I asked a series of questions left over from 2019 at the New Rochelle Board of Education Meeting on January 7, 2020. Here I have posted each question, the response from Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo and my response to the response. As you can see few of the responses are actually answering the questions.
- I was told there would be an investigation into the violent incidents in January 2018 once Dr. Feijóo was on board so when will the investigation begin?
RESPONSE: Under the advice of counsel, the District will not comment as this is a matter of pending litigation.
MY RESPONSE: A lawsuit was filed by the student stabbed by Bryan Stamps in April 2018. I was told there would be an investigation into the violent incidents in September 2019. So, the lawsuit was underway for more than a one and a half years when I was told there would be an investigation once Dr. Feijoo was on board so this answer makes no sense given what I was told.
- The only statement made by you on EJ’s condition after he stabbed by Bryan Stamps is that he was NOT seriously injured. Will you correct the record? Will you acknowledge EJ suffered a lacerated lung, lacerated spleen, lacerated diaphragm, significant internal bleeding, psychological trauma, hours of emergency surgery, a week in ICU, months of convalescence, and that he missed the remaining 5 months of school?
RESPONSE: Under the advice of counsel, the District will not comment as this is a matter of pending litigation and would be a FERPA violation.
MY RESPONSE: Inaccurate statements were made about the condition of EJ on the day he was stabbed. Are those not then FERPA violations? Who is being held accountable for those FERPA violations? Why are FERPA violations permitted when it minimizes the medical condition of a student but FERPA is then used to justify not correcting the record?
- Given her egregious violations of security protocol, why was your Medical Director granted tenure after January 2018? Why does she still have her job today?
RESPONSE: Under the advice of counsel, the District will not comment on this matter further on the advice of counsel; it would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy and the incident and the granting of tenure happened before Dr. Feijoo started with the District.
MY RESPONSE: The question was addressed to the New Rochelle Board of Education which granted tenure not Dr. Feijoo personally so what difference does it make if the granting of tenure occurred before or after her start date? Are all questions about the District now not to be answered if they occurred before November 1, 2020?
- The School Safety Plan says to call 911 but high school staff is directed to call school secretaries in an emergency. Can you explain the seeming contradiction? How is adding these extra layers to emergency response helpful?
RESPONSE: Feijoo states she was told by Starvaggi that “none of our staff members have been directed to contact school secretaries in the event of emergency”. Everyone should call 911.
MY RESPONSE: In meetings at New Rochelle High School, staff has been told by Starvaggi that although the policy says to call 911, not to do that. This was articulated in writing in an email on November 25, 2019. A document was attached that listed “Emergency Extensions” which included 13 extensions: 1 for security, 2 for nurses, 10 for secretaries at the Main Office and House Offices. The question remains, why are employees at the high school told to call school secretaries when the policy clearly states call 911.
- Board Resolutions on the School Buddy program have been used by certain board members as a “blank check” to enter a school at any time without specific, advanced approval from the Board, as required under the law. Your lawyers have claimed that Resolution 20-37 authorizes board members to do so. 20-37 says Board Members are encouraged to attend as many events as possible at their assigned school then lists examples of what it means by events: Meet-the-Teacher-Night, award ceremonies, concerts, PTA events. The “events” described in the resolution are all PUBLIC events. Board Members are allowed to attend PUBLIC events just like anyone else. What new authority do your lawyers imagine is granted under 20-37? If no new authority is granted under 20-37, on what legal basis are any of you in classrooms, observing students and teachers, inspecting facilities or interviewing job candidates?
RESPONSE: The District shared the legal opinion in un-redacted form.
MY RESPONSE: The legal opinion states that 20-37 authorizes board member to go into any school whenever they want. It does not. 20-37 encourages board members to attend public events at their buddy schools or any other school. Board members do not need board approval to attend public events. Board members must obtain board approval by public vote to enter a school other than a public event or in relation to a meeting involving their own child. The statement that the district obtained a bogus legal opinion and shared it with me does not address the question at all.
- The public was repeatedly assured of full transparency with regards to the Apex Grade Inflation. You failed to announce the Apex matter was re-opened a month after the so-called complete and final report was delivered in December 2018. Last month you received a new Apex Report yet failed to release the promised complete, unredacted report. How are these failures consistent with the promised transparency on Apex? What happened with the State investigation?
RESPONSE: The second Apex report has not been fully reviewed by the Board in Executive Session. Once completed the report will be “subject to disclosure” pursuant to FOIL based on the advice of counsel. It is inappropriate for the District to speak on behalf of the State Education Department and any investigation it may be conducting. Contact SED direct for that information.
MY RESPONSE: The response does not address at all the failure to disclose in February 2019 that the Apex Investigation was re-opened and a new investigator hired, or that the Board President stated in September 2019 that she was unaware of any State Investigation or that in October 2018, Amy Moselhi stated at a Town Hall meeting with almost all Board Members present that the first Apex report had been received and would be released in unredacted form within a couple of weeks – there was no mention of a review by the board in Executive Session. In fact, Board members at the October 2018 Town Hall were not even aware the first Apex report had been received when Amy announced it would be released to the public in unredacted form within a couple of weeks. As for commenting on the State investigation, the Board and Superintendent have repeatedly commented on the status of the State investigation. In the following email exchange from September 2019 to December 2019, Board President Moselhi and Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey both reply multiple times. Board Vice President Paul Warhit is copied on the exchange. Dr. Feijoo is also copied on emails after November 1, 2019.
On Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 1:04 PM Amy Moselhi firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
From: Amy Moselhi email@example.com
Date: Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 1:04 PM
Subject: Re: Outcomes?
To: Robert Cox firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Dr Magda Parvey email@example.com, Paul Warhit firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see embedded responses in RED to your questions:
Last December, the public was told that the Apex report was sent to a state test unit (actually BOCES). It has been 10 months. What is the status of that referral? Was there ever a response? If so, what was it? If not, has the District followed up to ask why no response? Good question. I was not aware that it was sent to the state test unit/BOCES. I was aware that the investigation was re-opened and we expect a final report on this matter within a month. Dr. Parvey can you please confirm/deny if it was sent to the state test unit/BOCES?
On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 11:10 AM Amy Moselhi email@example.com wrote:
I followed up again this morning and was told by Liz that former Board President Jeffrey Hastie, sent a letter dated 12/12/2018, with attachments, to MaryEllen Elia, Commissioner of Education at that time, and James A. Gratto, Jr. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, NYSED Testing Security Unit Integrity Officer for Southern Westchester, regarding APEX.
Dr. Parvey was there ever a response?
On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 11:40 AM Dr. Magda Parvey firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
NYSED conducted their own investigation of APEX as a result of letter to them. We have not received a final report or conclusion to their investigation which began last January 2019.
From: Amy Moselhi email@example.com
Date: Oct 16, 2019, 11:43 AM -0400
To: Dr. Magda Parvey firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Board of Education email@example.com, Robert Cox firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Outcomes?
Thank you for the update Dr. Parvey. Can you please reach out and ask when we can expect the report?
On Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 12:21 PM Robert Cox email@example.com wrote:
Still no answers. Status?
Publisher and Managing Editor
Talk of the Sound
Amy Moselhi firstname.lastname@example.org
to Robert, Laura, Paul
Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 1:33 PM
Still have not been told any update. We have asked that once the district hears back from the state on this matter that it be shared with the board.
As readers can see, the senior leadership of the District has been discussing the SED investigation into Apex for the previous four months. Now suddenly it would be “inappropriate”?. I have repeatedly contacted BOCES and NYSED for information and made multiple FOIL requested. I have a FOIL request pending on the second Apex report since December 4, 2019.
Amy said on December 4, 2019 that the Apex report would be discussed at the December 17, 2019 board meeting in executive session. There was another meeting on January 7, 2020 and another meeting on January 28. The first Apex report was released unredcated without ANY executive session discussion; there have now been three executive discussions since the second Apex report was received on December 4, 2019. This is the exact opposite of the transparency with Apex promised by the Board.
- Regarding Proposed Board Policy 2300, will you strike the section on cameras, tripods, microphones and add a line that says the board will always come out of Executive Session in the same location they went into Executive Session.
RESPONSE: None. This question was skipped entirely.
- Can you clarify Board Policy 9340 on who may speak during Public Comment? The policy references “members of the public” then “School District residents” then just “residents”. Is it the policy of the Board that only people who reside in the District can speak?
RESPONSE: Your concerns will be considered “prior to the final adoption of this policy” and “we have consistently permitted non-residents to speak at our meetings”
MY RESPONSE: No idea what is meant by “prior to the final adoption of this policy” as Board Policy 9340 was first adopted on July 1, 1988 and Last Revised on September 2, 2014. This policy was “finally adopted” more than three decades ago.
- Your policies say those engaged in fundraising must adhere to the District’s policies and regulations and that no fund‑raising activity will be considered if in violation of the law. That law is Regents Rule 19.6 which prohibits the direct solicitation of charitable donations from public school students on school property during regular school hours. Your fundraisers are not only illegal under 19.6 but illegal under Article 19 § 915 which prohibits the sales of soda, candy, gum, and other sweets from the beginning of the school day until the end of the last scheduled meal period, in any public school within the state. What is your position on fundraisers?
RESPONSE: We are looking at fundraising practices, principals have undergone fundraising training, new policies will be presented to the board as well as Superintendant Regulations;
MY RESPONSE: So, at this point, the District does not have a position on fundraisers. It is not following the adopted policies or state law but intended to create new policies. So, we will circle back on this issue at a future date.
- Policy 1310, on the books since 1988, says employees are restricted from engaging in political activities during work time when they are to devote their full attention to their work. Why have you allowed certain teachers to violate this policy with impunity?
RESPONSE: The premise that the District has allowed certain teachers to violate this policy with impunity is accurate. Such issues have been addressed with anyone brought to my attention. Actions involving specific staff are confidential and will not be disclosed.
MY RESPONSE: The question goes to years of widely-known political activities by teachers in the District not something that happened in the past three months since Dr. Feijoo arrived so the premise of the question is entirely accurate. However, if the District intends to address this matter going forward that’s fine. We will keep an eye on it.
- Your home page lists the last answers posted about 10 months ago. What happened to the policy of posting answers to questions unanswered at meetings?
RESPONSE: The Board has not adopted any policies regarding the posting of questions that have been answered at meetings as has been suggested but the district has endeavored to answer relevant questions and intends to do so especially going into the 2020-21 budget season.
MY RESPONSE: My question was about posting answers to UNANSWERED questions not answered questions. Maybe the response is getting hung up on the word “policy” but whatever you want to call it this has been something the Board has talked about quite often and, in fact, answers to questions from past board meetings and town halls are currently linked on the District home page as stated in the question.
- The Board has claimed for years that a Policy Committee was reviewing or updating Board Policies. When might that be completed?
RESPONSE: The Board did not create a Policy Committee for the 2020-21 school year. Instead, the Board has asked our attorneys to review our policies and recommend revisions and address administration or board questions. It takes time.
MY RESPONSE: This answer makes absolutely no sense. Of course, the Board did not create a Policy Committee for the 2020-21 school year. Why would it? This is the 2019-2020 School Year. Any such board for the 2020-21 school year would be created at the Reorganization meeting in July 2020.
The Board DID create a Policy Committee for the 2019-20 school year at the re-organization meeting on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Members are Rachel Relkin, Valarie D. Williams, Amy Moselhi, Lisdalia Saraiva, plus Dr. Magda Parvey, Interim Superintendent of Schools (for the period effective July 1, 2019 through October 31, 2019) and Dr. Laura Feijoo, Superintendent of Schools (for the period effective November 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020).
The Board then took the highly unusual (and seemingly unnecessary) step of “suspending” the 2019-20 Policy Committee on October 7, 2019.
The public was told as far back as 2017 (and perhaps earlier) that a Policy Committee was reviewing Board Policies and planned to update them. This was one of the incongruent excuses given in January 2018 by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne as to why Board Policy 5520 Closed Campus was not enforced. So for the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 there has been a Policy Committee.
The last Policy Committee meeting was held on 5/29/2019, 5 PM. There are no minutes for that meeting. The meeting which had been scheduled for 6/12/2019 was canceled.
The last resolution appointing the Policy Committee was on 7/2/2019, and then on 10/7/2019, that resolution was suspended until further notice.
Following are the links:
Meeting: Board of Education Annual Organizational Meeting for the 2019-2020 School Year – 7:00 PM
Date: Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Item: 9.58 APPROVE RESOLUTION NO. 20-57: APPROVING CONTINUANCE OF THE POLICY COMMITTEE FOR THE 2019-2020 SCHOOL YEAR
Meeting: Board of Education Regular Meeting – 6:45 PM
Date: Monday, October 7, 2019
Item: 10.05 APPROVE RESOLUTION NO. 20-192: DECLARING RESOLUTION NO. 20-57, ADOPTED ON JULY 2, 2019, SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
- Has SED acted on the waiver pertaining to loss of state aid as a result of insufficient instructional hours at the two middle schools?
MY RESPONSE: OK. We will continue to follow up.
- Since Columbine, a parade of security consultants, has recommended more interior and exterior CCTV cameras which might help deter anti-semitic graffiti, false fire alarm pulls and employees monitoring those cameras in real-time. Are you prepared to act on these recommendations and, if so, when.
RESPONSE: We are considering all recommendations by Alteris.
MY RESPONSE: I am asking about twenty years of consultants and committees. So, the answer is no.
- In light of Board Policies, 5165 and 1530 Should parents including board members send alcohol or tobacco products to school employees at schools? Is alcohol or tobacco allowed on school grounds?
RESPONSE: Board Policies 5165 and 1530 are clear on their face. The legal opinion made this clear. The policies and opinion letters speak for themselves. Amy Moselhi added that it has come to her attention that bringing alcohol into the schools is not permitted. I will not be doing that in the future. For other parents if you want to give a gift such that I gave it must be done a thousand foot from any school so duly noted. Paul Warhit added that he had given bottles of alcohol as gifts to teachers and would no longer do so. Asked later if he gave such gifts while on the board, Warhit said “nope”.
MY RESPONSE: We would certainly agree that Board Policies 5165 and 1530 are clear on their face which makes the reaction to the question on January 7th so odd — there was never getting around the fact that alcohol is not allowed on school grounds yet people were quite aggressive in defending the practice. The response of the District. while slower than necessary, addressed our concern.