Tomato Tasting Friday at the New Rochelle Farmers Market!

There are so many types of tomatoes at this time in the market. Have fun tasting all of them at the manager’s tent, then buy your favorites! 10:00 am to 12:00 pm this Friday August 14.

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Time to Tear Down New Rochelle's "Facade of Rectitude"

When the U.S. Attorney for Northern New Jersey announced the arrest of over 40 politicians and some members of a religious order, he describe those arrested as putting forward a "Facade of Rectitude" in order to lie, cheat and steal from the public coffers. It struck me as an apt phrase to describe the false piety that public officials in New Rochelle - some elected, some appointed - adopt when dealing with the public or the press. Rather then acknowledge problems directly, their first instinct is often to adopt the demeanor of righteous indignation that any resident would dare question the honor of their intentions. This is not to say that every public official is a fraud but rather the leadership of our city has been so ingrained with a culture based on opacity and self-dealing that even those officials who might embrace principles of open government and transparency do so at tremendous risk to their own careers.

This Facade of Rectitude depends on portraying every every effort to withhold information, to mislead, to dissemble, or otherwise to deceive the public as selfless acts undertaken for the benefit of the "greater good" when in reality the motivations are far less noble. Too often were told, "if you only understood the full context", or "it's a matter of privacy", or, most often, "our lawyers told us we have no choice".

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School Board Extends Non-Contract Contract with Kehl, Katzive & Simon Law Firm

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For what it's worth, I took a moment to object to the school board decision to renew their non-contract contract with the law firm of Kehl, Katize & Simon. I could have cited many reasons but I focused on the failure of Kehl, Katzie to properly advise the school board on their legal obligations to develop and promulgate the Code of Conduct for the school district.

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New Rochelle School District Eliminates "Director of ESL" Position Held by Estee Lopez

The New Rochelle School District has eliminated the position of Director of English as a Second Language (ESL), a job held for many years by Estee Lopez whom Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak recently called a "world-renowned language expert". Instead of having one of the world's foremost authorities on languages working full-timne on ESL, the District instead has eliminated the position altogether while expanding the responsibilities of Juan Mendez, the current head of the Foreign Language/English as a Second Language Department, and created an entirely new position called Supervisor of World Languages, K-12.

I am torn on this one. On the hand I am glad to see the District cutting costs by merging these two positions. On the other hand, the hispanic students are proving to be the most "at risk" students when it comes to on-time graduation from high school. I expect there will be some parents who will not be happy to see the elimination of a standalone ESL Department.

The Board Resolution:

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The Job Description:

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Organisicak Comes Clean on Fast ForWord Program; Shows Quinn Lied to Journal News

org-liar.jpgIn April, Ernie Garcia ran a story in the Journal News in which he found that the New Rochelle School Board was spending six times more money than the Yonkers School Board.

Garcia reported:

Members of New Rochelle's Board of Education racked up $28,312.24 in expenses in the period from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008, compared with Yonkers' Board of Education expenses of $4,804.71.

When asked to explain why the New Rochelle school board spends so much more than other districts, New Rochelle Assistant Superintendent John Quinn told Garcia the expenses were "predominantly related to travel and conference attendance" which Quinn claimed were "critical to school districts because board members receive training and bring back useful ideas".

Here is the money quote:

"It's very important to have an informed board and a cohesive board," Quinn said. "They've brought back substantive ideas, such as the fast-forward method of training students who have learning disabilities."

This is flat-out lie.

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Getting Results: School Board Orders Organisciak to Publish Board Resolutions Online Prior to Board Meetings

It only took a year, but after repeatedly raising the issue, most recently at the July 27 school board meeting, the New Rochelle school district will finally begin to publish school board resolutions on the school district web site prior to school board meetings, sources say. The publishing of board resolutions to the web is expected to begin in September.

This a major victory for Talk of the Sound and the people of New Rochelle who can now decide beforehand whether or not they wish to attend a school board meeting based on what resolutions will be voted upon at that board meeting. Still missing is any plan to allow the public to comment on board resolutions before they are voted upon rather than after as has been the case for many years.

Still, this news is a welcome change and one we celebrate. Having been critical of the school board for not publishing the resolutions it is only fair we now commend them for taking this long overdue step.

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New Rochelle's Forgotten Trollies

lost_trolley.jpg Today I was running in Neptune Park as I have done many many times and noticed something that I have never seen before - trolley tracks. A quick Internet search revealed an NY Times article from July 1912 describing the network of waterfront trolleys that closely followed the coast. The New Rochelle waterfront has some of the most underutilized park spaces in Westchester but it must have been quite a scene when trolleys were bringing the party.

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Your Humble Editor with the Former Vice President of the United States

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I spoke at a conference at Middle Tennessee State University last year but only received this photo from the conference today due to some mixup. Yes, that is Al Gore in the middle. The fellow to his left is Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia and to this left is John Seigenthaler, the host of the event and founding editor of USA TODAY. To his left is Cass Sunstein, a law professor from my alma mater, University of Chicago. Sunstein is a good friend of President Obama and was named as one of his so-called "czars" as head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Also pictured is Jonathon Landman of the New York Times, Karen Brown Dunlop, President of the Poynter Institute and Beverly Keel who runs the Siegenthaler Chair of Excellence at MTSU.

This really has nothing to do with New Rochelle except that I am from New Rochelle but it strikes me as useful, from time to time, to remind some of the various powers-that-be here in the Queen City that I did not just fall off a banana boat one day and start a blog about New Rochelle. For those who have comforted themselves with the notion that the Talk of the Sound would just dry up and blow away -- think again.

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