Our goal in this post is too offer evidence that directly contradicts a statement made by the Superintendent of Schools for the City School of New Rochelle as reported by the Journal News. It's been more than a week since the article on the Journal News was published.
This is an excerpt of what the Journal News reported in their article New Rochelle school inequity untrue, officials say
For instance, two classes of students from Trinity Elementary School were forced to walk the perimeter of the playground for about 25 minutes during recess one day during the spring. Parents said the move amounted to corporal punishment for alleged inappropriate behavior. The superintendent said it was nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day.
The Journal News referenced the events described in our post A Harsh Lesson to Learn in First Grade posted on this blog on July 26.
How do the Superintendent's claims to The Journal News stack up against the two documents below?
We have a copy of the an apology letter that went home to parents after the incident (click link to view). We also have an email from Mr. McMahon, the school principal expanding on the points made in the letter. Both documents make clear this was an incidence of "collective punishment" not exercise.
Readers will take note that the email is copied to Mr. Organisciak ([email protected]) the Superintendent of New Rochelle Schools.
From: Richard McMahon
Date: Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 8:21 AM
Subject: RE: March 7, 2008 Follow-up
To: Lilliam Acosta-Sanchez
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez:
Thank you for these follow-up comments. I hope Isabel is feeling better today – when I saw her yesterday she didn't seem her usual perky and happy self. I want to let you know that I fully believe the four staff members involved in this situation have learned something. Although there is some uncertainty about the "architect" of the decision to "walk the students", I none-the-less spoke with all four of them about the following learning points (and they are cc: on this email): 1.) Students should never be punished as a group- we must be very, very careful to never make an innocent child pay for another child's poor decisions- never (and it may in fact be true that little Isabel did nothing and was still grouped with everyone and for that we are very sorry- it will not happen again) 2.) When a teacher (in this case a music class) says to a classroom teacher the "whole class" was misbehaving, I think we should be questioning what the music teacher means by this- it concerns me greatly that a teacher would characterize a group of children in this light because we should be looking at our pedagogy if "whole classes" aren't getting the benefit of our instruction. 3.) The situation in the gymnasium is unfortunate – we have not had a single problem all year and Mrs. Pacheco is also in the gym in the morning; yet, we heard your suggestion and today an additional monitor will be placed in the gym in the morning. On the day in question, the students brought in their "projects" and they were very excited and therefore they were not listening as well as they do on a daily basis- the monitor only meant to point that out; unfortunately, it was misconstrued to be the students were not listening, again, as you say, we must do a better job at vetting out issues like this. 4.) Finally, and most importantly, we MUST stay in touch with our parents- communication is key to a successful school. If the teachers had sought the parent help in getting the group to come together, be less chatty, pay closer attention, and all the other group behaviors that children in grade one must learn, we would not have had to meet and discuss this at all.
I want to thank you for your understanding and patience as we took this opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I also want you to know, as the teachers expressed to you, that we will work very hard to earn your trust back.
Give my best to Isabel and tell her I hope she gets better quickly.
So, was this nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day? Did the reporter, Ms. Costello misunderstand what the Superintendent had said? Was he misquoted? If this was a Health and Wellness activity, why did the teachers issue an apology? The facts speak for themselves.
It is unfortunate that the truth sometimes has to struggle to reveal itself. We did not interview the Superintendent of Schools for the City School District of New Rochelle. Nevertheless, this is what the Journal News reported. Everyone will draw their own conclusions. We believe the evidence speaks for itself. The Superintendent is the highest ranked paid employee in the district. When he makes a statement, we should feel comfortable that what he is saying is true and accurate to the best of his knowledge. He sets the tone that every other employee in the district should follow.
We, stakeholders of the City School District of New Rochelle deserve to be told the truth by people in charge of the education of our children. Our intelligence should not be insulted. Our children and families should be treated with dignity and respect. Let us not make any mistake about the only victims of this event; the children in those two first grade classes at Trinity Elementary School in New Rochelle. We are their voice. We are the ones charged with the responsibility of protecting them. Common sense, equity, transparency and accountability must be always front and center and remain a priotity in our educational system.