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Board of Education, 1842-2002 

The records of the New York City Board of Education, from its creation in 1842 to its replacement by a mayoral Department of Education in 2002 are in this collection. Also included are records of the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn from 1853 to 1897. These records document aspects of educational policy-making and school-system administration. The Municipal Archives does not hold student records.

The Board of Education collection combines materials previously in the custody of the Teachers College Library with a major body of material transferred directly from the Board of Education headquarters. The Municipal Archives is engaged in an ongoing program to process these records and to prepare inventories to facilitate research access to this extensive collection. Archives staff will assist researchers in providing information about the records and arranging the maximum possible practical access to them. Inventories of several series are now available on this web site and additional inventories will be added periodically.

Nineteenth-century records consist primarily of the printed records of the New York City and City of Brooklyn boards of education. Major series include the minutes of the meetings of the boards of education (also referred to as the Journal or the Proceedings), the annual reports of the boards and of the superintendents of schools. The manuals and directories of the schools provide details on school locations, teaching and administrative staff, and school-system regulations. A manuscript series of trustees’ minutes and visitor books provides insight into the local aspects of school governance.

During the first years of the consolidated City of New York (1898-1901) the school system had a central board plus borough boards. The records include the minutes of the borough boards for Manhattan and Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond.

Twentieth-century records include the continuations of several series of annual reports, minutes, manuals, and directories, together with a wide range of manuscript series. These include files from board members, superintendents of schools, chancellors, and administrative bureaus.

A large group of records are the manuscript minutes and reports of committees of the board, responsible for such aspects of the schools as finance, buildings, curriculum, and textbooks. Also included are records of special commissions created to develop policies and programs in such areas as vocational education, racial integration, educational needs of Puerto Rican students, curriculum experiments, juvenile delinquency, and administrative management.

The files of individual board members contain documentation of the ways that controversial issues and routine problems were addressed. Their correspondence with parents, civic groups, and other officials gives a sense of the interplay among educational constituencies. The earliest significant such collection are the papers of James Marshall, who served from 1935 to 1952. The files of board members who served in the 1950s through 1990s are included, among them Charles Silver, Max Rubin, Rose Shapiro, Isaiah Robinson, Seymour Lachman, Joseph Barkan, Amelia Ashe, Robert Wagner, Jr., Stephen Aiello, Luis Reyes, and Irene Impellizzeri.

Correspondence and subject files of mid-twentieth century superintendents of schools William Jansen and Bernard Donovan provide insight into central administration. While earlier superintendents’ files have not been found, the files of several assistants and associate superintendents help to fill out the picture of administration, as do the subject files maintained by the Office of the Secretary, the Office of Education Information and Public Relations, and the Bureau of Reference, Research, and Statistics.

For the era of decentralization, after 1970, the records of the Chancellor provide extensive documentation of such major policy issues as school governance, desegregation, bilingual education, special education, health education, multicultural curriculum, school buildings, and financial equity. Each of the Chancellors who served under the Board of Education is represented: Harvey Scribner, Irving Anker, Frank Macciarola, Alfredo Alvarado, Nathan Quinones, Richard Green, Joseph Fernandez, Ramon Cortines, Rudolph Crew, and Harold Levy.

Important documentation of the instructional program is contained in courses of study and other curriculum materials. A large collection of these materials, including standard and experimental curricula, covers the period 1900-1990. Related information for the nineteenth century is found in the annual reports of the Board of Education.

A major component of the records is the photograph collection. Combining images of school buildings, classroom scenes, and special school events, the photograph collection consists of over 50,000 images, most from the period 1918-1970. Among the earlier images are photos of adult evening lectures and evening school classes from the period 1900-1920.

 GUIDE TO THE RECORDS OF THE BOARD - (Adobe Acrobat Requred)

This guide provides series-level descriptions of over 300 records series in the Board of Education collection.


Selected finding aids including series descriptions and folder listings.

Records of Members of the Board

Stephen R. Aiello Files, 1974-1980, Series 311

Stephen R. Aiello served on the Board of Education from 1974 to 1980 as a representative of the borough of Brooklyn and served as board president from 1978 to 1980. His files reflect his work on such administrative issues as school finance and union contracts as well as his particular concern for programs in special education, drug abuse prevention, and health education.

Amelia H. Ashe Files, 1974-1985, Series 312

Amelia H. Ashe served on the Board of Education from 1974 to 1985, as a mayoral appointee. This position capped a long career as an educator in the field of guidance and counseling at the high school and university levels. Her extensive files document issues faced by the board such as bilingual education, fairness in selection of supervisors, and special education. Issues arising under decentralization are reflected in files of correspondence with community school districts, and litigation files on cases involving the rights and responsibilities of students, teachers, and community school boards.

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

Joseph G., Barkan served on the Board of Education from 1963 to 1969, as a mayoral appointee, and again from 1974 to 1986, as a representative of the borough of Queens. He served as board president from1980 to 1982. These files are from the second period of service and cover such issues as mandated bilingual education, desegregation, and state aid formulas. Also included are files documenting consultations with community school districts and parents associations.

James B. Donovan Subject Files, 1961-1963, Series 321

James B. Donovan served on the Board of Education from 1961 to 1965, as a mayoral appointee. He served as board president from 1963 to 1965. These files are a portion of Donovan's records from the period 1961 to 1963 and cover such issues as collective bargaining, racial integration, and local school boards.

Irene Impellizzeri Files, 1980-1993, Series 345

Irene Impellizzeri served on the Board of Education from 1980 to 1994, as a representative of the borough of Brooklyn, and then from 1994 to 2002 as a mayoral appointee. While on the board, she held the positions of Dean of the School of Education at Brooklyn College and then Dean of Teacher Education at the City University. These records document the first portion of her service and include significant files on consultations with community school boards and on the controversies regarding proposed HIV/AIDS education programs.

James Marshall Papers, 1930-1986, Series 354

James Marshall was appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1935 and served until 1952. He served as board president from 1938 to 1942. The papers reflect Marshall’s role as a “reformer,” including materials on efforts to eliminate political influence and corruption in school administration. Extensive files of speeches, radio addresses, and writings (including those written after he left the board), reflect Marshall’s commitment to a “progressive education” philosophy.

 Mary E. Meade Files, 1969-1972, Series 356

Mary E. Meade served on the Board of Education from 1969 to 1972, as a representative of Staten Island, after a long career in the New York City public schools as a high school teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. These files, a portion of her records, document the board’s work on budgets, personnel, and collective bargaining. They also reflect Meade’s particular interest in occupational and vocational education. Files on community school districts record the earliest phases of decentralization.

Isaiah Robinson Files, 1968-1972, Series 378

Isaiah Robinson served on the Board of Education from 1969 to 1978, as a representative of the borough of Manhattan. He served as board president for the school years 1971-72 and 1975-76. Robinson had played an active role in community control efforts in Harlem in the 1960s. His files, which cover his board service only up to 1972, reflect his interest in democratization of the schools; they focus on the demonstration districts, the implementation of decentralization, and the roles of parents, community organizations, teachers, and other constituencies in the operation of the schools.

Max J. Rubin Files, 1961-1964, Series 379

Max J. Rubin served as a member of the Board of Education from 1961 to 1963 and as board president throughout that period. His appointment by Mayor Robert Wagner was part of an overhaul of the Board membership mandated by the Legislature. Rubin’s extensive subject files focus on administrative and policy matters, such as budgets, state aid, personnel, civil rights, collective bargaining, integration, and community boards.

Charles H. Silver Files, 1952-1961, Series 386

Charles H. Silver was a member of the Board of Education from 1952 to 1961 and its president from 1955 to 1961. His files include his correspondence, especially regarding efforts to upgrade the high schools, many of his speeches as public occasions, and the records of his management of the selection of the superintendent of schools.

Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Files, 1985-1990, Series 391

Robert F. Wagner, Jr., served on the Board of Education from 1985 to 1990 as a mayoral appointee. He served as board president from 1986 to 1990. Son of a former mayor and grandson of a former senator, Wagner’s work on the board was one phase in a career in public service. His files include extensive materials on policy-making regarding such issues as decentralization, AIDS, sex education, special education, drugs, homelessness, and dropout rates. Included also are files on community school district affairs that reveal the continued tensions over shared responsibilities during decentralization.

Records of Chancellors of the Board

Harvey Scribner Files, 1970-1973, Series 1101

Harvey Scribner was the first Chancellor of the New York City schools, a position created by the 1970 decentralization law. His period of service saw the start of a process of working out the relative powers and responsibilities of the central board and the community districts, and the roles of parents, teachers, and students. The files are incomplete, but reflect not only decentralization but also many major concerns in the period, such as desegregation, poverty, disadvantaged and handicapped children, and high school dropouts, and the various programs being developed to deal with such problems.

Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola Memos to the Board, 1978-1983, Series 1110

Frank J. Macchiarola served as Chancellor from 1978 to 1983. The extensive records of the Chancellor’s office document the workings of the central school system administration in that period. The specific series of memos to the Board consists of memoranda transmitting informational materials to the Board members, covering a wide range of policy and administrative issues, such as governance, teacher selection, desegregation, pupil suspension, curriculum development, financial oversight, and administrative reform.

Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado Central Files, 1983-1984, Series 1120

Anthony J. Alvarado served as Chancellor from May 1983 to March 1984. His term as Chancellor emphasized such programs as alternative schools and student choice of schools, which he had previously introduced as superintendent of District 4. Efforts to reform school administration and inaugurate the all-day kindergarten program are reflected in the “Memos to the Board” and other correspondence files.

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

Nathan Quinones served as Chancellor from June 1984 to January 1988. The records reflect the work of the office of the Chancellor on a wide range administrative and educational concerns, including high school dropout prevention, special education, teacher and supervisory appointments, and class size. Also included is extensive correspondence with teachers, parents, community activists, and the general public, that reveals much of the reality of public education.

Chancellor Nathan Quinones Subject Files, 1984-1988, Series 1126

A series of files on subjects in which Chancellor Quinones took a special interest, including many containing his handwritten drafts or comments. Included are files on advisory councils and study groups he set up to try to define priorities and strategies that would lead to broad improvement of the school system.

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

A series of files maintained as confidential by the office of Chancellor Nathan Quinones, generally because they contained matter of a legal, investigative, or personal nature. Included are correspondence with the Board of Education’s Office of Inspector General or other investigators and files relating to union negotiations and arbitrations.

Chancellor Richard R. Green Central Files, 1988-1989, Series 1130

Richard R. Green served as Chancellor from March 1988 until his untimely death in May 1989. The records reflect the work of the office of the Chancellor in this period and document his efforts to involve board members, administrators, teachers, public officials, citizens’ groups, and the general public in a program of school improvement and educational reform.