Robert Cox Announces Run for New Rochelle Board of Education

Written By: Robert Cox

Cox Boe1 TestI announced on my radio show on WVOX last Friday my intention to file papers this week to run for school board in New Rochelle. Over the weekend I began obtaining the required signatures and getting the necessary paperwork in order. The papers are due Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. but I will likely file sooner than that.

Once I file, I will explain more fully how it came to be that the most vocal critic of the New Rochelle Board of Education and the current administration opted to become a candidate for one of the two open seats but for now let me say that it had been my hope to find a candidate that was not selected by “insiders” and would advance my goals of increased transparency, accountability, equity, and excellence in the New Rochelle system. After looking long and hard and talking to over a dozen prospective candidates, all of whom ultimately opted not to run, it became clear that if no one stepped forward the available board seats would be filled by two candidates hand-picked by current board members with the goal of maintaining the status quo on the board. If all was well in the New Rochelle schools that might be acceptable but all is not well, as has been documented amply on Talk of the Sound over the past several years, and so more of the same is not only not acceptable but also intolerable. I came to realize that I had no choice but to step forward to present New Rochelle residents with a clear alternative to more of the same.

If you are satisfied with ever-increasing taxes then please vote for my opponents.

If you are satisfied with declining test scores and graduation rates then please vote for my opponents.

If you are satisfied with a system that allows criminals to work in our schools and come in direct contact with our children then, by all means, vote for my opponents.

If you are satisfied with classrooms overcrowded with children who do not live in New Rochelle vote for my opponents.

If you are willing to accept school budgets that purposely obfuscate the district’s finances, school vehicles being misappropriated for private use, the willy-nilly paying out wages and overtime with no system in place to reliably clock workers in and out during the work day, or students enrolling in our schools from Yonkers, Mount Vernon and the Bronx then you most certainly want to vote for my opponents.

But if you had enough of the waste, fraud, and abuse then vote for me.

If you are not willing to tolerate the continued employment of staff who transmit nude images of students to other employees, who pull down the shades and lock the doors when meeting with young boys, who operate private businesses during the middle of the school day while collecting tens of thousands of dollars a year in overtime pay, then vote me for me.

If you have had enough of a propaganda machine that, like the residents of Lake Wobegon, wants to tell you that “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average,” then vote for me.

If you believe that educational excellence is not an end but a process, not something to be “proven” by anecdote but to be strived for through a process of continuous improvement, then vote for me.

If you want to see an end to a two-tiered, North-South divide in our school system, then vote for me.

That is not to say all is unwell.

There are many good things about the New Rochelle school system — excellent programs, teachers, staff and other employees. The physical buildings are often beautiful and the sports and extra-curricular programs are very good.

My wife is one of those teachers. Two of my older children have graduated from New Rochelle High School and I have two more in the school system now. They have gotten and are getting a good education in New Rochelle. The district is perfectly right to celebrate the achievements of our outstanding students just not to the exclusion of our struggling students.

We hear almost nothing about declining test scores and shockingly low on-time graduations rates and even when we do it is always in the context of explaining them away as aberrations or someone else’s fault.

And no matter what anyone wants to claim there is a North-South, two-tier system in our schools; the data on this is blindingly clear and any person who has bought or sold a home in this City knows it.

Perhaps of greatest concern is a culture that would allow a man like Jose Martinez to operate in our schools despite numerous warnings from a wide range of district employees who were repeatedly dismissed and ignored. Over the years I have identified numerous examples of people who should never have been hired and others who should have been terminated and turned over to law enforcement. To allow convicted criminals access to our children is beyond poor, it is grotesque.

The New Rochelle Board of Education today functions on the premise that it should always present a unified, monolithic face to the public; that unanimity in decision-making is cherished above all other values. This approach might make sense if the nine members of the board were running a neighborhood association or a book club. The City School District of New Rochelle is not a book club. The men and women on the school board are trustees with a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the proper management of the largest employer, the largest land owner, the largest taxing entity in New Rochelle then more is required. When you run an organization that takes from residents about $180 million a year, that spends over $225 million a year, that takes in two-thirds of every local tax dollar, then honest, open debate and dialog about the major issues facing the school district is a fundamental obligation of those on the board. That sort of discussion has been almost entirely absent in the 100+ board meetings I have attended over the years. That needs to change. I intend to bring about precisely that change.

As a parent, activist and citizen journalist I have already brought about significant change. When I began Talk of the Sound in 2008, school board decisions occurred in a vacuum, there was no media coverage and the meetings themselves were largely ignored by the public despite the fact that since I attended my first board meeting the district has spent well over a billion dollars of our money. I have pushed hard for changes like putting every meeting on TV, live broadcasts, publishing board resolutions online prior to the board meetings, creating digital audio recordings of meetings. I have exposed the misappropriation of school vehicles which led to a policy of parking vans and trucks by the tennis courts at the high school. I exposed double-dipping by state pensioners, book censorship, no-show jobs, assaults on students, arrests at the high school and much more.

I want to do more. I want biometric time clocks in every building so employees must check and check out, without “buddy punching”. I want GPS locators on all district vehicles linked to software that monitors location and movement of every vehicle. I want renewed and proper background checks for current workers as well as new hires. I want a residency audit so that only legal residents can send their children to our schools. I want to apply technology to these issues so that when the board adopts a budget cutting teachers or increasing taxes it can state with conviction that everything that could be done to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse has been done, that we are only paying people for work actually done and only enrolling students who live in New Rochelle.

A number of my critics on the school board would tell residents that my effort to expose problems in the district have hurt the reputation of the school district and are harmful to property values. To them I would ask, what has been worse for the reputation of our schools: two and a half years of Talk of the Sound or one day of the arrest of an Assistant Principal on charges of sexually molesting a student in one of our schools?

For too long the district has placed such a high premium on having good PR that they have been willing to tolerate just about any behavior so long as they can keep it out of the public eye. It is my position that when you adopt that attitude you not only make a Jose Martinez possible but inevitable.

As a reporter, pundit and activist I have had the luxury over the past several years of making my criticism of the district from the outside without having any of the responsibility for making difficult choices. Election by my fellow New Rochelle residents requires more than that. I believe that no one should be elected to public office simply on the basis of pointing out what is wrong. The genesis of my campaign is rooted in understanding first that there are serious problems in our school system, something I have believe has been made abundantly clear and is now widely recognized. The promise of my campaign is that I will come to the board with ideas and solutions to address and move beyond these problems to give New Rochelle something more than the facade of excellence but actual excellence.

11 thoughts on “Robert Cox Announces Run for New Rochelle Board of Education”

  1. You have my vote
    What we need is a person willing to ask the questions and that is Bob Cox. Try to attend the PTA meeting at NRHS, Wed. May 11. The PTA are the only ones able to ask questions, is this a joke or what!

  2. Candidates Forum at the NR Public Library May 9, 2011
    At tonight’s forum at the NR public library, Candidates Relkin and Thomas made it a point to go on the offensive and attack Robert Cox. Both of these candidates believe in giving convicted felons a second chance- even if that means they will be working side by side with our children.
    I watched candidate Relkin keep her eyes on the few school board members who were there throughout the meeting. Now we know whose puppet she is. These candidates want to let things at the NR Board of Education remain the same. They have a problem with a candidate challenging the Superintendent; if you don’t challenge then you are left with the status quo; higher taxes, elimination of programs and allowing the Superintendent and the school board to pit neighbors against one another. It’s time for a new face who is intimately familiar with the New Rochelle school system. Don’t let the other candidates make this into a negative campaign. And the last person with a question, launched a personal attack on Robert Cox, before she was reminded to ask her question. It was a set up and it stank. The current Board of Education is apparently satisfied with the way the Super handled this budget process, so having Bob Cox on the Board- someone who will hold them accountable scares them. Instead of just presenting their views, time and again those two candidates tried to paint Bob Cox is the negative candidate; ironic as they were the ones in attack mode. It’s time for a fresh face.Vote for Bob Cox

    1. We need leadership and change. We need Bob Cox!
      What did the other 3 (Fernandez, O’Keefe & Brickel) have to say?

      Sounds like Thomas and Relkin tanked their campaigns at this event because who wants to keep the status quo of higher and ever higher school taxes? And it sounds like neither of these 2 have any new or original ideas so I wouldn’t vote for either.

      We need leadership and change. We need Bob Cox!

    2. Wouldn’t be surprised…
      if all they do is go on the offensive against Robert Cox, even if they’re not really running to win. Just as long as Bob Cox doesn’t get the vote. “Puppet” sounds just about right. Still have our votes.

  3. BoE Election
    You have our vote and support.
    Hopefully this is the start of needed changes at the BoE.

  4. Good luck Bob, are the yard signs ordered?
    You have my vote too, but who else is running? Aren’t there 2 seats open?

    While I love this site and its creator, the people need more than 1 voice on the board & I hope another qualified candidate falls out of the sky & onto New Rochelle in the next 24 hours!

    Good luck Bob, are the yard signs ordered?

    I hope your first order of business will be to get the BoE to use the fixed assessment roll of the previous year so we get the tax increase we actually vote for, not some random increase that’s 40% higher than what’s approved.

  5. You too will be culpable
    Your being elected ultimately will satisfy both sides of the isle. Those who want transparency will get what they can through your agreement to confidentiality based on education law. Those who want to see you fall, will take pleasure as scandals arise while you are in a position of leadership. As a board member even if you fix the problem, it will be your fault!

    You have endorsed yourself; you already owe your opposition equal time through this medium.

    If you intend to work together with the other board members, you should first kiss and make up. You will be sitting in rooms with these people for hours. You might want to establish at the very least a professional relationship (if you want to get anything done).

    The city government will be relieved. You will have much less time to investigate and harass (for lack of a better word) them.

    My comments presume your election.

    My questions to you the candidate are:
    1) Specifically, what will you do to stop the declining test scores?
    2) Specifically, what will you do to stop the declining graduation rates?
    3) When you have removed the last non-resident from our schools, how then will you lower the class size?
    4) How will you fix the “North-South, two-tier system in our schools?”

    I’ve heard your complaints. Now, what are your solutions? And, can you do it alone? If not, I reccomend chapstick.

    1. Drnowyouknow: Your questions…
      Drnowyouknow: The questions you ask are those that should and have been directed to the Superintendent of Schools, Assistant Superintendents, Directors and School Principals. They are questions of management. The role of the Board of Education is governance and fiscal responsibility. Board members are not necessarily educators. The come from all walks of life.

  6. Bob Run,run,run!!
    Bob just like you said, the town needs to KNOW!


    schoud be involved.

    Please run!!

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