After more than a year of denials, the New Rochelle Board of Education turned over education records for a New Rochelle High School student that the Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak had repeatedly denied existed. Board members have blamed Organisciak for repeatedly telling them there was no such letter but Talk of the Sound has learned that the letter in question, a letter from the NYSED Department of Assessment dated August 25, 2008 was circulated to all of the board members at a board meeting on October 28, 2008. At the request of then-Board President Cindy-Babcock Deutsch, the Board agreed to withhold the letter and send instead a highly misleading “summary” letter from Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak (pdf).
The 11/3 “summary letter” falsely states that the District was “unaware” that NYSED had not “communicated” directly with the parent in the case (me). The NYSED “communication” was a later dated 8-25-08 sent to New Rochelle High School principal Don Conetta with no one else copied on the letter. District officials and school board members had received REPEATED requests to produce the letter prior to November 3rd, 2008 and for more than a year after the 11/3 “summary letter” was sent.
The 11/3 “summary letter” says only that the information provided by NYSED “confirmed” that the student had earned a 74 on the exam but failed to mention that the the reason the score was the same was due to multiple errors that cancelled each other out.
The NYSED letter responds to just one of a dozen different improprieties reported to the NYSED Department of Assessment in June 2008. None of the other failures to follow state protocol has ever been investigated by state officials.
Today, Sara Richmond, the current Board of Education President received the following email:
Dear Ms. Richmond,
It has been more than a week and I still do not have what NYSED sent to Mr. Conetta on 8-25. The cover letter alone is not sufficient.
In your letter dated 12/7 you asked if the issue of the letter was now resolved. You know that it is not resolved because you withheld the “enclosures”.
You also know that there was no need to “locate” the letter because not only have you and the entire board (except for Mr. Hastie) known of the letter all along but you personally handled the letter as did Ms. Petrone over a year ago, prior to the sending of 11/3 letter to me from Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak. You and the rest of the board reviewed the 8/25 NYSED letter and the 11/3 Organisciak letter and thereby were party to an attempt to deceive me by providing the Superintendent’s highly misleading “summary” of the NYSED letter rather than the letter itself. The entire board (except Mr. Hastie) has since then engaged in an ongoing effort to coverup that decision to withhold the letter. I have no information that Mr. Hastie, who joined the board in July 2009, has any direct knowledge of the efforts to withhold the 8-25 NYSED letter or the ongoing coverup over the past 16 months and would like to believe he has been kept in the dark.
I know that it was Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, the BoE President Cindy Babcock-Deutsch and Deidre Polow were behind the decision to withhold the 8-25 letter from me, that there were misgivings among some on the board about that course of action but the decision was approved by the board in Executive Session after the usual appeal to place “board unity” over telling the truth.
You know full well I am entitled to these records and I still want them. I also still want the independent investigation I requested in September 2008 into what transpired with my son’s 2007 Chemistry Regents Exam for which I have demonstrated numerous violations of NYSED protocol for the handling and rating Regents exams. I maintain my allegation that my son’s teachers, Marissa Raniolo fabricating my son’s original score of 67 to cause him to fail her course when he actually passed the course in order to derail a resolution agreement that had been negotiated in principal to resolve a pending Impartial Hearing. I have documents that support these allegations.
That your 12/7 letter is intended to suggest in any way that there was some confusion about precisely which NYSED letter from August 2008 regarding my son’s 2007 Chemistry Regents Exam I have been seeking since August 2008, is both insulting and a clear example of why I refuse to turn over the two different versions of my son’s answer sheet to anyone associated with the New Rochelle school district.
As I said before, I prefer to believe that the 12/7 letter was written for you and that you are an unwilling or at least uncomfortable participant in this ongoing fraud. If that is the case, I hope you and Ms. Petrone will consider whether continuing to perpetrate a fraud orchestrated by the previous board leadership team is how you want to spend your time as Board President and Vice President.
I wonder if you might consider that I have had to fight this battle against heavy odds over a period of years in order to address a rather simple problem which has since spiraled into something far larger: a teacher who refused to provide accommodations to a classified student that required no effort on her part and came at no cost to the district (preferential seating, extended time, etc.).
My wife and I are well-educated, involved parents. We have four children, two in the New Rochelle school system now and two who have graduated. My wife has worked for the district for over 10 years, has two master’s degrees and her doctorate from an Ivy League school, has served on the faculty at Columbia University’s Teachers College for the past decade where she developed their special education assessment course. I have an MBA from the University of Chicago. In 15 years of living in New Rochelle, we never had any sort of problem with the school district with any of our children except for these issues surrounding failures to create and implement my son’s IEP
Despite all this, in response to our daring to raise concerns about the REPEATED and demonstrated failure of the district to create, distribute and implement my son’s IEP between 2003 and 2007, the school district reflexively treated my wife and I in an aggressively uncooperative and hostile manner as if we were the “bad guys” for advocating for our child.
Our demand? That the law be followed regarding the creation, distribution and implementation of my son’s IEP. As this is a civil rights issue, I should not even have to ask once let alone repeatedly over a period of years. That the services and accommodations called for in the IEP were simple and cost-effective for the district to provide, the resistance of some to follow my son’s IEP is inexplicable. That the district would have now spent over a quarter-million dollars in legal fees to fight our demand that our son get the services and accommodations called for in the IEP Is more than just a waste but a symbol of the near-impossible situation facing parents in dealing with teachers who refuse to implement an IEP and the administrators who cover for them.
What I want you to think about is all of the parents and guardians in New Rochelle who are not well-educated or who are unable to be strong advocates for their children or who are too busy to be involved or do not speak English or are simply intimidated. As far as our background as it pertains to this particular situation, my wife and I are the test case. If even we cannot get the district to do what they are supposed to do with regard to our child how would anyone else in New Rochelle even have a chance.To that extent this entire matter is an indictment of the district for which those on the board with a conscience should be ashamed.
As you know my son graduated last June, went on to Notre Dame and have moved on with is life. Yet I continue to fight this battle. As you may wonder why, I will tell you. A part of it is a stubborn refusal to accept what happened to my son and to hold those involved to account no matter how long it takes. Another part is a recognition that if this school district can get away with what happened to my son then no one’s child is safe. To that extend, I believe that I do for more for this community by fighting this fight then anyone sitting on the school board today no matter how much good they tell themselves they do.
Even now it is not too late. Come clean and we can discuss ways to move forward that will be far more beneficial to the community and be a lot cheaper than carrying on a fight that has already cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees without me having to file a single motion or set a single toe inside a single courtroom.
A copy of this letter was sent to Chrisanne Petrone, Vice President of the Board of Education and former SEPTA President and David Abrams, the Assistant Commissioner at NYSED responsible for New York State Regents Exams.