The Irene Impellizzeri Files, 1980-1993, document a portion of the work
of a long-serving member of the Board of Education. They comprise Series 345
of the Board of Education Record Group, and are part of the subgroup, Members
of the Board. They have been assigned accession number 05-013.
The records were transferred to the Municipal Archives by the Department
of Education in 2004 from the former Board of Education headquarters at 110
The series consists of 11.5 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
Irene Impellizzeri was appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden
to fill the unexpired term of Stephen R. Aiello, who resigned in 1980 to join
the Carter Administration. She remained the Brooklyn representative until 1994.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reappointed Dr. Impellizzeri to the Board as his representative
immediately and she remained until 2002 when her term expired. At the same
time, the Mayor’s Office gained control of the education system and replaced
the Board of Education with the Department of Education.
The Board elected Irene Impellizzeri Vice President in 1986 and re-elected
her for several terms, even during the most controversial period of her time
on the Board. In 1992, calls for Impellizzeri’s resignation grew after
a statement which claimed that inner-city children had no role models. Coupled
with praise, in the same speech, for various ethnic groups but not for African-American
or Hispanic groups, this avowal was seen as racist. However, Dr. Impellizzeri
retained both her position on the Board and her title.
The major policy issue faced by the Board of Education during Irene Impellizzeri’s
tenure as a member was HIV/AIDS prevention. Impellizzeri, a Roman Catholic,
opposed Chancellor Joseph Fernandez’s plan to distribute condoms in the
public schools, preferring the teaching of abstinence. Along with three other
conservative members of the Board, known collectively as the “Gang of
Four,” Impellizzeri played a key role in stopping the plan and forcing
Chancellor Fernandez out of office.
Irene Impellizzeri came to the Board of Education from a long career as an
educator. Beginning as a New York City school teacher, she continued teaching
at Fordham University, where she earned a Ph.D. Impellizzeri joined the faculty
of Brooklyn College in 1961. In 1971, Dr. Impellizzeri was promoted to Dean
of the School of Education there. Irene Impellizzeri became University Dean
for Teacher Education for the City University in 1986. She retired from this
position in 1991.
Scope and Content
The Irene Impellizzeri Files are only part of the files that may exist. While
Impellizzeri’s service on the Board spanned the years 1980-2002, the
records in these files are from the period 1980-1993. These dates encompass
much of Dr. Impellizzeri’s service on the Board as Brooklyn representative
from 1980-1994. The records were found combined with those of Impellizzeri’s
predecessor, Stephen R. Aiello, and separated. The files are organized into
five subseries, reflecting the original organization of the records.
The main body of records is subseries I, Subject Files. While these files
constitute the largest subseries of Irene Impellizzeri’s files, they
contain little in the way of policy decisions. The subseries focuses mainly
on monetary matters such as audits from the Auditor-General, the state comptroller
and city comptroller, the capital budget for school construction, a retirement
incentive plan and the budgetary process from 1980-1985. The records also encompass
a great deal of correspondence in the form of invitations and official communications
from Chancellors Alvarado and Macchiarola, various members and staff of the
Board and the Brooklyn Borough President’s office.
The second subseries, Community School Districts, is mainly from 1980 and
may reflect a continuity with Stephen Aiello’s office rather than Irene
Impellizzeri’s interactions with the local boards. Files for later years
have not been found. The records include several meetings with school board
presidents which Impellizzeri held as the Brooklyn representative. Only a few
meetings from the period 1989-1993 have been located.
Subseries III, Consultative Council, focuses on one of the most important
groups in fostering communications between the Board of Education and the local
school boards. The bulk of the records spans the years 1984-1993. The time
period reflects Irene Impellizzeri’s membership on the Council, especially
after 1986 when she became vice president of the Board and became the mandated
head of the Council. Through committees and monthly meetings, the community
school boards and the Board of Education could investigate and agree on issues
of mutual concern such as personnel assignments and budget cuts.
The fourth subseries, HIV/AIDS Education, is notable for its correspondence
opposing Chancellor Fernandez’s plan for including condom distribution
as part of his AIDS prevention plan. Impellizzeri was a staunch opponent of
condom distribution. She repeatedly attempted to derail the plan, fighting
for teaching abstinence as the primary means of prevention. Irene Impellizzeri
filed a petition against the plan with the state commissioner of education.
She also supported a “parental opt-out” amendment. Spanning the
period 1985-1993, the bulk of the files covers 1990-1992.
Records relating to the planning and celebration of Erasmus Hall High School’s
Bicentennial constitute the fifth and final subseries. The files reflect the
commitment of the alumni association, companies such as Brooklyn Union Gas
and foundations like the Vincent Astor Foundation, as well as others to provide
financial contributions to support the preparations. The papers also reveal
that the Board of Education provided for the design of promotional materials
and handled the payment of bills.
Subseries I: Subject Files (1980-1993) 6.5 cubic feet
The subseries contains correspondence, memoranda, audits, minutes, circulars,
clippings and reports. Arranged alphabetically, it spans the years 1980-1993.
Reference materials from 1979 are included. The files focus on administrative
and policy matters such as budgets, audits, high schools, school construction,
and early retirement. The papers include many invitations, a large group of
which were not accepted. The documents also contain a substantial file of Board
materials faxed by Impellizzeri to the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office.
These reveal the continuing contact between the Borough President and his appointee.
The records contain the planning for the Urban Education Conference, an Anglo-American
meeting, including correspondence with J. David Green who was “Her Majesty’s
Inspector of Schools.” The papers do not contain information on many
of the important issues of the time although they do include material on the
Jose P. lawsuit which affected the administration of special education.
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Subseries II: Community School Districts (1980-1993), .75 cubic feet
The subseries contains memoranda, correspondence, audits, reports, mailgrams
and legal papers. Arranged numerically by district and alphabetically, it spans
the years 1980-1993 with the majority from 1980. The files reveal the interactions
between the Board of Education and the school boards over budgets, overcrowding,
school closings, school construction and repair. The records include parents’ complaints
and school board appeals of the Chancellor’s suspensions and decisions.
The papers contain school board presidents’ meetings, school board elections
and board member training.
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Subseries III: Consultative Council (1980-1993), 2 cubic feet
The subseries contains memoranda, reports, attendance sheets, agendas and
special circulars. Arranged alphabetically, it spans the years 1980-1993. The
files focus on the meetings of the Consultative Council, an assemblage of Board
members and school board representatives. The records include meetings held
on specific dates, schedules, agenda items and Consultative Council committees.
The papers provide information on the role of this group played in fostering
communications between the Board of Education and the local school boards,
including parents associations. Agenda items include tax levies, parental involvement,
asbestos removal, health insurance, discipline and safety.
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Subseries IV: HIV/AIDS Education (1985-1993), 1.5 cubic feet
The subseries contains correspondence, memoranda, petitions, reports, scripts,
curricula and printed material. Arranged alphabetically, it spans the years
1985-1993. The files focus on the Chancellor’s plan to educate the student
population on HIV/AIDS and its prevention. The records reflect the controversy
surrounding proposed condom distribution in the high schools. Irene Impellizzeri
filed a petition with the State Commissioner of Education against the plan.
The papers include correspondence opposing the plan and supporting abstinence.
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Subseries V: Erasmus Hall Bicentennial (1985-1988), .75 cubic feet
The subseries contains correspondence, memoranda, newsletters, postcards,
photographs, reports, stationary, pamphlets, clippings and invitations. Arranged
alphabetically, it spans the years 1985-1988. The files focus on the planning
and preparations of the celebration for Erasmus Hall High School’s 200
year anniversary in 1987. The records include financial materials such as contributions,
purchase orders and budgeting. The papers also include plans for various events
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