In the wake of the horrible tragedy at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT, many residents showed up to last week’s Board of Education meeting to talk about school safety. Although safety was not on the meeting’s agenda, the Board clearly knew it was a topic of interest as they allowed School Superintendent Richard Organisciak to read through a bullet point list of all the things the administration has been doing to keep our children safe.
The list included the following statements:
“All School Safety Plan and Procedural Manuals are current.”
“The District-Wide Safety Plan has been updated.”
“The District has been operating under the approved 2009-2010 Plan.”
These three statements appear to contradict one another. If we are operating under a 3-year old plan, then how can the Superintendent say it is “current” and has been “updated”?
The New York State SAVE law requires schools to update these plans annually. The plans must be made available to the public for comments at least 30 days prior to their adoption. Further, at least one public hearing must be held that allows for parents to participate in the development of these plans.
If we are working off a plan last revised in 2009 then it is in violation of the law. In addition, I cannot recall any public hearings about these plans over the last 12 months.
The Board and Administration’s decision to ignore the SAVE requirements for safety plans follows a pattern of disregard. Exactly one year ago I attended a series of Board meetings to protest the Administration’s request for a retroactive waiver from the SAVE law. The Administration had hired 9 people in late October and early November of 2011 without performing the background checks and fingerprinting required by SAVE. On November 29th, a full month after the people were hired, the administration asked for a 30 day waiver from those requirements.
I urged the BOE not to grant that waiver. In fact, legally there is no provision that even allows the Board to grant a waiver from SAVE retroactively, although they can grant prospective waivers in times of emergency.
Board Member David Lacher asked a few questions about the request and Superintendent Organisciak responded as follows:
“It’s been in effect, as you well know, for many years here in the district, giving the allowance, and I think it gets repeated every month in our personnel resolutions under this header, which does provide, not that we have to hire someone, but simply the ability to do so if we had the need for someone to fill the position in the short term.”
The Superintendent answered the question as if it pertained to prospective hires, not hires that had already happened. One week later, in early December, the Board unanimously granted the retroactive waiver.
At last week’s BOE meeting, I asked Board President Chrisanne Petrone if she believed the School was in compliance with SAVE. She replied “yes”. That answer is incorrect.
We need to overhaul our Board of Education. Our children’s safety is at risk with the current group who are not doing their jobs and, worse, don’t seem to care.
Adam D. Egelberg, CFA
Below are my public comments about the SAVE waiver request from December 2011.
I want to make a few comments about resolutions 12-180-1 and 12-180-12: the hiring of non-pedagogic staff without a background check.
From the material I’ve seen so far, it appears that the Administration hired 9 people in late October and early November without notifying the BOE and without performing the background checks required by New York’s SAVE law. This is outrageous.
Coming on the heels of a child molestation case and the discovery of unlicensed administrative personnel working in our schools, I am shocked that the administration would be this careless. What needs to happen in the New Rochelle schools for you to wake up to the awesome responsibility in your hands?
These workers have been in our schools with access to our children for more than a month, and tonight the Board is asked to vote that this was okay? Does anyone in this room think this was okay?
When this came up at the 11/29 meeting, it seems that no one on the Board noticed that the requested waiver would end the very next day. And now you’re being asked to vote on it tonight, after it has already expired!
Aside from the reckless irresponsibility on display here, don’t you all realize that the cameras are rolling? Mr. Organisciak is now permanently on tape saying that it’s standard practice for New Rochelle to disregard the SAVE law.
Don’t you realize that you will be held personally liable if there is an incident with an employee who did not go through the requisite checks? Worse, don’t you realize that these are our children you are putting in harm’s way? Will you sleep tonight knowing that there are employees working in the school system who have not been cleared by the State? I won’t and I haven’t been.
I respectfully request that Mr. Organisciak pull these resolutions and the Board make clear that they will not tolerate our children’s safety being compromised in any way. No waivers of the SAVE law should ever be granted, neither prospectively nor retroactively.