Referendum of School Leadership is Not Equal to Disdain for Public Schools and Teachers

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Referendum of School Leadership is Not Equal to Disdain for Public Schools and Teachers

March 14, 2009 - 14:04

Hema Easley from the Journal News Reported on March 11, 2009: Clarkstown voters reject $187M bond.

The first sentence of the article states:

Clarkstown voters overwhelmingly rejected the $187 million school bond to repair the district's aging facilities over fears that it would raise taxes too much in a time of economic stress.

What is interesting to note is that at the time of this post was written, there were 94 comments posted in response to the Journal News article on the failure of the bond.

Although the voter turnout against the 187 million bond was more than double of the one in favor, the superintendent's response was:

"Not by a minute are we discouraged by this outcome, Superintendent Margaret Keller-Cogan told the assembled school officials and supporters. "We still have our responsibility to our students. We'll quickly come up with a plan B," she said.

This vote was considered to have an unusually high turnout to begin with. It was obvious that people felt pretty strong about the bond and had their voices heard via the vote.

We are not sure what the above comment means. If the voters said no to this plan, what would the next plan look like? Will it be a repackaging of the same or something entirely different?

Now, when we read some of the many comments, we get a sense of where the community stands and the reasons the bond failed in their own words. It becomes clear that the vote was also a referendum on the leadership of the school district and its disconnect with the reality of the community and its stakeholders. This was not an unwillingness to support the school system as a whole. These same themes are echoed here in New Rochelle.

The following comments were included in the order they were posted:

siriuscitizen wrote:
The size of the bond was directly related to the size of the negative vote. It was their indignance over the insensitivity of the board's overly ambitious spending plan which compelled the tax payers to act. A vocal minority of parents in the district insisted the whole bond be put up, which doomed it to failure. Keep the next bond focused on repairs and ADA and it will pass. Take out the new gyms, kitchens, cafeterias, auditoriums, etc. These were the most offensive items most commonly spoken out against.
3/11/2009 7:16:42 AM

3person wrote:
The attitude of those that pushed for this bond was we want it all now and if you can't afford it move out! They didn't care about those who are suffering in this economy. As there has been so much lethargy in voting for budgets passed, these people probably thought this would go through with no trouble. But the majority has spoken!!!! Now it's back to the drawing board. Let's get North fixed and go from there. A STRONG message has been sent!
3/11/2009 7:28:20 AM

School Boards, Fantasy land what the payer money grows on trees.....Yes it does, but all the trees have been cut down.
3/11/2009 7:57:04 AM

CCSDrebel wrote:
Plan B has to be a scaled down version of the original.
First, take care of the elementary and middle schools by fixing the roofs and making the necessary ADA changes, etc.
The plan for North has to be significantly scaled down. The school needs to be renovated not rebuilt. Unfortunately, any attempt to create a Plan B that is nothing more than a disguised alternative that includes ALL the elements of the original plan will most likely be rejected again.
Additionally, putting conditions on a Plan B that makes it contingent on passing a Plan C or D that contains the remaining elements of the original plan will most likely be rejected.
We still need to consider an operating budget (apart from the current capital budget that was just turned down).
The taxpayers in Clarkstown deserve a capital budget that is responsible and prudent. They have sent a very strong message with a 2-1 margin.
Plan B needs to address these concerns. Otherwise, Plan B will suffer the same fate as the original bond vote.
3/11/2009 7:58:59 AM

jim0237 wrote:
I grew up in Clarkstown, graduated from South in the early 80's. South was supposed to replace North in the 70's but there were too many kids in the district. Nobody is arguing that North needs to be replaced. We don't want to be penny wise and pound foolish with renovations at North. But many of these other items are fluff, or maintenance items, not capital. Clarkstown BOE has wasted our money for YEARS. My taxes have DOUBLED in 9 years, my salary hasn't. If half of the items in the bond were to fix things that have already out lived there useful life then why did we wait so long??? They should have been done years ago when people weren't struggling to pay there bills. Instead of "turf" feilds, why not a new roof. I played on grass, nothing wrong with grass, or a little mud. A new pool is nice, my daughter uses it. But at the expense of rodents and roaches at north....why????
3/11/2009 8:11:56 AM

iwatchrock wrote:
Doesn’t this beat all? Last week this newspaper reported that 106 employees (25% of the staff having direct contact with students, all of whom reporting to the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education) don’t hold the necessary certification. Today we learn the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education is one of two finalists for Superintendent.

Two years ago a Special Education administrator, reporting directly to the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, authorized an illegal strip search of a student. Two months ago we learned that employees had not been fingerprinted; thwarting the state mandated background check, and that BOCES could not account for $19,000.00 worth of “food”.

Is it negligence, incompetence, cronyism, or arrogance that allows these practices to go unchecked? That the Board of Education has not publicly decried these practices and issued a mandate for BOCES to clean up its act and clean house of the people who committed, knew, or should have known of these acts makes them complicit. We can only hope they use the appointment of a new Superintendent as the occasion to make the changes necessary to restore the integrity of a once noble agency and assure the public of the safety of the children to whom it entrusts their care.
3/11/2009 8:39:40 AM

There were many, many more.

Many will rally to say that criticism of the school district leadership translates into criticism of everything and everybody who works in the schools. In an effort to hide their own incompetence, these individuals attempt to distort the issue and lump themselves with many, many hard working and able educators. There are continuous attempts to suppress any difference in opinion as well as calls for accountability, equity and transparency. On the other hand, good people remain silent witnesses.

Similar to our neighbors in New City, WE SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS. Our community has a say on how our schools are funded and managed. As in the leadership in Clarkstown, this is what the City School District of New Rochelle Leadership does not get.

There is 1 Comment

no one should be surprised. recently the ineffectiveness and, yes arrogance, of local school boards has become a hot button item in a number of municipalities that understand the enormous negative consequences of unbundling school district performance and taxing power from municality management. a good place for information is the casey report published by the graduate school of the university of washington.

a number of cities, large and small, have seen the need to challenge the concept of the school board -- with it makeup of people largely untrained and unfamiliar with oversight and policy (many boards are overstocked with former educrats, current attornies and pta members). that seems fine, but with what is at stake, boards need business skills, communication skills and training in the aforementioned major responsiblilites. New Roc lacks these in sufficient measure as did other municipalities; the classic example is new york city and you can see what mayor bloomberg was able to accomplish by making important changes.

why continue this charade? new roc will not be able to attract a vibrant residential community or even a commercial proposition given the deteriorating performance of its student population. The kids are alright -- the superintendent and his mea culpa re: our "diversity" makes a comparison to districts like Scarsdale is not alright. Nor is our board president who boasts of her pride in the districts accomplishments -- no m'aam you should actually look back and see that we are essentially losing ground rapidly even at the county level.

change is important, humility and a commitment to the kids and community even more so. Clarkstown is paradigmaticallhy similar to new roc in terms of who gets on the board. a simple change in form and structure coupled with a commitment to challenge the union should they contest performance based change is really the answer.

did you read about randi weingarten's statements concerning President Obama's commitment to this form of change. she actually was supportive -- she is now on the national stage and her views have radically changed since she headed up the UFT a short time ago in NYC.

this is the nature of the beast. new roc will either fold the district in as part of their business planning proposition or it will suffer significant adverse consequences. sadly I just read an opt piece by strome that talked about third tier stuff in terms of "partnering with the district" such as sharing supply vendors, etc... that is not nearly enough. school taxes are two thirds of our burden here, have risen for 20 or so years, and we see no evidence of significant joint capital planning or a move to change the organizational arrangements with city and board. this raises the question of whether our city manager understands the conditional consequences of not addressing this major stumbling block to city progress. maybe we need a change here as well.