Staten Island borough president fires appointee for Gifted and Talent vote

Staten Island borough president fires appointee for Gifted and Talent vote

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo sacked his appointee to a city education panel after he defiantly voted against the Gifted and Talented test early Thursday morning.

Oddo said that his representative to the Panel for Education Policy, Peter Calandrella, had pledged to vote yes in an 11:23 p.m. text message before the final tally was taken.

But Oddo said he picked up his chiming phone out of a deep sleep around 1 a.m. Friday and was shocked to learn that his appointee had reversed course.

“We at Borough Hall made it explicitly clear, before the vote was taken, that we wanted to extend the Pearson contract for another year,” Oddo said in a statement. “If Mr. Calandrella had reservations about such a decision he should have made them known at any time before the vote.”

The panel voted 8-7 to reject the contract with Pearson testing despite lobbying from City Hall to approve the deal — with Calandrella casting a fateful ballot with citywide implications.

Oddo, who appointed Calandrella to the panel in 2016 as a representative of his office, said he has repeatedly reached out to him for an explanation but has been ignored.

“He hasn’t even made an attempt to explain what he did,” Oddo said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Given Calandrella’s reversal and subsequent silence, Oddo said he was left with no choice but to terminate him in an email copied to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza Friday.

While he ghosted the borough president, Calandrella opened up about his plight to fellow PEP members.

All but one of the panelists subsequently signed a letter to Oddo Friday asking that he reconsider Calandrella’s removal and defending his grounds for the no vote.

“A devoted husband, father, and attorney, Mr. Calandrella has prioritized his duties as the Staten Island borough representative and provides advocacy for the residents of your borough,” the letter wrote. “He has been an asset to the panel and is an esteemed and valued colleague.”

But Oddo said that Calandrella violated his role and has been incommunicative.

“This is not a question if this was a correct or incorrect vote,” he said. “But rather a question of how he handled the actual voting decision. The bottom line is that he should not have made such a decision unilaterally.”

The Panel for Education Policy consists of 5 borough appointees, 9 mayoral picks, and one member voted on by members of parent advisory boards.

Mayor BIll de Blasio had called for one more administration of the polarizing Gifted and Talented exam this year before abolishing it.

Test opponents argue that it’s a narrow measure of student talent and benefits families with the resources to prepare for it.

Backers argued that it should not have been voted out of existence before an alternative admissions system was in place.



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