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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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Cold Snap Turns New Rochelle into Winter Wonderland

It's been five years since it has remained cold enough long enough for local lakes to freeze solid but with recent overnight temperatures in the single digits the New Rochelle Parks Department has deemed City parks "safe for skating". Residents anxious get out on the ice showed up this morning at Beechmont Lake armed with shovels to clear the 2 inches of snow which fell overnight. Have some pix of New Rochellians having winter fun? Send them along.

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Anthony Bongo Reduces Vandalism at Isaac Young Middle School by 800%

Reading through my latest copy of "School News", a four-color propaganda rag put out periodically by the City School District of New Rochelle (you tax dollars at work!) I was impressed to see that Principal Anthony Bongo had written an article for "Middle Ground" published by the National Middle School Association. I am not sure what impressed me more - that his article was accepted or that he was able to string together enough words to submit one.

In the article Bongo makes the following claim:

At Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle, New York, we have reduced incidents of graffiti and vandalism by more than 800% in two years.

Wow, quite a feat! Imagine being able to reduce ANYTHING by 800%.

- if you went to a department store and saw a dress for $100 at 800% off that would mean the store will PAY YOU $700 to take the dress off their hands.

- if Stop & Shop sold milk on sale for 800% off you could own the whole cow.

- if Obama reduced taxes by 800% we would all be getting massive checks from the Federal government. Our own personal Federal bailouts.

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Governor Patterson Says Schools Must Do More Without More

In his first State of the State address, New York Governor David Patterson focused on New York public schools and singled out the failure of public schools to graduate minority students, an issue raised at the recent school board meeting.

Another way we can protect our children and build a brighter future is to ensure that every child in New York receives a good education.
This current crisis should teach us that the only way to restore our long-term economic competitiveness is to build the world’s best system of education.

We can do it, but we have a long way to go. Today, three in ten New Yorkers do not graduate from high school and don’t even have a chance to go to college. The numbers are even worse for children of color and children from low-income families.

We must do better. We must ensure that every child is prepared for college — and that every child can afford to go.

Innovative educational models have raised high school graduation rates and prepared our most disadvantaged children for college. This year, through public-private partnerships, we should work together to establish new early college high schools throughout New York. And we must expand the SAY YES program, which offers free college tuition to students who meet educational standards.

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Journal News Op-Ed: Book does not belong in classroom

Arthur Praete of New Rochelle has an Op-Ed in the Journal News today criticizing the New Rochelle school district not for having censored the book "Girl, Interrupted" but for having selected for use in the first place.

Praete writes:

This overtaxed, concerned resident would be interested to know, not who deleted the pages, but the person or persons responsible for the selection of this trashy, quasi-obscene, third-rate novel for the students. They should be severely disciplined or terminated as unfit to serve in the school system.

Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak was singled out by Praete as "the laissez-faire, big spending superintendent of schools" and described the incident as an example of "the sagging moral standards in our nation".

Read the entire Op-Ed here.

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3 Injured as Mom, 2 Kids Rushed to Hospital After Webster Avenue Smashup

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New Rochelle police were forced to briefly close Webster Avenue near the Hutchinson River Parkway around noon today after a woman driving a green minivan swerved into a parked white Econoline van. The Econoline van was shoved forward into a third vehicle, a green Jeep Cherokee, causing major damage to all three vehicles. The traffic collision occurred on Webster, heading West towards the Hutch, near Berrian Road.

MapBerrian-Webster.jpgAccording to police on the scene, the driver and two passengers, a mom and her two young children, were taken to Sound Shore Medical center. Police on the scene indicated that one of the two children, both around 8 or 9 years old, suffered a head injury. There were no passengers in the parked vehicles although the owner of the Jeep said a woman was standing in front of her vehicle at the time of the collision narrowly escaped injury.

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Associated Press Revisits "Girl, Interrupted" Controversy

The Associated Press today published a new article on the recent controversy over the decision by school officials in New Rochelle to tear pages out of Susanna Kaysen's best-selling memoir "Girl, Interrupted", first reported on this site. The book was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie and Whoopi Goldberg.

AP: NY district reviews policy after books censored

The article notes that my son was the person who originally complained about the torn out pages - first to his teacher, then to his parents. Not surprisingly, although not a single person defending the district failed to denounce the censorship of the book none of them credited him for having the courage to speak out in the first place. For a group of people who are supposedly so concerned about "censorship" and "love" the First Amendment the omission is glaring.

Among the students who noticed the excised pages was the son of Robert Cox, who writes the blog, "New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound."

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School Board Suspends Jefferson Employee Without Pay over Racist Remarks

When are "isolated incidents" no longer "isolated" but rather suggest an emerging pattern of problems?

At the board meeting on December 16th, the school board went in to executive session and came back to announce a resolution that a "civil service" employee would be suspended for 30 days without pay.

Talk of the Sound has learned that the person suspended is an an employee at Jefferson School. The person was accused of having made racist remarks, sources say. These same sources told TOS that the suspended employee has a history of similar racist behavior. Word is that the school board was not eager to take significant disciplinary action in the case; anyone who was present at the board meeting could see that board member Martin Sanchez played some sort of role in the board action taken last week. While seated with the board he could be seen nodding as Cindy Babcock-Deutsch read the resolution, as if to say he was satisfied with the action taken by the board to suspend the employee.

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