NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Hundreds of New Rochelle residents, many on hand at City Hall tonight to express support and appreciation for embattled New Rochelle High School Principal Reggie Richardson, were barred from mentioning his name during an emotional public comment period held after School Board President Jeffrey Hastie announced Richardson had resigned, effective immediately.
Speakers who did mention Richardson were cut off and rebuked by Hastie.
Many speakers, frustrated by the Voldemort-like ban, spoke more broadly of a culture of racism in New Rochelle.
Dr. Carla Woolbright, President of the New Rochelle Branch of the NAACP, spoke of “people who used to be in the majority” to reference white residents of New Rochelle. She characterized downtown development in the City as an effort to restore white supremacy in New Rochelle.
A speaker, a white woman from the New Rochelle Against Racism organization, spoke to her fellow white residents to decry institutional racism in New Rochelle.
Other speakers picked up on similar themes, depicting the New Rochelle community as divided by racism and racist attitudes which was on display in the response to Richardson‘s tribulations over the past several weeks.
The board justified banning references to Richardson during the public comment period on the grounds that there is a policy prohibiting speakers from talking about District employees.
If there is a policy, it is arbitrarily enforced as speakers at school board meetings over the past decade have routinely named and spoken about district employees.
In Richardson’s case he was one of the highest paid public sector employees in the City of New Rochelle, a public figure who routinely gave media interviews, participated in press conferences and otherwise put himself in the public eye,
More to the point, Richardson had submitted his resignation and it was acted up by the school board so he was longer an employee of the district at the time the public comment period began. I
For Richardson it was his second resignation in three weeks. He first submitted his resignation to the City School District of New Rochelle on July 19th with an effective date of August 20th to take a job in New York City. On July 21st, after Susan Edelman of The New York Post began asking questions of the NYC Department of Education, the DOE notified Richardson his job offer had been rescinded. On July 26th, Richardson notified the New Rochelle School District that he was rescinding his resignation submitted on July 19th.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound that lawyers for the District were negotiating a “buy out” package with Richardson over the past week with an eye towards reaching an agreement before the school board meeting tonight.
The board did not announce the nature or price tag of any deal.
Edelman reported after the board meeting that Hastie declined to comment on a “buy out” package.
“I can’t speak to personnel issues,” said Hastie.
There appears to be no justification for not publicly disclosing the cost of any “buy out” or severance package paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Assistant Principal Joseph Starvaggi was named Interim Principal, and House II Principal Camille Edwards-Thomas was named Interim Assistant Principal.
In a letter to the New Rochelle community, Richardson wrote:
“After much soul searching, prayer and discussions with my family, I have decided to step down as Principal of New Rochelle High school and request that the Board of Education accept my resignation. I believe that the students and staff deserve to start the school year free of distractions and focused solely on learning.
I would like to sincerely thank all of you who shared your heartfelt letters of support and words of encouragement during these most trying and difficult times. I thank you for your friendship, generosity of spirit and love of community.
I would also like to thank the Board of Education and the Superintendent for all of their support during my time with the school district.
New Rochelle will always hold a special place in my heart and I hope that the work that we have engaged in to provide all of our children equitable access to the abundant resources available in this community will continue.
I will cherish the memory of my time serving this vibrant community and wish New Rochelle High School and the City of New Rochelle continued success and prosperity in the future.”
The Board of Education issued the following statement:
“The City School District of New Rochelle Board of Education would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to Mr. Richardson for his service in our district as New Rochelle High School Principal. During his leadership, the high school significantly increased its engagement with community services to lend a helping hand to students in need of extra help and guidance. Mr. Richardson also added to the already extensive list of Advanced Placement classes offered. He successfully co-chaired the first Westchester chapter of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. We wish him much success in his future endeavors.”