide services until the end of the school year. However, there's uncertainty that mayoral control is the best option.
In a statement, Yonkers School Board President Nader Sayegh said, "The board recognizes prior concerns that contributed to the present financial shortfall. However, the board does not see the immediate takeover of the school district as the best option. The present board has displayed an extensive record of transparency and cooperation in the budget process."
The head of the Yonkers teachers union does not believe that the mayor's plan is right for the city's schools, either. "I think he wants to do what is right for them," says union President Pat Puleo. "I think I believe he already has control, and I do not know what will happen to the schools in the future under who-knows-what mayor."
The state Assembly still must approve the mayoral control measure, and then it goes to the governor.
For extended interviews with Puleo and Spano, watch the clip to the left or go to News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.