COW Meeting starts at 759p because board went into executive session to discuss personnel work history (whatever that means). Board announcements consisted of Reddington on RECS program and Sanchez on IEYMS meetings for Latinos.
Dr. Weiss on H1N1 and BMI
H1N1 (swine flu) – there has been a spike in the area, WCHD has been advising the District, sending our health notices, etc.
BMI – Body Mass Index reporting now required by NYS Dept. Of Health to monitor childhood obesity. Data entered into e-schools software which calculates BMI and analysis. Awaiting state results but District knows kids in New Rochelle are subject to this issue.
Organisciak responds by stating that State Comptroller audited New Rochelle Wellness Program.
Sanchez asks about Carol White (sic?) Fitness Grant and how that was brought to bear on childhood obesity.
Dr. Korstoff on State test results
2008-09 Math & ELA Preliminary Results
The details are on the NYSED website but overall 83% of kids grade 3-8 got a 3 or 4 for ELS which is meeting standard; 91% in Math.
Ray Rice Day at City Hall on June 19th; on the 20th Rice will be at NRHS running a football camp from 9am to 4pm. Rice will be bringing other NFL players with him.
Board dispensed with about 100 resolutions in about 3 minutes. A single no vote on 259c and a single no vote on the FUSE budget both cast by Martin Sanchez.
Ms Mary Ann Cantone on Sibling Policy for CILA. She wants siblings of children in CILA to automatically be accepted into CILA. She spoke to the Board once before on this topic and got the brush off.
Dr. Jack Wagner on Competitive Bidding for lawyers. Wagner wanted to know why the district’s law firm of Kehl, Katzive does not have a contract with the District or why the District has not put out an RFP for legal services in over 20 years.
Wagner comments on CILA program. After completing his statement about the lack of competitive bidding for legal service, Wagner added a comment about the CILA program which was badly received by the school board, department heads and many CILA parents who were in the room. Wagner stated that he had worked on a study at Lehman College for many years which examined language development in children. Wagner suggested that a similar study be conducted for CILA children due to analyze the efficacy of the program using statistical models and benchmarking. This suggestion provoked outrage among board members who chose to interpret the suggestion as an attack on the CILA program.
Superintendent Richard Organisciak became visibly angry, noting that the program was a wonderful program that has support “all the way up to Albany”, that before making comments about CILA Dr. Wagner should do his homework. Quay Watkins noted that the program has been recognized by New York State. Watkins went on to offer to meet with Dr. Wagner to explain the program to him in detail and Dr. Wagner accepted her offer. CILA parents (and one aunt from Pelham) stated that children in the program were so good at Spanish that they “spoke like Mexicans” and were able to help college-level students with their homework assignments. Retiring ESL Department Head Estee Lopez was moved to tears as she rose to thank the school board for their support of her efforts over many years. As Lopez tried to compose herself, School Board President Cindy Babcock-Deutsch said “take your time, you are among friends here”. Altogether the emotional outpouring of support for the CILA program took up roughly a third of the school board meeting. When Dr. Wagner asked for an opportunity to respond, Ms. Babcock-Deutsch refused on the grounds that he was only allowed to speak once. The Board’s own by-laws do permit a resident to speak more than once.
The final speaker of the evening was your humble correspondent.
I addressed my first comments to Ms. Babcock-Deutsch, reminding her that in the months prior to the budget vote many New Rochelle residents asked for information about the status of the then-ongoing F.U.S.E. negotiations. Residents asked about whether there would be a pay freeze, givebacks or an increase in contributions to the health care plan. Babcock-Deutsch repeatedly told residents who appeared before the school board that there was a law which precluded board members from commenting publicly on union negotiations. When residents pressed her to state which law she was talking about she gave the tried and true “I will seek counsel” answer which is code for “I am lying, out on a limb in doing it and need to bail myself by hiding behind my lawyer”. It is school district employees and board members way of “taking the fifth”.
After reminding her of her past statements I pointed out that it had been a couple of months said she told residents she would “seek counsel” and get back to them and so far she never had. I asked her whether she had gotten counsel and could now provide us a citation for a law which precludes board members from discussing ongoing union negotiations with New Rochelle residents. Babcock-Deutsch said that she had only stated that she would seek counsel as to WHETHER she could discuss ongoing negotiations. I pointed out the record was clear that this was not the case, that she had repeatedly stated there was a law that precluded board members from discussing ongoing negotiations. Babcock-Deutsch then asked whether I wanted a letter with the answer to that question. I said that I would like such a letter. Babcock-Deutsch then promised to send me a letter explaining what law precludes the school board from informing the public about ongoing union negotiations [note: I followed up with an email confirming her offer and my acceptance, asking that the letter be provided before the next school board meeting, currently scheduled for June 30th, at which time I will comment on her letter.
I addressed my second comments to David Lacher, reminding him that when residents asked why the union negotiations could not be completed before the school budget vote he said that if information about the deal with the union was available prior to the budget vote it would be provided to the public. I then pointed out that F.U.S.E. distributed over 2,000 copies of a detailed 8-page memo entitled “Contract Settlement” dated May 20th, the day after the school budget vote on May 19th which clearly indicated that school district had a deal in place with the union prior to the budget vote. Lacher responded by saying that the District did not consider the deal to be done until the union had approved the contract and that District would not comment until after the union had voted to approve the deal.
After the meeting Board Member-elect Jeff Hastie approached me to tell me that I was “wrong” because F.U.S.E needed to distribute information about the contract settlement to union members so they could vote on it. I told Hastie that I, of course, agreed that the union needed to distribute information prior to a union vote but I had said nothing about that. I reminded Hastie what I had said was that the date on the memo clearly indicated that a settlement had been reached prior to the school budget vote, that this information should have been disclosed before the vote, that Lacher has specifically promised that this would be done, that the school board, in particular Ms. Babcock-Deutsch, had repeatedly lied to residents who came before the school board.
As he had been at some of the budget workshop meetings I asked Hastie whether he recalled the board, in particular Ms. Babcock-Deutsch, claiming that it was against the law for the board to discuss ongoing union negotiations. He stated that he did recall that. I asked whether he recall Cindy Babcock-Deutsch telling some speakers during the public comment period that she would “seek counsel” or otherwise get them an answer later. He said that he did recall that. I then reminded him of his statement at the League of Women Voters Forum last month when he said that he was “sure” that when the board tells a resident they will “get back to them with an answer” that they do so and that his statement displayed his naivete about how the board operates because they routinely fail to “get back” to residents, that I knew many of the people who had appeared before the board in the budget workshops and that NONE of them had gotten a response from the board. I then pointed out to him that he had just seen an example of that in Ms. Babcock-Deutsch’s response to my questions about her promise to “check with counsel” on which law she was referring to that precluded board members answering questions from residents about the union negotiations. She never checked and never responded directly to any of the residents who raised these and other issues during the budget process.
POST-MEETING FUN: After the meeting I met up for coffee at the Mirage Diner across from Iona College with Dr. Jack Wagner. We were seated two tables away from Dr. Adrienne Weiss and her husband who were joined by another school district employee. Her husband has been eyeing me earlier in the evening, giving me the “evil eye”. Apropos to nothing, he looks a bit like Steve Forbes. After about an hour the three of them got up to leave. Weiss’ husband took a step in my direction and made a show of brandishing his cell phone, pointing it in my direction and saying to me “taking a picture for my blog” before closing up his flip phone and walking out of the diner. Apparently I have inspired Mr. Weiss-Forbes to take up blogging. I remain mystified by his antics but Jack and I sure got a good chuckle out of it so it was a nice way to end the evening.