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Aramark Fails to Fix Fire Safety Issues in New Rochelle Schools

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Aramark Fails to Fix Fire Safety Issues in New Rochelle Schools

April 04, 2016 - 01:48
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Shortly after CSArch, the architectural firm employed by the City School District of New Rochelle, released the 2015 Building Condition Survey on January 26, 2016, I asked an experienced fire department official to review the two-paragraph Fire System section of each school of the Building Commission Survey Instruments.

They analyzed the reports, made some observations but raised particular concerns about the $10,000 figure to repair sprinkler heads; that the figure appeared high if it was to replace a sprinkler item, a $250 item, but low if the sprinkler system needs to be repaired or replaced. The critical issue was whether the lines were calcified, buildup that would limit or block the flow of water through the lines.

At the next Building-Level Health & Safety Committee, held at Jefferson Elementary School in February, I asked when the last time the sprinkler lines had been flushed. Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White did not know and turned to Arturo Rivera, an Aramark consultant holding the district title of Director of Facilities. Rivera said he did not know but would find out. He never followed up.

During a District-Wide Health & Safety Committee on March 21, a representative from the Jefferson School Building-Level Health & Safety Committee made a presentation on their BCSI. Their appearance reminded me about the sprinkler issue. Rivera was present so I reminded him of my question from a month earlier, asking what he had learned anything about the flushing of the sprinkler lines.

Rivera pointedly did not answer my question, saying instead that the fire department had checked the lines and they were OK.

After the meeting ended, I contacted the New Rochelle Fire Department.

"Not only did we not check the lines and say they were OK, we never would," said a senior NRFD official. "We don't inspect sprinkler systems."

The next day, by way of a response to my questions, Rivera sent copies of Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Fire Sprinkler Systems forms and Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Standpipe and Hose Systems forms. Each form completed by an inspector from Campbell Fire Systems, Inc. of Suffern, NY.

Of the 13 school district buildings surveyed by CSArch, two of the BCSIs did not indicate any sort of fire suppression system: the Grounds Shop on Cliff Street and the Alternative High School at St. Gabes. Of the remaining 10, no forms were provided for five of them: Albert Leonard Middle School, Davis Elementary School, Ward Elementary School, Webster Elementary School, and Columbus Elementary School.

Several them were not signed by the "building owner", typically the Head Custodian. Neither forms for Barnard were signed or dated. The sprinkler form for Jefferson was signed but not dated while the hose form was signed and dated. For Grove, the sprinkler form was not signed but the hose form was signed but not dated. Both forms for Trinity were signed and dated. For New Rochelle High School none of the forms were signed but they were dated.

The Owner Section of the forms ask five questions: Is the building occupied? Has the occupancy classification and hazard of contents remained the same since the last inspection? Are all fire protection systems in service? Has the system remained in service without modification since the last inspection? Was the system free of actuations of devices or alarms since the last inspection? 

These are substantive questions which, in most of the schools have gone unanswered, at least Aramark provided no records of their having been answered.

The inspections were conducted in the latter half of August 2015 so that any problems could be corrected before the beginning of the 2015-16 school year in September. There should be no current reports indicating that any box on the inspection forms is checked "no". But this appears not to be the case.

At Barnard, a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; Fifth Year Testing Item (Gages checked by calibrated gage or replaced) was checked "no"; on the hose form, a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Inspection Item (hose less than five years old) was checked "no".

At Isaac E.Young Middle School, an Inspection Item on the sprinkler form for the Stage-Auditorium (Alarm devices free from physical damage) was checked "no"; a Testing Item (Waterflow alarm devices passed tests by opening the inspector’s test connection or bypass connection with alarms actuating and flow observed) was checked "no". On the comments section of the form is a note which reads "Comments Flow Switch Non-operational Not Connected No Tamper or Chain and Lock on Main OSY Valve" and "5th Year items Due 1 - FDC Check 1 - System"; a Testing Item on the sprinkler form for the Wet System (Waterflow alarm devices passed tests by opening the inspector’s test connection or bypass connection with alarms actuating and flow observed) was checked "no"; an Inspection Item (Valve supervisory switches indicate movement) was checked "no"

At Jefferson Elementary School, the sprinkler form was checked "N/A" for (Was the system free of actuations of devices or alarms since the last inspection); an Inspection Item on the sprinkler form (Sprinkler wrench with spare sprinklers) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; the Comments section read "Missing wrench"; the hose form was checked "N/A" for (Was the system free of actuations of devices or alarms since the last inspection?); an Inspections Item (Gauges on dry system (without low pressure alarm) in good condition and show normal air and water pressure) was checked "no"; an Inspections Item (Gauges (on dry system with low pressure alarm or on wet system) in good condition and show normal air and water pressure) was checked "no"; an Inspections Item (Alarm devices free from physical damage) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Testing Item (Gages checked by calibrated gage or replaced) was checked "no"; the Comments section reads: "Didn’t performed the Alarm cause didn’t found the new quiet. Also missing wrench."

At the Grove Avenue Maintenance Facility, a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Testing Item (Gages checked by calibrated gage or replaced) was checked "no"; an Inspections Item in the hose form (Sprinkler wrench with spare sprinklers) was checked "no";  an Inspections Item (Hydraulic name plate, if provided, securely attached to riser and legible) was checked "no"); a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; a Testing Item (Gages checked by calibrated gage or replaced) was checked "no"; in the hoses form, an Inspection Item (Hoses free from mildew, cuts, and deterioration, couplings of compatible threads and undamaged, gaskets in place and in good condition and hose connected) was checked "no";  an Inspection Item (Nozzles and gaskets in place in good condition) was checked "no"; an Inspection Item (Hose properly racked and rolled) was checked "no"; a Maintenance Item (Items found missing or in disrepair during inspection or testing repaired or replaced) was checked "no";  a Maintenance Item (Hose reracked or rerolled so folds do not occur in same position) was checked "no";  a Maintenance Item (34 100’ x 1 1/2’ hoses overdue for hydrostatic testing, removal, or replacement, 2 hose nozzles missing was checked "no".

At New Rochelle High School, the sprinkler form Comments section reads "Full Trip Test required (before school opens)".

At Trinity Elementary School, a sprinkler form Inspection Item (Sprinkler wrench with spare sprinklers) was checked "no"; a Fifth Year Inspection Item (Check valves internally inspected all parts operate properly, move freely and are in good condition) was checked "no"; the Comments Section reads "Missing Wrench"; the hose form is missing entirely.

Based on these reports there appears to be significant questions about the fire safety conditions in the New Rochelle public schools. What is not in question is that Aramark is again responsible for yet another across-the-board failure that has endangered students, staff, parents and visitors to New Rochelle schools.

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New Rochelle, What goes around comes around!

 

Someday the truth always comes out. It is what you do with the truth that defines who you are. The Davis School tiles and the ceiling collapse at The Danial Webster School were just eye openers. It is time to listen to the people and make the drastic changes needed and maybe even some people going to jail. The taxpayers of New Rochelle want their children to be safe and want accountability and controls put in place to correct what is wrong and find out what else is missed before someone is hurt or dies.

 The City School District of New Rochelle has come a long way from where we stood a few years ago. I have to say that was attributed to a few things, first is Bob Cox and Talk of the Sound. Many people don’t like Talk of the Sound, mainly those that have something to hide. It has given those working for the district and parents that have concern a place to go. The School Board of New Rochelle has turned a deaf ear to those that speak at meetings. We are not your enemies we are concerned parents that wish to be heard and yes, Responded To!

 We are seeing a change in the tides, In part because of the recently done Building Condition Survey’s (BCS) which haven’t taken place for years, the recent changes made by New Superintendent of Schools for New Rochelle Brian G. Osborne, Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey White and the new District-Wide Health and Safety Committee that was finally formed. So we have come a long way but have many miles to travel before we reach a comfort zone. Especially since there will be a vote for a new $106 Million Dollar Bond.

 In February The City School District of New Rochelle held its first ever open meeting of The Build-Level Health & Safety Committees at NRHS on Thursday, February 11, 1:00 p.m.

 At this meeting I spoke of the continued questions I had of the standards and practices for the school systems related to safety and maintenance items such as the daily, weekly, monthly reviews of the pest and rodent programs as they are done in house by who else “ARAMARK”. There was an old bait trap outside the theater entrance of the Linda Kelly Auditorium that was missing its top for a year now and it wasn’t touched. None of them had markings or dates on them that a normal exterminator company would have in place. This is the same area that during a meeting last year a rat ran across the front of the theater, some rodent control.

 Then I spoke about the part of the buildings condition survey (BCS) conversation when we were told the electrical systems were overloaded and needed to be upgraded. Who is responsible to inspect these panels and maintain them? A homeowner would not overload a panel in their home or fail to replace old warn out items if they knew they were defective. During construction and additions reviews would be done or the building permits would not be closed out. Who is responsible “ARAMARK” and yes, The School District! Who is monitoring the policies and procedures?

 

I repeated myself at these next meetings:

-February 11 7:00pm a meeting for the School Budget Community Input Forum.

-March 10, 2016 a meeting 7:00pm NRHS PTSA review of surveys and budget for bonding.

-March 15, 2016 a NRHS School Budget Meeting asked again.

 

Below is a copy of comments I made at a School Board Meeting back in March of 2014 that referenced the frustration and also some acknowledgement of the problems with the operating systems of the school district by the Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff who took over when New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak who retired on October 25, 2013.

 

 

School Board Meeting 3/25/14:

 I want to extend a big thanks to Joe Orlando from ALMS security for a job well done. Joe was out directing traffic through all of those snow storms, sub-zero temperatures and had his hands full with rushed and impatient parents.

  Regarding the Superintendent search, I was pleased to see that the search team recognized that there were issues related to the search process when dealing with the board and the public. At least someone was listening. The last meetings they arraigned and the final report showed that they also had the public’s interests in mind. They also believed a good candidate would be found even though Mr. Latcher and some others on the board thought differently.

 After reading the Interim Superintendents Budget Message apparently he and some of the board have picked up on some of what people have been saying at these meetings. If this is the improvement we get with an interim superintendent, imagine what we get with a new superintendent. We Hope!

 He states, “We are keenly aware of the concerns which have been raised publicly about potential abuse within this sector of our operations”. “It is also important to note that this budget benefits significantly from the recommendations offered over a two-year period from the Community Advisory Committees which were established”. Admitting, Recognizing and identifying problems and opportunities are the first steps towards bringing forth change to correct and modify past behavior. Board members, that are why it is important for you to listen, acknowledge and answer the questions of the public that speak.

 If you want to get Bob Cox off your back, then you need to do three things. Answer his questions. Answer the public’s questions and fix the problems that are identified by Bob and the taxpayers that speak. I have asked the same questions for the last two years and not gotten any answers. The unprofessional outbursts by Mr. Latcher are not the way to fix the problems in the district. People have been and some still are afraid to come forward because of the politics and games that are played with in the system.Talk of the Sound has become a public forum that gives those that are afraid to speak a voice. I guarantee that much of the information comes from employees that are not willing to risk their jobs in fear of retribution.To be honest, it is because no one listens here that Talk of the Sound can thrive. If The Board and The City want to get Talk of the Sound off their backs, then fix the problems and be more open with the public. You can’t have fire without a spark.

 People are tired of the ways of the past. You will see more people speaking up and breaking away from the north south divide and the democrat and republican political bonds. You may not like it but the citizens of New Rochelle are beginning to speak out and you can’t blame any specific person, Blog or Group for that. People have opened their eyes to what has been going on around here for far too long. Things must and will change as more people have the ability to speak out for what they believe.

 Safety,

Some reviews need to be done for the evacuations procedures here. If you go back and look at the News 12 coverage, the children were gathered next to the building. A new location should be found for a gathering place during fire and evacuation drills.

Buses,

Please look in to the scheduling of the 461 buses in the morning. There are more buses than listed and we are not sure of the timing of the last bus. I get not answers from the company or transportation. Maybe a review of data needs to be done to determine the correct number of buses for before and after school. Many busses are crowed on this and other lines.

Again, I want to thank the search team for a job well done. Let’s work smarter and harder to see a more open and productive future for New Rochelle and the students of New Rochelle.

Thank You for your time!

 

 

As stated above,

 Whenever parents or students have an issue or are looking for information, there is no specific representative on the school board to turn to. As most members come from the North End of New Rochelle, So how does a parent decide which member to contact? It would help if parents knew they had a representative for their area or school, like we do with the city council districts for council members, you would know which member represented your area?

 You see speaking at the meetings and asking questions gets you to the same place, nowhere! Parents get no answers or responses to their questions or we get a slow meaningless response. Look at all the problems that have been exposed here in The New Rochelle School District the last few years. So much is based on people’s concerns and facts that have been backed up as we have recently seen the results, not blank accusations.

 The City School District of New Rochelle has come a long way! You see, it is now possible to report problems and issues due to the implementation of a new reporting system which was recently put in place by the district and the new District-Wide Health and Safety Committee that was finally formed. We just need to figure out how and where to find the form as I have looked at the site for the schools and the district to no avail.

  In the words of New Rochelle School Board Member Mary Jane Reddington from her retirement speech the night of 9/11/13, "Change things and continue to change things".

The time is now!

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