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Chancellor Nathan Quinones Central Files, 1984-1988, Series 1125 


The Chancellor Nathan Quinones Central Files, 1984-1988, document the work of the fifth chancellor of the New York City Board of Education. They comprise Series 1125 of the Board of Education Record Group, and are part of the subgroup, Chancellors. They have been assigned accession number 06-001.

The records were transferred to the Municipal Archives by the Department of Education in 2004 from the former Board of Education headquarters at 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn.

The series consists of 141.5 cubic feet of records. They were organized and inventoried by the Municipal Archives in 2005-2006 in a project supported by the New York State Archives under its Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund.

Biographical Note

Nathan Quinones was appointed Acting Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education in March 1984 after the Board had required Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado to take a leave of absence because of questionable personal financial transactions and administrative actions. As Acting Chancellor, Quinones won praise from board members and from Mayor Edward Koch for bringing stability to a school system demoralized by the Alvarado scandal. Upon Alvarado’s resignation in May 1984, Quinones was appointed Chancellor for a three-year term.

As early as his appointment as Acting Chancellor, Quinones sought to strengthen the organization and administration of the schools, to set standards for improving reading and math scores, and to implement a widely-desired all-day kindergarten program. He de-emphasized Mr. Alvarado’s most ambitious program—establishing high schools with special themes—arguing that educational change cannot be “a quick hype” that “falls on its face because it doesn’t have the dimension of purpose and of solidity to be able to hold its own.”

Chancellor Quinones sought the advice of recognized educational leaders and of concerned civic groups, such as the Educational Priorities Panel, and identified a number of key issues, including teacher recruitment and training, high school dropout prevention, and special education. To bring in more qualified teachers and reduce class size, he lobbied for an increase in starting salaries for teachers. To eliminate a “logjam” of provisional supervisory appointments, he encouraged the city corporation counsel to settle lawsuits regarding discriminatory license examinations. To help students who fell behind because they lived in single-parent households or other difficult circumstances, he advocated the development of a “shared accountability” between the schools and parents, programs of peer tutoring, support services in the schools, and closer attention by teachers as to why students were not making progress in basic skill areas.

From the beginning of his tenure, Nathan Quinones suffered in comparison to his predecessor, who was often called vibrant and innovative. While critics agreed Mr. Quinones was a solid administrator, they believed he lacked the flair and leadership that was needed to transform the school system. In 1986, the Board of Education approved a one year contract extension in recognition of the effectiveness of his service. The extension was to run through June 1988. However, in August 1987, Quinones announced his resignation effective January 1, 1988 amid growing perceptions that he had failed to reform the schools and to solve their longstanding problems.

Nathan Quinones was born in East Harlem on Oct 12, 1930, the son of Puerto Rican parents. The older of two children, Mr. Quinones spent his adolescence in the South Bronx. While his parents struggled financially, Quinones graduated from the High School of Commerce. He entered City College, according to Mr. Quinones, “by chance. No one in high school ever spoke to me about going on. I submitted an application to college because friends were submitting applications.”

While attending City College, where he majored in classical and romance languages, Nathan Quinones worked six nights a week at a hospital. He graduated from City College in 1953. Unsure of his career path, Mr. Quinones volunteered for service in the Army, spending more than half of his service stationed in Korea. Among his duties was helping fellow soldiers obtain their GEDs, and Quinones began thinking about a job in the education field.

His first job upon returning from the military in 1955 was as a caseworker in the New York City Department of Welfare but he left after only 18 months when he was offered a job teaching Spanish at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, in February 1957. Quinones began teaching at William Niles Junior High in September 1959, instructing non-English-speaking students in Spanish, English and social studies over the next eight years. While teaching, he earned a Master’s degree in Hispanic literature from Columbia University in 1965 and a Master’s degree in Education from Hunter College in 1967.

In 1967, Quinones was named assistant principal for foreign languages at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens, a position he held for ten years. During that time, he also served a two-year term on the Board of Examiners in 1974-1975 and spent one term as interim principal of Morris High School before he was named Principal of South Bronx High School in 1977. He also served as a board member and officer of Aspira of New York, a Puerto Rican education advocacy organization. In 1978, Nathan Quinones was selected by Chancellor Frank Macchiarola to be Executive Director of the Division of High Schools, where he remained until his appointment as Acting Chancellor in 1984.

Scope and Content

The Chancellor Nathan Quinones Central Files document the work of the Office of the Chancellor during the period July 1984 to February 1988. The chancellor’s staff maintained the records in an established filing system, beginning anew each school year on July 1.

Nathan Quinones, then Executive Director of the Division of High Schools under
Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado, became Acting Chancellor in March 1984 and Chancellor in May 1984. His files for the period March-June 1984 remain with those of Chancellor Alvarado. Quinones resigned effective January 1, 1988 and his successor, Richard R. Green did not take office until March 1, 1988. The two month gap, January-February 1988, was filled by Deputy Chancellor Charles Schonhaut, who served as Acting Chancellor. The documents from Mr. Schonhaut remain a part of the Nathan Quinones Central Files. Chancellor Green’s files from March through June 1988 have been separated and joined with the rest of Green’s records, through 1989.

The series contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, contracts, audits, circulars, referrals, and executive orders. It reflects the relationship between the Chancellor’s Office and the various departments, offices and officials at the Board of Education and on the city, state and federal levels. The records also reveal transactions between the Chancellor’s Office and outside organizations, like the Council of Great City Schools, and the general public over concerns regarding the educational system and its service to the students. Financial concerns including budgeting, grants and audits, legal issues such as grievance charges and appeals and school policies surrounding classroom space, testing and programs like dropout and drug prevention are all covered within the documents.

What the records in this series do not show in any detail is Nathan Quinones’ personal connection to the issues, concerns, and policies. A greater sense of Quinones’ personal involvement is found in a related series, the Chancellor Nathan Quinones Subject Files (Series 1126). Many of the files in that series include his handwritten drafts, outlines, and notations.


The chancellor’s central files are arranged in a general alphabetical structure. This arrangement maintains the original organization of the records created by the Office of the Chancellor. The files of the Chancellor and his “office” were organized in a central system and filed by school year (July 1 to June 30). This was done regardless of which Chancellor was incumbent. The alphabetical arrangement begins again each July. Within the alphabetical organization, the files are grouped under specific categories. These categories include Agencies, Associations, Board of Education, Chancellor’s Correspondence, Chancellor’s Staff, Districts, Finance, General Correspondence, Grievances, Memos to the Board, Personnel, Schools, and Teachers. [The files for the 1985-1986 school year are not complete; lacking are portions of the categories Board of Education and Chancellor’s Correspondence.]

The internal arrangement of some categories, such as Associations, Chancellor’s Correspondence, General Correspondence, and Teachers, is alphabetical, by name of association, correspondent, or teacher. Arrangement of other categories varies: Memos to the Board is a major category arranged chronologically, while the Districts category is arranged numerically. Schools is one of the more complex categories and is subdivided into three groups: files on administrative matters, such as classroom space, graffiti, and testing; files on educational programs, such as adult education, dropout prevention, and gifted children; and files on individual schools.

The structure of the central files is most clearly seen in the following table:




Arranged first by level of government: New York City, then New York State, then United States. Within levels, arranged alphabetically by specific agency. Note: additional correspondence between the chancellor and public officials is included in the category “Chancellor’s Correspondence.”]

Anonymous Letters

Arranged chronologically


Correspondence with non-governmental organizations. Arranged alphabetically by name of association.

Board of Education. Bureaus, Divisions, Offices

Arranged first by type of internal agency: bureaus, then divisions, then offices. Within types, arranged alphabetically by the name of the division or office. Within each division or office, usually arranged chronologically, but sometimes by special project or subdivision. [Note; similar material is also included in “Chancellor’s Correspondence.”]

Board of Education.


Arranged in two groups: Memos to the Board, which are addressed to all board members; and Board members correspondence, which is to or from individual members of the board. The Memos to the Board are arranged chronologically; the individual correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the name of the board member.



Arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Correspondents with multiple letters have their own folders. After the alphabetical sequence are special categories, such as “confidential,” “suggestions,” and “congratulatory letters.”

Chancellor. [other subcategories]

Arranged alphabetically by type of document or subject, such as invitations, meetings, memos, regulations, and staff. Within types, arranged chronologically, except staff files are first arranged alphabetically by name of staff member.


Arranged numerically by Community School District. Within each district, arranged chronologically. Several folders relating to district reports and meetings follow the numerical sequence.


Arranged chronologically


Organized by types of financial operation: grants, budget, audits, programs, reimbursable programs, and state aid. Chronological within types.

General Correspondence

Arranged alphabetically.


Arranged by types of legal situations, such as charges, decisions, grievances, legislation, litigation, Office of Legal Services, and suspensions of students and teachers. Within types, arranged alphabetically or chronologically.


Organized by types of document. “Personnel Memos” are arranged numerically; resumes are arranged alphabetically.


Press releases and clippings, arranged chronologically


Organized in three main subcategories:

The first consists of files on relating to school operations. These are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Second is a set of files on school programs, relating to educational matters, also arranged alphabetically by topic.

Third is a sequence of files on individual schools, arranged first by level of school (elementary, intermediate, junior high, high school), then by borough, and then by individual school (numerically for elementary, intermediate, and junior high; alphabetically for high schools).


Arranged alphabetically by the name of each teacher. At the end are a few files relating to general policies such as sabbaticals, tenure, etc.

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