Hastie and Parvey offer empty words to an empty room
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Board of Education President Jeffrey Hastie and Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey delivered the first ever State of the District Address, really a pair of poorly delivered speeches loaded down with generic platitudes and claptrap under the heading of “State of the District Address” to a mostly apathetic audience in a mostly empty room.
We will spare you any further suspense by revealing that despite all evidence to the contrary — murders and stabbings, a grade-fixing scandal, phony diplomas, almost every senior position in the district empty of filled with “interims”, a defeated budget, a non-renewed Superintendent, no one working on next year’s budget — Hastie declared “The State of the District is strong.”
There was almost nothing in either speech that was forward looking just a catalog of items ripped from the headlines of the District’s weekly e-newsletter.
Hastie began with an attempt to “acknowledge some of our dignitaries in the audience” – except there were no dignitaries present. No one from the City government or non-profit groups were on hand. No former board members attended. No county or state officials attended. There were very few, if any teachers or staff present except those required to be present at board meetings.
Whoever thought this speech was a good idea – scheduled on what was to have been the President’s State of the Union address to Congress – was sorely mistaken. Why there were two speeches was not explained.
By way of justification, Hastie said “as the Board of Education continues to extend greater communication to our community, we felt that a State of the District address from the Board of Education President would be important to keep you informed and engaged”.
If that was the plan, it failed, miserably.
Hastie put forward an odd take on the chaos that has come to define the District when he said “the Board has taken on a critical hands-on role with the District’s administration in the past year that was necessary in a time of such transition” leaving out the board caused the “time of transition” by forcing out the people they now find they cannot replace (because the good candidates have no interest to leave a stable position for the chaos they created).
Here are some of the platitudes;
- a year of transition as well as a year of progress and hope
- our schools work best when we all pull in the same direction
- when we all work together, we help the children and young adults in this city grow and succeed
- this is a unique and amazing District
Here is the proof to show that the state of the District is strong:
- A school play “sold out” the Linda Kelly theater “on at least one night”
- Alumni returned to the high school to sing Halleluiah
- The football team went to the state championship (and lost)
Ironically, Hastie chose the board’s handling of the Apex scandal ostensibly as an example of Board members commitment to transparency. As the publication that broke the story we have a few thoughts on that.
Hastie: “When we learned that that was in question on these specific courses, we reacted immediately.”
In reality, we published our article about Shadia Alvarez and the many problems with Apex on May 7th. Hastie, Moselhi and Daniello all read the story that day. T&M was not hired until May 23rd, after two more stories ran, one by us and by the Journal News. The only sustained allegations in the T&M report were contained in our May 7th article.
Hastie: “We hired a firm to conduct a rigorous and thorough investigation”.
Not true on multiple levels.
Bond, Schoeneck & King hired T&M. No one from the District even signed the T&M contract and T&M delivered their reports to BSK not the District.
The investigation was not rigorous or thorough. Throughout the report T&M identifies avenues warranting further investigation and said they were told not to pursue them. T&M only interviewed 1 of the 7 Apex Coordinators. The Chief Academic Officer (Dr. Parvey) who is obliquely referenced throughout the report was never interviewed by T&M and her name never appears in the report. Her predecessor, Diane Massimo casts serious doubts on whether T&M was given accurate information as to the policies and procedures Massimo put in place between 2014 and 2016 at which point she retired and handed over her responsibilities to Parvey.
Hastie: “With our continued commitment to transparency, the complete, unredacted report was released to the community”.
Hastie got the report from Sara Richmond on October 18th and despite repeated public statements promising to release the report in “two weeks,” he sat on the report through October and all of November. He only released the “complete, unredacted report” after Talk of the Sound obtained a copy and published it leaving him no choice.
A comparison of the Draft report dated October 18th and the Final Report dated December 4th show not a single semi-colon was changed. So why the six week delay?
Hastie said the Board provided the T&M report to the New York State Education Department for further investigation except the department they gave it to exists to investigate cheating on standardized state tests like Regents Exams not wholesale grade-fixing.
On another topic, Hastie said the board’s “finance committee is taking a fresh look at the budget line-by-line, focusing on zero-based budgeting, reserve funding and other aspects of our spending. The committee is also looking at budget presentation and the new law on reporting spending by school.”
Hastie admitted later on in the meeting that the finance committee has not met in two months. In fact, since Jeff White left in November no one has been working on the budget at all let alone going through it line-by-line.
We will have a story soon enough to put the lie to the claim that the finance committee (which has not been meeting) is an example of the board providing “another measure to ensure that we are making the best use of our dollars to get the most benefit for our students, and that the budget is presented to the public in a way that is easy to understand.”
Mark these words when you see our next financial scandal story: “We want you to be able to see clearly what we spend our funds on and where the money comes from.”
No. They do not.
The biggest amount of time in his speech was spent on describing the School Buddy program.
Hastie alluded to last year’s school violence with another canard.
“In responding to the tragedies of last year, we formed the Task Force on Reducing Violence in the Lives of Children and Youth that included more than 40 members of our community and recommended several strategies for creating a safer school community,” said Hastie.
Yes. And that report was then shelved with the key recommendations like an SRO at the high school ignored.
Hastie said the board hired Guidepost Solutions but then, he says, realized “we did not have the capacity to implement the recommendations in a speedy manner”.
Hastie ended on a welcome note – the ouster of Jeff Kehl.
Hastie said “school attorneys play an important role in any thriving district” by way of explaining that Jeff Kehl was fired. It only took 41 years to figure out the District was not thriving with Kehl and his “bury the bodies” approach which turned the District into a cesspool of corruption and incompetence.
Hastie mercifully turned the podium over to Parvey who likewise began by acknowledging the non-existent dignitaries and and declaring “the state of the District is strong”.”
Parvey recognized various school employees and students:
- Trinity Principal Michael Hilderbrand says “Buenos Dias, muchachos!”
- Davis Principal Anthony Bambrola dresses up as the Davis Dolphin.
- Science coordinator Elizabeth Barret-Zahn at Columbus is the editor of Science and Children, a national, award-winning journal.
- Stomp Out Bullying named Albert Leonard Principal John Barnes their Principal of the Year at Middle School.
- New Rochelle High School teacher Debbie Minchin just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. with her AP Government class.
- Coach Andy Cappellan inducted last year into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
- Soccer Coach Jarohan Garcia requires players to perform 25 hours of community service in the off season.
- Counselors at Isaac Young Middle School take their eighth-graders on visits to colleges from NYU to Mercy College to Yale
- Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Joseph Williams makes every effort to establish richly diverse pools of skilled candidates from which teachers and administrators are hired.
- Running back Jordan Forrest was named player of the year in his class for the entire state of New York.
- The girls’ varsity swim team won their league championship meet after finishing the regular season undefeated, with an 8 – 0 record.
- The New Rochelle High School varsity and junior varsity cheerleading squads are both headed to Orlando for the national championships.
- Four of our high school seniors (not named) have been named National Merit Semifinalists.
- A high school juniors (not named) was accepted into a competitive pre-college program at the Cooper Union.
Usually the way this is done is that the speaker pauses, the person being referenced is acknowledged and the audience applauds. Except for Hilderbrand (the meeting was at his school) and Williams (a cabinet member) none of the other employees and none of the students were in the auditorium.
In a twist, Parvey ended by citing a few low notes:
- our graduation rate for the last school year, 80.8 percent, was about one percentage point lower than the year before
- chronic absenteeism is at 16 percent in New Rochelle; above the national average of 14 percent
If you insist on punishing yourself, we have linked both speeches: 2019-sotd.pdf