The Chairman of the local Political Action Committee for the N.A.A.C.P. appeared before the New Rochelle Board of Education last night to express outrage that parents at Jefferson Elementary School were sent a letter in early September offering to allow their children to opt-out of a screening of a controversial Back to School speech by President Barack Obama.
Mark McClean of the New Rochelle N.A.A.C.P. accused the school district of pandering to partisan politics and showing disrespect to the Office of the President of the United States by allowing parents an option to keep their children out of classrooms showing the President's speech. McClean was sharply critical of school board members, all of whom received a copy of the NAACP PAC's letter expressing their concerns and none of whom replied. McClean described the only response he did get, from Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, as "patronizing" and "condescending".
McClean described himself as a conservative who doesn't agree with Obama's policies but was concerned that educators had failed in their responsibility to teach students to respect all elected officials.
Joining McClean in condemnation of Organisciak was Emery Schweig, former President of the New Rochelle High School PTA and board member of the New Rochelle Public Library. Schweig said "this isn't Jena, this is New Rochelle. How are we having parents opt-out of hearing the President's speech.?" "Jena" refers to Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana where a group of six black teenagers were convicted in the beating of a white student in 2006. The case is often cited as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.
Schweig's criticism of the school district was seen by some as risky, coming just a few weeks after Schweig and her fellow NRPL board members notified the Board of Education they want the school district to help them raise money to fund improvements at the library. School Board member David Lacher was openly hostile to the library board request at the time. Schweig's antagonism towards Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak will not likely win her any admirers on the school board.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound that opt-out letter was sent to parents throughout the school district not just at the Jefferson school.
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