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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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***** TALK OF THE SOUND EXCLUSIVE ***** New Rochelle Sex Censorship Linked to Suspension of Students in '04

Startling new details are beginning to emerge about events four years ago at New Rochelle High School that culminated in our exclusive story last week that pages were torn out of dozens of copies of Susanna Kaysen's memoir Girl, Interrupted.

In 2004, up to six students were reportedly suspended in an incident which was directly associated with the chapter in question, sources say. The complaint did not originate from the faculty, as the district has previously stated, but from other building staff with connections to local community-based organizations. Various constituencies within the City of New Rochelle were heard from on the issue and the decision to remove the chapter from the book appears to have been directly influenced by these same outside organizations.

If so, the decision may well constitute a violation of the First Amendment rights of students as defined by the Supreme Court in U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico.

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New Rochelle High English Department Calls Censorship "Regrettable", Sidesteps Accountability

GirlInterrupted-Torn2.jpgIn a public statement that raises more questions than it answers, the English Department at New Rochelle High School published an anonymous letter on the New Rochelle High School web site yesterday which neither explains nor defends the actions of the school district in censoring Susanna Kaysen's best-selling memoir Girl, Interrupted. The statement goes to great lengths to avoid taking any direct responsibility or assign blame for the actions of staff at New Rochelle High School.

In 2004, there was a lapse in judgment to abridge a literary work; that decision is a regrettable one that can be explained but not defended. The recent revisiting of this event has given us cause to review our policies and to re-evaluate our inventory.

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Book, Uninterrupted! New Unexpurgated Copies of Censored Book Distributed to Students

GirlInterruptedRestored.jpg

After a week of controversy, students at New Rochelle High School today received brand new, unexpurgated copies of Girl, Interrupted.

The City School District of New Rochelle came under widespread criticism when this web site revealed on Monday that several pages of the book, deemed "inappropriate" by school officials, were ripped from somewhere between 50 and 90 copies of the book which had been recently assigned to a 12th grade film class.

The school district announced Wednesday a Special Meeting to be held at the high school next Tuesday night. In response to the controversy, Superintendent Richard Organisciak has added an agenda item euphemistically entitled Use of Appropriate Course Materials.

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Anti-Censorship Groups Call on New Rochelle Schools to Revamp Book Challenge Process

The National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundations for Free Expression expressed their support for the New Rochelle School District's recent decision to replace copies of Girl, Interrupted after our exclusive report first broke the news that pages had been torn from the best-selling memoir.

We applaud your recent decision to replace censored copies of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir, Girl, Interrupted, with the full text in New Rochelle High School classrooms. We were shocked to learn that teachers at New Rochelle High School had torn out pages 64-70, reportedly based on complaints about sexual content and profanity. We also understand that this action was taken despite the fact that there had been no formal challenge to the book.

Executive Director Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship and President Chris Finan of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression issued a joint statement in which they encouraged the district to adopt a formal, open book challenge process.

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PANIC MODE! Board of Education Calls Special Session to Deal with Censorship Crisis

Reeling from an avalanche of negative criticism, the New Rochelle Board of Education has called a special session to deal with the censorship crisis that has enveloped the district for the better part of a week.

The Committee of the Whole Meeting originally scheduled for the tiny Carew Room at City Hill has been moved to the much larger Linda E. Kelly Theater in the "new wing" at New Rochelle High School. District officials are expecting a capacity crowd. Students and alumni from the high school have announced plans to protest the actions of the the school and print, TV and radio media outlets are expected to be on hand.

Among those expected to voice their concerns is Tara Baltazar, a former Editor-in-Chief of the Huguenot Herald and long time New Rochelle resident.

"If this happened in my day, I'd personally boycott the class,
stage a rally of some sort and mobilize the entire student body to
protest this," Baltazar told Talk of the Sound. "In my view, the teachers or the parties responsible for tearing out the pages should be held accountable in some form--perhaps by suspension without pay."

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WNBC Channel 4 Reports on New Rochelle Censorship

The story refers to the former head of the English department and has the wrong information from the Journal News/AP story that the problem was "discovered" by a 12th grade teacher. It was a 12th grade student and initially the district ignored questions.

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News12 Reports on New Rochelle Book Censorship

Mark Sudol of Channel 12 News reports from New Rochelle High School.

NOTE: you must be a Cablevision subscriber (or pay a fee) to access the News12.com web site; if you are a subscriber you can vote on the question of the day by logging in to News12.com: Do you agree with teachers who censor books that they find offensive for their students?

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