Last night the Board of Education discussed a modified version of a proposed resolution prepared by the New York State School Board Association which serves to express opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2% tax cap. Basically, the Board of Education is taking the position that a tax cap absent a deal to reform the cost drivers at the local level -- unfunded mandates, pension contributions and collective bargaining -- will wreak havoc on the school district. Board of Education President Sara Richmond states that the SBA resolution was modified to address some local concerns without explaining what she meant. She is certainly write that a tax cap alone would destroy the local school district and the local government.
As about the last person to accept at face value anything coming from the school district, I have to say that the resolution is reasonable. However, it may be a bit of a straw man argument because Governor Cuomo has not said that he will push a tax cap decoupled from these other issues. The real problem is that these sorts of arbitrary tax caps generally do not work because politicians will always find aways around their own prohibitions. That said, it should be hoped that this resolution would not preclude the district from supporting a negotiated package to limit tax increases in exchange for reforms at the state level starting with pension reform.
There were a series of resolutions last night amending the policies and bylaws of the New Rochelle Board of Education. This has been part of a previously announced project to review and "clean up" the policies and by-laws. One particularly noteworthy resolution was one prohibiting secret societies in New Rochelle schools. Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak made a good point -- if they are secret how will the district know about them! Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn some days.
Last night was the Alternative or Campus School night which would normally be held at the school (St. Gabes) but was moved at the last minute to the tiny Carew room making for a very crowded meeting. Joel Fridovich, Program Administrator for the Campus School, gave his Goals and Objectives for the year.
Beth Feldman, previously featured in Talk of the Sound, spoke to the Board to promote an event she has organized on the topic of bullying and cyber-bullying as part of her work with Lifetime Digital. The event will be held on March 3rd at Temple Israel and is open to the entire New Rochelle community. The schedule is stocked with an amazing array of experts.
Aisha Cook, a teacher at Columbus School with a child at Ward School, expressed her concerns about the inability of the district to have delayed openings on days like last week when road conditions were very dangerous. FUSE President Marty Daly spoke in support of her statement. BoE President Sara Richmond said the problem in having delayed openings revolved around having special Bee-Line buses running to and from Albert Leonard Middle School. Readers will recall that last year we pointed out this very issue in another context, that the elimination of 6th grade yellow bus service and replacing it with subsidized Bee-Line bus passes was not, as required under State law, equitable because the district paid Westchester County large sums of money to run special buses directly to Albert Leonard Middle School from neighborhoods within the district whereas the parochial school kids would have no such subsidized front door service for their schools.
Amy Ecker, a resident, encouraged the Board to have more screenings of the film Race to Nowhere.
I spoke last night on several topics.
1. I praised the Board and the District for the new video section of the district web site. The district is now uploading and archiving videos of board meetings on to the NRED web site. Going forward, those videos will be embedded on posts like these when they become available as video updates.
2. I raised concerns about not seeing an Order of Business published on the district web site since early December and was told that they are not issued or created for a C.O.W. meeting. As the last 3 meetings on 12/21, 1/4 and 1/25 have all been C.O.W. meetings there was no Order of Business published. Going forward, when an Order of Business is issued for a regular monthly meetings, it will be posted on the calendar along with the meeting agenda as has been the case over the past year or so.
3. I informed the Board members that there were no records in the files of the New Rochelle Municipal Civil Service Commission files corroborating the claims made by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak last month that the district had made a request to change the job profile for the school security position advertised in the months prior to February 2010 nor was there any record that such a request had been denied. I also informed them for the first time that I had met with Beverly Silverman, the Civil Service Administrator at the time, and she made no mention of such a request or denial. Further, that there would be no reason for the City to deny such a request. Finally, that given this information it was logical to conclude that the claims made by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak were false. I then pointed out that this a significant issue because the justification for not selecting candidates from the eligibility list in May 2010 as required by State law was this request and denial which never happened. As a result, the 12 people on the list now had standing to sue the district and win thereby wasting a great deal of time and money to no meaningful purpose.
4. I expressed my concern of the pitiful manner in which the district "celebrated" the 50th Anniversary of the landmark decision in the Taylor v. Board of Education case which desegregated New Rochelle schools which, the court held, had "de facto' segregation, a legal concept which spread to court cases in North cities across America. My time ran out but I did express my views in an email to a Journal News reporter earlier today which I share here.
In response to an article in the Journal News, Landmark decision integrated New Rochelle schools in 1961, I wrote the following reply to the reporter.
Your story is very good, very well-researched but another part of this story is the failure of the City of New Rochelle to mark the occasion.
The City government did nothing, the black churches did nothing, the NAACP did nothing.
The district published a 4 sentence statement on it's website which it says was read aloud during morning announcements. That announcement was removed from the district web site by the next day.
The supposed calendar of events consists of lumping together 5 events, 2 of which are about the Little Rock 9 and are held every year for MLK Day and Black History Month. There are really only three events, totaling 4.5 hours, and all of which are aimed at adults. Past being prologue it will be the usual North End clique that attends.
When I discussed this with the school district I was told there position was that it was more important to integrate the topic into the educational experience. I pointed out that of the 11 campuses, there were no events planned at 9 of them. The only actual integration into the educational experience he cited involves one teacher in one AP/Honors 11th grade class -- about 20 students out of 3,400 at the high school.
All of this is baloney. The real story is that for various reasons officials in New Rochelle do not want "outdoor" events with large numbers of people and permanent reminders. For the district they do not want people to know that there is today another school that is 94% Latino because that sounds too much like the Lincoln School. They certainly do not want people noticing the racial/ethnic composition of elite programs like PAVE, Kaleidoscope and the AP/Honors program or the abysmal on-time graduation rates for black (55%) and Latinos (51%).
In short, there is another very serious story here which the district is determined to suppress. As the person who first brought the 50th Anniversary to the attention of the Board of Education over a year ago and the person responsible for over a dozen articles on this topic since, the gap between the district's rhetoric and action is more than disappointing, it is an embarrassment.
Talk of the Sound