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Former New Rochelle School Official Resigns 4 Weeks After Talk of the Sound Discloses Controversial E-mail Exchange

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Former New Rochelle School Official Resigns 4 Weeks After Talk of the Sound Discloses Controversial E-mail Exchange

November 06, 2009 - 15:18

09A2EE11-A4A0-414C-A9A0-64216FC5F0A3.jpgFormer New Rochelle Assistant Superintendent Fred Smith has unexpectedly resigned his position as Superintendent of the Pocantico Hills Central School District. The surprise announcement came just four weeks after Talk of the Sound published an email from Fred Smith in which he disclosed the existence of a study that New Rochelle school officials have repeatedly claimed does not exist.

The Pocantico Hills school board's announcement offered no explanation for Smith's departure beyond citing "personal reasons" (full text of letter below). Pocantico Hills wasted little time removing the Fred Smith web page but we were able to grab a cached version of his page. Smith was forced out by the New Rochelle Board of Education in 2008 when the board refused to renew his contract, sources say.

The emails obtained by Talk of the Sound were sent using the district's email system and "signed" as Superintendent Pocantico Hills Central School District making them official communications from the head of the school district subject to school district policy on employee email communications.

Placed in chronological order, the email exchange with Smith makes clear that Smith was an active reader of Talk of the Sound and became alarmed when he realized Talk of the Sound had obtained copies of an email exchange in which he voluntarily discloses the existence of a report which compared the performance of New Rochelle High School students from Isaac E. Young Middle School and those from Albert Leonard Middle School. The Smith Report found a wide disparity in performance between students from the two middle schools that Smith described as "shocking".

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REDACTED 9/15/2008 6:44 AM >>>

Hey Freddie,

You made the paper.

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008809150350

REDACTED

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On Sep 15, 2008, at 7:51 AM, Freddie Smith wrote:

Thanks REDACTED. I have been following the website. There are 2 New Rochelle's as far as achievement: I conducted a study looking at the achievement at the students that come from IEY vs those that come from ALMS and their performance at the high school and it was shocking.

F. D. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent -
Pocantico Hills Central School District
Sleepy Hollow, NY

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From: REDACTED
Date: September 15, 2008 10:43:25 AM EDT
To: Freddie Smith
Subject: Re: You made the paper.

Freddie,

REDACTED

I remember when you were collecting the data for the study. What you have just stated has been common knowledge. What has been missing is the empirical evidence. The City School District continues to deny that there is a two New Rochelles. How do i get a hold of your findings? As you already know, the findings of your report have tremendous implications for all our children, particularly our African American and Latino Students. Our children should not be denied justice any longer. Can you help?

REDACTED

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REDACTED 4/2/2009 5:04 PM >>>

Freddie,

I do not know if you have followed the site. A lot has happenned since
we first exchanged e-mails. Things are out of control within the City
School District. Our kids and our neighbors kids are getting cheated
and hurt. Silence for us is no longer an option. Let me know what you
want to do. I hope you can help.

PORTIONS REDACTED

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From: Freddie Smith
Date: April 3, 2009 10:52:50 AM EDT
To: REDACTED
Cc: Freddie Smith
Subject: REDACTED New Rochelle schools public records request

I no longer work for NR. I do not have copies of any documents because they are work products of the NR school district. I had no idea that you were sharing my emails without my consent to a third party. Please be inform that third parties can not share emails without the permission of the parties concern. My email went to you REDACTED and I was not informed that you were sharing them with a third party. I do not give you permission to share any of my emails without my consent.

F. D. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent -
Pocantico Hills Central School District
Sleepy Hollow, NY

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The "Smith Report" has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute between Talk of the Sound and the City School District of New Rochelle. In a letter to the New York State Committee on Open Government, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak formally denied Talk of the Sound's appeal of the district's denial of a Freedom of Information Law request for copies of any reports matching the description of the report Smith described in an email obtained by Talk of the Sound.

In his "determination letter" sent to me and to State officials dated November 5, 2008, Organisciak writes:

Let me assure you that, to use the words of your original request, we are not aware of "any data, research, analysis, studies, investigations, reports, or documents that were prepared, compiled, drafted or published by any school principal, Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent or other district personnel as well as any outside counsel or outside consultant from that past ten years that considered, examined, studied, compared, or otherwise evaluated the performance of students at New Rochelle High School based on their sub-district of origin within the City School District of New Rochelle, based on which elementary schools the students attended, based on which middle school the students attended or any other similar breakdown of performance at the high school level based on where the student attended school prior to entering the high school. (emphasis added)

The letter notes that "as required by law" Organisciak sent a copy of his denial of the FOIL appeal to the NYS Committee on Open Government and is "cc'd" to Robert A. Freeman, Esq., Executive Director, NYS Department of State Committee on Open Government.

A comparison of the Smith emails and Organisciak's letter clearly shows Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak made false statements under oath in a determination letter filed with the State of New York.

Smith's web page has been removed from the Pocantico Hills Central School District web site. The school board has published a letter announcing Smith's resignation but provides little detail.

The Pocantico Hills Board of Education issued the following statement.

MESSAGE FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT

November 5, 2009

Dear Parents and Staff:

The Pocantico Hills Board of Education has the responsibility to inform the community and staff that effective November 4, 2009 Dr. Freddie D. Smith has decided to resign as Superintendent of the Pocantico Hills Central School District for personal reasons. As a Board of Education we wish Dr. Smith success in his future endeavors.

We are very pleased to announce that Mr. Jay Scotto-Friedman, our outstanding Assistant Superintendent has accepted the appointment as Interim Superintendent.

Mr. Scotto-Friedman has faithfully served our community since July 2005 as our Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Support Services. Mr. Scotto-Friedman’s accomplishments include:

The development and successful implementation of a district wide communication plan relating to the school budget and reconstruction bond
The improvement of our student’s educational environment and extracurricular opportunities.

Mr. Scotto-Friedman’s extensive background and experience with capital projects and community interaction will significantly contribute to the District’s leadership as we begin the construction project.

The Board of Education has complete confidence in Mr. Scotto-Friedman’s ability to successfully implement the initiatives of the Board of Education and the community, and to meet the needs of our students. We ask that you join us in our support of Mr. Scotto-Friedman as the Interim Superintendent and wish him well as he takes on this role in addition to his other duties within our School District.

Katherine Yu, President
David Wilens, Vice President
Robert W. Balog, Trustee
John Conrad, Trustee
Maurice Curran, Trustee

Katherine Yu, Board of Education President