NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In what can only be called a screw up of colossal proportion, the New Rochelle Board of Education is facing a reduction in state aid after its failed to implement “appropriate schedule changes” in anticipation of new requirements by the New York State Board of Regents for minimum instructional hours in public schools that went into effect at the start of this school year. This according to email notices sent today by Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey. A summary of the information contained in the emails follow.
As a result, the two middle schools — Albert Leonard Middle School and Isaac E. Young Middle School — are not in compliance with state requirements for instructional hours and there is no way to catch up.
Tony Aiello of WCBS-TV reported that Albert Leonard and Isaac Young students are 100 hours short of the required 990 hours.
The new requirements were intended to provide Districts increased flexibility by replacing the Daily Minimum Hours requirement with an Annual Aggregate Minimum Hours requirement of the same length:
2.5 Hours X 180 = 450 hours for half-day kindergarten
5 hours X 180 = 900 hours for grades K-6
5.5 hours X 180 = 990 hours for grades 7-12
*Aggregate annual hours must still be provided over 180 school days pursuant to Education Law §3604.
That the new requirements did not change the required number of school days suggests that New Rochelle middle school students have been effectively short-changed on instructional time for years.
“It is too late to fully recapture the necessary instructional hours for compliance in the current school year,” said Parvey.
The high school and elementary schools all exceed the required instructional hours and are in compliance.
Board President Jeffrey Hastie briefly addressed the issue at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“The Board here unanimously was really upset by the fact that this impact this is going to have on us and we’ll make sure that for next year this is not going to happen again,” said Hastie.
Parvey blamed Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne.
“The New York State Board of Regents adopted new requirements for minimum instructional hours in public schools that went into effect at the start of this school year,” said Parvey. “The City School District of New Rochelle’s previous administration did not implement appropriate schedule changes in anticipation of those new requirements.”
Parvey was not only a cabinet member in what she described as “the previous administration” but the Chief Academic Officer in that administration and the second-highest ranking official up until this past October when Osborne accepted a buy-out after his contract was not renewed by the school board and she was elevated to the top spot on an interim basis.
The person who prepares the school calendar is Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Joe Williams with the assistance of Bond, Schoeneck & King, the District’s former law firm, led by Jeff Kehl.
Aiello quotes Parvey saying, “No one in the building had it in their portfolio to make sure it didn’t happen. Changes came and were adopted in July, and there was no conversation about the changes at that time,”
The New York State Education Department conveys information such as new requirements on instructional hours in multiple ways.
One is a Commissioner’s letter to the Superintendent of each school district in the state.
Another is in meetings involving the local BOCES region and the Assistant Superintendents of Curriculum for the Districts in that region.
A third is in meetings involving the local BOCES region and the school principals for the schools in that region.
The person in charge of curriculum in the local New York State Education Department region is Southern Westchester BOCES Deputy District Superintendent Jackie O’Donnell.
O’Donnell regularly meets with the Assistant Superintendents of Curriculum for all of the Districts in SWBOCES including New Rochelle which means Dr. Parvey who was at the time the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and carried the additional title of Chief Academic Officer.
O’Donnell also holds regular meetings with Principals for all of the schools in SWBOCES including Albert Leonard Middle School and Isaac E. Young Middle School which means John Barnes and Dr. Anthony Bongo. Dr. Bongo was recently promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services but was the Isaac Principal at the time.
NYSED posted a slideshow presentation dated June 18, 2018 explaining the new requirements:
Parvey said she was immediately taking mitigating steps to minimize the potential impact on future state aid.
“To make up some of the lost instructional time both middle schools will be decreasing the passing time between instructional periods to three minutes. This change will be instituted starting Monday, March 11, 2019, and remain in effect for the rest of the school year.”
In addition, all middle school students will be required to attend school and take exams from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on June 18 through June 21. The exception will be students taking Regents exams on June 18 and/or June 19 who will attend school from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in accordance with their exam schedules. From June 24 through June 26, all students will attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The District did not disclose how many instructional hours were lost due to schedule mismanagement, how many were expected to be made up from March until June, the expected deficit or how adding extra hours after students had completed a final exam would benefit students who had already completed a course. Nor did Parvey address the impact on state aid which is typically reduced by 1/180th per day lost.
Parvey said appropriate attention will be given to these new requirements when establishing the 2019-2020 instructional schedule to ensure that the District is in full compliance with state requirements across all schools.
If middle school students find the reduction in time between classes to stressful due to physical or other challenges, special accommodations will be made, said Parvey.
Aiello reported that New Rochelle is the only District in New York State who made this mistake.
The state Education Department says hundreds of New York districts were subject to these new instructional hour rules, and New Rochelle is the only district that has missed the mark.
Aiello quotes Board President Jeffrey Hastie saying:
“It’s a major failure on our part. Something we should have known, should have implemented up front, but we didn’t,”