New Rochelle High School Principal Resigns

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New Rochelle High School Principal Resigns

February 28, 2013 - 18:22

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle High School Principal Don Conetta has submitted his resignation to the New Rochelle Board of Education, effective June 30, 2013.

The resignation was not unexpected and not thought to be related to the Justice Department investigation at the high school.

Conetta was hired on September 1st, 1992. He was Assistant Principal at New Rochelle High School before taking over the stop with the retirement of former NRHS Principal Don Baughman.

Conetta's tenure as principal has been riddled with controversy and scandal including the arrest of Marisa Anton, a librarian, for trying to have sex with a student, the recently announced Department of Justice investigation, highly questionable reporting of graduations rates, violent and disruptive incidents and much more. On the other hand, the football team recently won the New York State championship and the cheerleading squad won a national championship.

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There are 16 Comments

Mr. Conetta, you were a truly great principal and it's a shame to see you leave. You really ran NRHS like a pro, managing a high school of huge size, while also managing to give students personalized attention from faculty and staff. NRHS doesn't always have the best reputation to the outside world, but only those who have truly experienced NRHS can understand what a great place it is. No matter what anyone says, you were a great principal, who led NRHS to be the great home of education it is today. Sure, there have been problems, but nothings perfect and things are definitely improving. Mr. Cox, in a previous article you wrote that Mr. Conetta often lies to cover up violent acts at NRHS. The amazing thing is- rarely are there violent events at NRHS. Occasional fights? Sure. But never anything major and even the fights are few and far between. So, Mr. Cox, how would Mr. Conetta cover up events that never occurred? As well, Mr. Conetta was in no way connected with the Marisa Anton event, nor the DOJ investigation. He was in charge of the school at the time, yes. But in no way did he push Ms. Anton to make the decisions she made, nor did he directly play a role in the evacuation of the students. Judge Mr. Conetta on the impact he had on NRHS. Judge him for how he took an award winning school district, and made it even better. If you judge him by those means, which are the only fair ones I see, Mr. Conetta is clearly a great principal who will be missed.

Robert Cox's picture

"rarely are there violent events at NRHS"

That's a joke right?

In 2010, I reported on the disparity between crimes at NRHS reported to NRPD and the VADIR report filed by the district.

Most violent and disruptive incidents at NRHS are NOT reported to the police, so what does it say that NRPD has more reports of various types of incidents at NRHS then NRHS reported to New York State?

It says that NRHS is dramatically understating the number of these incidents at NRHS. It says to me that Mr. Conetta is falsifying the data in state reports.

In that report the most recent year was 2007-08. I have not updated this story since then but these numbers have not changed much over the years.

Let's take a couple, since you are so familiar with NRHS.

In the 2007-08 VADIR report, Mr. Conetta reported that there was a total of 13 incidents of Intimidation, Harassment, Menacing, or Bullying at the school. That's the entire year, for 3,400 students, or about 1 incident per month.

So you believe that once or a twice a month, someone reports an incident of intimidation, harassment, menacing or bullying at NRHS? Once a month?

Mr. Conetta reported that there 15 larcenies or other thefts at the school or a little over 1 per month. And you believe that there is one report a month of a stolen phone, article of clothing or items missing from a locker? Just one?

Mr. Conetta reported that there were 6 incidents of weapons possession at NRHS that year. And you believe that too?

And my favorite of all, Mr. Conetta reported that there were 6 incidents of drug possession at the school. Seriously, you believe this?

This is just a few examples from a single report from a single year for one particular subject. I can go all day citing examples of falsified reports being signed and submitted to the State by Mr. Conetta.

"Mr. Conetta was in no way connected with the Marisa Anton event"

He was her boss with the authority to hire and fire her. He was responsible for the entire building and all the people in it.

"[Mr. Conetta was in no way connected] with the DOJ investigation"

It is apparent that you have this idea that Mr. Conetta is not responsible for what occurs in the building for which he is legally responsible under New York State law.

I suspect the DOJ will have their own take on who is and who is not "connected" to the matter but based on what I have reported and seen reported elsewhere, equipment to move wheel-chair bound students was purchased but left crated and unused in the building, staff were not trained on how to use it, there was no evacuation plan in place for these students. I have already mentioned above the the school does not have an updated and legally required building-level safety plan not does it have a building-level safety team as required under New York State law.

"in no way did he push Ms. Anton to make the decisions she made, nor did he directly play a role in the evacuation of the students"

The students were NOT evacuated. That is the whole point. As for the idea that since he did not buy condoms for Ms. Anton or did not push a wheel chair down a hallway he is not responsible for what goes on at NRHS, this is not even worth responding to as it is absurd.

"Judge Mr. Conetta on the impact he had on NRHS. Judge him for how he took an award winning school district, and made it even better."

I do judge him by the impact he had on NRHS.

Here are a few things I know.

- Under his watch graduation rates for minority students fell to the lowest level in years.

- Under this watch a high school that was nationally ranked by Newsweek magazine fell completely out the rankings and subsequently refused to provide data to Newsweek in a lame attempt to hide this fact.

- He got so drunk at an end-of-year party a couple of years ago that he had to be driven home.

But let me leave it to you to make a POSITIVE case for Mr. Conetta.

You wrote "Judge him for how he took an award winning school district, and made it even better".

OK. Tell me.

How did he take an award winning school district and make it even better?

"Conetta's tenure as principal has been riddled with controversy and scandal..."
One principal can't control the the actions of the entire 3400 student body or the 200+ teachers and staff members. You can't blame him for a librarian wanting to have an imitate relationship with a student and you can't blame him for the poor performance or violent actions of some students. I believe your son dropped out of AP Physics B this year after only a week. It Conetta to blame for that as well?

Might I just say, agreed.

Robert Cox's picture

Be specific.

If you think Mr. Conetta is so wonderful give some specifics.

What did he do SPECIFICALLY?

You want specifics? I'll list em' out for you.

-When JSA was in trouble due to not having a teacher, Mr. Conetta worked tirelessly with our president to secure us a teacher as well as make sure our Washington trip went off without a hitch.

-Mr. Conetta always announces those who have made our high school proud. When someone accomplishes something, such as our football team, a NMSQT finalist, etc, Mr. Conetta personally gets on to congratulate them.

-He managed to keep 3,300 very diverse kids committed to their education in a safe, effective environment. Comment on this all you wish, but I attend NRHS, and I always feel safe and in good protection.

-He pushed through hard times at the school, things such as budget cuts, the Marisa Anton incident, and the DOJ investigation. Mr. Conetta has always led the school though any problems, and always made every effort to minimize impact on the students.

Well Mr. Cox, I think I've made my point clear. I did not appreciate the way you attacked my comment by the way, it makes for very unprofessional journalism.

Robert Cox's picture

ATTACKED your comment? More like rebutted your comment with facts.

As for your reply, these are not really "specifics" they are just more opinion.

But let me ask you if that JSA program without a teacher is the JSA Program that was without a teacher because the teacher, Lauren Cutignola, was escorted out of the building by security after she was fired by Mr. Conetta? Or is that some other JSA program?

How do you figure that Mr. Conetta "pushed through hard times" like the DOJ Investigation when the DOJ investigation was just begun 2 weeks ago and has not even begun to interview witnesses at the school? The facts would better support the point that 2 weeks after the DOJ investigation was announced Mr. Conetta quit. How is that "pushing through hard times"?

In any case, the only point you have made is that you like Mr. Conetta. And that's fine. You are welcome to like whom you please.

I am welcome to like who I please. With that, I am also free to dislike others. Well Mr. Cox, I dislike you. Strongly might I add. You really can't see any positives in NRHS, and thats fine, it's your right, but at the same time, so depressing. It is the same JSA program that lost Ms. C. But I'll be damned if I say Mr. Conetta wasn't extremely nice, pleasant, and helpful in finding a new teacher. As well, the DOJ investigation was just opened, but if it hadn't been for news crews, none of this would have been known to the students. As I said, Mr. Conetta always tried to minimize impact on the students. Mr. Conetta isn't leaving right this minute, remember. He is sticking around until June thankfully. That means he will be around for the DOJ investigation. So, he is sticking through hard times. Mr. Conetta is a great principal under my eyes, and that's what I'll leave it at.

Robert Cox's picture

Are we talking about NRHS or the Principal of NRHS?

Of course there are many good things about NRHS. We have written about the football team, the cheerleading team, the science olympiad team, the security situation at the recent MVHS boys basketball game and more. We publish EVERY press release the district sends us. We link to all the MSG Varsity stories about NRHS. Two of my children graduated from NRHS. Another attends there now. For the past decade except for one year I have had a child attending NRHS. My wife works for the head of special education at the high school. I am personal friends with many people who work at NRHS. I live just down the street from NRHS. I go running at NRHS. I am at or around NRHS almost every single day of the week.

Overall, I would suggest I have a better insight into NRHS than you seem to appreciate.

I am not sure what you mean when you say that Mr. Conetta has "tried to minimize impact on the students" but the reasons those news trucks were at NRHS is due to my reporting that the DOJ was investigating NRHS for Title II Violations of the ADA.

I appreciate you are a student and want to be true to your school and maybe you have a positive personal relationship with Mr. Conetta. And that's very nice and I am glad he has shown that side of himself to you.

That does not change the reality that New Rochelle is better off with Don Conetta far away from NRHS.

Robert Cox's picture

Who do you think is responsible for falsifying the VADIR reports at NRHS?

Who do you think is responsible for falsifying the graduation rate data at NRHS?

Who do think is responsible for the failure to have a Building-Level Safety Plan in place for NRHS?

Who do you think is responsible for the failure to appoint a Building-Level Safety Team for NRHS?

The list goes on and on.

And yes, I hold the principal at any school responsible for the conduct of their staff.

I appreciate that you are a student at NRHS and maybe Mr. Conetta has been friendly and kind to you individually. That's nice. It does not however address is legal and fiduciary responsibilities in running a public high school in New York State.

Mr. Conetta kept the largest high school in New York State together - meeting the needs of the highest to the lowest students. Your attacks are unwarranted - perhaps the lowering of NRHS rankings is due to the fact that it is a comprehensive high school meeting the needs of a diverse group of students - not your typical upper class suburban high school. Compare NRHS to White Plains or Peekskill - NRHS ranks higher.

Robert Cox's picture

"perhaps the lowering of NRHS rankings is due to the fact that it is a comprehensive high school meeting the needs of a diverse group of students"

NRHS has had a group diverse students for a very long time. The low minority graduation rates, the falsified VADIR reports and falling out of the Newsweek ranking all happened on his watch.

"Compare NRHS to White Plains or Peekskill - NRHS ranks higher".

Ranks higher on what? by whom? Can you provide a link?

Do any of you Conetta defenders have any ACTUAL data or is just palaver?

Mr. Cox, by now, I would've thought you had gotten it. Mr. Conetta is a good principal. He gives his life to our school. I say our because I am a student there, and I feel its a great learning facility. You're looking in from the outside, and whatever window you're looking in from must be VERY distorted, as NRHS is a great high school. Why do I need to bring up statistics to prove it? You rarely do. I am a student. I can tell you that my experience at NRHS is a great one. That's a fact. One that I'm sure many STUDENTS would agree with. Comment on your VADIR reports all you want, but NRHS is a great place to learn, socialize, and thrive as a student. Mr. Conetta, you are a great principal, and will be missed.

Robert Cox's picture

I am a glad you like Mr. Conetta and think he is a great principal. That's very nice. You are welcome to extol the virtues of Mr. Conetta to your heart's content on Talk of the Sound.

I am not going to discourage you from praising him as you are entitled to your opinion.

At the same time surely I have a right to criticize him as well?

As for your insight into Mr. Conetta, I have my own experiences with him and know him to be a terrible human being, a liar and a fraud. To him I say good riddance to bad news. That's just my opinion. You are welcome to yours.

Please Mr. Cox, speak freely of your hatred of Mr. Conetta, of NRHS, of, probably, New Rochelle as a whole. Do it. But, if you're going to post rude and unpopular opinions on someone, do it without publishing. Something I learned in school Mr. Cox, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Maybe you should go back to school, and I think NRHS is the perfect place. After all, we do offer adult education classes. Perhaps there is a journalism course? I believe you could use the help.

Well, for a student in the American educational system you sure present a peek into the future for this country. Yes we are all entitled to our opinion. The specifics have already been posted.
But did you ever here of the phrase " the head of the fish stinks"?
Maybe when you enter into the business world you will see it first hand.
But then again, you will probably go to college as a political science major and become a politician. I am already sickened at the thought.