NEW YORK -- New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez has been fired in an emotional battle over teaching students in the nation's largest school system about AIDS and tolerance of gays.
The Board of Education voted 4-3 Wednesday to not renew Fernandez' contract when it expires June 30.
'I feel immensely proud of what I have accomplished for our children. The innovations and creative energy I have have brought to this city were needed and I am heartened that apparently so many New Yorkers share that view,' Fernandez said after the vote.
'Yes, I have made mistakes, but I have fought for children. I will always put their welfare ahead of political or 'special interests.'
The educational reformer was recruited from Miami, where he headed Dade County schools, to take over New York's troubled school system in 1990.
His style was criticized as overbearing and dictatorial, and his demand that schools adopt programs about AIDS, including handing out condoms to high school students, and the 'Rainbow curriculum' which teaches tolerance for gays and other groups, sparked vociferous complaints, especially from conservative and predominantly Catholic districts.
Fernandez sat silently Wednesday during nearly six hours of emotional testimony from a total of 79 speakers, 49 of whom urged the board to renew his contract and 30 who blasted him at a public meeting at the board's Brooklyn headquarters.
Fernandez supporters tried to extend his contract for a year, saying that the upcoming mayoral election would lead to a politically-motivated search for his replacement.
But the Rev. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx clergyman insisted, 'This has nothing to do with politics,' saying of Fernandez, 'He ignored the parents.'
One woman argued parents are concerned with academic standards,'not multi-culturalism, multi-sexualism.'
New York's Cardinal John O'Connor often denounced the AIDS and Rainbow programs as conflicting with church teaching.
Mayor David Dinkins issued a statement after the vote saying, 'I fear that the Board has made a decision that is not in the best interest of our schoolchildren and, thus, not in the best interest of the future of this city.'
The New York City public school system has approximately 1 million students, employs 63,000 teachers and has an annual budget of $7.5 billion.