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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part VII

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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part VII

February 17, 2015 - 18:35
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This is Part VII in a Series.

I want to shift focus away from Buildings & Grounds over to School Security for a bit. For many years, I have been calling for a “security audit” to evaluate all aspects of how school security is run. It took the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School for the district to act. They hired Vigilant Resources International to evaluate all aspects of school security in New Rochelle. What they found is what I had been writing about and talking about for years.

First and foremost, there is the issue of posture; inward-facing or outward-facing. 

Schools in the United States typically have an inward facing posture because they are more focused on keeping order among the students than a threat coming into the school from outside. Visit a country like Israel and you will see a priority on defending against outside threats. New Rochelle school security was (and still is) on an inward-facing school security posture with an emphasis on student control.

Other than a security person posted at an entrance to schools in the district, New Rochelle security is almost entirely targeted towards students already in the building. Having adopted this inward-facing posture, the deployment of security personnel is made based on the ability of security personnel to control the students. Young kids are a lot easier to control than older kids. There is a big difference between security at the elementary school and the other schools, the middle schools and the high school, because the threat-evaluation is that little kids are less of a threat than bigger kids. The bigger the kids the more the threat which is why there is more security personnel on duty at New Rochelle High School during a typical school day than the New Rochelle Police Department has officers on patrol over any given 24 hour period even though there are 3,000 students at the high school and a citywide population of 80,000 in New Rochelle

This inward-facing posture does not comport with reality — especially at the elementary schools which get the least amount of security resources. There have been two schools that have had serious intrusion/lockout issues over the past five years: Barnard Childhood Center and Jefferson Elementary School. There have been none at New Rochelle High School, Albert Leonard Middle School or Isaac E. Young Middle School yet the have almost all of the security resources.

Barnard has had the most serious incidents with one case where two armed individuals came onto school grounds, three where intruders were in the building, including one where an intruder was found by a teachers-aide hiding in a second-floor classroom. In that case, former Barnard Principal Patricia Lambert lied to parents in notes sent home and robo-calls, claiming that a person had been seen outside the school and the school was placed on lockdown (the person was inside and there was no lockdown). As if to overcompensate for her past failures, Lambert allowed an armed parent to stand post with the school security guard at the front desk.

Jefferson had two incidents of intruders entering the school. In one case, rather than order the person to leave, Principal Kimmerly Nieves invited the intruder into her office and then let him leave before the police were called.

The VRI report found many problems including a routine failure to secure doors, especially during warmer weather, mostly because teachers were taking classes out to a playground and wanted easy access back into the building. There were scant procedures for checking-in visitors to schools at the front desk. And many other systemic failures. The entire report is published on line and makes for frightful reading.

VRI also found what I am going to describe as a lack of professionalism with security staff. They recommended solutions like additional training and adopting policies on uniform attire.

This lack of professionalism is, by far, the biggest issue with New Rochelle School Security. This stems from a combination of factors but the two most pronounced factors are a lack of leadership at the top and the poor quality of personnel hired to work security, many of who are part of the “friends and family” network in New Rochelle. While there are many qualified individuals working security, including off-duty firefighters with CPR training and more, there are many more security personnel who are simply unfit for duty, at best, and belong in jail, in some cases.

The official title of a “security guard” in New Rochelle schools is “General School Aide”. The reality is they are not there to provide security, they are not properly trained for that, and are not physically fit. For many years most of them were not even properly licensed by New York State, as required, and thus not legally allowed to work. In the event of an actual emergency, many of these people would be, or have proven to be, more of a hinderance than a help. In the event of a serious incident like an armed-shooter in the school, these people would be more likely to trample staff and students running for the exits than helping organize an orderly response.

It seems to me that as a basic rule, if any person working security in New Rochelle schools cannot stand at their post for two consecutive hours they are not fit for duty and should be either terminated or allowed to take an open position elsewhere in the district. Such a rule might eliminate half of all security personnel right off the bat.

Anyone who has walked through a school in New Rochelle knows that few if any security personnel actually stand post — they sit. They can mostly be found seated, often reading a newspaper or book or fiddling with their smartphone, or, as I recently reported, watching movies on a portable DVD player. Another rule might be that if you show up for work drunk just once, are caught sleeping at your post, are having sex with students, or involved in criminal activity of any kind that you ought to be fired. Yet, in New Rochelle schools, none of these things are grounds for being suspended let alone fired.

This information has been reported to the District by me and others. In some cases the Westchester County District Attorney has this information. VRI not only did their investigation last year but did an entire security audit in 2013. I have reported most of this already in Talk of the Sound so if you want more on a particular individual you can search the site and find past stories in most cases.

I asked the district recently for any district policy prohibiting employees from having sex with students — there is none. That ought to change.

Like I said, there are many good and responsible people working security in the New Rochelle schools. That they are lumped in with some of the miscreants working for the district is just another example of how it is the good, honest, hard-working employees who suffer the most from corruption in the New Rochelle schools.

George McClendon is a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School. He is a retired Mount Vernon police officer. His post is typically the pool area. He has reportedly been found drunk on the job about a half-dozen times. He was repeatedly warned about being drunk while on duty until finally he was temporarily removed as a guard. He recently returned to work and was back at his post over the past few weeks.

Diana Williams is a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School. She was arrested for drunk driving last fall after she blew a staggering BAC of 0.25 (more than triple the legal limit). She was charged with Driving While Intoxicated-1st Offense, Operating a Motor Vehicle with 00.08 of 1% or more Alcohol in Blood-1st Offense, and Aggravated DWI-Per Se- BAC 00.18 or More - No Priors. Several hours after her release, Williams, presumably still drunk, reported to work security at a New Rochelle High School football game against Mahopac High School.

Daniele Carter is a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School. She was caught stealing at ShopRite grocery store on Palmer Avenue. She was wearing her New Rochelle School Security uniform at the time she was caught shoplifting. Bruce Daniele intervened on her behalf. She was not charged, released but “banned for life” from the store.

Kyle Figueroa has been a Security Guard at multiple schools. For the life of me I cannot figure out how this guy still has a job in New Rochelle. He has been bounced from one school to the next for various conduct issues. Although he is a part-time worker, not in civil service and not a FUSE member, he is protected by Daniele. Figueroa was previously at Isaac E. Young Middle School but bounced out of there. He was then sent to the high school but Figueroa was caught on video tape having sex with a student at the high school near Rooms 105/106. That video tape magically disappeared but Figueroa was bounced out of there and sent to Albert Leonard Middle School. He was bounced out of there and sent to Barnard Childhood Center. After he was caught on video tape sleeping while on post and after he was found to invited his personal friends to hang out with him while on duty at the school, he was bounced out of Barnard. He was then sent to Columbus school but bounced out of there. He is currently at Trinity. Figueroa was reported to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit. I was interviewed by Audrey Stone of that office but no action was taken against Figueroa. New Rochelle police sources told me that Figueroa was a “person of interest” in a burglary near the College of New Rochelle that resulted in a woman being held at gunpoint and then tied up.

Alex Smith is a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School. He was bounced out of Albert Leonard after he was caught numerous times watching movies on a portable DVD player while on post. After he was given a "final warning" by then-Principal Bill Evans, Smith was found sitting in a bathroom stall watching movies on his DVD player He was bounced out of Albert Leonard and over to the high school. I obtained a photo of Smith back at it again, watching a movie on a DVD player hidden under his coat while on post. He is a protected person because he is part of Head Football Coach Lou DeRienzo’s “family”, Smith is part of the "chain gang" that holds the down and distance markers during New Rochelle High School football games.

Augusta Hunter is a Security Guard at Jefferson Elementary School. Hunter is related to Alex Smith. Rather than watch movies while on post she prefers to read newspapers while at her post. As noted above, Jefferson has had the second most serious intrusion issues of any school in the district.

Leroy Manuel is a Security Guard at Isaac E. Young Middle School. He was bounced out of Isaac several years ago for inappropriate conduct involving female students. He ended up at the high school before being bounced back to Isaac where he now monitors the security cameras. There were a series of meetings about Manual having sex with students but he offered the excuse that the girl was 17 years old and so it was not statutory rape. In one case, a girl he had sex with became pregnant and she moved to Florida. During this time, Manuel continued working after the expiration of his New York State security license.

Steve Caruso is a Security Guard/Driver. A friend of Bruce Daniele, he retired from New Rochelle Police Department on disability but is somehow able to work for the New Rochelle school system.

Kevin Thomas is a Security Guard who has been at New Rochelle High School and Albert Leonard Middle School. He is a deadbeat dad. He continued working after the expiration of his New York State security license.

Donna Henry was a Security Guard at Albert Leonard Middle School. She took a phone from a student that contained a nude image of a female student at the school. Rather than turn the phone into the Principal, she instead forwarded the nude image to her son who worked as a janitor at Isaac and her daughter-in-law who worked in the finance office under John Quinn. From there, the image was widely disseminated among district employees and others in New Rochelle. Henry was disciplined briefly (with pay) and then given a new position at higher pay as a night-shift cleaner at the high school. When I reported that Henry was not being charged and getting a pay increase, the New York Post and other papers picked up the story. The board motion was tabled but Henry was quietly placed in the new position anyway. She continues to work at the high school.

Cheryl Minor is a Security Guard at Isaac E. Young Middle School. She has, for years, served as what can only be called Principal Anthony Bongo’s personal valet. She is often seen running personal errands for Dr. Bongo in his personal pickup truck — dry cleaning, grocery store and so forth. She has a house in the Carolinas. Many people have described that house as her primary residence, that she comes to New Rochelle for a few weeks at a time to work at Isaac. She is able to do this because her time sheet is often filled out in advance and her hours credited when she is not in New Rochelle. She continue working after the expiration of her New York State security licenses.

Robert McLean is or was a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School. He has for many years been involved in pursuing and consummating sexual relationships with students. This has been an open secret. He was just recently suspended 30 days without pay for yet another instance of sexually harassing a student. Why this case was different is not clear but it did involve the parents complaining to the principal and there is a new person running the high school, Principal Reggie Richardson. That might have made a difference. McLean has been involved in something called the “zoo-zoo money game”. This is not actually a game but a type of forced savings program, popular in the Caribbean. Each week a group of participating workers puts money from their paycheck into a pot and one person each pay period gets to “win” the pot. The problem is that at one point, when the money came due, McLean reportedly absconded with the money — as much as $15,000. His problem became everyone’s problem when two men showed up at New Rochelle High School looking for McLean. The two man managed to bypass security and roam the halls looking for McLean. Daniele protected McLean and, at a subsequent security meeting about the incident, established a new radio code (“1010”) to indicate that someone was on school grounds looking for McLean. McLean also likes to watch porn on his smartphone while at his post at New Rochelle High School.

Vincent Mirabile was briefly a Security Guard at Isaac E. Young Middle School. A former New Rochelle Police Department Detective, he was reportedly being groomed to be Bruce Daniele’s number two man when he was involved in an altercation involving a student in the lunch room. Mirabile told me that he did nothing wrong but there was video tape of the incident and Daniele was unable to protect Mirabile.

There are quite a few security guards who were hired despite not meeting the civil service residency required by submitting phony residency papers. Among them are Geeta Singh (Bronx), Andrew Pelham (Eastchester), and Jerome Planter (Bronx) although Planter now mostly works for the White Plains school district).

As I said, the majority of security personnel in New Rochelle are honest, hard-working people (they have to be to make up for some of the slackers described above). There is a history of problems with security guards. David Gibson, was a Security Guard at New Rochelle High School back in Linda Kelly’s day.  He was arrested by New Rochelle police for drug dealing in the area of Holy Family by the church and school. He worked for the Mount Vernon Fire Department. Linda Kelly intervened. Pressure was brought to bear to get the charges dropped. Another security guard was caught dealing cocaine on Shore Road.

There are four ways that school security could be run (maybe readers can think of more).

1. Direct hires in management and line personnel — this is the current set up.

2. Outside hires in management and direct hires in personnel - this is like what is done with Aramark running B & G.

3. Complete outsourcing — a security firm is contracted to provide management and line personnel and provide a complete turn-key solution. The firm might hire some current security personnel to work for them.

4. Partial outsourcing to New Rochelle Police — NRPD would place officers in the schools, provide management, training and equipment like radios linked to the NRPD radio system and security cameras linked to the NRPD surveillance network. NRPD and the Board of Education notoriously do not cooperate.

#1 is the current system and is clearly not working.

#4 is appealing in many ways but unlikely to be approved by the administration or board.

#2 and #3 are the options that could replace the current approach and might be palatable to the administration and board.

Which ever system is adopted, a good approach might be to “fire” all current employees and then require them to interview for new positions. That process could be used to weed-out people who are unfit for duty (cannot stand post, have a questionable history, etc.)

At one point the district did consider hiring an outside company to manage security. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with the district they were only compounding the problem with their preferred choice - NJB Security Services out of Mount Vernon, NY.

According to current and former security guards, they either get their training and licensing through NJB or Gold Shield. NJB is the place to go if you just want to pay money and get a license — their reportedly lax approach makes them popular with people who might not otherwise be able to get a license (cannot read, cannot pass a test, have “dirty” fingerprints, etc.).

The Senior Security Consultant at NJB Security is William J Stump. He lives in New Rochelle.

Stump was the Executive Director of the Airport Security Council, a security agency for airports in the New York region partly financed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Stump set up and ran the airport’s crime-prevention program up until the time he was arrested by federal agents for fraud and embezzlement.

An audit showed that Stump wrote checks on a council bank account and used a council credit card to pay personal expenses. He misappropriated $50,000 to buy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret and other personal items including personal vacations, plumbing repairs and cigars. He was charged with five counts of mail fraud and one count of credit card fraud.

As part of a plea deal, he resigned his post, reimbursed the Airport Security Council for $44,000 and pleaded guilty to the two charges in Federal District Court.

The plan at one time was for NJB to hire Bruce Daniele directly but have Daniele continue to run security in New Rochelle. This was being done to avoid the 211 waiver issue.

I have written about this extensively but let me offer a brief explanation. There is a law that limits the amount of money a retired New York State public employee can earn while working for another state agency and continuing to receive their pension. In order to keep getting their pension money while earning over $30,000 from another agency, the person needs a “211 waiver”. There are certain requirements in order to be eligible for a 211 waiver but the main one is that the person must be temporarily filling an unexpected vacancy which no one else can fill.

The district had three ex-cops as employees. One of them aged-out at 65 years old leaving only two — Bruce Daniele and an ex-NYPD cop Rolf Koehler who is from New Rochelle, his wife works security at Trinity School where she gets generous allotments of overtime hours.

Rather than recount all the details here let me just say that Daniele and Koehler were in their position for years and did not quality for a 211 waiver. Despite this, the school board repeatedly authorized Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to submit phony 211 waiver requests to New York State Civil Service.

The district got in trouble for what they did with Koehler, lied about it to the public but ultimately Koehler left. He went to work for NJB Security which paid him in the Rye Brook Schools — which is perfectly legal and the correct way to have placed ex-cops in New Rochelle schools.

Daniele, however, continued to get his illegal 211 waivers along with massive pay increases, massive amounts of summer overtime (odd for a 12 month employee) and thousands of dollars in stipends for coaching various sports teams something that conflicted with his job description which required he be on-call 24/7. All of this on top of Daniele rarely being at any of the schools during the work day — his district provided vehicle can often be found parked in front of his house on Orchid Road in New Rochelle.

Daniele was given wide latitude by Organisciak who became a golfing buddy. One report I received was of Daniele giving Organisciak golf lessons on McKenna Field at the high school during the middle of the school day. Another is Organisciak, Daniele and Bill Evans golfing during school hours.

Daniele was responsible for licensing of security guards. Yet when I made a Freedom of Information Law request to the New York State Department of State for all security guards licensed through the City School District of New Rochelle the list had 8 names (and one of those was dead).

Daniele has allowed security guards to continue working after the expiration of their New York State security licenses including Leroy Manuel, Kevin Thomas, Cheryl Minor, and Robert McLean just to name a few.

Bruce Daniele was heavily involved with the P.A.C.T. Fantasy Football web site, a crude web site set up ostensibly to host standings in a high-stakes fantasy football league involving dozens of current and former New Rochelle police officers, primarily from the New Rochelle Police Department's Police And Community Together Unit. The web site involved paying out tens of thousands of dollars in winnings but also included illegal box-betting and vile pornographic images. Team names, team web sites and helmet decals glorified a brutish, hard-drinking, gangster mentality among officers within the unit.

Participating officers had teams with names which include Midnight Mutha F*s, Kill 'em All, The Hitmen, Bad Boyz, Goodfellas, New Jack City, Tuxedo Mafia, The Enforcers, Jack Daniels Boys, Da Drunks and Tits 'N' Ass. Images and helmet decals include one riddled with bullet holes, a woman in a skimpy red bikini, a whiskey label logo, an animation of beer bottles bouncing into a crate, a large-breasted woman in a white bikini, a mafia shooting scene, and a nude, heavily-tattooed woman standing naked, leaning back while holding a massive chainsaw between her legs pointing outwards to suggest a penis. References to male testes are also popular; teams include Harley's Balls, Fireballs, Balzy Bulls and Ball Breakers. One team -- Perri's Not Gay Ghosts - is vaguely homophobic (the team helmet is pink). Two teams appear to be mocking the police profession - The Hemorrhoids and Get the Donuts.

Once he went to work for the school district, Daniele continued to be involved with the web site and continued to run box-betting schemes worth tens of thousands of dollars each.

Security under Daniele has been poorly managed — schools have routinely failed to conduct required drills, buses with students are sent out from schools with no security personnel on them which has resulted in various hazing incidents. One hazing incident at the pool at New Rochelle High School caused particular concerns because it involved the child of a senior school official. Another involved a student locked inside a locker.

Daniele is responsible but not solely to blame.

Four days after Newtown, on December 18th Board President Chrisanne Petrone stated that the school district was in full compliance with all New York State laws regarding school security and particularly the Project SAVE law. In the weeks that followed I along with many others demonstrated conclusively the many ways in which the district was not in compliance with the laws designed to protect children in their case. Finally, after two weeks of lying about it the district admitted they were not in compliance with the Project SAVE Law.

The Project SAVE Law is the central piece of legislation for school safety in New York State. Save stands for "Safe Schools Against Violence In Education". The New York State Center for School Safety summary lists 16 sections.

1. District-Wide School Safety Plan

2. Building-Level Emergency Response Plans

3. Codes of Conduct

4. Teacher Authority/Principal Authority

5. Uniform Violent Incident Reporting (VADIR Reporting)

6. Instruction in Civility, Citizenship, and Character Education

7. Health Curriculum

8. Interpersonal Violence Prevention Education

9. School Violence Prevention Training

10. Whistle Blower Protection

11. Fingerprinting (Background Checks)

12. Assaults on Teachers

13. Child Abuse Reporting

14. Prohibiting Silent Resignations

15. Teacher Discipline

16. Court Notification

The New Rochelle Board of Education has violated almost every aspect of this law over the last 5 years.

Prior to post-Sandy Hook changes in 2013, the District-Wide School Safety Plan has not been updated since 2009. The Building-Level Emergency Response Plans had not been updated since 2001 except for New Rochelle High School which was updated in 2006 after the new wing opened.

From 2001 to 2008 the school district did not make public the Code of Conduct, distributing to parents and students only a Summary version which contained only sections describing obligations of students and parents to the district and removed all sections that contained obligations of the school district to parents and students.

The annual Violence and Disruptive Incident ("VADIR") Reports, each signed by the Superintendent, have been for many years falsified to dramatically understate the number of violent and disruptive incidents in New Rochelle schools. Two sets of books are kept: (1) actual incidents in the event of litigation; (2) reported incidents in order to keep the stats low and prevent New Rochelle schools being classified as “persistently dangerous”. If a school is so-classified parents are entitled to transfer their children elsewhere at district expense. If VADIR data was reported accurately, Isaac and the high school would both meet the classification of “persistently dangerous”.

Regarding Silent Resignations and Child Abuse Reporting, Jose Martinez was confronted by the parent of a victim of child abuse. He resigned without disclosing the allegation and that resignation was accepted by the board.

As mentioned above, I made a Freedom of Information request to the New York State Department of State. That was in 2011. The scope of the request was "all security licenses where the employer had the word 'New Rochelle' in it". I made the request that way to cover "City School District of New Rochelle" or "New Rochelle Board of Education" and other possible variants that might be in their database.

In response to my request, I received a list of 8 people from the state database where the employer had the word "New Rochelle" in it -- all of them for the City School District of New Rochelle. Of those 8 people, only 1 had a current license (Cheryl Minor). Ironically she was one of three persons I had been checking when I made my FOIL request because I was told that at the time I made my request she was on the payroll, getting paid, AND working without a license. By the time my request was fulfilled many months later she had renewed her license. The other 7 included Frank Keefer (retired), Joe Johnstone (retired), Bruce Daniele, another man who had died and a few others. This left open the question how all the other guards were listed in the system because they were not listed under New Rochelle. A rough count at the time was there were 92 security guards working in New Rochelle without a license.

In 2013, at an Albert Leonard Middle School PTA Meeting on School Safety, I asked the district's security consultant Ellen Garcia about this. Before she could answer, Assistant Superintendent John Quinn, took the microphone from Garcia and gave a non-responsive reply to the effect that "all security guards are properly licensed". Quinn added that "no security guards are allowed to work without a security license" but that if I had information to the contrary to provide it.

When the meeting ended I provided Quinn three names -- Cheryl Minor, Robert McLean and LeRoy Manual -- all employees who worked as security guards without a license. I further stated that Mr. Quinn personally approved allowing them to work without a license. Quinn stated that he would "look into it" and follow up with a letter addressing my two questions. He never did. He has since been fired.

NEXT: New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part VIII

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