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Last Gasp of the Old Guard on New Rochelle Board of Education as Reform-Minded VP Removed from Office

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Last Gasp of the Old Guard on New Rochelle Board of Education as Reform-Minded VP Removed from Office

July 05, 2012 - 16:51
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As predicted, Jeffrey Hastie was removed as Vice President of the New Rochelle Board of Education in what can aptly described as the last gasp of the board's Old Guard in their long-standing effort to stomp out reform in New Rochelle.

Mary Jane Reddington (6 five-year terms) nominated Deidre Polow (5 five-year terms) for Vice President with the support of David Lacher (5 five-year terms). Going along with the Old Guard was newcomer Rachel Relkin who has been taken under the wing of Polow and Lacher and current Board President Chrisanne Petrone.

Naomi Brickell nominated Jeffrey Hastie.

Valerie Orellana and Lianne Merchant were not present.

The vote was 5-2 with Lacher, Polow, Reddington, Petrone, Relkin voting for Polow and Hastie and Brickell voting for Hastie.

After the vote Hastie made a statement that he was disappointed in his colleagues. He added that he did not endorse the idea in an article on Talk of the Sound that implied race played a role in the decision to remove him while noting that the article contained statements that did accurately describe the reasons for the board's actions.

Hastie later posted a comment on Talk of the Sound in which he attributed the move to payback by David Lacher and his supporters on the board for Hastie's efforts to replace Lacher on the school board in the most recent school board election.

I responded to Hastie by providing my reasons for ascribing racial motives to the removal of Hastie by the Board.

Following the vote, Hastie gave a foretaste of what may be things to come by asking a series of questions which clearly annoyed Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and some board members.

In response to one question, Petrone told Hastie that Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak told the board that the Aramark contract was being extended for one year so an RFP could be put out. This statement was never made publicly. See down below for more on this rather startling statement by Petrone.

A few quick highlights from the New Rochelle Board of Education Meeting on July 2, 2012 and the back to the exchange between Petrone and Hastie on Aramark.

13-24 Employee Misconduct, 30 day suspension

13-47 Resolution to pay Lambert, Spady and Umbro for Isaac Film Project

13-60 Crown AC Heat and Power $315,000 (Foreman Mechanic and Mechanic)

Jeffrey Hastie - Superintendent Evaluation? Petrone says soon.

Jeffrey Hastie - Disaggregated graduation rates? Organisciak says no.

13-27 Board adopts Dignity Act

Search for new Athletic Director - Organisciak updates the board on the search to replace Dr. John Magnotta. The job was advertised previously and two finalists were selected (a woman from Long Island and a guy from a Westchester parochial school). The woman was made an offer which was rejected. The job has been advertised again and resumes have come in. There are interviews scheduled next week.

Splitting the AD position - After the AD search update Organisciak tells the board that he would like to split the job into two jobs -- one person to run Physical Education and another to run the sports programs. In other words, one person to managed the PE teachers and another to manage the coaches and the teams. The board is confused because the job has been advertised twice, they have made an offer once and they are having more interviews next week. When pressed Organisciak does not appear to have any specific plan and is "just throwing it out there". All of which begs the question, "Why buy one when you can buy two at twice the price?" And so the creep of the bureaucracy extends once again - two people for one position, and each person then having their own support staff…creep…creep…creep. And so the bloated budget grows.

The Citizens Advisory Committee - Chrisanne Petrone announced that the board would put the CAC on the agenda for the August 7th meeting. This is to follow up on a promise she made in March that the board would review the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Budget and provide feedback to the members of the CAC. A few weeks later the board formally dissolved the CAC. It is not clear on what basis the dissolved CAC would appear before the board. To date, the board has not adopted a single recommendation from the CAC which the board created in February to offer recommendations on ways to find cost savings and improve the presentation of the budget to make it more understandable.

Now back to the exchange between Petrone and Hastie on Aramark.

Despite this: HOW YOUR MONEY IS STOLEN: New Rochelle Board of Education Set to Turn Blind Eye to Rat's Nest That is Aramark Schools

The New Rochelle Board of Education approved a resolution to extend the Aramark contract.

RESOLUTION NO. 12-352
RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING A CONTRACT WITH THE ARAMARK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LlMTTED PARTNERSHIP FOR THE 2012-2013 SCHOOL
YEAR

RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New Rochelle, New York, be and hereby approves the continuation of the contract with the ARAMARK Management Services Limited Partnership. 1717 Arch Street. 4200 Floor. Philadelphia, PA 19103, to provide contractual management support services of the school districts' facilities during the 2012·2013 school year, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Board of Education authorizes payment to the ARAMARK Management Services Limited Partnership for such services at an annual fee of $744,356.00. to be paid in semi-monthly payments of $31,014.84 for the 2012-2013 school year; and be it further RESOLVED, that this resolution shall take effect immediately.

A close look at the resolution does not support whatever it is that Chrisanne Petrone and other board members understood from Richard Organisciak prior to voting on Resolution 12-352, the resolution does not say anything about extending the Aramark contract for one more year. The resolution authorizes the continuation of the Aramark contract and authorizes payment of $744,356.00 in a series of semi-monthly installments of $31,014.84.

There is one line which reads "provide contractual management support services of the school districts' facilities during the 2012·2013 school year" but that is not the same as authorizing only a one year extension on a contract that has an automatic renewal of five year extensions.

More on that in moment but I want to address Petrone's statement to Hastie that Organisciak told the board that the Aramark contract was going to be renewed for one year to give time to put out an RFP to rebid the contract.

When did that happen?

As the most critical of and leading advocate for getting rid of Aramark, I paid VERY close attention to what took place at the meeting the week before in regards to the Aramark contract. A resolution was brought forward to extend the contract WITHOUT COMMENT. There was NO SUCH STATEMENT by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak being made last week or this week or ever. In fact, there has been NO public discussion of Aramark by the board since March 27th.

What this suggests is that, once again, the board is having discussions about PUBLIC BUSINESS in private. Apparently the board does not believe the Aramark contract, one of the oldest, largest and, lately, most controversial, contracts the school district has, is a matter of public business.

This is just another example of how the board operates under the premise that the public does not have a right to know when it conducts the public business. In this case, the Superintendent is said to have provided information to the board that was HIGHLY RELEVANT to a pending resolution and the public was not made aware until a week after the vote and then only in a passing remark to a board member in response to a question. Yet the board voted this same board member out as an officer of the board ostensibly because he was asking too many questions in public and not going along with the oard practice of discussing public business behind closed doors which is, in fact, a violation of state law. In other words, the board promotes as officers people who support breaking the law and punish those officers who oppose breaking the law.

And people wonder why there is so much corruption in our schools?

Similarly, the three Aramark employees on the 3/27 resolution for the Isaac film project (12-266-1) were not on the resolution approved on July 2nd for the three district employees (13-47). Last we heard, the board had tabled 12-266-1 because the Board President Chrisanne Petrone wanted to speak with the district's attorney, Jeffrey Kehl, about whether paying the three Aramark employees directly violated the Aramark contract. The resolution, in effect, resurfaced over the past week without the three Aramark employees and no explanation as to why.

When a public body tables a resolution at a public meeting to get more information from the attorney for the board and then bring back a variant of that resolution three months later, it would seem obvious that the public has a right to an explanation as to what was determined in obtaining counsel on the matter from Mr. Kehl and why the resolution was modified.

It is my well-founded belief, that 12-266-1 was an effort to make the three Aramark employees pension eligible before the deadline for Tier V. The Board President has stated publicly that ALL board resolutions are reviewed by the district' attorney (Mr. Kehl). The entire premise of your reason for tabling the resolution -- to ask the lawyer who reviewed both the Aramark contract and Resolution 12-266-1 whether the latter violated the former -- was absurd. However, by now the board knows, as Talk of the Sound readers know, that 12-266-1 did violate the contract and no waiver was sought or obtained to Section 1 or Section 6 of the Aramark contract. I know because I picked up the phone and called Aramark myself.

I think I can say now that I was the person who approached Mr. Hastie to make the board aware of what Organisciak, Quinn and Kehl were up to in advance; had I not done so I am entirely confident that they would have sent the paperwork to Albany to make the three Aramark employees eligible for Tier V and the board would have had a much bigger mess on their hands. In fact, two board members thanked me for doing this.

I discussed my concerns about the Aramark/Isaac scam with Mr. Hastie, Mr. Lacher, Ms. Polow and Ms. Relkin directly. I gave them every opportunity to deal with the Aramark contract properly. They all agreed that the contract had to be put up for bid, that 12 years was too long. Several board members wanted Aramark out specifically, bid or no bid, and others wanted all current Aramark employees assigned to buildings and grounds removed. There is a clause in the contract that the District can have all or any of the Aramark employees taken off the job with a letter with no prior notice.

Instead of addressing any of this publicly or making a public commitment regarding ending the Aramark contract, the board conspired with the administration to jam through an extension of the Aramark contract without any public discussion. No effort was made to explain what exactly was going on. There was no discussion at the meeting and no board member bothered to mention the apparent deal under which the Aramark contract would be put up for bid next year.

Apparently, the board members are too busy to bother reading the contract and either to stupid, lazy or dense to understand the significance of a ONE YEAR EXTENSION.

Under the terms of the contract, the district is not allowed to hire any Aramark employees for one year. A one year extension gives Organisciak, Quinn and Kehl time to notify Aramark of their intention to terminate the contract, paving the way to hire Gallagher, et al.

To understand, the board would have needed to look at Section 6 and Section 7.

7. TERM: This Agreement shall run for an initial period of five (5) years, starting with the date services commence hereunder as set forth in paragraph 1 above and thereafter will be automatically be renewed every year for five years for a period of five (5) years. This Agreement may be terminated by either party hereto at the end of any five-year period by written notice to this effect sent via Certified Mail to the other party at least three (3) months prior to the end of said five year period. (emphasis added)

The original contract was signed on March 26, 1987 between ServiceMaster and the City School District of New Rochelle. Aramark subsequently acquired ServiceMaster. There is a cover letter from Aramark to Assistant Superintendent John Quinn dated December 12, 2007 which states that a contract was signed between Aramark and the City School District of New Rochelle on July 1, 1990. I do not have a copy of that contract but if the original contract was rolled over every five years since 1987, it would have been three years into the contract when Aramark took over the contract with two years remaining. If the contract was continued for two more years in the name of the new owner of ServiceMaster with a new re-set date made to coincide with the district's financial/budget calendar the contract would be its fourth renewal for five year terms and would have been set to expire on July 1, 2012. This would explain why the contract extension was jammed through on June 26th rather than the normal process of draft resolutions one week and voting on resolutions the following week. Had the board not acted, the contract would have simply ended and Gallagher, Rigos, et al would no longer be working for the City School District of New Rochelle.

The question board members should have asked is what sort of communications Quinn, Organisciak and Kehl have had with Aramark. Did the district send a written notice of termination to Aramark via Certified Mail at least three (3) months prior to the end of the current five year period? That would have required a notice send to Aramark three months prior to July 1st, 2012. Counting backwards that would have been April 1, 2012 which is the same as the deadline for Tier V pensions in the New York State pension system and just four days before Quinn, Organisciak and Kehl tried to jam through Resolution 12-266-1 to get Gallagher, Rigos and Purdie on to the district payroll.

To understand that better the board would have had to look at Section 6 of the Aramark contract.

6. COVENANT: SERVICEMASTER and SCHOOL agree that at no time during the term of this Agreement or for a period of one (1) year immediately following the termination of this Agreement will it call upon any employees of the other for the purpose of employing, hiring or otherwise interfering WIt he contractual relationships of such employees. without the prior written approval of the other party; nor will it directly or indirectly for itself or in behalf of or in connection with any other person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or facility solicit, hire. employ or take away any such employee from the other.

If either party breaches the above covenant, then the offended party shall have the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an injunction to restrain the offending parly from employing such employee and for an order enforcing the terms of the covenant so breached, and the offending party shall be liable to the offended party for all reasonable attorneys' fees, costs and expenses incurred by it in enforcing the provision of said covenants not to solicit employees.

The contract prohibits the district from directly hiring Gallagher, Rigos and Purdie (and a fourth Aramark employee not named in Resolution 12-266-1) for a period of one year immediately following the termination of this Agreement. If the written notice was sent to Aramark informing them of the intent to terminate the contract on June 30, 2013 before July 1, 2012 then Gallagher, Rigos and Purdie could be hired directly by the school district on July 1, 2013. They could have worked out a deal to do this concurrently with agreeing to extending the contract one year not the five stipulated in the contract. What choice would Aramark have if the alternative would be to lose the contract in 2012 instead of 2013 and harm its chances of being selected for a future RFP.

Given the machinations by Organisciak, Quinn and Kehl, in March with regard to Aramark, there is no reason to trust any of them with regard to the contract extension, some future RFP or an intention to hire Gallagher, Rigos and Purdie away from Aramark.

I conveyed much of this to the board earlier this week noting that if they have determined that Resolution 12-266-1 violated the terms of the Aramark contract the board has an affirmative obligation to explain that clearly and publicly. The board also an obligation to explain how it came to pass that Organisciak, Kehl and Quinn brought that resolution forward and explain whether they did not consider that the resolution would violate the contract (they were lazy or incompetent) or that they knew it violated the contract and were willing to expose the board to litigation? Or something else?

Meanwhile, there is the matter of Resolution 13-47 which is a modified version of Resolution 12-266-1 from March 27th which authorized payment to the three Aramark employees and three district employees. According to my sources, none of the six worked that weekend. The three Aramark employees have now been removed but the other three remain. I addressed this point to the board last week and this week, Organisciak responded obliquely by telling the board that he had checked and "all the time sheets matched" the hours listed on the resolution. On Monday evening, I commented back on those remarks noting that because the district does not have a secure time and attendance system the district relies on handwritten records which are easily fabricated. I have no doubt that there are now paper records that state that the three employees worked at Isaac that weekend given that such records are easily manufactured. Further, the district will have no trouble finding some employees who will swear up and down that they saw the Aramark employees, the three district employees or Elvis Presley wandering up and down the halls of Isaac E. Young Middle School during the film project last March.

There is 1 Comment

Bob Cox has spoken often and well about the many issues facing the community in terms of the stewardship of this School Board. If I read this correctly, we seem to have our own versions of Strom Thurmond or Charlie Rangel on the board meaning an aggregate of 75 years of service which has been rapidly deteriorating over the past decade.

Why go into the facts known by all reasonable and observant members of the community. So many matters sspeak of this failure to protect and serve. ?he final indignity of lancing the side of the one man who understood the call to community service and committed himself to act in the public interest.

All parents and citizens reading this should be outraged. Hastie has been cashiered from office; he is literally our Dreyfus and lesser men and women insufferably infused with their self importance and self perpetuation decided to have, I supposed their last turn at bat... I assume their last hurrah.

It is not a hurrah. It is a horror. The people who will bear the brunt of this are those who are in the system; teachers, children, parents, and yes, members of the community.... taxpayers. Shame on you Chrisanne Petrone for bearing silent witness to the loss of an important voice. If you have some reason to share with this community; speak up! Lacher and Polow have acted in accordance with their predictable history. But you rode in with Sara Richmond on a wave of hope and you have dashed and shattered these hopes beyond repair or recognition. If you have something to say to the public, damn it, say it and so so in front of Mr Hastie and the public.

And, so I am urging the members of this community who support Jeff, not as a black man, but as a man who has been stripped of his office by those who have not shared rhyme or reason with the community aand I think, likely not him.

I will attend the next School Board Meeting with any colleagues, friends, community members who have the heart and stomach to bear witness. I will be silent and listen and observe..

After that, I will work my pleibian down north tail off to effect change. I will leave no stone unturned. My special interest will be community awareness of the conditional consequences of (1) allowing the City Administration the luxury of portraying Pontius Pilate by washing their hands of ttheir moral and business duty to establish formal relationships with the school district. There will be oversight and I will commit to seeing that this is done and (2) Richard, you must return to Suffolk County where throwing balls up in the air is acceptable sport. We cannot afford you. I have just seen the incomparable Mr. Canada who has led an evolution of growth among large segments of the poorest among us in Harlem. We need a person of that quality and commitment. I will get him to come here and speak to like minded people who demand the best for our children.

So, Bob McCaffrey, Martin Sanchez, and all you unknown except by nom de plumes, will you join me at the next meeting to bear silent witness to Jeff and to thank him wordlessly for his service and sacrifice. Of course Bob Cox will be there and I will not ask him to join in this, in fact, I hope his voice is louder and more forceful than error.

By the way when is this next meeting and where. I don't get out much but it will be good to see who in the audience is for the people and who on stage is against.

Oh, Council members, a good chance to connect with those who see the clear relationship between a thriving city and equally thriving school board.JOIN ME!

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