NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne addressed the community tonight prior to a Budget and Bond Input Forum at New Rochelle High School on the topic of the recently released Building Condition Survey and a series of meetings that have been taking place in school district buildings throughout the District.
There was some initial confusion as to the purpose of these meetings but as the meetings have progressed they have become increasingly productive. There are still several more meetings to go. As these meetings represent an important and unusual opportunity for the community -- especially parents and school staff -- to have the sort of input Talk of the Sound has been encouraging for many years we want to highlight Dr. Osborne's remarks.
A seemingly small but incredibly important change has occurred -- a seismic shift that hints at a potential transformation in the posture of school officials towards parents and the public.
Earlier today, the District placed online a new form: CSDNR Form to Report School Safety Issues
This form, a required part of the Building-Level Health & Safety Committee Process since the law was passed in 1998, was developed many years ago but never implemented.
The form represents the leading edge of a process by which anyone can formally report a problem with a building, setting in motion a process, with a paper trail, to document the report, generate a formal response including an action plan to address the problem and a feedback loop both back to the person who filed the report and over to the District-wide Health & Safety Committee.
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this change.
One of the most common complaints we get here at Talk of the Sound is from parents and employees who have identified issues with the condition of buildings -- leaky roofs, ADA violations, heating/cooling system issues and many more -- and felt ignored, while the issue goes unaddressed, often for years.
This form now provides those parents and employees or anyone else for that matter a way to document their concerns and receive back a formal confirmation that their concern has been recognized, that there is some formal discussion of that concern, that the discussion will take place at a public meeting and that an action plan to address the concern is developed to remediate the concern. The peace of mind possible by adhering to this process -- for parents, staff and community members who have had deep-seated and genuine concern for the health and safety of students and staff -- is immeasurable.
This is such a big deal that with permission, we are reprinting the entirety of Dr. Osborne's remarks along with details on the Building Condition Surveys and the remaining meeting schedule. For all residents but especially parents it is vital that you attend these meetings, ask questions, point out concerns and listen to hear how those concerns are being addressed. We encourage you to read these remarks slowly and carefully.
"The Board received the draft BCS on January 26 and it was made public at that time. We anticipated vetting the draft through the building-level health and safety committee meetings and incorporating input into a final draft for review at the February 23 COW and action on March 1.
Many of the building-level health and safety committees have taken place. The public was invited to the meetings and to make comments at the meetings. We greatly appreciate the time, input, and dedication of those who have come to the committee meetings to engage with us in the process of caring for our facilities and working to provide the physical environments that our children deserve to learn in and our staff deserve to work in. Some issues emerged that prompt me to recommend that we change the timeline for finalizing the Building Conditions Survey. As you know, the Board received the draft BCS on January 26 and it was made public at that time. We anticipated vetting the draft through the building-level health and safety committee meetings and incorporating input into a final draft for review at the February 23 COW and action on March 1. I am now recommending that Board action for accepting the BCS for approval to SED be moved from the March 1 regular meeting to the June 7 regular meeting. This will still meet the SED deadline of June 30.
The issues that emerged are process issues and substance issues.
In terms of process, many of the committee meetings went well despite some confusion over the distinctions among committees.
Under the law, there are two different safety committees.
One safety committee is under a law called Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act of 2000, to address issues of school safety and violence prevention. These SAVE committees are governed under the district-wide safety plan, and address issues such as coordination with police and first responders and ensuring that the school environment is free from violence, bullying and harassment.
The other committee is the health and safety committee under a law called The REbuild SChools to Uphold Education (RESCUE) Law of 1998. The RESCUE committee addresses issues of health and safety related to building conditions and are governed in most districts as a function of facilities management. The RESCUE committees are comprised of representation from district officials, school staff, bargaining units, and parents. The RESCUE committee is appointed by the board of education and must be involved with the investigation and disposition of written school health and safety complaints, as well as fulfill several functions related to facilities reviews and monitoring. The two committees may have overlapping membership and may even meet on the same day; however, they fulfill two different functions and must maintain separate agendas and minutes.
Unfortunately, in CSDNR, in some cases the committees weren't as separate as they should have been, and in some cases the RESCUE committees had not been properly set up, despite state requirements to do so under regulation and as a stipulation of completing the Building Conditions Survey last done in 2010. These process deficiencies have existed for years and we are now taking steps to address them.
Substance. In addition to process confusion in some committees, there were substantive issues in the input provided by the committee members and members of the public who attended the meetings. This is helpful, and the reason why it is important to have school-level input into the BCS. In some schools, the committee meetings discussion and input resulted in additional meetings and even school walkthroughs being scheduled to learn more about the building needs. It is anticipated that the BCS will be both expanded and improved as a result of this input and review.
Given both the process and substance issues, recommend that we take the additional time allowed before the June 30 SED deadline for submission to ensure that the committees are properly structured and supported, including securing Board of Education approval of the committees makeup and charge at the March 1 meeting (and thereafter as part of annual reorganization). The school-level committees should to report into a district-wide health and safety committee, and there should be updates to the Superintendent and Board of Education, with annual reporting at a public BOE meeting. In addition, the substantive issues surfacing at some of the school-level reviews merit additional facilities reviews and then reporting back to the school-level committee about what changes are made to the BCS as a result, before the final BCS comes back to the Board of Education.
To be clear, this alteration to the BCS timeline does not change the necessity of going forward with a capital bond vote on May 17. The bond proposition was necessary and responsible in December, and a bond proposition - one of the three options (mini-bond, similar bond, bigger bond) that we articulated last week - is necessary and responsible now and cannot wait any longer given the urgent need to invest in the facilities now to ensure that they are healthy, safe, and preserved as a community asset for years into the future.
A bond proposition must be approved by the Board of Education on March 29 if it is to be placed on the ballot for the May 17 election. So we will be reviewing the three options that we have at the review sessions and at the Board meetings between now and then."
- Mon., Feb. 1 - Webster, 1:30 pm
- Mon., Feb. 1 - Barnard, 3:30 pm
- Tues., Feb 2. - Columbus, 1:30 pm
- Thurs., Feb. 4 - IEYMS, 10:00 am
- Fri., Feb. 5 – ALMS, 2:00 pm
- Mon., Feb. 8 - Trinity, 2:30 pm (postponed due to weather)
- Tues,, Feb. 9 - Ward, 10:00 am
- Wed., Feb. 10 – Jefferson, 10:30 am
- Thurs., Feb. 11 - NRHS, 1:00 pm
- Fri., Feb. 12 - Davis,11:00 am
- Trinity TBD
- IEYMS Part 2 TBD
- St. Gabe's TBD
- Grove Street TBD
- Cliff Street TBD
- City Hall TBD
This is the first round of meetings, there will be others and going forward these will be regularly scheduled and announced public meetings.