City of New Rochelle and The City School District of New Rochelle need to sit detention together!
New Rochelle City Council needs to do some studying and start to speak about getting more in touch with The City School District of New Rochelle. When taxes go up The City Council takes a beating. The problem here is that the School Taxes are a larger chunk of our tax bills. Therefore Council should be holding meetings to discuss the problems that exist. The only problem with that is the city has some of the same problems for the same reasons.
The City of New Rochelle and The City School District of New Rochelle need to sit down and discuss the wide array of problems they have in common, poor planning, poor oversight of employees, outdated and barely used systems of checks and balances and, A total lack of Accountability and Responsibility with in The New Rochelle School District, The New Rochelle Board of Education, The New Rochelle City Council, City Hall Management and City Hall Staff. This has been discussed many times. Here is an old article I wrote back in 2012:
What is going on here in New Rochelle?
By Bob McCaffrey on Fri, 11/09/2012
The City of New Rochelle is at a crucial stage in planning, development and now “Branding”. Therefore, it is critical that we develop a functioning and productive City School District to coincide with these plans for the future of The City of New Rochelle.
We are all aware of what goes on in The City of New Rochelle, The City School District and on The City of New Rochelle’s School Board. We have all seen the games, bullying, favoritism, cronyism and back peddling politics played out over the years, both on City Council and The School Board. It is exposed more now because of Talk of the Sound which began out of frustration of not getting answers and with both because of all of the behind the scene antics. Talk of the Sound avails the people an eye and a voice, a voice that cries out for more transparency within City Hall and The City School District.
Our City Government is reflective of the school board and suffers some of the same ills and miss-trust. Both need to change fast before there is no remedy. At Citizens to be Heard It is a shame, when we want council to speak up; many choose to remain dis-engaged and silent. At School Board Meetings, The Citizens are now limited in time and what they speak about is limited and controlled under the new system at the public speaking opportunities. We get three minutes at both with little to know answers or responses to our questions. Look at all the problems that have been exposed here in New Rochelle and in The New Rochelle school system over the last few years. So much is based on facts that have been backed up, not blank accusations. We need a new system, we need change.
In the words of Mary Jane Reddington from when she spoke during her retirement, “Change things and continue to change things”. The time is now. Time and again people speak and ask questions that aren’t answered. Eventually this will catch up to you. The time to change is now for The New Rochelle School District, The New Rochelle Board of Education, The New Rochelle City Council, City Hall Management and City Hall Staff.
The City Council needs to work towards the integration of The City School District and The City Administration. The citizens of New Rochelle are drowning in their tax bills. The City Council must act to get The New Rochelle City School District under control. The City Council must get the message across that 65% of the tax bill is tied to The New Rochelle City School District. This imbalance hampers any attempt by The City to make improvements in the interest of The City of New Rochelle and its resident taxpayers. Work towards bring The city and The School District together based on its effects on property taxing, potential commercial base, and a failure of understanding the effects of certiorari reduction on the City finances.
Certiorari reductions and tax abatements keep coming back to haunt us time and again, whether it is the twenty year Tax Abatements or when developers are given a Certiorari Reduction in taxes after those twenty years of abatements. The absences of a formal relationship of some kind between the two have and will have an effect on the financial management of both, The City of New Rochelle and The City School District of New Rochelle. Take a look at two articles about this topic:
New Rochelle School District pays out again to developer.
By Bob McCaffrey on Thu, 10/03/2013
How Profitable is the Weyman Avenue Development in New Rochelle?
By Peggy Godfrey on Thu, 12/08/2011
We must insist that there be a direct one to one representation of School Board Trustee to Council District. That is the simplest and most effective method of district and community representation. Both parts of our government have a major impact many aspects of day to day living. Such as on our tax dollars, our lives, families. These things that affects not just the grown-ups but, our children, their lives, safety, education. These are things that are very valuable to the people of New Rochelle, More valuable that getting a friend a job or looking the other way. If you don’t see this than you are blind or part of the problem. Speak to anyone who grew up in The City of New Rochelle and they can tell you stories of the misgivings of The New Rochelle School District, The New Rochelle Board of Education, The New Rochelle City Council, City Hall Management and City Hall Staff.
Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to The Mayor and City Council following my three minutes at the last School Board meeting and last week’s Citizens to be heard:
Mr. Mayor and City Council Members,
I would like to complete what I was trying to say the other night before I was rudely interrupted by Councilman Fertel. It is a shame, when we want council to speak up; many choose to remain dis-engaged and silent! I know we also have a President and a Vice President on The School Board; I kept them separate in my reasoning. If I was allowed to finish what I was saying, I would have covered off on the other two Board Members which I know does make it a total of nine School Board Members. While I didn't have much time left, I would have been able to complete my thoughts. My intent was to follow up with an e-mail with more details, but my time ran out so I was made to look miss-informed. Of which, I am not. As you will see, I do my homework and make sure I am speaking from knowledge and not just assumptions. We all not what making assumptions does!
As I started to say, New Rochelle has seven elementary schools (Including Barnard Early Childhood Center) and seven School Board Trustees that could be elected by those residents in the schools geographic boundaries. Then the President could handle NRHS & Campus Alternative High School while the Vise President could handle the ALMS & IEYMS Middle Schools, which then covers your nine board members Councilman Feretel. This is not perfect but we need to start the conversation somewhere. If you look below you will see I tried to layout by district where everything fell. I believe I got it close to right for the examples sake. Five of the Six City Council Members would cover schools and then that would leave the Mayor and Councilman Rice of District #3 who don’t have any schools. The Mayor could handle NRHS/Campus Alternative High School and District #3 Councilman Rice the ALMS & IEYMS Middle Schools. Again, this is just an example for those too quick to pass judgment and a starting point.
The School Board of The City of New Rochelle
Lianne Merchant, President
Rachel Relkin, Vice President
Naomi Brickel, Trustee
Dr. Pamela M. Davis, Trustee
Dr. Salvador A. Fernandez, Trustee
Jeffrey Hastie, Trustee
David Lacher, Trustee
Valerie Orellana, Trustee
Chrisanne M. Petrone, Trustee
New Rochelle High School
Council district: 6
Campus Alternative High School
Council district: 4
Albert Leonard Middle School
Council district: 5
Isaac Young Middle School
Council district: 1
Barnard Early Childhood Center
Council district: 5
Columbus Elementary School
Council district: 1
George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School
Council district: 6
Jefferson Elementary School
Council district: 2
Trinity Elementary School
Council district: 4
William B. Ward Elementary School
Council district: 5
Daniel Webster Elementary School
Council district: 4
(No Schools in District#3)
Another option which I have spoken of on several occasions and many others in the city agree is a School Board Electorate System where School Board Member Elections mirror in some manner The City Council Districts. School Board Trustees must be elected by District and one member could/would be an at large member to ensure community representation as well as being directly connected to The New Rochelle City Council for a wide variety of reasons such as capital and operational budget management, proper focus and connection to The City's Strategic Plan, and The City’s Marketing and Development Plans.
Over the years New Rochelle has seen a number of examples of internal political maneuvering tactics within the School Board that seem to be put into effect to protect vested interests and promote certain agenda. A district style electorate system would help to insure that these types of maneuvering tactics within The School Board would not occur. This can only be done under a revised accountability system involving all of The New Rochelle Taxpayers and The New Rochelle Community. The City of New Rochelle needs to change the ways of the past to encourage more residents to take part in what happens with regard to The City School District of New Rochelle. The shamefully poor turn-out for The School Board Elections and The City School District Budget votes is not acceptable at a time of ever increasing taxes and blatant disregard for taxpayer dollars as we see today.
I could not see why any Council member would or should object to this as it would be a way to break down the North South Divide and end the strangle hold that prevents good honest discussion, debate and decision making in the interest of the entire school district and the taxpayer. Councilman Fertel was on the School Board and not once have I heard him speak up about or do anything to improve the imbalance despite having experience on both ends.
As you heard a lot of the other night and whenever a fee or tax is proposed, the citizens are drowning in their tax bills. You as a council need to act to get The New Rochelle City School District under control. Get the message across that 65% of the tax bill is tied to The New Rochelle City School District. This imbalance hampers any attempt by The City to make improvements in the interest of the city and taxpayers.
Council Members, help cut out the waste, poor management and poor spending habits of The School District. We know it exist in the School District as it does in City Hall. Council Members, it is time to discuss whether the School Board is too separated from The City Council. The City Council of New Rochelle and The City Administration need to be heard and must act. There needs to be some formal reporting relationship, checks and balances. But most of all, we need more accountability and responsibility on all fronts.
I know in some way shape or form you The New Rochelle City Council have the ability to make some of these changes. Some changes were made back in the 1980’s when Ron Tocci was able to get the citizens the ability to vote on the School Budget. You all know me very well by now, I am going to be exploring and looking at changing the School Board structure to ensure representation from each district. This is not just for a Post to a blog; We/You have to do this because our homes, our lives, our families and our future depend on it.
However, I will probably be posting some form of this letter at some point to get the message out to the public. You see, we now face some obstacles in having our voices heard at School Board Meetings. It is for these reasons that the blogs exist. If people got answers from the board and council and follow up to their questions, the blogs would have less to print.
If necessary, we the citizens would have no problem getting a referendum going I am sure. If necessary I am sure many of the upset residents/taxpayer are pretty good lawyers and we can get them thinking and started looking into some of what I have said. So I ask that this proposal appear as a discussion item on the next televised City Council Session. Have the discussion and make sure we hear from The Mayor, every City Council Member commenting one at a time on the record for the people/taxpayers of New Rochelle to hear.
Thank You for your time,
Citizens and Taxpayers of New Rochelle, the ways of the past and present don’t work for The City of School District. We have a city government that does not follow the city charter Strong Mayor/Weak Mayor, Strong City Manager/Weak City Manager. Who is really in charge? Chuck, I mean no dis-respect. We have a super majority on The City Council and something similar to that on the school board. On the current board there are usually only one or two members that would like to make a point but are unable to. We have seen this over the years. These few voices are ineffective at insisting the board adhere to Roberts Rules of Order which is designed to protect the minority point of view on a public body. The two of them are not enough to overcome the rest of the board so the best they can do if to disrupt board consensus.
It is time to work out some form of compromise as to how The New Rochelle School District, The New Rochelle Board of Education, The New Rochelle City Council, City Hall Management and City Hall Staff can work as a functioning team for the best possible outcome for The City of New Rochelle’s Future. There are definite cost savings here and opportunity to improve in many areas. The citizens of New Rochelle need to start to become more involved in what our government and school district does for there to be any change and eventually success.
“Common Sense for the Common Good”