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.


Latest posts from Robert Cox

Near-Drowing at Larchmont Resevoir Shows Why New Rochelle Parks Department Cautious on Ice Skating

The Loop has more on the story of Thomas Heslin, an area resident who nearly drown when he ran out onto the ice at the Larchmont to chase after his dog.

Some New Rochelle residents have been critical of the Parks Department for showing an abundance of caution in closing local lakes to skating on January 28th, two weeks after the lake surfaces were determined to be safe for skating. Parks Commissioner Bill Zimmermann tells Talk of the Sound that Heslin's fall through the ice should be a lesson to area residents who might venture onto frozen lake surfaces.

"Surface thickness can be deceiving and very unsafe", said Zimmermann, "Our standard requirement for safe ice thickness is 4 inches from center
to edges"

The New Rochelle Parks and Recreation Department opened and maintained the city-owned lakes and ponds this winter with daily checks for ice
thickness and plowing when conditions warranted, from January 16-28,

Read more

New Rochelle Parks Department Says No Toxins in Echo Bay

In response to some of the concerns raised here about toxins in Echo Bay we contacted New Rochelle Parks Commission Bill Zimmermann who informed Talk of the Sound that testing of the waters around New Rochelle -- done by the Westchester County Health Department -- has shown no evidence of toxins in the water samples.

Zimmermann tells TOS:

The City uses the testing services provided and coordinated through our Westchester County Department of Health, the agency who licenses our public swimming areas and those water samples are taken throughout the season several times per week and sent to the testing lab for analysis. Based upon those readings, we will determine whether or not to open public swim areas or deem them unsafe for the general public's health and safety. Those standards are outlined in the NYS Public Health Code, which we the City follows as required. Depending upon tidal shifts, we usually are dealing with the excess discharge of waste into LI Sound from the adjacent treatment plant and Echo Bay overflow valves which is a natural and temporary sanitary condition. To date, the Health Department has reported no toxins in the water samples.

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Former New Rochelle State Senator Gets Less-Than-Flattering Portrait from Westchester Guardian

Disgraced former State Senator Joseph Pisani is the subject of a cover story in this weeks' Westchester Guardian:

Mrs. Masotti approached the Guardian with her incredible story last week. A story that involves top political players, past and present, in Westchester County and Albany; a story that is filled with greed, deception, and plain old-fashioned criminality; a story that actually started long before Mrs. Masotti’s daughter was born; a story that started with one of the most notorious of Westchester’s politicians, Joseph Pisani, Republican ex-State Senator and State Attorney General contender from New Rochelle.

Like so many local websites, the Guardian site inexplicably relies primarily on PDF "hard copy" files on the web and does not provide permalinks to their stories so you can try to get the entire story by visiting their home page or trying to open the PDF file for this week's edition of the paper (it is a 10 MB file so allow time for the file to open). [editor's note: not only do locals governments not want the public to find information but apparently local media outlets don't want to be read either -- pretty ridiculous]

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New Rochelle "Kids" Busted at Mount Vernon Bar

The Journal News has another police blotter story up about a brawl at a bar in Mount Vernon, this one featuring some New Rochelle residents who were in the wrong place at the wrong time:

David DeRiffele, 20, of 32 Edgewood Park in New Rochelle, Michael Anthony Wagner, 18, 106 Clove Road in New Rochelle and Alyssa Pellicano, 20, of 120 Lispenard Ave. in New Rochelle were charged inside the bar with disorderly conduct, a violation.


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MacMennamin's Grill, Gone But Not Forgotten

Brian MacMennamin has a new partner and MacMennamin's Grill has a new name - Don Coqui. The new partner is reportedly Jimmy Rodriguez who owned Jimmy's Bronx Cafe off Fordham Road near the Deegan Expresswway. Jimmy's Bronx Cafe was a popular hangout for members of the New York Yankees back in the day. A person answering the phone earlier today says that although no date has been set for the official Grand Opening, the restaurant is open while they work in the new menu. We're told it's Caribbean fusion with some old MacMennamin's favorites. Anyone have further details?


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Holocaust Survivor Tale by Former New Rochelle Teacher

An interesting post showed up in the New Ro Buzz this afternoon that I thought worth promoting to the front page.

I chanced upon Journey to the Golden Door: A Survivor's Tale by Jay Sommer, and like all holocaust centered books, it contained both the all too familiar, and the amazing. In 1981, Jay Somer, a high school foreign language instructor at New Rochelle High School, was named the National Teacher of the Year. His path to that honor was extraordinary.

Read the rest of the post here.

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Hannah Montana Star Greets Fans as Iona College Women's Team "Thinks Pink"

B41B0472-6BC0-40FD-8754-6F7F2975D49B.jpgIona College's women's basketball team is hosting Siena today at the Mulcahy Center on the campus of Iona College. Today's game is sponsored, in part, by Radio Disney which if offering a special "meet and greet" with Disney star Moises Arias (Rico from Hannah Montana) for Iona Women's Basketball's youngest fans!

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) officially begins the 2009 WBCA Pink Zone week today as over 1,500 schools and organizations have already committed to participating in the initiative. The WBCA Pink Zone initiative is a global, unified effort for the WBCA’s nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. The week set aside for this year’s initiative is February 13-22.

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