UPDATE 3/21 7:15 PM: School Board tables motion to hire Special Counsel.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The decision of the New Rochelle Board of Education to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne is at best misguided and at worst a shameless attempt to “blame the dead guy”. With Osborne gone and unable to defend himself he makes the perfect scapegoat for what by any measure is a collective failure.
At issue is Amendments to Sections 175.2 and 175.5 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to the Minimum Instruction Requirement for State Aid. The Department proposed an amendment to the regulation to eliminate the current daily minimum instructional hour requirement and replace it with an aggregate yearly requirement (i.e., 900/990 hours over 180 days for full-day kindergarten through grade six and grades seven through twelve, respectively), to provide school districts additional flexibility when establishing their school calendars. The proposed amendment also sought to provide clarity around existing procedures relating to the scheduling of examinations, superintendent conference days, and extraordinary weather conditions. This revision was intended to provide school districts with maximum flexibility in providing instructional time for their students.
In 2017, the New York State Education Department’s P-12 Committee, led by Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy Jhone M. Ebert, undertook a response to several factors to revise the 180 Day Requirement for schools in New York State.
Those factors include complaints filed with the Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Hotline and the quantity and severity of winter storms during the 2016 – 2017 school year. SED was concerned that students were not getting the full hours provide for by New York State.
The State Aid Office issued a clarification in April 2017 and subsequently created an Advisory Committee Process which held five regional meetings: New York City (9/28/17), Western New York (10/3/17), Long Island (10/5/17), Capital District (10/10/17) and North Country (10/19/17).
The Advisory Committee was compromised of organizations representing every conceivable stakeholder in education in the State of New York;
- BOCES District Superintendents
- Conference of Big 5 City School Districts
- Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association
- New York State United Teachers
- Northeast Charter School Network
- NYS Association of School Business Officials
- NYS Coalition for Independent and Religious Schools
- NYS Council of School Superintendents
- NYS Federation of School Administrators
- NYS Parent Teacher Association
- NYS School Boards Association
- School Administrators Association of NYS
Looking at the list of organizations and number of meetings, the idea that no one in the New Rochelle school community knew about the new regulations other than Osborne is absurd on its face.
Ebert went much further.
She issued a series of letters. She did road shows with slide presentations, all leading up to the declaration of emergency action in order to ensure that school districts were on notice of the revised rule prior to the 2018-2019 school year so District’s could finalize their school calendars and complete any collective bargaining agreement negotiations needed to comply with the proposed amendment prior to the start of the school year and implementation on July 1, 2018 (and beyond):
At its December 2017 meeting, the Board of Regents discussed a months-long process of stakeholder engagement and feedback related to the minimum instructional time required for State Aid. A Notice of Proposed Rule Making was published in the State Register on December 27, 2017. Following the 60-day public comment period during which 30 distinct comments were submitted, the Department recommended that certain amendments be made to the regulation.
Additional feedback from school districts was provided via BOCES District Superintendents. Questionnaires were received with 150 responses from 25 individuals and groups from over 30 Districts.
Following the 60-day public comment period required under the State Administrative Procedure Act, the Department recommended making the following changes to the proposed amendment:
- Removing references to BOCES: BOCES do not receive Foundation Aid and are thus not subject to the 180-day requirement for State aid purposes.
- Clarifying August Superintendent Conference Days: The proposed amendment limits the number of Superintendent’s Conference Days that may be held during the last two weeks of August to two. The proposed amendment is revised to eliminate this limitation, consistent with Education Law §3604(8).
- Clarifying Parent-Teacher Conferences as a part of Superintendent Conference Days: The proposed regulation allows parent-teacher conference days to be counted as a superintendent conference day as was permitted under the prior version of §175.5(f) of the Commissioner’s regulations.
- Conforming Change in §175.2: This section of Commissioner’s Regulations had a reference to 180 days that needs to be conformed to the new hourly structure.
- Although, for the reasons stated below, Department staff recommend adoption of the proposed amendment on an emergency basis, effective July 1, 2018, it is noted that based on the changes described above, the proposed amendment must be published in the State Register for an additional 30-day public comment period required under the State Administrative Procedure Act for a revised rule making.
The SED published guidance and model calendars, hosted Webinars to provide information about the new requirements, provided Districts with draft legislation to offer, at local discretion, instructional days before September and more.
The board directed the Commissioner to work with individual school districts to address specific concerns as they transition to implement the regulation.
There were additional BOCES meetings with Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey who was Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and building leaders including the Principals at Albert Leonard Middle School, John Barnes, and Isaac E. Young Middle School, Anthony Bongo.
Only by not knowing the full extent of the effort to raise awareness of the pending changes could one believe that one person kept the entire school system in the dark.