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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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Federal Election Commission Releases 2008 Election Cycle Data for New Rochelle Part 2

On February 9th, 2009, the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC released their final tallies for all Presidential campaign contributions during the 2007-2008 election cycle. The Center for Responsive Politics has compiled the data and made it available at OpenSecrets.org. This article is the second in a series analyzing the FEC final data for the last election. Read the first article.

Excluding donations to PACs, 504 Committees, and Parties, New Rochelle residents made 747 donations totaling $666,444 directly to the presidential campaigns during the 2007-2008 presidential election cycle based on recently released FEC data.

Last time we looked at the biggest losers during the campaign. This time will take a look at the biggest winners.

The Democratic Party in New Rochelle had a 3:1 fund-raising advantage in the most recent election cycle. Out of the $666,444 raised by the campaigns in New Rochelle, the Democratic Party took in $483,229 or 72.5%. The Republican Party took in $180,665 or just 27.1%. Independent candidates took in just $2,550 or less than 1%.

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Federal Election Commission Releases 2008 Election Cycle Data for New Rochelle

On February 9th, 2009, the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC released their final tallies for all Presidential campaign contributions during the 2007-2008 election cycle. The Center for Responsive Politics has compiled the data and made it available at OpenSecrets.org.. This article is the first in a series analyzing the FEC final data for the last election.

kucinich2008.jpgNew Rochelle played a major role in funding the 2008 Presidential horse race which saw John McCain and Barack Obama rise to the top of their respective parties with Obama coming out on top in the November election. The total amount of campaign contributions to the presidential campaigns -- this excludes donations to PACs, 504 Committees, and Parties -- was $666,444 coming from 747 individual contributions.

The actual amount given was much higher but 47 contributions totaling $68,488 had to be returned by the campaigns for various reasons including donors giving behind the legal limit of $2,300 per candidate for the primaries and the general election. Had the money not been returned the total figure would have been $734,932.

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Are You Still Surfing the Web? Time to Let the Web Come to You

I was ask to write for The Westchester Herald. Rather than write about politics and zoning issues in New Rochelle, I offered to help educate readers on various aspects of blogging and social media and things like that. For my first piece I wrote about RSS and RSS readers; encouraging Internet users not familiar with RSS to give it a try.

Are You Still Surfing the Web? Time to Let the Web Come to You

Unfortunately, as is the case with most of the local publications, being on the web means putting up a PDF file of the paper. So, you need to view the article in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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Not Guilty! New Rochelle Man Acquitted on Kidnapping Charges

From the Journal News:

A New Rochelle man was acquitted today of charges he tried to kidnap and imprison an 11-year-old girl at an Eastchester horse stable, but was found guilty of child-endangerment and trespassing charges.

McKean who lived just a few blocks from New Rochelle High School at the time of the incident will be sentenced on May 15th. He faces up to a year in prison.

Shortly after the incident at the River Ridge Stables on July 16th Mayor Noam Bramson attended a meeting in New Rochelle of McKean's neighbors who were outraged that police had originally charged McKean with child-endangerment. After the July, meeting Bramson and other local officials lobbied the District Attorney's office to up the original charges to child-endangerment to the more serious kidnapping charges.

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CrowdSourcing: What Do We Know About Scott Siegel

wrestler-siegel-still.jpg

Crowdsourcing is where we ask readers what they know about a story like this one about Scott Siegel, the New Rochelle resident who made the national news today after he was arrested last night by DEA agents and Eastchester Police. Siegal led law enforcement officers on a high speed chase through Eastchester, smashed up cars, stole one, and generally made a mess of things for himself and others.

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So far we've learned he owned a tanning salon, went to prison a few years ago for dealing steroids, ecstasy and animal tranquilizers, and lived at 25 Nautilus Place. What else do we know?

UPDATE: A reader sends along this clip of Scott Siegel in his now infamous "life-imitating-art" scene with Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler (NSFW: Rourke drops an F-bomb at end of clip):

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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,
2009.

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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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