NYC’s board of education breaks with city to reject $82 million contract

No more “stamp”.

The education policy panel, which is notoriously amenable to City Hall school policies, turned down an $82 million contract Wednesday night watchdogs believe has only happened once in its history.

The unusual referendum on a temporary staff agreement included some of Mayor Eric Adams’ own appointments and hinted that the new body could break with its soft reputation.

Thomas Sheppard, vice-chairman of the board, called it “insulting” to restrict discussion of the treaty – “so that we can all go through the motions for the sake of expediency and be the puppet panel or rubber stamp that we’ve all been reduced to,” he said.

“I’m not saying any of this — and please believe me when I say this — to make it seem difficult to work with or because I have a different agenda,” said Sheppard, who is not an officer of Adam’s was. “Actually, the opposite is the case. I say everything I say not out of malice or ill will, but out of a deep love I have for the city I call home.”

Tom Allon, editor of a news organization and father of Adams’ assistant press secretary, voted against the contract. Alan Ong, a former president of the Community Education Council, abstained. Both are mayoral candidates.

All who voted for the agreement were Adams picks.

The Education Policy Board members who voted in favor of the city's agreement were all appointed by Mayor Eric Adams.
The Education Policy Board members who voted in favor of the city’s agreement were all appointed by Mayor Eric Adams.
William C. Lopez/NYPOST

“That could signal some trouble for Adams,” said David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Grad Center. The mayor’s predecessors insisted that the panel’s members adjust – and even remove those who disagreed.

“It could also mean that he allows his PEP members to act as a check and balance for the chancellor,” Bloomfield said. “But I suspect it just went wrong yesterday.”

The vote came a day after the Adams administration had to remove Staten Island pastor Kathlyn Barrett-Layne as a candidate after reports revealed her history of anti-gay views and writings.

“No one pays attention to the PEP, including Adams apparently,” Bloomfield said. “So that was awkward, and probably because they don’t have their show together yet.”

Critics of the contract raised questions about how the money would be spent and what temporary workers would be hired, and called for more answers ahead of the meetings. Allon did not publicly comment on his “no” vote and declined to comment for The Post.

Lindsey Oates, the DOE’s chief financial officer, responded that the contract would help support staffing for temporary initiatives like the Situation Room, which monitors COVID-19 cases in schools, or other school and principal needs.

“If that contract were delayed, we would have a service gap, and we’re really trying to prevent a service gap for our schools,” Oates said.

Manhattan Borough President-elect Kaliris Salas-Ramirez asked for an update on these short-term programs “so that we can better understand the need for this particular contract,” while Sheppard suggested that the potential loss of service puts members in a difficult position.

“I have a problem with that,” he said. “Because if those contracts take time to negotiate, we should have enough time to review those contracts.”

The only other time the PEP is believed to have voted against a proposed contract was against Bill de Blasio last year, when the panel rejected a contract to conduct the Gifted and Talented Licensing Examination. NYC’s board of education breaks with city to reject $82 million contract


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