BREAKING NEWS: Finally, An Arrest of a New Rochelle School Employee

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image1287817665.jpgWe first broke the story on Talk of the Sound months ago that Vito Costa, an employee of the City School District of New Rochelle, was being investigated by the District Attorney for his no-show job as an HVAC engineer. The axe fell earlier today. We will publish the charging documents as soon as they become available.

We knew the arrest was coming but did not want to jinx it by pre-empting the DA like we did with the Martinez arrest. Instead, we alluded to it in our Facade of Rectitude post yesterday as sharp-eyed readers no doubt noticed.

We have more soon but let's start with the obvious question. Does any believe a guy could hold a no-show job and his co-workers and bosses did not know? Be prepared for the District to roll out the old "isolated incident" line, try to take credit for the DA's work here and pretend to be "shocked, shocked" that there is fraud and theft going in the maintenance and grounds department.

The department head John Gallagher should come before the school board to be publicly questioned about Costa, Demasi, the Locksmith father-son team and the rest of the sorry mess and then terminated as rapidly as possible.





Jeff Hastie Spot Check

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DSC_0614.jpgAs the 2009-10 school year approaches, we wanted take a moment to do a quick spot check one Jeff Hastie's campaign promises just in case he might imagine voters are not going to be reminded of what he promised last spring.

  • Re-open the top 10 contracts and renegotiate them.
  • Get parents involved in grant writing.
  • Partner with the city.
  • Create a finance committee.
  • Publish school board resolutions online prior to board meetings so residents can decide in advance if they want to attend a meeting.
  • Broadcast or web stream video from school board meetings.
  • Put a school board member on the negotiating committee (him) for the next union contract negotiations.

Any others that I missed?

Why Do New Rochelle Schools Get $1.53 mm "Guaranteed Return" on School Lunch Contract?

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79362914-3BBD-4F32-B206-CEEC3B7814E2.jpgThe New Rochelle BoE last week passed Resolution 1079 (pdf) awarding a $973,636 contract for food service management to Chartwell's. The losing bidders were Whitsons and Aramark which recently settled a half-million dollar lawsuit against the district.

Brief digression: during the regular board meeting there were just two people in the room who did not work for the district or sit on the school board (me and some other guy). On the way out of the building I spoke with him and learned he was a representative from Aramark. Suffice to say he was not happy. I would describe him as "annoyed".

OK. Back to the award resolution.

Why Are New Rochelle Residents Subsidizing Adult Education Programs for Non-Residents?

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423FB08C-1F85-4410-A16E-FBEE436A4D98.jpgOn August 4, 2009, the school board passed Resolution 1078. The resolution included a galley proof of the brochure the District intends to send in the mail. My attention was drawn to the opening paragraph. I was all set to ask about this opening paragraph during the public comment period when, happily, David Lacher saved me the trouble.

The New Rochelle Board of Education maintains an extensive Adult Education program primarily for the residents of New Rochelle. However, in all classes, non-residents are welcome without any additional charge. Senior Citizens, upon presentation of proof of age, pay only half the fee, except for Computer Education courses.

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

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kehl katzive.jpg

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.

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

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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:

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

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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.

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

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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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