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On eve of expiration, Bloomberg’s plans for Board of Ed a mystery

Talks are underway between City Hall and the city’s borough presidents to craft a plan for what to do if mayoral control expires tonight — but it’s not yet clear that Mayor Bloomberg will cooperate with plans to reconvene a Board of Education tomorrow.

Asked if Bloomberg has indicated whether he would appoint the two board members the law allows him, the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, said he didn’t know. “They are having discussions at City Hall,” Stringer said.

One possibility being batted around is for the mayor to go to court to ask for a preliminary injunction, sources said. A preliminary injunction would freeze the process of reverting from the current centralized governance system to the pre-2002 system. It would stymie the creation of a Board of Education.

Asked about the prospect of a legal injunction, Stringer said he opposed it. “If you let the courts run the school system, you’re basically putting the school system into receivership,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something we should deal with.”

In his public appearances, the mayor has not committed to cooperating with the borough presidents in reconstituting the Board of Education.

At a noon press conference today, held via webcast with Governor Paterson, the mayor said that regardless of the law’s possible expiration, chancellor Joel Klein would keep his job. “The chancellor is still in charge of the school system,” Bloomberg said. “He has a contract and we will honor that contract.”

According to the law, this contract (see below) will be void at midnight tonight if the state Senate allows mayoral control to expire. The power to decide who is chancellor will then shift to the Board of Education rather than the mayor. Four of the five borough presidents have already signaled that they would vote to retain Klein.

Stringer, speaking to reporters on the steps of Tweed Courthouse, said he will appoint a member to the board after consulting with other borough presidents, with the city, and with the business community. “I believe that we’re going to meet early in the morning,” he said.

Patrick Sullivan, Stringer’s current appointee to the Board of Education, which is now known as the Panel for Educational Policy, said he has told Stringer he would serve if asked. “I said I’d be happy to,” Sullivan said in a phone interview. “I’m encouraged that there are finally discussions, that the administration is finally engaging with the borough presidents. We’ve been asking for that for weeks.”

At his press event, Stringer reiterated his position that, once constituted, the Board of Education should vote to give authority over the schools to Chancellor Joel Klein. Doing so makes sense both legally and in terms of “what’s right” for the city and its schoolchildren, he said.