20 Questions with New Rochelle Board of Education Candidate Adrianne Moses

Written By: Robert Cox

Adrianne Moses  – 2018 Candidate for New Rochelle Board of Education

1.The budget was approved by the board 5-2 on April 17 (5 board members voted for it, voted against it, 1 effectively abstained by not attending the meeting, 1 member resigned months prior to the vote). If you had been on the board on April 17, how would you have voted (YES or NO only; please explain why)

I would have voted NO, I am curious as to how the number of the selected professionals were determined and by what basis it was decided that, these factors would be an added attribute to the schools’ progress.  I am apprehension about putting a lot of clinical staff in the midst of children without parental consent and presence.  I am also concerned about how students will be identified and by whom, that are in need of these extra services.  

I cannot say for certain that there is not a need for this type of setting, I am just not comfortable with it being in the school.  There should be a community based program linkage established that accepts school referrals as a priority.  As to guidance counselors, yes, I do think there is a need for some additional staff.  In addition, there needs to be staff that is able and directed to accommodate the students’ needs, by actually providing guidance in a timelier fashion.  

The board, should also be responsible for identifying funding for the school district.  Maybe, having each house within the high school (for instance) look at how they can address their student’s needs.  This could be similar to a specialized high school department.  Example:  Let’s say STEM majors are assigned to House #3, there may be funding allocated to high schools that specialize in STEM programs.  This does not mean that all of the student can benefit, but it would allow new resources to be accessed.  Then maybe there would be no need for a budget increase.  This may create a little extra work, for the board and school district, but I think it would make a difference.

2.  Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne’s current contract expires June 30, 2019. Under the contract, the school board is required to notify Dr. Osborne if they are extending his contract by June 30, 2018. This is not an academic question as one of you will be the second highest vote getter and thus seated immediately and actually face this issue for real on May 16th when you are sworn in. So, if you were on the board now would you vote to offer Dr. Osborne a contract extension? (YES or NO only; please explain why; if YES would you change anything about Dr. Osborne’s contract and what would that be?)

In order for me to give an opinion, I would be interested to know what both contracts say, how were their roles and duties defined, how did they meet the expectations of the board, the school community and the state mandates.  Without that and specific other knowledge it is really hard to say.  The other thing that comes to my mind, is if any of the persons responsible for the direction of the school, were they “counseled” about their actions or duties not preformed and if so to what degree and what progress improvement plan was directed.  If not, then why not.

3. What would you do about NRHS Principal Reggie Richardson? Under Dr. Osborne’s contract, he alone makes decisions on hiring/firing all employees (other than himself). Further, Reggie Richardson is tenured so you cannot fire him except for cause. So, given these constraints, how would you advise Dr. Osborne on the matter of whether or not to retain Reggie Richardson as Principal of New Rochelle High School?

(No response given)

4. There has been some consideration given to outsourcing school security to a private firm which would result in firing all security guards (general school aides) and security officers (4 administrators). They could then apply for a job with the security company. Would you support outsourcing school security to a private security contractor? (YES or NO only; please explain why)

No, In regards to outsourcing security.  We will have total chaos, if a private security firm is contracted.  The employees that work for the firm can only be directed and disciplined by their company, the District and Board will be powerless, accept to make recommendations.  While there may be a need for additional security staff, for the most part the students have community ties, with the staff.  Who would be responsible for security recruitment?  and Where would these individuals be recruited from?  If the community has reservations about students attending school, that do not live here, then how is it going to be feasible to bring, people to work in the school, that have no community links.  And that also means, that the money the district pays the firm, might not circulate back to the city, creating additional loss of revenue. 

5. It has been a long-standing board policy (and practice) that New Rochelle High School is a “closed campus”? Although the policy has never changed, the practice was changed two years ago to a de facto open campus policy. This became a major issue after the death of Valaree Schwab. Would you vote to rescind this policy or not? (YES or NO only; please explain why)

Yes, for younger students and No for older students.   I do think that students that have just been promoted to high school are not mature enough to venture on their own.  They do not have the benefit of discernment, as maybe older students.  And as children do, they are more like to engage in behaviors, that unsupervised freedom can present.  

However, I am just as concerned about the activities after school.  I understand that, only so much can be controlled, but for years I have witnessed the high school students run rampant in places like Mc Donald’s, Dunkin Doughnut, etc.  Maybe in addition to the a “restricted lunch recess”, there might also be some consideration about staggered dismissals.  

Yes, I think there are some benefits to researching if separating the budget by school would be beneficial.  We have to be careful that, the district does not lose vital funding and that we do not “pigeon hole” the students in placement. 

6. There has been recent discussions about breaking out the Special Education budget by school rather than a single district-wide line item as has been past practice. Would you support breaking out the Special Education budget by school? (YES or NO only; please explain why)

Having been a parent of a special needs child, I am very well aware of how that can easily happen.  Especially, if your child has multiple challenges.  There needs to be some consideration as to how the therapeutic staff will be utilized and shared.  As in the case, of CSE programming designating a child to one program, but there is an element in their IEP, that’s at another school.  Even if it is just augmentative technology, how will that child have access to it?  Sometimes shared resources work better.  But it is worth looking at and again, then, there needs to be a crucial look at additional ideas to prevent or fill in any gaps.  We need to remember that, the reason the schools were integrated this way was to create inclusion, not of just like challenged children.  But so, that all students would have an opportunity to experience, and. social growth.  I would like to see out schools produce students that recognize that everyone is social capital, and think inclusionary, not exclusionary.

7. There was a good deal of controversy after the arrest of the student alleged to have stabbed and killed another student in January because she was residing in Yonkers while attending New Rochelle High School. Although it appears she had a legal right to attend NRHS (she was previously designated as “homeless”), there was a surge in interest for a residency audit where every student in the City School District of New Rochelle would be required to prove they are legally entitled to attend New Rochelle public school. There has been some question whether to do staggered audits by grades, over several years, or all at once, eventually or over this coming summer. Do you support a residency audit and, if so, which approach would you prefer? (YES or NO only on whether you support a residency audit; if YES please explain your preferred method).

Yes, I support the residency requirements.  I look forward to seeing how they will be accomplished.  

8. In New York State, City School District’s typically have 5 year terms for school board members. School boards do not typically have term limits. School board elections in New Rochelle are city wide elections. Since the law changed from appointed to elected school board members, over 90% of school board members have resided within elementary school districts that feed into Albert Leonard Middle School (i.e., North End). Would you support any change to any of this? Would you support term limits or elections by districts so that every elementary school district has one representative on the school board, term limits, three year terms, other?

I think that the City of New Rochelle and the City Council, should take a good look at having a School Board member representing each city council district.  It may possibly, be advantageous to have one from the Library Board and Planning Board member as well, then you may have a more comprehensive School-Family-Community representation.  The allows for more input, consideration and understanding of how importantly each of these factors are interwoven.  It is necessary to build the school community, but also the community that surrounds the school needs to be able to support it.  

The School Board members should have shorter terms and be restricted to maybe two terms, this would give other people an opportunity to participate. And there should be some consideration in developing a subcommittee.

9. It is Friday evening. You had a long week. You arrive home too tired to think about preparing a meal. You decide to order “take out”. Where do you order from? What do your order for yourself? Where in your home do you sit while you eat?

Believe it or not, I usually cook dinner 9 am in the morning, because when I get home from my classes it is after 11 pm.  Though, my classes do not start generally until 6pm, to beat traffic across the GWB and not having to travel both ways in the dark, I am at school by 2, sitting in my car.  Now, on those rare occasions that I do order out, it is usually Golden Wok, Papa Johns (Yankee specials) and the little bodega on Main Street that has cooked food in the back.

10. The board spends months holding entire meetings solely on the budget including multiple hearings from February to May. These are discussions on where the District plans to spend money. The board spends only a fraction of one meeting each fall on the auditor’s report which covers only actual spending (audited financials). There are no hearings and the audited financials are not released well in advance of the meeting. Would you support a more involved public process to review and discuss the audited financials, perhaps incorporating a review of actual spending into projected spending (i.e., the budget)? (YES or NO only; please explain why)

What are the rules of governance of the Board and how do their By-Laws address this issue?  If they are in dereliction of their duties in regards to public review, hearings or disclosure, then…. public involvement is necessary and compulsory.  The reports should disclose both actual and projected, starting with the last annual report.

11. The City School District of New Rochelle spends large sums of money on outside counsel for legal services, in the neighborhood of $1,000,000 a year. Some of the legal services are highly specialized so hiring specialists may make sense for certain work but much of the work is routine. Would you support hiring an in-house legal staff (like the City of New Rochelle has done for many years) to handle routine matters to reduce District legal expenses? (YES or NO only; please explain why)

No, I think having a contract with an outside corporate council team makes more sense.  If you hire just one person, they are not specialist for all legal matters.  If something out of the ordinary happens you have the befit of a team, who may or may not have a person on staff, but they will be responsible for getting that extra help.  And, is it cost effective to collaborate with council if and when necessary and pay a fee or pay a salary, health insurance, retirement and compensation?

12. Under New York State law, in-district busing of elementary school students in New Rochelle is partially reimbursable for distances over 1.5 miles. Still, there are benefits to busing students under 1.5 miles despite the lack of reimbursement (student safety, lifestyle benefit to parents, traffic reduction especially around the schools, lower greenhouse gas emissions, etc.). Also, not every student eligible for busing under 1.5 miles would take the bus as they may live close enough where walking is a preferred option and of those who do accept there be existing empty seats on currently scheduled routes. To understand the economics and various pros and cons, would you support commissioning a study to evaluate the feasibility of Universal Pre-K to 5 busing? (YES or NO only; please explain why).

(No response given)

13. With the prevalence of social media and online discussion, and a growing interest and awareness of issues regarding our schools, would you support more frequent and accessible communication? Are you satisfied with the methods, frequency and transparency of communication employed by the district? Suggest three ways it could be improved.

I would have to look at how their communication plan is laid out first, it is possible that it is a great plan, just not used effectively.  Communication, does need to be improved.  When something happens that is alarming at the schools, parents should be notified, before their children have an opportunity to inform them.

14. To what degree have you been involved with the New Rochelle School District over the past 10 years? As a parent? As a PTA member? Volunteer? Vendor? Prior to 2018, how often have you attended board of education meetings? Other?

I moved to New Rochelle in 2011.  I have attended a few meetings. Prior to the passing of my special needs son, it was difficult attending to his daily homecare needs and attending to meetings, especially in the evenings.

15. Would you support requiring regular reports to the board (in open session) on how they are implementing the Code of Conduct (PBIS/Restorative Justice) adopted in 2016 and providing meaningful data with which to evaluate progress? (YES or NO only; please explain why).

I think we need to remember that for the sake of the students, we should concentrate on ensuring that the schools are utilizing progressive punishment techniques.  I am not sure if following the model of crime stats, is a good idea.  I understood, that the purpose of these programs was to remove any impression of corporal punishment. If it is not criminal, it should stay at the school board and school district level. Is there really a need to create an atmosphere where either thing will or will not be reported?

16. The New York State School Board Association identifies three primary responsibilities of school boards (financial oversight, policy, hiring and firing of senior level staff). Policy comes almost entirely from BOCES, New York State and the Federal government. Dr. Osborne’s contract gives him control over all hiring. That leaves financial oversight as the only real role left to the board. Given this, and that if you win a full term, you will be responsible for spending over $1.5 billion dollars of other people’s money, describe your level of financial literacy. What about your background has prepared you to evaluate and adopt (or not) a budget with hundreds of millions in expenses?

  • In prior employment, I was responsible for identifying, submitting grant proposals, implementing programs and drafting the budget.  I have always submitted timely well drafted expenditures and conciliatory reports to the agency and funding sources.  
  • In another employment capacity, I was the assistant head cashier for the VAMC, my duties including preparing and reporting on all appropriations for that agency.  
  • As a Planning Board member I assisted in the district capital improvement Plans, the UULRP (Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure) and District Service Needs Assessments 
  • Finally, I have been responsible for selecting RFPs, reviewing, selecting and determine projected budget for private and public agencies.  As a former, Community Education Council President for NYCBOE, I was responsible for participating in budget allocations for the district.

17. The board adopted a strategic road before your term would begin. You had no say in it but would operate under it. Identify three elements of the strategic road map that you feel the board got right (and why). Identify up to three (if any) elements that you would change or drop altogether (and why)? In your answer, address your experience in developing, implementing and measuring progress towards long range plans and objectives?

  • Safety and Security: Safety and security needs to be reassessed at each school, with the considerations of the school culture and climate coupled with external elements.
  • Communications (parents, community, etc.): The communications should also be re-evaluated to ensure it is accomplishing set goals, for the purposes of disseminating and retrieving information.
  • School Resource Appropriation: There is one school district, resource distribution should be allocated   equally throughout the district.  It may become necessary to rotate staff, throughout the district, to get a fair appraisal of the resources that are lacking, from one site to another. In my prior employment, I was responsible for developing the programs’ budget, establishing program objectives, identifying catchments, tracking milestones, and reporting on measurable outcomes.  This involved evaluating the programs activities utilizing a tracking mechanism, of the agency’s protocols, local, state and federal guidelines for performance measures and indicators.  

18. Having by now completed many years of your own education, describe your various learning experiences over the course of your lifetime (in school but not exclusively), which had the most meaning to you? How do you continue to work to expand your understanding of the world around you as part of your personal learning experience?

I did most of my growing up in the city during the 1970s.  When people were fleeing the neighborhood, my parents refused to go.  My dad instilled in me, that you always stand and stay.  He made me believe that if everyone who could leave did, what about those that can’t.  You stay and continue to build, this is our neighborhood (nos quedamos- we stay).  I don’t think anybody else in my neighborhood was writing President Nixon, Ford, Carter and Clinton as much as my dad.  He and my mother were insistent in our getting our high school diploma and a voter’s registration card.  To my dad that was your American duty. 

When I got bored with school, I dropped out and took the GED test (shh don’t tell my kids) and then attended a Christian college in Iowa.  Yes, Iowa. Where I was the only African American to live on campus, out of three in the city, amongst people who had never been closer than a television to an African American.   For me it was just a different place, I had already been exposed to different cultures and different places.  I lived under the cloud of “implicit bias” while I patiently practiced “cultural competency.” I have friends, that I met there almost thirty years ago, while we have not seen each other since, we speak annually.

When my fourth child was born severely disabled, I relied on my parents’ teachings, my spiritual reminders and my own experiences to usher me and my family into an unknown and unpredictable world.    You are pushed around by agency after agency, hospitals, schools and the public stares but people don’t want to look at you.  You want answers and need help and think that you are alone.  Then you find out there are so many parents just like you. Not to mention raising five sons in the city, each with different educational needs and different aspirations.  I have had to battle with the schools for my children and other children and I have rallied with and for the schools when they needed family and community supports. I have had the pleasure of advising and assisting schools drafting strategic plans for various projects. 

19. What are the skills and experiences you will bring to the school board, if elected?

I have served as a liaison, formed many programs for the disabled, for schools, for families and my community with the city, state and federal agencies.  I then understood, how the things that I experienced in my life was preparing me to be of service for those that had been left behind, were underserved, disenfranchised and ignored.  

I would like to believe that, I would bring to the Board the understanding of a parent, one that does not have all the answers, all the resources and put the trust in the people making the decisions. I earned, my bachelors in Science at Empire State College, Masters in Arts at Southern New Hampshire University and I am a PhD candidate at Drew University.

20. Anything else you feel voters should know about you when they go to the polls on May 15th?

My public service, my commitment to community is where my real passion lies.  I hope that what I would bring most importantly, is the reminder of who we are, what we are there for and a vision that we can stand and build on, for the overall sustainability of our schools.