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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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MacMenamin's Lawyer Withdraws Citing "Serious Ethical Concerns", Possible "Criminal Investigation"

Talk of the Sound has obtained a copy of the motion filed by New Rochelle bankruptcy attorney David Stone asking Judge Adlai S. Hardin to allow him to withdraw as the lawyer for MacMenamin's Grill, Ltd. In the motion Stone tells the court "serious ethical concerns have arisen that make it impossible for the applicant [Stone] to continue with its representation of the Debtor [MacMenamin's Grill]. Such matters involve allegations of improper conduct in violation of the Bankruptcy Code, some of which may rise to the level of requiring criminal investigation."

Court documents show MacMenamin's Grill has a single shareholder, Brian Macmenamin who also serves as the president.

Concurrent with Mr. Stone's request to withdraw, the United States Trustee brought a motion to deny the dismissal sought by the debtor in possession, to appoint a Trustee and/or to convert the case to a Chapter 7 proceeding which typically results in a liquidation of assets. Sections of the U.S. Trustee filing are excerpted below.

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School Board Votes to Push Back "Final" Budget to April 21

The City School District of New Rochelle's Board of Education voted to delay delivery of the "final" budget -- due next week -- until April 21st. Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak cited a desire to wait to see if more money is forthcoming from Albany and to provide District officials an opportunity to make adjustments to the budget in light of public comment made to the school board over the past few weeks at the so-called "budget workshops". A parade of New Rochelle residents have come before the board to criticize the district for seeking an increase of over $8 million in the school budget at a time when the rest of the community is experiencing significant financial pain.

It appears that the board has come to realize the depth of voter anger over the large increase in taxes that the district would need to fund the $180 million property tax levy built into the budget.

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Hours After Receiving School District Checks and Invoices, Trustee Shuts Down Don Coqui

Within hours of receiving information from Talk of the Sound about the relationship between MacMenamin's Grill and the City School District of New Rochelle, Robert L. Geltzer, the U.S. Trustee appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains to run MacMenamin's, arrived unexpectedly at the restaurant and shut it down.

Earlier in the day Talk of the Sound had questioned Geltzer about the relationship between the school district and the restaurant. Geltzer expressed surprise to learn that MacMenamin's Grill was doing business with a school. We informed Geltzer that MacMenamin's Grill has been awarded a no-bid contract by New Rochelle and reportedly had similar "cooking school" deals with the Scarsdale and Valhalla school district and The New York School for the Deaf.

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Strome Blames "Talk of the Sound" for Stimulus Confusion

In a transparent attempt to shift responsibility away from staff at City Hall, City Manager Chuck Strome has resorted to blaming "the media" for any confusion over the existence of a so-called "final list" of stimulus projects as part of the City's efforts to cash in on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As the record clearly shows, Mr. Strome has no one to blame but himself for the confusion that has reigned over this issue for the past five weeks.

At the City Council meeting on March 10, 2009, Richard St. Paul questioned City Manager Chuck Strome about the stimulus package. St. Paul has previously expressed his concerns that the City submitted a "final list" of projects to Albany without giving the City Council members sufficient time to review the "final list". Mr. Strome expresses his mystification as to how this idea of a "final list" came into being and blames the media -- specifically this site -- for "morphing" the facts into a controversy.

Throughout the meeting, Strome insists that there was never a "final list", that nothing as been submitted except a "wish list", that the concerns of Mr. St. Paul are "silly" because the "controversy" is "over a final list that doesn't exist", adding, "it has never existed, it is a wish list".

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New Rochelle Schools Looking at $19 Million Windfall from Stimulus Package

Based on stimulus package allocation figures recently released by the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. New Rochelle may be looking at an astounding $19 mm windfall from New York State's share of DoE allocations under the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 -- none of which is accounted for under the recently proposed New Rochelle school budget which is up for vote in May 19th.

New Rochelle schools may also be getting millions for infrastructure projects. The City School District of New Rochelle has so far refused to provide the public with its list of infrastructure requests although John Quinn, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, did reveal at a recent budget workshop that a multi-million dollar request to replace all the roofs at New Rochelle public schools had been submitted to Albany.

This would be in addition to the $8 million in new spending requested by the City School District of New Rochelle under their newly released "preliminary budget". Further, the District has squirreled away millions of dollars in reserves as a "rainy day fund" and has expressed some optimism that $4.2 million in state aid cuts by Gov. David Paterson maybe returned to the District.

School Tax Increase May Double District's "Conservative" Estimate

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New Rochelle City Council Reviews Ineligible Stimulus Projects

At the New Rochelle City Council Meeting on March 10, 2009, the council discussed projects that are either ineligible or not ready. The conversation got a bit muddled but eventually, after persistant questioning by Councilman Richard St. Paul, the City Manager and Mayor had to admit that many projects on the list were either ineligible or not shovel ready. Eventually, the City Manager admits the likelihood of any project getting fund is low.

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Sen. Schumer at New Rochelle Train Station to Announce New Metro-North Rider Benefit

Standing at the New Rochelle Metro North station, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, joined by Metro North President Howard Permut, unveiled an expanded federal tax-free benefit that will save mass transit riders potentially more than $1000 every year on commuting costs, and detailed the savings experienced by riders at individual stations. The Schumer authored legislation, passed as part of the economic stimulus package, doubles the federal tax benefit for mass transit costs from $120 per month to $230 per month. Under previous law, employers were able to offer employees a monthly tax-free transit benefit of only $120 to cover mass transit commuting costs, but they were able to offer up to $230 to help cover parking costs for people to drive to work. Now both driver and mass transit users can receive up to $230 tax free to cover their commuting costs. Riders receive the benefit through their employers, but right now only about 1/3 of eligible Westchester commuters participate in the transit program.

Price of a Monthly Pass from New Rochelleto Grand Central: $169

Percent Covered Under Old Benefit: 71%

Percent Covered Under Schumer Plan: 100%

Chuck Schumer in New Rochelle: Priceless

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