June 2nd School Board Meeting: F.U.S.E. Deal Approved, CILA Outrage, Babcock-Deutsch Caught Lying (Again)

Written By: Robert Cox

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.

Korstoff.jpgDr. 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.

Regular Meeting

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.

Public Discussion

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.

cindybabcockdeutsch.jpgI 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”.

Cindy Babcock Deutsch.jpg

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.

3 thoughts on “June 2nd School Board Meeting: F.U.S.E. Deal Approved, CILA Outrage, Babcock-Deutsch Caught Lying (Again)”

  1. Welcome to the big league Jeff Hastie !
    You said you wanted to make a difference ? Don’t make the same mistake the other board members do by blindly defending when you don’t know the facts. I believe you can affect change, but you’re off to a terrible start. You’ll need to set yourself apart from the others and include the citizenry to push forward any agenda. We are your friends, unless you morph into the status quo. That would be sad. Good luck.

  2. did you say 100 resolutions
    did you say 100 resolutions in about 3 minutes? Might be useful to check NYSED figures; not logical when compared to figures published by Great Schools a national organization with likely the most extensive data base in the field. Although the recent tests were, according to many pedagogic observers, “dumbed down” (made easier) during current year, the differences between what Korshatof(sic) has reported varies greatly from Great School figures. Here is what they reported in December 2008

    3rd grade — ELA 74% Math 93%
    4th grade — ELA 82% Math 92%
    5th grade — ELA 85% Math 89%
    6th grade — ELA 69% Math 81%
    7th grade — ELA 69% Math 83%
    8th grade — ELA 64% Math 75%

    Without having census figures, I cannot compute averages, but it is highly unlikely that these numbers reflect the district report. Of course it would be possible that for some unknown reason the NYS assessments (as reported above quoted and verified by Great Schools) and the NYSED results were calculated differently or came from different sources. Strange — given tests and other criteria, the New Rochelle District was rated a “6 out of 10” not at all shabby, but not reflective of the district report.

    warren gross

    1. 63 Resolutions not 100
      Since you asked, I counted them and came up with 62. Cindy actually skipped one and I was flipping through the material pretty fast but about 60 not 100.

      Korstoff rattled off the numbers so fast there was no way to keep up. He did address your “dumbing down” point and said that before critics said we were whining when we said there was a problem with the tests (too hard) but not that test scores have gone up the critics are whining that there is a problem with the tests (too easy). While in the real world it would be entirely consistent to argue that the tests were initially fair and low scores showed the schools were not delivering good results and so the state caved to political pressure and made the tests easier and now the scores are going up. By the same logic, however, Korstoff’s argument is also consistent — the test was initially unfair but once it was made fair the grades reflected the good performance of the school. So, without further analysis it is not possible to say who is right. We do know, however, that anything Dr. Korstoff says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. This is the same guy who said last fall that the school district had achieved “equity” in test performance because 100% of the kids at both IEYMS and ALMS passed a state math test. He even had a chart which showed two columns with 100% at the top of each which “proved” his point. Except for a few minor problems including the fact that five times as many students took the test at ALMS and that the state measures scores THREE ways not one – those getting 55% or better, 65% or better or 85% better. Not a single student at IEYMS got an 85% of better but about 75% of the students at ALMS got an 85% of better.

      Regular readers will also recall how Korstoff presented other highly misleading ELA and Math data to the school board (and the public) last October:

      Isaac Young Board Meeting, Failure Every Which Way But Loose

      And how the head of the IEYMS math department could not make sense out of the numbers in his own graphs and charts during his presentation to the school board:

      Isaac Young Math Department Chairman Struggles with Basic Calculations

      Also, read…

      How Cheating on High-Stakes Testing Works

      Isaac Young Teacher Disputes Criticism, Defends Fellow Teachers

      Martin Daly, Teacher’s Union Chief, Lashes Out at Talk of the Sound

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