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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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School Board Erupts When Questioned About MacMenamin's Deal

Hey! Where'd the Money Go?



Last night at the school board meeting I pointed out a line item in the school budget -- $40,000 for culinary arts program -- and attempted to confirm that this line item referred to the MacMenamin's Grill deal we have written about in the past.

I wished to ask the board whether spending $40,000 next year, for a total of $175,000 since 2006 on gourmet cooking classes for students at MacMenamin's Grill was the most cost efficient way to offer such a program as taxpayers already fund BOCES which offers vocational training in the culinary arts.

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New Rochelle IDA must make info public

Talk of the Sound contributor Peggy Godfrey has a piece up on the lohud site:

The second annual report on industrial development agencies by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli promises greater "transparency and accountability to measure the value of IDAs." The report states that New Rochelle had nearly $57 million in projects, and its rank in cost per job is the third-highest in the state at $26,077 per job created for an estimated 310 jobs. This cost per job is about six times higher than the state average of $4,527 and many more times the state median cost per job of $1,288.

read the whole thing here

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Should Dr. Yigal Joseph Remain as Principal of New Rochelle's Columbus School?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Joseph issued a public statement on his personal web site stating that the Journal News article inaccurately reported on his testimony in the case and that concerns expressed by Talk of the Sound were unfounded. Readers may also wish to read: Farewell, Dr. Joseph -- New Rochelle Says Goodbye to a Principal Who Made a Difference in Many Lives

There is apparently some notion out there within the school district that because Dr. Yigal Joseph testified as a prosecution witness in last week's federal corruption trial that this somehow an indication that he did not do anything wrong. As far as we know, Dr. Joseph continues to be employed by the District and is responsible for hundreds of students and staff - and large sums of money. I would ask that readers review this post and weigh in on whether that makes any sense to them in light of the documents below.

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Something Fishy at MacMenamin's Grill - and it isn't the Brook Trout

62AC4387-68D9-42AE-A464-168C8080CB02.jpgLast November we began raising questions about the rather odd relationship between the City School District of New Rochelle and one of our favorite restaurants, MacMenamin's Grill:

New Rochelle Superintendent Richard Organisciak Urges School Board, District Employees to "Support" Bankrupt Restaurant. Back then we wrote:

It was not clear what exactly Superintendent Organisciak was proposing the board do about MacMenamin's Grill or why it is a matter of public concern that MacMenamin's Grill stay in business. The proposal did, however, generate something rarely seen at board meetings - actual discussion of an agenda item. In fact, board members spent more time discussing the proposed MacMenamin's Grill "resolution of support" then was spent discussing the previous agenda item - the budgetary impact of the financial crisis and the proposed cuts in New York State funding to the City School District of New Rochelle.

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Three New Rochelle High School Students Arrested near New Rochelle Public Library - UPDATED

This story was updated several times from the original as more information became available.

March 11, 2009: We are just getting word of an incident at the New Rochelle Public Library involving a group of high school students from several schools in the New Rochelle area. Three students from New Rochelle High School were arrested. Initial reports indicated that the incident may have involved up to 16 students.

UPDATE: I just got off the telephone with Tom Geoffino, the Director of the New Rochelle Public Library and got some details.

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As Sunshine Week Dawns, Clouds Gather over New Rochelle

B632B7C6-073A-4946-B5B5-B2E822C33B9E.jpgThis week is Sunshine Week!

Sunshine Week, March 15-21, 2009, is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

A recent survey by the organizers of Sunshine Feed ranked New York State fourth best.

Governor Paterson signed an amendment to the New York State Freedom of Information Law last summer which gave New York one of the best FOIL laws in the United States.

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My Birthday Lunch at Rangoli

image1298902703.jpgI normally go to Cormondel for Indian food but today decided to give Rangoli a try. I love Indian food and am happy to report that New Rochelle has two first rate Indian restaurants downtown. We parked a half block away so getting here was no problem. The lunch buffet is well stocked with lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, vegetable curry, aloosag, a spicy tomato soup. Cool. As i was writing this they brought a sizzling plate of chicken tandoori.

Service was excellent.

Our waiter Joe tells me that the lunch buffets is weekends only -- during the week they have a lunch menu and, of course, in the evenings they have a full menu. The lunch buffet is a prix fixe of $12.95. Kids age 5 - 9 are half-price which means parents looking for an upscale dining experience can get a great lunch for about 2 bucks more than a McDonald's Happy Meal. Given the quality of the food, that makes Ragnoli's weekend lunch buffet a hidden gem for budget conscious parents.

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