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One Year Late, Work Completed on New Rochelle High School South Tower

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One Year Late, Work Completed on New Rochelle High School South Tower

December 28, 2009 - 21:16

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The City School District of New Rochelle contacted local media (except Talk of the Sound, of course) to "celebrate" the raising of the roof on the South Tower at New Rochelle High School -- more than a year late. School Board member Mary Jane Reddington was on hand and spoke to reporters.

A lightening strike and fire badly damaged the structure on August 15, 2008. In the weeks after the fire, school officials reported that most of the interior structure had been repaired and the rest of the work would be completed "before the end of the year". That year was 2008. The roof was replaced today and the scaffolding has still not been removed.

The district has dodged questions about the reconstruction of the tower for more than a year and was not providing any further answers today as the new roof was lifted onto the tower. The construction company told Channel 12 News they billed 1,500 hours of work on the tower and the artisan who re-recreated the bronze tip of the tower said he worked for two months on what he called his "masterwork". There were four workers on site. If they worked as a team for 8 hours a day that comes out to 45 days. If the companies billing out for the work charged for about 2 months worth of work, why did it takes 16 months? This is even more odd considering that the majority of the work was completed prior to school opening in September, 2008. While there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this, the school district's refusal to explain how they are spending public funds continues to highlight the attitude of school officials who operate under the delusion that they run an unaccountable, private enterprise.

The report on Channel 12 News mentioned that a new fangled thing called a "lightening rod" was also installed. The report, lifting a line from one of our reports in 2008, noted that the lightening rod has been around a while -- it was invented by Benjamin Franklin.

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Talk of the Sound readers will recall that at the Board of Education meeting on August 4th, 2009, just a few days before the one year anniversary of the lightening strike, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak was asked to explain the delays in repairing the tower. Organisciak would only say that while interior work on the South Tower had been completed the roof was being built separately and was going to be lowered on top of the tower by a helicopter some time in the "next month" (September 2009).

Two weeks after the fire, Assistant Superintendent John Quinn said in his memo that "all interior painting, carpeting and reconstruction, including cleaning of duct work, installation replacement, electrical and fire alarm testing will be complete by the first day of school".

The memo continued:

Room 307 will be gutted but will not be reconstructed at this time. We are using this incident as an opportunity to evaluate the best use of this former auditorium. For example, we may put in another floor and make two classrooms or make the space into seven or eight offices. Both scenarios would create space elsewhere in the building which also might be better utilized. We can also put Room 307 back the way it was if we determine that is the best alternative.

The memo also has Quinn noting that a "formal evaluation of the entire lightning rod system will be part of this project [rebuilding the tower]."

The district has refused to answer questions about why the metal framework in the South Tower was not properly grounded in the first place. It's not like a lightning strike was so unimaginable considering that on the very day of the 2008 lightning strike repair work was still ongoing over at the North Tower which had been struck by lightning just the year before. In the week after the 2008 fire, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak blithely told The Sound Shore Report that there were "absolutely no concerns students and parents should worry about". Elsewhere in the same article he told Greg Maker that the "lightning strike literally went straight down the tower damaging rooms 307, 207 and 107 in the South Tower."

Apparently it never occurred to Organisciak that parents with kids in the high school and those who work in the building might just be a little concerned to hear this being that if the lightening strike had occurred on a different day -- say like a a day when school was in session -- that many students would have been in those classrooms and likely killed or seriously injured. In fact, the school year began three weeks later, on September 3rd, 2008.

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