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Voters Reject Business as Usual from New Rochelle Board of Education, Defeat Proposal for $50mm Bond

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Voters Reject Business as Usual from New Rochelle Board of Education, Defeat Proposal for $50mm Bond

December 16, 2015 - 07:03
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School officials reacted with dismay as vote totals rolled into City Hall

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In a stunning rebuke, New Rochelle voters narrowly rejected a proposed $50 mm school bond on Tuesday night.

With 13 affidavit votes still to be counted, the unofficial vote count was 1,474 "No" votes and 1,445 "Yes" votes, a margin of just 35 votes (1%) out 2,919 votes cast. The vote totals will be made official at a Special Board of Education meeting at City Hall on Wednesday December 16th at 7:00 p.m.

Oppositon to the proposed school bond was organized by ReformFirst, a group of parents and taxpayers who offered a Reform platform based on 8 specific proposed reforms: 1. Make public all reports on school building conditions. 2. Explain the failure to bond in 2014-15, as was recommended in July 2014. 3. Replace Aramark and recruit a facilities management team that works directly for the district. 4. Reassign personnel who authorized payment for many millions in fraudulent invoices. 5. Create the position of Corporation Counsel, a full-time attorney for the Board of Education. 6. Make all investigative files available to the U.S. Department of Justice. 7. Audit all capital construction invoices for the past decade, seek to recoup improper charges. and 8. Reduce the $10mm in excessive administrative costs in the proposed bond.

ReformFirst proponents offered that if the proposed changes were made or at least well underway, by next Spring, the group would support a revised bond proposal submitted to voters at the next school budget vote on May 17, 2016. They argued that without these changes, there was no good reason to trust the same people who brought about the current state of disrepair in the public schools with more taxpayer money. 

It remains to be seen whether the school board will attempt to work with the grassroots organization or oppose it by resubmittubg the same bond proposal to voters in the coming months and attempt to rally greater support the next time, a high risk strategy that could jeopoardize both the bond and the 2016-17 school budget.

Voter turnout was low at 7% (2,919 voters out of 41,481 registered voters) but higher than the 2,200 voters who turned out for the last school election in May 2015.

The votes were tallied in a second floor conference room at 515 North Avenue. Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White tallied the votes on a spreadsheet projected onto a screen as a handful of school officials and residents watched the referendum results unfold.

A half hour after the polls closed, the "No" vote led by 54 votes with two polling locations not reporting, New Rochelle High School and Barnard School. As the minutes ticked by a sense of foreboding came over the room. School Board members whispered nervously. The delay seemed interminable.

A clerk entered the room to deliver results for both schools to Dr. Osborne who keyed in the vote totals. Barnard School with 204 "Yes", 155 "No" and New Rochelle High School with 191 "Yes" 211 "No", a swing of 29 "Yes" votes, not enough to overcome the "Yes" vote deficit. The bond failed.

6 Election Districts votes "Yes" and 7 votes "No".

YES - 6

  • Barnard School
  • Martin Luther King Center
  • Albert Leonard MS
  • Daniel Webster School
  • Ward School
  • 570 Fifth Avenue

NO - 7

  • Columbus School
  • Davis School
  • Jefferson School
  • New Rochelle High School
  • Trinity School
  • Isaac E. Young MS
  • Holy Name School

The three most interesting election districts were Davis School, Holy Name School and New Rochelle High School. Davis, which typically gives large margins to the District had relatively high turnout and narrowly voted against the proposed bond. At Holy Name School which typically opposes the District, the "No" vote swamped the "Yes" vote by a more than 3:1 margin. New Rochelle High School is the swing district which can go either way from election to election. There, the "No" vote pulled out what proved to be the decisive margin of 20 votes.

The vote total by Election District break down as follows:

SED # 1 – Henry Barnard School 204 Yes 155 No

SED # 2 – Columbus School 34 Yes 75 No

SED # 3 – George M. Davis 201 Yes 205 No

SED # 4 – Jefferson School 95 Yes 154 No

SED # 5 – Martin Luther King Center 87 Yes 60 No

SED # 6 – New Rochelle High School 191 Yes 211 No

SED # 7 – Trinity School 67 Yes 84 No

SED # 8 – Albert Leonard MS 175 Yes 75 No

SED # 9 – Daniel Webster School 135 Yes 101 No

SED #10 – Isaac E. Young MS 86 Yes 91 No

SED #11 – Holy Name School 49 Yes 177 No

SED #12 – Ward School 106 Yes 90 No

SED #13 – 570 Fifth Avenue 14 Yes 3 No

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New Rochelle School Board, it’s not a “Win” or a “No Brainer”!

 From what we see and hear about the $50 Million Dollar School Bond, The New Rochelle School Board and New Rochelle School District just don’t get it! The point is the taxpayers voted against the bond not because of the money as we all know there was no projected tax increase. Taxpayers are smarter than that and realize our schools are crumbling and are in dire need of love and attention. Taxpayers also realize this was the only opportunity to be heard as The New Rochelle School Board and New Rochelle School District just don’t listen, like a child during a boring class. No interest in what is being said just self-interest and egos so big because they think they know everything. It’s not a “Win” or a “No Brainer. It takes brains, common sense, a conscience, transparency and accountability.

 Here are some points from other articles in local papers including something I sent to The Journal News. We all know that no editorials that are negative get space in The Journal News.

 From The City Review 12/18&25/15

 Diane Massimo:"I thought it was a no brainer. I really thought that the money was for essential work."

David Latcher: described the defeat as one of the lowest points of his tenure.

My un-printed Editorial: New Rochelle School Bond

 In The Journal News an article about The New Rochelle School Bond vote fails.By Christopher Eberhart 12/17/15.

http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/new-rochelle/2015/12/16/new-rochelle-school-bond-vote-fails/77410694/

 "It's a disappointment," New Rochelle Board of Education President Lianne Merchant said. "We don't win by delaying. These are mission critical projects. The facilities have to be upgraded."

No one wins and what failed are The New Rochelle School Board and New Rochelle School District. They just don’t get it. Over the years The New Rochelle School Board and District have been entrusted with millions of taxpayer dollars that have been miss-used and or actually stolen due to crooked contractors, poor management and a total lack of accountability. That is why the vote failed. I don’t believe anyone had a problem with the $50 Million dollar bond; it was the lack of answersto questions and a failure to respond to the taxpayers and parents over the years.

No one wins; it’s not a game of monopoly where you use fake money. Lianne Merchant said voters needed a better understanding of what they were trying to do. We understand fully. We just don’t get answers or results. All of what is needed could have and should have been done over the years and we wouldn’t be in a critical position where lives could have been lost.

Not won, Lost! Make the necessary changes and give the right answers then yes the bond would pass with strait A’s.  Until then it’s time for a little detention and maybe someone should even be expelled. Our children’s lives and taxpayer dollars are at stake here. If what they say is true about the systems finances, if we didn’t have all the waste and fraud over the years, they would have even more money available and maybe not need a $50 million dollar bond.

 So I say to The New Rochelle School Board and New Rochelle School District, I hope this opened some of your eyes and minds to what the real issues are. Get us answers, use common sense, have a conscience, transparency and accountability before the next vote. As for Mr. David Latcher, sometimes you have to reach your lowest point and admit you’re wrong before you can truly change and move forward.

 In the interest of our children, our schools and our taxes I hope The New Rochelle School Board and New Rochelle School District are visited by three ghosts and wake up with a fresh perspective so that The New Rochelle Schools can be redeemed, reclaimed and repaired!

 It’s a New Year and hopefully a new beginning for New Rochelle!

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