NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The New Rochelle Board of Education met Tuesday at the Linda Kelly Theater at New Rochelle High School for its first board meeting since the tragic mass murder last Friday in Newtown, CT. Notably absent from the meeting agenda was the topic of School Security. Absent from the meeting was the Director of Security Bruce Daniele and the board’s attorney Jeff Kehl.
The highpoint of the meeting was when Adam Egelberg, a member of the board’s 2012 Citizen Advisory Committee asked Board President Chrisanne Petrone the question on every parent’s mind, “Is the City School District of New Rochelle in Compliance with the S.A.V.E. law and all New York State rules and regulations that pertain to school safety?”
Petrone whispered her answer, “yes”.
Asked to speak louder, Petrone answered more emphatically, “yes”.
Talk of the Sound has reported on numerous examples which indicate the district is not in compliance with the Project SAVE Law.
The board enjoyed a musical performance by students, applauded as awards were handed out, received a presentation on the district’s marketing and communications strategy and discussed various board initiates including creating an advisory committee on next year’s school budget. The meeting, which began at 7:00 p.m., dragged on towards ten o’clock. Parents and residents in the audience became restless. Some, anticipating the public discussion period, called out for the board to “move along” and “hurry up” eliciting an annoyed response from School Board President Chrisanne Petrone and other board members.
As the meeting continued past that point, the atmosphere became increasingly contentious. There was a good deal of grumbling among audience members about the meeting being intentionally dragged out as the board engaged in long detailed discussions on picayune issues. An estimated 30 parents appeared to remain for a hoped-for discussion on school security. Many parents gave up waiting and left.
When the public discussion period finally began, the audience erupted in anger when Petrone announced that she would limit speakers who had not signed up in advance to just 3 minutes because there were “so many” people wanting to speak. No effort had been made to determine the number of people wishing to speak. Having waited for hours to speak, many were surprised and called out, demanding an explanation.
Petrone then asked for a show of hands and a dozen people raised their hands to indicate they wished to speak. Of those 12 speakers, about half used their full three minutes. The amount of time “saved” by limiting speakers amounted to roughly 15 minutes.
After the show of hands Petrone stated that anyone wishing to speak was required to sit in a corner of the seats in front of a larger player piano. She stated that those people who did not move to the corner seats would not be allowed to speak. The board members and Superintendent were not visible to those seated in that corner.
After the first few speakers, Petrone complained about the “tone” of the remarks adding that if speakers were going to “attack” the board she was going to end the public discussion period altogether.
The microphone was controlled remotely and for speakers who went beyond the three minutes the microphone was turned off.
One speaker was repeatedly interrupted by Petrone and Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, taking away a significant amount of time away from her allotted 3 minutes. When the timed buzzer rang and the speaker requested that time be added back her request was refused.
Afterwards many parents expressed shock and dismay at the hostile attitude of the board towards parents attending the meeting and the failure to include School Security agenda in the wake of the Newtown shooting.