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Robert Cox's blog

District Fences with FOIL Requests

November 03, 2008 - 21:31

The City School District of New Rochelle and various interested parties including the Mayor and the head of the teachers union have repeatedly claimed that there is no "inequality" issue in New Rochelle between North End and South End schools in the wake of an article in The Journal News last summer. Given the claims by the District, it seems reasonable that someone would have studied the issue of performance of students from the various schools within New Rochelle. Perhaps the most obvious analysis would be a comparison of students from Isaac E. Young Middle School and Albert Leonard Middle School at New Rochelle High School.

How Cheating on High-Stakes Testing Works

November 03, 2008 - 16:47

The New York Times ran a story over the weekend about the sad case of MiShawna Moore, the former principal of a public school in South Carolina. Moore had been widely praised as a miracle worker for her leadership in turning around students at a low-performing, largely minority school in Charleston but is now facing possible criminal charges for cheating on standardized tests.

As test scores rocketed at her school, Sanders-Clyde Elementary, the city held her up as a model. The United Way and the Rotary Club honored her, The Charleston Post and Courier called her a “miracle worker,” and the state singled out her school to compete for a national award. In Washington, the Department of Education gave the school $25,000 for its achievements.

Isaac Young Teacher Disputes Criticism, Defends Fellow Teachers

November 02, 2008 - 20:42

Regina Simoes, a seventh grade teacher at Isaac E. Young Middle School, says teachers aren't the problem at Isaac Young and then singled out parents for criticism, admonishing them to play a more active role in their children's education. She went on to say that Isaac is hardly unique in having problems, claiming there are problems at both North End and South Schools that are not disclosed to parents or the public. That officials at both schools hush up incidents is hardly comforting news for New Rochelle residents.

Simoes, responding to recent criticism of the District, defended teachers and shifted responsibility to parents. "You make it what you make it", she said. She had a blunt message for parents who would complain.

Isaac Young Board Meeting, Failure Every Which Way But Loose

October 30, 2008 - 16:19

Only in the bizarro planet world that is the City School District of New Rochelle could school board members applaud presenters who spent two hours misstating basic facts, torturing data to put forward conclusions diametrically opposed to reality and otherwise misleading the board and an audience compromised primarily of district apparatchiks and assorted hangers on. I have been to quite a few board meetings lately but this one really took the cake.

Isaac Young Math Department Chairman Struggles with Basic Calculations

October 30, 2008 - 14:10

I thought I had seen it all at these through the looking glass school board meetings but Mr. Bongo, the principal at Isaac Young saved the best (i.e., worst) for last night when he presented Michael Galland who is, believe it or not, the Chairperson for Math & Technology at Isaac Young Middle School. Word is that this person is paid over a $100,000 a year to run the math program. I think the tax payers are getting taken for a ride with this guy.

Given his obvious lack of basic math skills the massive improvement in math performance for black and hispanic students at IEYMS described last night is even more incredible.

I have FOIL'd this particular slide so will soon have the actual slide but I can recreate it in a text version here. I do not know how to make tables in HTML so bear with me.

Board of Ed Seeks to Suppress Criticism of Superintendent Making False Statements to the Press

October 29, 2008 - 18:40

At the board meeting on October 7, 2008, I read from prepared remarks about a disturbing incident which came to light here on Talk of the Sound at the New Rochelle Community Pulse blog. It was while making these "controversial" remarks that School Board President Cindy Babcock-Deutsch and board member David Lacher repeatedly interrupted my remarks on the grounds that the "privacy rights" of the Superintendent of Schools were violated. Please note that I was commenting on statements to the press by a public official where no such expectation of privacy exists.

The Journal News reported that two classes of students from Trinity were forced to walk the perimeter of the playground for about 25 minutes during recess one day during the spring of 2008.

Free Speech Rights Suspended by Board of Education

October 29, 2008 - 16:34

At the end of every board meeting there is a public participation period which is described as follows in a lavender brochure distributed at the board meeting:

A portion of the agenda of each regular meeting is reserved for public discussions. During this time, members of the audience may express opinions or ask questions about any aspect of school district operations or procedures, except personnel. In order to protect the rights of those involved, all personnel matters should be referred to the Superintendent of Schools via the proper channels. Such matters are discussed by the Board in Executive Session.

I asked two board members about this policy and both stated that they were told by the District's lawyers that there was a law that prohibited the discussion of personnel matters in public session. I searched the New York State Code. I could find no such law. I contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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Latest posts from Robert Cox

Cindy Babcock-Deutsch Backs Down on Speech Restrictions; Parents Again Free to Criticize District Employees by Name

For years now, residents who wish to speak before the school board have been improperly informed that they may not express opinions or ask questions about district personnel. At the beginning of the public comment period, board president Cindy Babcock-Deutsch has read a misleading statement to the effect that personnel matters may only be discussed in closed sessions and only after matters have been referred to the Superintendent of Schools via the proper channels. While this may apply to board members it says nothing about residents may say when addressing the board. As a practical matter the board rarely responds to residents who come before the board to speak during the public comment period.

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Don Conetta Offers No Plans for Added Precautions in Wake of Stabbing at New Rochelle High School

Aman Ali of The Journal News is reporting that a student at New Rochelle High School was stabbed this afternoon while outside the building.

When asked whether the incident suggested the school should take more precautions to prevent further problems, Principal Don Conetta dismissed such concers.

[Conetta] was asked if the high school will strengthen its security measures in response to the incident.

"I don't see us doing that at this time but we're continuing our investigation," Conetta said. "If we feel like we need to, then we won't hesitate to. But at this time we don't plan on doing so."

The Journal News reported Conetta claimed "the high school 'hasn't had a serious incident in a long while.'

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Brian MacMenamin Blames New York State for Grill's Bankruptcy Filing

Allen Drury of The Journal News is reporting:

The owner of MacMenamin's Grill, a five-star restaurant known for its fish and steak platters, said the state's delay in granting him permission to expand his cooking school, has forced the business to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

I hope this works out because MacMenamin's Grill really is easily the best restaurant in New Rochelle.

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With Hillary Clinton Going to State Dept., Will Lowey House Seat Free Up for Bramson?

The New York Times is reporting that Hillary Clinton has accepted Barack Obama's offer to become Secretary of State under the Obama Administration:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat and accept the position of secretary of state, making her the public face around the world for the administration of the man who beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination, two confidants said Friday.

Back in 2002 when Hillary Clinton decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York, she stepped in front of Rep. Nita Lowey, who was seen as a likely candidate for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's old seat.

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Isaac Young Noose Incident

I came across this video on the web today and it got me wondering where things stand with this case. We sure aren't going to hear anything about it from the school district. Last I heard there was a lawsuit. Anyone have details? Also, is it really true that the white supervisor was given just a three week suspension? That seems like an incredibly light "punishment" for such a heinous act.

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New Rochelle Cracks Down on College Students

Aman Ali of The Journal News is reporting:

The city is stepping up enforcement of its housing codes in light of rising complaints about housing with overcrowded tenants.

"This is happening a lot with college students where you have multiple people living in one unit," Councilman Richard St. Paul said. "Or you'll have houses renting out basements illegally to another family. Then it becomes a safety and quality-of-life issue."

Some New Rochelle residents are weighing in:

"The problem isn't the college students, the problem is that City Hall is allowing absentee and local landlords/home owners to rent apartments out illegally to ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!"

"...in my neighborhood its got nothing to do with Illegals and all to do with college kids who rent illegal apartments and bring nothing to the area but noise, beer bottles and lots of unwanted cars."

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Organisciak to Balance School Budget on Backs of School Children and New Rochelle Families

Even though he lied to her in a previous story about Trinity School, Diana Costello had no problem ringing up her old pal Richard Organisciak for a quote. Costello has a story up on Gov. Patterson's proposed decreases in increases in local school funding from New York State.

"Sitting here right now, I couldn't see how this wouldn't make its way into the classroom," said New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, whose district would lose $3.2 million and see a 2 percent drop from last year's aid. "That shakes me up a little bit."

Really?

- Teacher salaries and benefits are the biggest chunk of the school district's budget. The teachers union contract negotiations begin this month.

- How about looking for some concessions from the teachers union?

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