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

Liveblogging School Budget Workshop on General Support Expenses

image262219001.jpgThis meeting is being videotaped so I am not going to provide a transcript just a few comments.

John Quinn is reviewing pages 2-32 and 95-106

Confusion at page 13 over what colums for 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget actually mean. Some board members seem confused. Me too.

The City Council except for the Mayor and Stowe all just showed up - Lou Trangucci, Richard St. Paul, Barry Fertel, Marianne Sussman, Al Tarantino.

Peg Pecunia takes over at page 95 on transportation.

Quinn jumps in at page 99.

[from my iPhone]

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Columbus Principal Yigal Joseph Caught Up in Mount Vernon Federal Corruption Trial

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

Tim O'Connor of The Journal News is reporting that Columbus Elementary School Principal Yigal Joseph testified as a witness for the prosecution in the federal corruption trial of Wayne Charles and former Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Constance Post.

Prosecutors allege that the two set up a shell company, "Micros Only", and used Joseph as a front man for their allegedly illegal operation which was used to defraud the Mount Vernon City government of $2.3 million.

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New Rochelle School District Offers Budget Long on Pay Increases and Short on Realistic Revenue Assumptions

FD6B9BB8-E643-4997-9470-DEB5DB4BA80E.jpgTonight (Tuesday) is Round Two of the Epic $230,000,000 School District Budget Battle. The tone-deaf district leadership has chosen the worst economic decline in three generations to propose the biggest school budget in the history of New Rochelle.

Because the District refused to provide the public with copies of the budget prior to the first meeting last Tuesday there was no opportunity for voters to to run the numbers and fact-check the budget as presented by Superintendents Richard Organisciak and John Quinn. As you will see, they have good reason to want prevent the public from getting a good look at the bloated monstrosity of a budget they are attempting to foist an apathetic public. Sadly, of the 46 people who attended the first budget meeting, 38 were District insiders. Just five members of the pubic came forward to ask a question during the paltry 3 minutes offered for public Q & A.

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Confusion Reigns over New Rochelle's Stimulus Wish List

ABFE5817-4270-4A55-BD33-42C21AA8F5C8.jpgCity Councilman Richard St. Paul set off a chain reaction two weeks ago that has resulted in the City of New Rochelle having to withdraw millions of dollars in proposed stimulus package spending after a devastating report in Talk of the Sound found that 20% of the proposed $97.775 million in spending was ineligible or submitted improperly. The after effects of St. Paul's remarks are still reverberating around City Hall with the City now preparing a revised project list for lawmakers in Albany.

On Thursday February 26, 2009 three members of the City Council told a meeting of New Rochelle's Confederation of Neighborhood Associations that council members had no input into the list of projects submitted to Albany as part of the City's request for funds under the recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Running for New Rochelle School Board, Dr. Jack Wagner Aims for Efficiency, Quality, Transparency

IMG_4155_edited.jpgDr. Jack Wagner is running for election to the New Rochelle School Board, according to an article in The New Rochelle Sound Report. Wagner has many innovative ideas and is seeking to bring new thinking to what he views as a largely conservative group of board members who have not adequately embraced new technology:

“The Internet has not been incorporated in any consistent way in schools. We give our youngsters $110 American history books which get replaced. If you look up the Tripolitan Wars in one of these books you won’t find a paragraph on it. If you look on the Internet you get at least 25 responses,” he said. “There are inexpensive programs that will select lessons for you so the teachers can give instruction at the students’ ability. We can’t get rid of books completely, but I want to move in direction of substituting old technology with new technology. It will be better and vastly cheaper and allow for a better level of instruction.”

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Yelp Reviewers Trash New Roc

Yelp is a social media customer review web site -- sort of like Zagats meets Twitter. It's stated purpose is to "connect people with great local businesses".

From the looks of it the naysayers are having their way with reviews of downtown New Rochelle. In particular, New Roc has been savaged in the few reviews entered over the past year.

Kathleen Y. writes "I hate this place.  As a teenager from the Bronx, I spent way too much of my life (and money) approximately 15 minutes away from home at New Roc.  Watching a terrible movie in a theater filled with annoying kids.  Eating bad food from Applebee's.  Wasting money on video games at the arcade.  Standing in line behind families with stupid children who kept replaying the same hole in glow-in-the-dark miniature golf even though you've been waiting for them to leave for 15 minutes.  While there are a lot of things to do here, it's overpriced, sometimes crowded, and the people suck.

Dennie C. writes "Well, this place has cleaned itself up as of this year setting out a rule that children cannot be in this area without an adult.  It used to be overrun with kids from the ghettos and that turned away a lot of prospective customers.

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NYU Study Raises Doubts About Whether Surveillance Cameras Cut Crime

New Rochelle wants to spend $190,000 to install security cameras in downtown New Rochelle. A new study from NYU raises some questions about the effectiveness of security cameras to deter criminal activity. For proponents of installing such cameras in New Rochelle the question is whether the cost both monetarily and in reduce civil liberties is worth the benefit of possibly solving crimes that might be solved anyway.

The New York Times asks Do Surveillance Cameras Cut Crime?: "A study out of N.Y.U. questions how much surveillance cameras deter crimes, though law enforcement uses video footage to solve them.

The New Rochelle school system has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security camera systems at the public schools but routinely fails to turn over evidence of student-on-student crimes committed at the school under the guise of "privacy concerns" for students. The real reason, of course, is a desire to suppress information about the level of criminal activity in the public schools as part of a broader public relations effort to present the District's schools as safe. Somewhat self-servingly, the District has turned over security camera video to police when crimes are committed involving school district property.

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