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

As Windstorm Wreaks Havoc on New Rochelle, Twitter Keeps Residents Informed

windstorm.jpg Extra! Extra! Read all about it! The big news in New Rochelle is in the air - literally. With winds at close to Hurricane strength - gusts in excessed of 60 mph - New Rochelle has experienced some major transportation delays but no reported electrical outages so far.

But the big news for us here at Talk of the Sound is that thanks to our new and improved Yahoo Pipe we broke the news of the roof collapse at the New Rochelle Intermodal Transportation Center here first - beating every traditional news outlet in the area including the Journal News, WCBS Radio and Bloomberg.

Here are some of the Tweets which appeared in New Ro Buzz after the roof collapse shut down train service:

kamander: I was evacuated from my train at New Rochelle after the roof of the overpass was blown right off on top of my train, pulling down all the electrical wires.

ebroms: Sooo the platform above the New Rochelle train station collapsed. Hope everyone's ok, but now I can't get into NYC. Lame.

Franklin_Bluth: is currently waiting for the repair teams in New Rochelle to clean up the debris, so he might leave NYC.

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Two Tales of One City: Madoff Impact on New Rochelle Cuts Both Ways

568DBF8D-05DE-4B7B-A009-FED4F57DD543.jpgLast week, when the Madoff Trustee released 13,000 names on a client list, Talk of the Sound reported on the names listed with New Rochelle addresses. One of the names on the list was Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet who took his own life after being financially ruined by Madoff. Another name on the list was CPA Frank Sisco who writes in the New Rochelle Review of his good fortune in having steered his client away from Madoff.

When I heard the news of Madoff’s arrest, I blurted out “I Told You” and smiled. I immediately thought of my California client whom I had just convinced three months earlier to liquidate her $1.1 million of life savings she had invested at the Madoff firm.

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New York Times Paints Bleak Picture for New Rochelle Development Plans

Diane Marszalek has a sobering account in The New York Times of how the credit crunch has impacted big name developers in our area with a particular focus on New Rochelle.

Marszalek begins:

Less than a year ago, New Rochelle leaders were banking their city’s future on a new wave of development, a multitude of projects designed to restore vibrancy to downtown. The plans included apartment towers with brand names like Trump and a Long Island Sound shoreline with high-end housing and canals for small boats...Today, however, such visions of Westchester’s future do not look as rosy, primarily because of the financial meltdown that, in some cases, has brought the business of construction to a halt, developers and local leaders said.

The spokesman for Capelli calls the situation a "mess" as developers "delay timetables" and "hunker down". Hardest hit are projects like converting New Roc City into a retail center with Kohl's and Target as anchor tenets, the LeCount Square project and the Echo Bay Development project. Developers are formally requesting extensions. Kohl's and Target are nowhere in sight of New Rochelle and Echo Bay Development will not break ground for at least two more years.

Mayor Bramson is quoted in the piece as well:

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New Rochelle Board of Education Sets First Public Budget Meeting for March 4th

At the School Board Meeting last week Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak announced that the first public budget meeting will take place on March 4th. Details were not announced and no drafts of the upcoming budget have been made available to the public. The school budget vote takes places on May 19th.

UPDATE: The School District released the schedule a short while ago

Wednesday March 4, 2009 8:15 PM
Location: New Rochelle High School Library
Community discussion is invited

Tuesday March 10, 2009 8:00 PM
Location: Carew Room on 2nd Floor at City Hall
Budget Review Session (General Support Areas)
Community discussion is invited

Tuesday March 17, 2009 8:00 PM
Location: Carew Room on 2nd Floor at City Hall
Budget Review Session (Elementary and Secondary Education, Pupil Services, Medical, Guidance and Special Education)
Community discussion is invited

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Madoff Scandal Hits Home for New Rochelle Residents, Businesses

568DBF8D-05DE-4B7B-A009-FED4F57DD543.jpgThe Madoff Trustee assigned by the the U.S. Bankruptcy Court today released a list of over 13,000 names of companies, individuals and trusts in the files of the now infamous Bernie Madoff and quite a few New Rochelle addresses show up on the list.

New Rochelle companies on the list include Advent Software, Chalek Equities, Green Trak and Kinexus, as well as the Nephrology Associates Retirement and Pension funds. Two CPAs are on the list, Morton Leben, CPA and Frank Sisco, CPA. The list of individuals, most from the North End of New Rochelle include Alma Villafane, Arlene Epstein, Bettina Reibman, Elizabeth Atwood-Marcus, Grace P Kaye, Gregory & Diana Nero, Jerome Lebowitz, Morton Chalek, Richard Eaton, Roger Lefft, Morton Leben and Leo Schupak. The Charytan family and Schustack family had several family membres on the list: Sabina & Chaim Charytan, Margaret Charytan, David Michael Charytan and Lynn Robin Charytan; Judith Sandra Schustack, David Alan Schustack, Robert Jason Schustack, Margaret Charytan.

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Open Letter to Richard Organisciak on "Project Restart"

Dear Mr. Organisciak,

At the Board of Education Meeting on Tuesday I took my three minutes during the public comment period to present a few of the questions I raised the day before about an article in Monday's Journal News: New Rochelle middle school extends hand to struggling alum.

Despite the Board's policy of not responding to statements made during the public comment period you displayed a bit of pique that I was so "rude" to have walked away from the microphone without waiting to listen to your response. Thrilled to actually get a response from you - we both know you've been ducking my questions for the better part of a year - I returned to the microphone to hear what you might say.

To my surprise, you stated that Project Restart was "a partnership with United Way", an important piece of "information" that was not contained in the Journal News article. When I followed up by pointing out that your reply was non-responsive to my questions and still did not explain why school resources were being directed to support anyone other than current Isaac students, Ms.

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A Barack Too Far? New Rochelle Public Schools Assign Seven Year Olds to Obama Campaign


Students at an elementary school in New Rochelle, NY, a largely Democratic suburb of New York City with a City Council and School Board dominated by Democrats, were recently assigned an in-class assignment to color in drawings of Barack Obama to mark the occasion of the inauguration of the 44th President. The drawings depicted Obama in various heroic poses, flags waving in the background, but one drawing went beyond adulation into overt political activity disguised as a pedagogical exercise. The drawing is a campaign button, in the center of a circle Barack Obama is smiling surrounded by another circle with the words "Students for Obama 2008".

At least one student objected but her concerns were ignored. "I was mad", the second grader told Talk of the Sound. "I wanted McCain to win".

Do public school employees cross the line with this sort of thing? New Rochelle Superintendent of Schools Richard Organisciak, an Obama supporter, did not respond to emails requesting comment. What do you think?


Richard Organisciak
Superintendent of Schools

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