NYC education panel breaks with city to reject $82M contract

A “rubber stamp” no more.

The Panel for Education Policy, which is notoriously amenable to City Hall’s school directives, rejected an $82 million contract on Wednesday night, which watchdogs believe has only happened once before in its history.

The unusual referendum on a temporary staffing agreement included some of Mayor Eric Adams’ own appointees and suggested the new panel could break with its soft reputation.

Thomas Sheppard, the vice chair of the board, called it “offensive” to limit discussion on the contract — “so we can all go through the motions for the sake of expediency, and be the puppet panel or rubber stamp that everyone has reduced us to,” he said.

“I’m not saying any of this — and please believe me when I say this — to appear difficult to work with, or because I have some other agenda,” said Sheppard, who was not an Adams appointee, but elected by Community Education Council presidents to represent parents.” In fact, the opposite is true. I say everything I do not out of malice or ill will, but out of a profound love I have for the city I call home.”

Tom Allon, a news organization publisher and father to Adams’ deputy press officer, voted against the contract. Alan Ong, a former Community Education Council president, abstained. Both are mayoral appointees.

All who voted in favor of the agreement were Adams picks.

Panel for Education Policy members who voted in favor of the city agreement were all appointed by Mayor Eric Adams.
William C. Lopez/NYPOST

“That may signal some problems for Adams,” said Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor David Bloomfield. The mayor’s predecessors insisted panel members fall in line — even removing those who disagreed.

“It might also mean that he’s going to allow his PEP members to act as a check and balance on the chancellor,” Bloomfield said. “But I suspect that yesterday it just went wrong.”

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

“Nobody pays attention to the PEP, including apparently Adams,” said Bloomfield. “So this was an embarrassment, and likely because they don’t have their act together yet.”

Critics of the contract raised questions about how the money could be spent and what temporary staffers would be hired, calling for more answers further in advance of meetings. Allon didn’t speak publicly on his “no” vote and declined to comment for The Post.

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

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

Manhattan Borough President Appointee Kaliris Salas-Ramirez asked for an update on those short-term programs “so that we can further understand the need for this particular contract,” while Sheppard suggested the potential lapse in service puts members in a difficult spot.

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

The only other time the PEP is believed to have voted against a proposed contract came last year against Bill de Blasio, when the panel voted down a contract to administer the Gifted and Talented admissions exam.

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