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

Tim Geithner's House in Larchmont (Get in the Loop)

Tim Geithner's House (and more) - this is a shout out to our friends over at The Loop which is a terrific hyper-local news/community site that covers Larchmont, Mamaroneck and New Rochelle. They did a very smart piece on the recently listed home of Obama Administration's embattled Treasury Secretary.

The story has been widely covered both locally and nationally. The story is a great example of what hyper-local blogging is all about. There are stories all around us just waiting for a smart, insightful local resident to come along and write them up.

Congratulations to Polly and her team at The Loop!

And for our readers, let their experience serve as a model going forward.


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Another "Isolated Incident" at Isaac Young; Burglary, Criminal Mischief, Vandalism

CBDA7041-3397-426B-89C5-C03021F0A952.jpgNew Rochelle Police were back over at Isaac E. Young Middle School recently, this time to investigate a burglary. As this is an ongoing investigation, police have asked that we not release details of the crime or crime scenes beyond saying that there was an unauthorized entry for purposes of criminal mischief including marking school property with graffiti. Police described the case as having a "high solvability" factor.

Sounds like someone or some people would be wise to consider turning themselves into police. Everyone knows its better to have come forward, come clean and cooperated with police when you are standing in front of a judge.

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New Rochelle's Mayor Moonlight #1 Individual Recipient of Lowey Largess

We previously reported on Mayor Noam Bramson's six figure sideline, working as a political consultant for Nita Lowey, but we were curious just how much $90,000 is for a sitting U.S. Congresswoman to dole out to a single individual? For some context, we took a look at all of the expenditures by Rep. Nita Lowey during the more recent election cycle to see how payments to Bramson compared to other campaign expenditures.

Mayor "Moonlight" Bramson
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Watchmen on the IMAX at NewRoc

image954832635.jpgI have been looking forward to seeing Watchen for quite a while and was determined to see it on big IMAX screen but I could not bring myself to fight the crowds at New Roc on opening weekend. Patience is a virtue. It is Thursday night, I got a great parking spot without even having to look for one, no ticket line, the theater has about 25 people in it, no screaming kids and a great seat with no one crowding me.

Weekdays but especially Thursday night is the beat night to come to New Roc. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone and ruin it.

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National Art Honor Society Inducts 15 New Rochelle High School Students

The City School District of New Rochelle put out the following press release (h/t Hall Monitor)

The New Rochelle High School chapter of the National Art Honor Society inducted 15 new members during a ceremony held Wednesday morning, March 11 at the school. The students qualified for members based on three measures: Artistic Scholarship and Achievement; Character, and Service.
New inductees are Kelsey Francella, Amy Ginghold, Alica Heinemann, Karen Hernandez, Sergio Hernandez, Danielle Kleinman, Julia Marvel, Victor Morales, Jessica Orellana, Yumna Piracha, Victoria Stoerger, Wajiha Syed, Janneth Valencia, Aleksander Vukasinovic, and YanetZepeda.

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New York State Educational Budgeting 101

At the "budget workshop" otherwise known as the school board meeting under another name, there was some confused looks around the room when John Quinn told board members that the money indicated in the 2009-10 column of the budget is not what the district is planning to spend in 2009-10 but rather what the district was in the midst of spending this year. Quinn said this approach was standard accounting. I cannot imagine that even the New Rochelle School District would not follow standard accounting practice.

To try to understand this, I called the folks at NYSED to get clarification and they pointed me to this page

Office of Educational Management/Grants Services > Budgeting

I am not an accountant and this sort of stuff makes my head hurt so maybe some bright, motivated reader will take a look and see if they help the rest of us understand why the school district presents its budget this way.

In either case, how do we find out what we thought we were learning by reading the budget -- how much is the district going to be spending during 2009-10 on salaries and benefits (and everything else)? In my day of learning about school budgets -- reading, interviews with government officials in New Rochelle and Albany, etc. -- I came away with two initial conclusions.

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Mystery Solved: Noam Bramson a Part-Time Mayor

We reported two weeks ago on how Noam Bramson was passing himself off to the public and media as a "full-time" Mayor, New Rochelle's "Full-Time" Mayor Moonlights His Way to Six-Figure Income.

Mayor "Moonlight" Bramson
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