Below is a copy of the speech I prepared for the school board meeting last night. This is as written not exactly as delivered but pretty close. I will post the video when it becomes available.
Mr. Lacher, earlier today you told an assembly of administrators, teachers and staff that you were determined to make being on the board fun again.
So what does that mean?
Well, it means that being on the board was fun once but is no longer fun.
So what changed?
One thing that has changed dramatically over the past five years is greater transparency.
In my five years of attending board meetings regularly I have witnessed the following changes:
Board meetings are video taped and published to the web.
Meeting agendas and resolutions are published to the web.
Budget documents and audit reports are published to the web.
Budget meetings are broadcast live.
For the first time in a decade you have a properly appointed District-Wide Safety Team and Building-Level Safety Teams.
Residents were invited to participate in a budget advisory committee - twice.
There are more people attending school board meetings and speaking at school board meetings.
Meetings are longer and include more back and forth among board members because the board is no longer doing the majority of its public business in executive session.
And of course there is me and my web site Talk of the Sound.
I have often credited Sara Richmond and Chrisanne Petrone for their role in opening up the board meetings but I would argue that no one has done more than me to bring transparency to New Rochelle schools.
Mr. Lacher, you know that…
It was due to my reporting that Jose Martinez was arrested and convicted for child sex abuse.
Ms. Polow, you know that…
It was due to my reporting that your maintenance vehicles are now mostly parked at the tennis courts at the high school and are now being equipped with GPS tracking devices.
Mr. Quinn, you know that...
It was due to my reporting that your first learned of the illegal removal of asbestos at Davis School.
But I think what Mr. Lacher is yearning for is a day when board members had more camaraderie.
Board members went on trips together, went out to dinner together, held off-site conferences at luxury conference centers and otherwise had a good time.
I would only point out that during the last 5 years board members have gone on trips -- all the way to China as a matter of fact. They have had dinners and parties and attended off-site conferences at places like Arrowwood in Rye.
I don't think these are reasons being on the board has not been fun for Mr. Lacher.
Instead, I would suggest that as real estate prices tanked and taxes rose and the entire financial structure of the district began to creak and groan under pressure from a weak economy residents began to show real concern about out-of-control spending by the district. Coupled with greater transparency and my ability to amplify concerns about serious problems with the administration of the district.
Today Mr. Lacher told an assembly of administrators, teachers and staff that public education was like a roll of toilet paper -- "we have to clean up the same messes with a lot less material".
Let's consider Mr. Lacher's toilet paper metaphor for a moment.
Does this mean the board is cleaning up messes made by your employees?
Or was "we" meant to include your employees in which case Mr. Lacher meant that administrators, teachers and staff are the ones doing the cleaning up with fewer administrators, teachers and staff to help them?
In that case, the messes would be the students, right?
It is too much to say that the President of the New Rochelle Board of Education told an assembly of administrators, teachers and staff that they were toilet paper and their students are like fecal matter that must be wiped from the district's collective rear end.
I wonder if this is what Mr. Lacher means by making being on the board fun.
Perhaps rather than take the time to be disputatious with me regarding my remarks as appears to have become your standard practice you might consider that there may be have been a better way to welcome back your employees to the start of another school year as the incoming board president and that an apology to all of them would be in order.
With that said let me jump back to remarks made at the last board meeting.
Mr. Quinn provided an update on the asbestos situation at Davis School.
What he failed to mention is that it is no longer just the Department of Labor investigating the incident.
Specifically, criminal investigators from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had been at City Hall, been given a tour of Davis School and met with your employees.
As I mentioned before, the violations I have reported on Talk of the Sound are crimes.
Given this I still do not know what to make of Mr. Lacher's channeling his inner George Bush when he made it a point to turn to the camera and say to the Department of Labor and any other agencies investigating the district "bring it on".
Maybe Mr. Lacher is not aware that these agencies ARE bringing it on.
For those who do not know, there are now 10 county, state and federal agencies looking at the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos material at the Davis School in July. This includes the EPA and DOJ, the DEC, DOL, SED, State Attorney General, State DOH, Westchester County DA, the Westchester County PD, the Westchester County Attorney, and the County DOH.