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Hey, Joe.

I met Joe Carroll through Diane. They had been friends for years. Joe became my friend too. He was a Founding Trustee of Lavelle Prep Charter School and the successor organization, Integration Charter Schools from 2009 until his passing this week.

At Zen funerals, we talk directly to the person who is gone.

Hey Joe, I can’t believe you’re gone.

It seems like only yesterday that I had gone to meet with folks at CEI-PEA for advice on how to get a charter. (This was “technical assistance” and it was being paid for by the NYC Charter Center). I don’t know what kind of advice I was expecting, but it wasn’t the advice I got.

Sy Fliegel told me. “If Shelly (then Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver) picks up the phone and calls the Chancellor, you’ll get your charter. If he doesn’t, you won’t.”

I was stunned. How to proceed? As soon as I got off the ferry, I called you. “Who on Staten Island knows Shelly Silver?”

You knew immediately. “Shelly loves John Lavelle.”

From there, the pursuit of John’s support began. We got him materials describing our proposed school, the first charter school on Staten Island, our plans to fully integrate special needs students and general education kids, a radical idea at the time. No answer from John.

You finally corralled him at the State of the Boro address at Boro Hall.

And he agreed. “As you know,” he told you, “I am opposed to charter schools but this one I’ll support.”

Tragically, we lost John to a stroke that evening from which he never regained consciousness.

For the last 15 years, you have been my go-to guide for advice on the intricacies of Staten Island politics. I can’t believe you’re gone.

For years after my father passed, I would forget. Driving home from work, I would find myself saying, “I have to tell Daddy about this.” I had the same experience with my teacher, Bernie. I kept forgetting that he was gone. I have a feeling it will be this way with you.

I can’t believe you’re gone. I can’t believe we’re not going to have dinner again at Taste of India.

For a couple of years now, I have heard you described as “curmudgeonly”. Some people I think meant this in a negative way.

Curmudgeonly. I think they meant that when you thought something was “bullshit”, you said, “Bullshit.”.

No sugar coating.

I loved that. Even when it was my “bullshit”.

I will miss that so much.

I can’t believe you’re gone.

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