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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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New Rochelle High School Broadcasts "Deadbeat" List for Graduation Cap and Gown

New Rochelle High School sent out a broadcast email earlier today which disclosed the identities of 127 graduating seniors who have failed to make payment of the rental fees for graduations caps and gowns. The email appears to have been sent to the school's entire list of graduating seniors, most of whom have already paid the $25.00 fee.

The email message reads:

IF YOUR NAME IS ON THIS LIST YOU OWE $25.00 FOR YOUR CAP & GOWN

***ALSO YOU MIGHT HAVE TO BE MEASURED-DEADLINE 3/31/09

YOU CAN NOT MARCH WITHOUT A CAP & GOWN!!!

This email blast is certainly a violation of student privacy. I would hope that the intent was not to shame students on the list to pay up by embarrassing them in front of their classmates. Surely, people at the school district understand that in the current economic climate there may be many reasons why students have not paid for their cap and gown as well as their senior portrait, their high school yearbook, their deposit for the senior prom and many other costs related to the rites of passage often associated with graduation.

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School District Engages in "Improper Advocacy"

The School District has been telling parents that if the 2009-10 School Budget does not pass that the long-promised "Full-Day Kindergarten" will be in jeopardy. Before we get into the issue in more detail, we want to first review the issue of "Improper Advocacy". We would direct your attention to the bottom of this post -- if the Commission of Education finds that the school district improperly influenced the vote the vote can be annulled. We would strongly encourage school district employees -- especially Dr. Korostoff and Richard Organisciak -- to acquaint themselves with the law because it would be regrettable if the District had to pay the cost of an entirely new election just because they could not refrain from improper advocacy. The District can start by discontinuing the practice of communicating the idea that if the budget is voted down the Full-Day Kindergarten will not be implemented.

Improper Advocacy

6:49. May a school district urge voters to vote in favor of a proposed school district budget or other ballot proposition?

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My Op-Ed on New Rochelle Stimulus Wish List

B6253C5B-745A-4084-AC28-83111A05D65C.jpgI turned my post last week on the City's Stimulus Wish List into an Op-Ed for the DC Exaiminer - How one city is using Obama’s stimulus:

New Rochelle, NY offers a window into how President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - is fairing at the municipal level where your tax dollars will flow from government to the private sector.

New Rochelle is the seventh largest city in New York State. Last week, city officials submitted a nearly $100 million list of proposed projects to Albany in the hopes of getting a slice of New York State's $24 billion share of the stimulus pie.

Out of the $97.8 million submitted, almost 20% of the projects are ineligible, few are actually shovel-ready and most contain highly improbably job creation estimates.

The story is on the front page.

The Freepers linked the story and have a few comments.

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New Rochelle School District Wants 4.9% Tax Increase to Fund 3.75% Budget Increase

Richard Organisciak announced tonight that the District's preliminary budget for 2009-10 calls for a 3.75% increase in spending. The District will seek to raise taxes 4.9% to support the increase.

The board refused to provide members of the public with copies of the budget documents, they are not available on the district's web site and will not me made available to the public prior to tomorrow night's budget meeting at New Rochelle High School.

Highlights include the following:

There will be an 11% cut in the budget for school supplies and materials so parents can look forward to being asked to provide over $100 per child in supplies in September.

There is now a "vacancy control process" in place so that newly vacated positions are not always being filled.

The district reduced its insurance coverage which will lower the cost of insurance premiums by $200,000

Full-Day Kindergarten for all schools is still in the budget.

After presenting the figures, copies of the budget were handed out to board members. In what was perhaps one of her worst acting performance, Cindy Babcock-Deutsche pretended that was not familiar with the budget numbers until announced by Organisciak.

In an evening full of laughable candards, Babcock-Deutsch affected to be pleasantly surprised that that the increase was below the state number.

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Liveblogging School Board Meeting at Ward School

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The New Rochelle School Board is meeting tonight at Ward Elementary. They had a pageant and then Principal Regan did a slide presentation. He mentioned that there was going to be an 11% cut. I missed the part where he said 11% of what



Cindy Babcock-Deutsch says school district mission is to challenge students to the best of their ability. Not sure what that means.



Organisciak talking about Newsweek rankings. Board votes to reject participation in the rankings because they are simultaneously too subjective and too data driven. Not sure how that works in their mind but they all start to complain about Jay Matthews from Newsweek. As I spent the past year or so working for Newsweek I think I will make a few calls and see what they have to say about this. It is really quite bizarre -- they are wearing it like a badge of honor that they are not going to allow themselves to be evaluated by Newsweek. Funny how they had no complaints about BusinessWeek which used standardized test scores as a key driver of their analysis which came out good for New Rochelle.


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New Rochelle School Principal Tells County Health Inspectors "Never Smoked" on Isaac Young Campus

1DC67FC9-41C4-4971-884C-7B8592D121D7.jpgIsaac Young Principal Anthony Bongo repeatedly lied to the Westchester County Department of Health during their investigation of a complaint filed by Talk of the Sound after last fall's incident where Mr. Bongo was observed smoking a cigar on school grounds. Legal experts say he may have perjured himself in signing a statement claiming that he was not smoking a cigar on school grounds, a clear violation of New York State law, New York State Education Department guidelines and City School District of New Rochelle policy.

During an interview as part of the investigation, Bongo told investigator Public Health Sanitarian Ken Laghedo of the Westchester County Health Department, that on occasion he does carry an unlit cigar in his hand while on school grounds but that he never lights the cigar.

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Ursuline Teen Angels Warn CBS News Viewers on Dangers of Facebook

A teenager from Long Island is suing four classmates for "cyber-builling" for comments posted to Facebook. Channel 2 News sent Cindy Hsu to the Ursuline School in New Rochelle to get some tips on how students should deal with cyber-bulling.

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