Board of Education Meeting 1/4/11
The Board of Education of the City School District of New Rochelle met on January 4, 2011. The meeting included an overview of job responsibilities of the school community facilitator, Camille Edwards-Thomas. Also, a presentation by Christine Coleman on a shared services grant for technology with the city of New Rochelle
As usual, the board blurred through dozens of resolutions without discussion. Among them resolutions authorizing the transfer of large amounts of budget funds, authorizing refunds of taxes for the 2009-10 school year tax certiorari awards.
One resolution authorized paying about $44 an hour to a woman to translate at board meetings. At most meetings, as far as can be seen, no one is actually listening to the real-time translation of the meeting and yet the board approve over $500 in payments to woman is basically talking to herself that most board meetings. While the Board is spending thousands of dollars a year to have real-time translation for the benefit of handful of people, the Board does not broadcast its meetings live as is done by the New Rochelle City Council or post the video the school district web site. The school district does, however, host video of high school sporting events on its web site.
As usual, hundreds of thousands of dollars was approved without discussion for overtime, extracurricular activities, the application and spending of grants, musical performances, and more. Not that such spending is not needed but that it is routinely made without even randomly questioning any of it to keep the administration honest as to whether the amount of funds being allocated is necessary or prudent.
Particular resolutions of note that received absolutely no discussion.
Resolution 11–213-2, amendment to resolution number 11–185–16–security, school board approve paying about $60 for security guard Jerome Planter to attend the safe schools/healthy students training program. More on Mr. Planter later.
Resolution 11–213–3 approved the reinstatement of Rolf Koehler, School Security Officer, Grade 10, Step 11, $47,389 per annum effective January 1, 2011. Not a whisper for the board on this travesty.
There were multiple resolutions giving approval for dozens of teachers to attend a bullying prevention workshop that was given in the schools for which $18.97 per hour for up to two hours.
Two employees were terminated with explanation.
School nurse Julianna Brito was terminated effective December 14. Laborer Emil Proia was terminated effective December 22, 2010. If anyone knows why they were terminated please contact Talk of the Sound.
Resolution 11–221 regarding purchase awards for supplies equipment improvements and/or services. This is the hallmark of a good deal of the corruption that goes on in the City School District of New Rochelle yet not a single question was asked about any of these awards involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. There was no concern expressed that of the 46 items advertised back in December only four bids were returned or that all of the awards went to three companies in New Rochelle: Zonzini, T & G Electric, Mario Bulfamonte and sons. The vast majority of the items awarded have no estimated value listed next to them, making them, in effect, blank checks for these three companies.
Resolution 11–226, the school Board authorize the use of lever voting machines for the May 17, 2011 school district elections and budget vote,and library trustee elections and budget vote. The school district has rejected the use of the optical-scan voting machines.
Resolution 11–227 set the date and time and place for personal registration of voters to be Tuesday, April 26, 2011 from 4 PM to 8 PM at the Board of Education offices at City Hall on the second floor.
Resolutions of 11–228 and 11–229 indicate that significant errors were made in reporting refunds due under tax certiorari claims. The errors total about $100,000.Was given for the their except that they were “mathematical”. No mention of who screwed up or why or any particular concern that these "known" errors such the likelihood of other errors.
The only resolution that was the subject of discussion was Resolution 11–216, a resolution declaring music equipment located at various schools is obsolete and surplus and authorizing its disposal and destruction. 11 of the 24 are at New Rochelle High School, the rest located at Columbus, Davis, Trinity, Ward, Isaac Young, Albert Leonard.
It is school board policy that the public can ask questions during the public comment period and that the school board will provide a written response at some point after the meeting. In three years of asking questions, I have received just one response in writing after a board meeting as promised. In that case I had asked that multiple board meetings for an answer. The answer that I received was entirely non-responsive to my question. Despite this I continue to ask questions as all New Rochelle residence should. Here they are....
Question: If video of sports can be uploaded, posted, and displayed on the school district's website why can't board meetings similarly be uploaded, posted, and displayed so that residents can watch their school board meetings over the web at time and place of their choosing?
Question: Why, for the past two board meetings, as the order of business not been posted on the school district website as has become practice after this issue was repeatedly raised by me and ultimately agreed to by the board that such notice should be posted on the school district website?
Question: The Kaufman decision in the Lincoln school case occurred on January 24, 1961. The 50th anniversary of that decision, the key decision in the civil rights movement in the northern states, will occur in just over three weeks. Has there been any announcement about any activities planned to mark that date in New Rochelle history?
Question: In September 2010 the New York State Civil Service Commission directed that the city school district or shall select from the eligibility list established on May 12, 2010 the position of school security specialist. Why does the board believe that the district is not obligated to select from that list?
Question: Does the school district have any documentation that would support the claim made it the previous school board meeting in a statement from Superintendent Organisciak that was read into the record claiming that a request was made by the district to amend the job description for the position of school security specialist but that the city rejected this request?
Question: Much has been made in recent weeks about the requirement that security supervisors in New Rochelle schools have prior experience as supervisors. So, did either Bruce Daniele or Ralph Koehler have supervisory experience when they were appointed to the positions they currently hold?
Question: Does Bruce Daniele have any state security certification?
Question: Ms. Camille Edwards-Thomas ran off a long list of her supposed job responsibilities yet by all accounts the purpose of her hiring was to relieve Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak of the necessity to chair superintendent hearings because he found spending his time doing that not to his liking. What percentage of her time does Ms. Edwards-Thomas spend on superintendent hearings as opposed the laundry list of supposed activities that she now claims occupy her time?
Question: Mr. Organisciak said, in introducing Miss Camille Edwards-Thomas, that after three years, “we” are still defining precisely what her job is. Is it not too much to ask that when a person has been working for the district for several years that her boss know what her job is? At a time when the district is firing classroom teachers can the district afford the luxury of a "gofer" for Mr. Organisciak so that he does not have to fulfill his only real "line" responsibility, holding Superintendent's hearings.
Question: Much has been made about the issue of bullying over the past few months. There has been a Superintendent's Day devoted to the issue of bullying, another one is planned for March, this board just approve sending dozens of teachers to bullying training courses. Given this would it be too much to ask that the administration explain how they responded to a brutal assault by New Rochelle cheerleaders on a girl, a student at the high school, who was injured so badly that she's been walking around the high school building with a bald patch in the back of her head which is held together by staples. Or the JV football player who was assaulted in the locker room at the high school and assault on his private parts so severe that he blacked out, that he was left lying on the locker room floor unconscious, or the openly gay teacher at the high school who after complaining of harassment by school security guards was told “stop acting so gay”, or the high school soccer player who complained of bullying which was never addressed and is now transferred to Ursuline, or her friend who also transferred out of the school of and is now attending Mamaroneck High School as a paid tuition student. These and many others are examples of significant bullying brought to the attention of school authorities for which no meaningful action was taken. Will the board require that the administration explained their conduct in these cases before authorizing further expenditures for people to receive training who already know what to do about bullying-teachers and staff-but you get no support from the administration of the school district who apparently can't be bothered?
Question: Does the school board understand how the “obsolete equipment” scam works in New Rochelle? Without commenting on the disposal and destruction of pianos were Mr. Organisciak's laughable claim that the school district follows very strict policies regarding the disposal of obsolete equipment, board members might wish to visit some of the social clubs on Union Avenue or some of the homes of their own employees to find out what happens to “obsolete” equipment. You're sure to find your chairs, couches, lamps, tables, and other durable goods decorating these clubs and homes.
Question: Dr. Coleman spoke about distributing Droid cell phones or smart phones to students at Jefferson school. These are fifth-grade students. Does Dr. Coleman not realize that even though the cell phone capability is not being included when the phones are distributed that droid phones are dual band and therefore telephone service can be added to the phones after the fact or that applications and services like Skype allow for voice over IP telephony which allows the device to operate a a phone? Also, aren't such cell phones or smart phones banned everywhere else in the district? Why is the district distributing banned devices to students at Jefferson school, devices banned from the school in every other building and presumably for every other student at Jefferson who is not being given one of these droid phones? Does the board see any inconsistency here?
Food for thought: The number one reason given by Don Connetta and Richard Organisciak for the very low one-time graduation rates at New Rochelle High School -- about 53% for nonwhite students -- is that students are not earning their physical education requirement in time to graduate in June. This explanation is offered as a way to convey to the board and to the public that the low rate is not that bad because it is not as if these students are missing credits in History or English or Science or Math. Has the board really considered this explanation?
Has the board asked...
Who is responsible for making sure that students are in their physical education classes? That would be John Magnotta This is a man who was recently caught plagiarizing an article from the New York Times, violating U.S. copyright law, and violating the school districts acceptable use policy for school computers.
Who is responsible for making sure that students aren't off the campus, outside the building, wandering around the hallways, or some other location in the building when they're supposed to be in their physical education class? That would be Bruce Daniele and Ralph Koehler. The same two men who have recently been the subject of so much discussion regarding their double dipping on state pensions, improper 211 waivers, and highly questionable overtime claims.
Who is responsible overall for what goes on at the New Rochelle high school, who is in charge? That would be Don Conetta. This is a man who recently lied to a state investigator regarding the improper handling of a Regents exam. A man who refused to answer the school board when asked to provide information about projected graduation rates for June 2011. A man who routinely files false reports to the state on the level of violent and disruptive incidents at the high school. The man who failed to follow school district policy after stabbing incident which required the school be put on lockdown.
Is it really any surprise that the number one reason given by the administration for the collapse in on-time graduation rates are Connetta, Daneille, Koehler, and Magnotta? And how hard is it really to make sure that students do not skip gym class?