BREAKING NEWS: School Board Coup as First-Term Board Members Richmond and Petrone Depose Quay Watkins

Written By: Robert Cox

Liveblogging the School Board Meeting (with later edits)

Wow! Quay Watkins Declines School Board Presidency. I am in shock!


Sara Richmond Surprise Choice for President


More shockers!

Watkins offered to continue as VP.


Lacher appears red-faced…he “apologizes” for “what is about to happen here”.


Lacher shocks the room by nominating Chrisanne Petrone for School Board Vice President. Everyone knows Lacher is not making a quixotic nomination; he has the votes to defeat Watkins. Whoa!

Jerome Smith half-heartedly nominates Quay Watkins for VP anyway.


Bedlam!!! Revolt!!!

Board votes unanimously for Sara Richmond as School Board President.

Some in the room are visibly upset. Some of the board members appear a bit shaken. Organisciak is looking exceedingly uncomfortable. Cindy Babcock-Deutsch is squirming, playing with her water bottle, trying to look away.


Now comes the big vote for the VP spot.

It’s all jumbled. Can’t tell who voted for what.

Lacher calls for a Roll Call.


Here we go…

Babcock-Deutsch votes Petrone (1-0)

Jeff Hasty votes Petrone (2-0)

Richmond votes Petrone (3-0)

Polow votes Watkins (3-1)

Petrone votes Petrone (4-1)

Watkins votes Watkins (4-2)

Lacher votes Petrone (5-2)

Smith votes Watkins (5-3)

Mary Jane Reddington is not present.

It’s all over, 5 – 3 for Petrone.


OMG! For those who do not attend board meetings, trust me, you never, ever see this sort of thing. I am just slack-jawed and amazed at this turn of events. Just goes to show you never know what can happen.

To recap, voting for Petrone is Lacher, Hasty, Petrone, Richmond and Babcock-Deutsch. Voting for Watkins is Smith, Polow and Watkins

Oops…here it comes now…”in the spirit of unity”…Polow changes her vote for Petrone…6-2…now Watkins changes her vote for Petrone…7-1…finally, Smith changes his vote for Petrone…8-0. Richmond declares the vote “unanimous” for Petrone.

Uh oh! Not so fast!

Former School Board President Pearl Quarles is clearly steamed about Petrone and Richmond “jumping turn”.


Quarles says she did not come to speak (obviously she had no idea what was going down tonight!). She laces into the board especially past Board Presidents that are endorsing turn jumping. Says the two officers are not “seasoned” enough to be officers. Says she waited seven years for her turn and they should wait.

Julia Maxine Robinson is also very mad, “glad vote was open” so she could “see who voted for who”, keeps bringing up that New Rochelle is diverse and that leadership is not diverse.


Petrone interrupts, notes she is Hispanic. This makes Quarles and Robinson even more mad. Apparently not the diversity they have in mind.

But it does not matter. The vote is done and Richmond-Petrone are the new leadership team.

I will add that in the middle of all this was my turn to speak but forget that for now. Nothing could be more interesting then this board meeting.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the entire point of the evening — to install Polow and Hastie.





Julia Maxine Robinson button-holes David Lacher who tells her there is a “context” for what happened. He will not say that that context is. Unsolicited, Cindy Babcock-Deutsch walks past and tells Robinson “you have to know the whole story”. Robinson rightly replies “How am I supposed to know the whole story if you don’t tell me…you were up there, why didn’t you tell us the whole story.”

All in all the most eventful board meeting I have ever seen. It was nice to see this “spirit of unity” garbage set aside at least for one night so the people of New Rochelle can actually see a deliberative body function for real.

On a note of parliamentary procedure, the board passed a bushel full of resolutions after Liz Saraiva swore in Deidre Polow and Jeff Hasty. Most of the resolutions were required by state law for the school district to function for the entire year. I think they were all so rattled by what was going on they did not pay attention to the fact that Polow and Hasty should have been sworn in after Sara Richmond was sworn in as the new President so she could then swear them in. Instead the ended up swearing each of them in twice — once by Saraiva and once by Richmond — but the votes on the resolution came before Richmond swore on Hasty and Polow so I believe the votes were not valid. Anyone parliamentarians out there? Pearl Quarels seemed to agree that what they did not was correct procedure.

Whew! What a night. All I can say is that if all school board meetings were like this it would be appointment television that’s for sure!

12 thoughts on “BREAKING NEWS: School Board Coup as First-Term Board Members Richmond and Petrone Depose Quay Watkins”

  1. a mirror cracked
    now perhaps we are beginning to see what the shadows have reflected for so very long. what else is institutionalized besides entitlement? I am optomistic enough to think that the elevation of richmond and petrone has the potential to mean something and foremost are a movement to form a New Rochelle first coalition with the city government as well as NOT renewing Organisiciak’s contract in August. And, on sharing the spotlight would be finally getting to the Board/FUSE unholy partnership which should always lead to appropriate collective bargaining. Surely Lacher, being an attorney, understands the importance of representing his constitutents in trying to secure appropriate negotiated terms during contract time and this has not yet been done. It wouldn’t take much legal research to show how other districts have placed the need for union givebacks on the table during these difficult times.

    Frankly the appearance of Robinson and Quarles at the meeting seemed to imply a pre-celebratory occasion and their later responses reinforce that notion. How nonensical to use language like “not seasoned” enough when speaking of the electees qualifications? If there is a hint, a whisper of racism involved, it should be strongly addressed by the city and the board. I don’t think a board with 3 incumbent representatives who are african american is any sign of racism and this would be especially disturbing to label Hastie as “not black enough”. Good God, the man has been elected by the community and as the song goes, “it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.” Maybe Eric Holder is right and this conversation needs to happen. Entitlement — whether it comes about through ones “turn” to be president or soem quota on something as crtical to the well-being of all of our children and the growth of our city is, or should be, over and done. After all, the “not seasoned enough” comment speaks of a dysfunctional board and partially explains our dilemma. And, Ms. Petrone, you don’t have to speak out to defend yourself racially — your resume is probably the best business resume on the board and I am thinking that you, and Ms. Richmond, are going to restore some balance and meaning to the district and bring it back to the point where it supports business and residential growth and not detracts from it. If Noam was there, it is a good sign for me for the city and the council have to wake up to the fact that the district is critical in planning, growth, taxpayer equity — and I still dread the current way it is managed and the lack of transparency on so many fronts.

    Look, speaking for myself, I am a critic and have personal history. But, I am not mean-spirited or unfair. I have another part of my personal history which is full of meaningful experience in executive, organization and board development. I know a little bit about these areas and I am hopeful and expect Sara Richmond and Chrisanne Petrone to make strides to correct many of the flaws uncovered by this blog and elsewhere, embrace a spirit of oneness and collegiality with the city, find a superintendent who rises above current level of incompettency and low expectatons for our youth in terms of district comparisons, openly shares plans for infrastructure growth and expansion to the voters, changes a number of the senior support management and school administration personnel to put our best and brightest in our most challenged schools, and takes on the union recognizing that its memberships has a disproportionate and unbalancing amount of favorable terms compared to the district taxpayer.

    Best of luck to the new team and to Hastie and, yes, Polow. David Lacher, best to you especially if you are seeing that the current board has operated for many years with “eyes wide shut.” Everyone and everything can change — that is what an optomist believes.

    Hey if this is only a soap opera; we will simply continue to exercise the basic rights and responsibilities of citizens who love their country and community and fight to effect change. If we are wrong or petty in some cases, either forgive us or challenge us for the good of these values.

    warren gross

  2. Was this a battle or start of a war?
    Was this election upset a “battle” or does it signify that there will be more changes in the board’s actions? In the past Lacher has shown leadership on commuity issues so this breaking with tradition would be worthwhile exploring.

  3. The ONLY place to find news about the BoE meetings is ToS 🙂
    Thank you Mr. Cox for being our eyes and ears. You provide a great service to the community. For those of us who can’t make the meetings, Talk of the Sound’s reporting is just like being there.

    I do wonder though why so much emphasis is being put on ‘taking turns’? Is that usually how it works on other Boards? Shouldn’t the criteria be who is the best qualified for the position at the time?

    Also, why are members allowed to change their votes after the fact? That seems awfully deceptive even if done out in the open. There shouldn’t be ‘do-overs’ after one knows the results. Is this also customary procedure?

    I stopped going to these meetings long ago. I might need to start attending some in the future. I recommend we all do. Looking forward to seeing you there, Mr. Cox.

    1. “Do-overs”
      Even with the surprise that upset many, the face of a unified front for the sake of the board and its continuity is important.It shows maturity for a looser to accept the will of the majority and immediately get on board. What a lesson for our country, supporting the will of the majority until the next democratic oportunity avails itself.

      1. “Do overs” if you lack character and backbone,not for LEADERS
        do-overs are a good thing when you’re 4 years old . That’s when you don’t quite grasp the rules or understand toh game at hand . Part of growing up is that you GROW UP . By the time one reaches a position of leadership and responsiblity to a city such as the school board , it is actually quite scary to see anyone exhibit spineless , go with the flow behavior with a total lack of conviction . Those are the personal traits that are for mere followers ( like sheep or lemmings) not leaders . The very point of having a board is to bring different views, solutions/ perspective to the many aspects of running one of the biggest school systems in the state . It is completely moronic to think that cow towing and just falling in line rather than holding true to your belief system is a good thing . We don’t need a board if everyone just does what the majority says . That’s pathetic on every level . You obviously know nothing about our government or government organization or you wouldn’t spout such ignorance . I for one want debate , opposing views and ultimately concensus however , I would respect any one who believes in their principles and loses rather than changes their beliefs just to fit in . Isn’t that what we teach our children ? You are a coward and more importantly a card carrying member of the “dolt squad” . Thanks for exposing the stupidity!

      2. Rewriting history
        What is the “sake of the board”? What is that exactly?

        Why does the “continuity” of the board depend on everyone voting the same way? Last time I checked we’ve been operating a democracy for over 200 years in this country without Congress changing all the vote outcomes to “unanimous” after the a law is passed.

        It is not supporting the will of the majority to change your vote to be the same as the majority. The official record of the school board vote will now show it was 8-0 in favor of Petrone when that was not the case. This is the sort of thing one finds in countries like North Korea, Cuba and Iran not the U.S.A. The official record now says that EVERYONE supported Petrone so there are no “losers” since everyone voted the same way. This is now how to support the will of the majority.

        The way you support the will of the majority is that you are in the minority, lose a vote and remain an active participant anyway.

  4. Viva la Revolution ! (I think)
    How did the fact of Watkins declining play into this coup ? Forced to decline behind the scene because of ….What ? What will transpire from this power base alignment ? Has Deidre given up parental rights to Jeff ? Is Mary Jane ever present ? Can you say recall – can jeff’s vote count if he wasn’t sworn in? Will Julia find out the real story ? Is someone about to get indicted ? Will the Trolls blame this on Bob Cox too ? The only thing missing in this production was Martian Daly breaking out in a chorus of ” You Gotta Have Heart” These people are un effin’believable . Now do you believe they are out of control ? Wait till you see what this does to next years budget .

    1. Making Sense of Last Night
      That’s a lot of questions…

      Let me take a crack at a few of them:

      Watkins says she declined to be School Board President due to the recent passing of her father, that it has been a difficult time for her personally and that she did not believe she could put in the energy required to be President. All that might make perfect sense if not for a few things: (1) in her “declination/nomination” speech she concluded by saying she should like to stay on as Vice President if the Board wanted her to continue in that post; (2) the Board is not meeting again until September so she does have time to get her family situation in order; (3) the negative reaction of two other board members and some in the audience who were visibly upset that Watkins was not being permitted to keep the VP spot.

      Mary Jane Reddington is often present. I asked about her not being there. According to Lacher, had she been there she would have made the vote 6-3 (i.e., voted against Watkins). Barry Fertel said she must of had a good reason for not being there, especially for an installation ceremony. Of course, if the board members really were acting as representatives of the people of New Rochelle, Reddington would issue a statement explaining why she was not there for such a significant board meeting and vote. Since Board members only pay lip service to this, I do not expect Reddington to offer any explanation as to here whereabouts, explain how she might have voted, who she supported, etc.

      I do not know enough about it to say whether the procedures and voting were done correctly. My sense is that things got awfully muddled up there and they might want to review the tape and check the law books because the majority of the resolutions were to appoint people to various positions required by State law for the 2009-10 school year and a failure to properly install those people would mean anything they do would be improper. For example, Quinn was authorized to approve payroll and sign checks for the 2009-10 school year.

      The room was far more crowded than usual so perhaps I missed him but I did not see Marty Daly there. Amy Paulin was there, Mayor Bramson was there, Barry Fertel was there. They made quite a big deal of the installation ceremony and had many people on hand, all of which suggests to me that the coup which resulted in Quay Watkins no longer being an officer was not some long-planned transition. That the board would cast a highly devise 5-3 vote under such circumstances in front of such a large audience of so many political players from New Rochelle is something that they would have chosen to do as quietly as possible.

      Perhaps the single most telling aspect of the entire evening was that obviously Lacher made clear to Watkins he had the votes to replace her with Petrone and Watkins went ahead and said publicly that she wanted to remain as VP and had Jerome Smith go through the motions of nominating her. Watkins is generally the FIRST person to try to squelch public disagreement in the so-called “spirit of unity” so it is noteworthy that she put the board’s lack of unity on display before the entire City of New Rochelle at one of the most high profile school board meetings of the year. If you were looking for what made last night so amazing this would be it — the crack in the unity facade. The question becomes whether it can be prepared.

      I would also note that Organisciak looked VERY uncomfortable. He had to be thinking that if the board could split like this on supporting Petrone over Watkins and was willing to break decades of precedent about “taking turns” and pretending to have unanimous agreement when voting then he might well be next. Some have suggested to me that what happened last night is a result, at least in part, of this web site and the reporting that has been done here. That’s really not for me to say and I would not be seeking to take any credit for what happened last night. If, however, Organisciak were not re-upped for another term as Superintendent (his contract ends in August) I would credit this site as we have conclusively demonstrated that the school district is out of control in many ways.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, I think the evening also raised some issues about racial and ethnic issues in New Rochelle. It generally is not remarked upon but a major tension in New Rochelle is between the established black leadership of New Rochelle which Watkins represents on the BoE and the large but far less established Latino community. It was fascinating to see the reaction of Chrisanne Petrone to the criticism that the school board was not diverse. She is Puerto Rican and she clearly bristled at the assumption that she was white and that the new officers were not “diverse”. Has there ever been a Latino officer on the school board? If not Chrisanne is breaking new ground for Latinos in New Rochelle but her achievement was ignored last night where the focus was more on the loss of power for the black community in the form of Watkins losing her post. To the casual observer it might appear that there would be support for Jeff Hastie within the black community but if Pearl Quarles is any indication he is not going to be warmly received within the black community. Any notion of “solidarity” went out the window when Hastie cast his first roll call vote on the board for a Latina over a black candidate for officer of the BoE.

      Like Humpty-Dumpty, it remains to be seen whether all of Lacher’s horses and all of Lacher’s men can put the facade of BoE unity back together again. For the sake of public accountability and transparency let’s hope NOT. The interest of the public is best served by a public airing of disagreement not cutting deals in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms.

      1. It’s funny that Fertel was there
        At a council meeting about 6 months ago, there was a lot of noise ( I guess like chairs or tables banging around ) enough to distract the meeting . Mr Fertel quipped “sounds like the board of ed is going at it upstairs ” . I thought it was pretty funny , the mayor quickly chided Barry and reminded him he was on TV.I wonder if Barry knows more than he’s telling about the dynamics about the board . I still say Martian Daly would have brought down the house with that number .

Comments are closed.