NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Everyday, students line up to purchase contraband food and drink items from Mark Nelson in Room 205 at New Rochelle High School.
Nelson was paid $172,010 last year by the City School District of New Rochelle, according to the SeeThroughNY.com web site.
While ostensibly an English teacher his day revolves around operating an illegal concession stand out of his classroom. He leaves the school during regular school hours to resupply his “store”, according to school district sources.
Nelson not only sells products during class time to students assigned to his class but routinely interrupts his own class to sell food and drinks to students not assigned to his class who walk in to the room while class is in session at which point Nelson stops teaching to transact business with his “customer”. Nelson also transacts business when class is not in session.
School officials are aware of Nelson’s behavior but have taken no action. The District did not respond to repeated request for comment on Nelson.
For the past several years, Talk of the Sound has gathered information — photos, videos, invoices, receipts, bank statements, checks, spreadsheets and other public and internal records — that show a long-standing pattern where building leaders throughout the District allow the operation of private businesses for personal benefit of employees.
We previously reported on many of these private businesses operating out of the school district, on district time. We have told of Linda Frasca, a security guard at Isaac E. Young Middle School, who spent a large part of her work day operating a catalog sales business selling jewelry and makeup and selling banned food products like pizza and ice cream to students; Kip Fierro, a swim coach who for years operated an elite (i.e., expensive) swimming program out of the New Rochelle High School swimming pool almost entirely subsidized by the City School District of New Rochelle; Maureen Moire, a Director of Continuing Education at New Rochelle High School who has for years operated a food concession business out of the “night school” office selling banned food products; teachers who sell candy in their classrooms; grounds crews who operate private waste-hauling and landscaping businesses using district vehicles and equipment; a district locksmith who operated a private locksmithing business out of New Rochelle High School and more. During weekends, holidays and over the summer there are sports coaches who run tournaments and sports camps and clinics on school grounds. In at least one case, school coaches tell student-athletes if they do not pay for their private programs they will not be considered for the public school teams they coach.
There are virtually no financial controls in place to effectively track this activity.
The sale of candy, salty snacks and soft drinks in public schools is prohibited under New York State law.
“The sale of sweetened soda and all foods that do not meet the Smart Snacks guidelines are prohibited from the beginning of the school day (midnight the night before) until 30 minutes after the end of the actual school day (dismissal),” said one New York State Education Department official on background. “The Smart Snacks regulation allows the sale of diet soda in High Schools only, but New York State law does not allow this – Section 915 of Education Law.”
Linda Frasca, security guard at Isaac E. Young Middle School, selling pizza and jewelry on district time. Maureen Maire, the Director of Continuing Education or “night school principal” at New Rochelle High School running a concession stand selling Kelloggs Pop-Tarts, Entenmann’s Little Bites Snacks, Maruchan Instant Lunch (i.e. Cup O’ Noodles) and Sandwiches (Ham & Cheese, Turkey & Cheese, Peanut Butter & Jelly). The sandwich-makers are unpaid students with intellectual disabilities.
Four illegal vending machines at New Rochelle High School generated over $3,000 in cash in just one month. Twenty percent of that — $640.00 — was paid out in a cash bribe. The bribe was paid to this reporter at a meeting yesterday at the McDonald’s restaurant on North Avenue near Eastchester Road.
Kip Fierro, New Rochelle High School swim coach, and the Badger Swim Club.