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Chancellor Nathan Quinones Confidential Files, 1984-1988, Series 1127 


Introduction

The Chancellor Nathan Quinones Confidential Files, 1984-1988, document aspects of the work of the fifth chancellor of the New York City Board of Education. They comprise Series 1127 of the Board of Education Record Group, and are part of the subgroup, Chancellors. They have been assigned accession number 06-061.

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 4 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 Confidential Files contain correspondence, memoranda, reports, audits, drafts of union contracts and related materials. This set of files was maintained separately from the other files of Chancellor Quinones because they involved legal matters, investigations by city agencies or the Board’s Inspector General, personnel problems, union negotiations, or other matters which were believed to require confidential treatment at that time. While there is no longer any reason for restriction of access to most such materials, caution should be used regarding materials that might involve the privacy rights of individuals.

Arrangement

The series is arranged by category of records. First are mail logs, then materials on the transition of staff at the beginning of Chancellor Quinones’ term of office. Next are records of investigations by the New York city Department of Investigation and the Bronx District Attorney. These are followed by a group of records of negotiation and arbitration with the United Federation of Teachers. The bulk of the series consists of the next two categories, correspondence with the Board of Education’s Office of the Inspector General and general files of “confidential correspondence,” each of which are arranged chronologically.

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