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Joseph G. Barkan Files, 1974-1986, Series 314 

Introduction The Joseph G. Barkan Files, 1974-1986, document portions of the work of a long-serving member of the Board of Education. They comprise Series 314 of the Board of Education Record Group, and are part of the subgroup of records of members of the Board. They have been assigned accession number 04-022.

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.

The series consists of 12.5 cubic feet of records. They were organized and inventoried by the Municipal Archives in 2005 in a project supported by the New York State Archives under its Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund.

Biographical Note

Joseph G. Barkan was one of the longest-serving members of the Board of Education, serving for extended periods both before and after decentralization. He was first appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Robert F. Wagner in 1963 and served until 1969, when the Board was reorganized in the lead-up to decentralization. Then, in 1974, he was appointed as Queens representative by Borough President Donald R. Manes. Reappointed in 1978 and 1982, he served until 1986.

The Board elected Barkan as its vice-president in 1977 and re-elected him in 1979. He was elected President of the Board in February 1980 upon the resignation of Stephen Aiello and re-elected to full terms in both July 1980 and 1981.

Barkan came to the Board from a background of business leadership in maritime transportation. Starting as a registered public accountant, he worked as an auditor and financial regulator for such federal agencies as the US General Accounting Office and the Federal Maritime Administration He then moved on to such positions as vice president of the Prudential Lines and Grace Lines shipping companies, president of American Export Lines, and director of the Federal Maritime Commission’s Atlantic District.

Scope and Content

The Joseph G. Barkan Files provide documentation of Barkan’s second period of service on the Board of Education, from 1974 to 1986. Within this period, coverage varies, reflecting the fact that files of board members were not systematically retained by the Board of Education. None of his papers or files from his earlier service in the 1960s are included.

The second period of service occurred after the 1970 decentralization of the school system, which redefined the role of the central Board of Education and required it to share authority with other agencies, notably the Community School Boards. The records reflect this fact, with a significant subseries being devoted to the community school districts. Most central board members, including Barkan, were appointed by their respective borough presidents, and were therefore especially concerned with matters in their home boroughs. This also is reflected in the structure of the records.

The main body of records are organized in subject files, as Subseries I. These include some strictly topical subjects, such as integration and student suspensions, but are primarily focused on particular administrative manifestations of major policy issues, such as the Aspira agreement regarding bilingual education, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights enforcement regarding desegregation, and the litigation regarding state aid formulas. It is apparent that these subject files are largely from the late 1970s and provide relatively little documentation of activities in the later years of Barkan’s service. Subseries II contains Barkan’s interaction with individual community school districts and his files on community school board elections. They cover primarily the period 1977 to 1981; similar files for earlier and later periods have not been found.

An important group of files relating to meetings of elected community representatives, parent association leaders, and other constituent groups is contained in Subseries III. These groups include the Consultative Council (central board members and community school board members), the Queens Community School Board meetings (Barkan meeting with the several boards in Queens); and the Queens Presidents Council (presidents of school boards and presidents of parent associations). Most of these files relate to the period 1976 to 1979, but with these limitations they provide insight into the multiple forms of democratic participation in school governance that typified the decentralization era. Subseries IV documents two confidential search efforts that Barkan led, for the selection of Chancellor in 1977-78 and again in 1983. While it provides important documentation of a major board responsibility, the subseries is necessarily subject to limitations on research access in accordance with the privacy rights of individuals.

Series Descriptions

Subseries I: Subject Files (1974-1986), 7 cubic feet

The subseries contains correspondence, memoranda, circulars, pamphlets, legal papers, statistics and press releases. Arranged alphabetically, it spans the years 1974-1986. Reference materials from the 1960s and 1970s are included. The files focus on administrative and policy matters such as budgets, personnel, civil rights and legal cases. Among them are files pertaining to important issues such as integration, bilingual education (through the Aspira lawsuit), reorganization of special education and state financial aid. The records reflect Barkan’s interaction with various individuals at the Board of Education, including board members, administrative staff, high school interns, and his own office staff. The papers contain correspondence connected to Joseph Barkan’s membership on the Board of Education, including his elections to the posts of vice-president and president of the board.

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Subseries II: Community School Districts (1975-1982), 2 cubic feet

The subseries contains memoranda, correspondence, telegrams and printed material. Arranged numerically by district and alphabetically, it spans the years 1975-1982. The files reveal the interactions between the Board of Education and the school boards over budgeting, school closings, Title I funding, audits, school board elections and board member training. The records contain parents’ grievances and school board appeals of the Chancellor’s suspensions and supersessions of board decisions.

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Subseries III: Consultative Council, Queens Community School Boards and Other Meetings (1974-1980), 1.5 cubic feet

The subseries contains memoranda, reports, attendance sheets, agendas and printed materials. Arranged alphabetically, it spans the years 1974-1980. The files focus on the meetings of the Consultative Council, an assembly of board members and school board representatives; the Queens Community School Boards, created by Joseph Barkan; and the Queens Presidents Council, which included presidents of the school boards and presidents of parents associations. Included are specific meeting agendas and notes, requests for agenda items, and the work of the Consultative Council’s committees. The files provide information on the role these groups played in fostering communications between the Board of Education and the local school boards or parents associations.

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Subseries IV: Chancellor Searches (1977-1978, 1983), 2 cubic feet

This subseries contains correspondence, resumes, ballots and memoranda. Arranged chronologically, therein alphabetically, it includes the years 1977-1978 and 1983. The files contain applications, nominations and letters of support for the position of Chancellor, which became vacant in 1977 and 1983. For 1983, candidates selected for interviewing have their appointment letter attached. Letters of support show organized efforts on behalf of various candidates. Use of this subseries is subject to appropriate restrictions to respect the privacy of individuals.

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