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Joseph G. Barkan Files, 1974-1986
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
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
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.
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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