The question for New Rochelle voters is not whether we approve or disapprove of the school budget on June 9 (and there is plenty not to like about the current budget) but whether we want to further empower the same people who have given us what is now the worst reputation in New York State along with flatlining academic performance.
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If you agree the answer is “VOTE NO” ON THE BUDGET then please vote no and tell your friends and consider giving money to support a mailer campaign to educate the 40,000 plus qualified voters on why they should join us in VOTE NO on the New Rochelle School Budget.
Mailers cost about 30 cents each to print and mail.
For $25 you can help us reach 83 voters.
For $50 you can help us reach 167 voters.
For $100 you can help us reach 333 voters.
You can also print our mailer and distribute yourself to friends, family, and neighbors.
PRINT VOTE NO ON THE BUDGET MAILER
Our goal is to reach every household that has voted in any election over the past 4 years then use any additional money to do targeted mailings including one listing which school board candidates concur with the ideas behind this effort: that our current school leadership is unacceptable.
This year every qualified voter is supposed to receive a mail-in ballot with a pre-paid return envelope. We know there are a lot of NO votes out there we just need to remind them to return their ballots starting one week from now
If you are not sure about voting then consider educating YOURSELF on the issue by reading further and then, hopefully, you will see the need to support the VOTE NO on the New Rochelle School Budget effort.
New Rochelle homeowners pay 70% of their property taxes to fund the public schools and ALL residents pay additional funds through state taxes and fees, federal taxes, mobile phone taxes and much more to fund the New Rochelle public schools to the tune of $280,000,000 annually. Even lottery ticket revenue goes to the New Rochelle public schools! One way or another, over the past 4 years, residents have paid in over ONE BILLION DOLLARS to the City School District of New Rochelle.
What did they get in return?
In 2020, New Rochelle Schools have the worst reputation in New York State with waves of negative headlines and a collapse of academic performance based on recent ELA, Math, Regents scores. This has led to both Black Flight (650 top-performing black students have fled the public schools) and ALMS Flight (300% increase in students not matriculating into NRHS over last 3 years). Home values have been hammered: ask how likely it is that a young family looking to move from NYC to the suburbs would include New Rochelle on its shortlist.
What IS the reputation of the New Rochelle Schools?
A Google search will list stabbings, a violent and brutal murder of a student by classmates, sexual assaults both by teachers and students, “mini-riots” among students; cases of students arrested, some sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, 20 known incidents of Swastikas and Hate Speech in NRHS, ALMS, IEYMS; the Apex Grade-Fixing Scandal at NRHS where students were given bogus course credits and fake high school diplomas; Federal Indictments of District employees and contractors (and convictions and prison sentences); a $900,000 “fine” for failing to provide required state-mandated instructional hours at both middle schools; wasting a million dollars to pay off failed administrative hires; the Coach D fiasco; a failed Superintendent search; union calls for the resignation of the current Superintendent; the announced hiring/withdrawal of Adofo Muhammad as NRHS Principal, Middle School students burning down Wildcliff, a heroin dealing custodian, a second custodian busted (twice) on heroin charges, employees busted for check fraud, embezzlement, time-theft, forcible touching of minors, and much, much more.
There have been NO investigations into myriad cases of school violence with ZERO accountability.
Over the past two years, New Rochelle has been unable to hire highly-qualified administrators from other school districts with excellent reputations. Instead, we hire the desperate or forlorn: cast-offs from among the worst school districts in New York State (Greg Kern of Newburgh, Laura Feijóo of NYC, Alex Marrero of East Ramapo) or mercenary retirees looking to make a quick buck (Tom Ryan, Peter Scordo, Steve Goldberg) or are reduced to the promotion of failed internal hires (Anthony Bongo, Joe Starvaggi, Magda Parvey, Tawanda Robinson).
If you speak to people in the education business from around New York State you will quickly learn New Rochelle is perceived to be the place careers go to die, that talented people who can go anywhere do not want to work in a dysfunctional school district under a rogue board run by incompetent yet arrogant amateurs.
Any administration and school board that would announce the hiring of Adofo Muhammad as NRHS Principal, the second most important job in the District, when he had never signed a contract then make up a fanciful excuse for his withdrawal having never attempted to explain or defend what many views as controversial statements and social media posts is not simply incompetent but so ideologically and politically driven they would sacrifice the future of children, the community and real estate values on the altar of some misbegotten notion of “political correctness”.
The problem at this point is beyond any short-term cure. The damage is done. We now have a school board that is beyond repair, flailing about, posing as pseudo-experts in school administration, hiring sock-puppets instead of educational leaders, supporting board presidents “playing at” being Superintendent.
We are in free fall with no end in sight.
The ONLY solution is to stop the bleeding by giving an emphatic NO to the further degradation and decline that has become the hallmark of the current school leadership.
Unfortunately, the only tool at the disposal of voters is a blunt one: voting down the school budget. We must use the tool New York State offers: VOTE NO ON THE NEW ROCHELLE SCHOOL BUDGET.
There are two ways to look at the impact of voting NO on a school budget: technical/financial and as a no-confidence vote.
In New York State, if voters reject a district’s budget, the district can either hold a second vote (for the same budget or a revised budget) or adopt a contingency budget, which limits spending categories and caps spending increases. If voters reject the budget twice, the district automatically adopts a contingency budget. Certain expenditures are exempt from the contingency budget cap, among them costs associated with enrollment increases, capital expenditures that have previously been approved by voters, and emergency expenditures necessary due to damage or destruction of a school building or school equipment. Districts operating under contingency budgets must honor collective bargaining agreements.
(2) VOTE OF NO-CONFIDENCE
In New York State, if voters reject a district’s budget twice it is a clear rejection of the District leadership, it says that qualified voters no longer trust the school board and administration. Moving to a contingency budget in other districts had led to resignations of board members, senior administrators, and Superintendents as we hope will be the case in New Rochelle. We need to clean house and vote down the school budget for as many times as necessary is the broom.
What can we expect after the budget fails on June 9?
Desperate to preserve their own positions, power and privilege, board members and school administrators will say and do anything to discourage voters from moving the District to a contingency budget – claiming that sports programs will be terminated (invariably the most popular programs like football and basketball which they will never do), cutting after school programs (not funded by the District!), firing teachers (the union agreement remains in place), cutting construction projects (the voter-approved $106.5 mm bond will be unaffected).
In reality, moving to a contingency budget has no direct impact on the amount of spending. It is NOT a tool to eliminate a budget or make school taxes disappear. It is a way — the only way — for voters to put a check on bad leadership by removing the Board President (the CFO of the District) and the Superintendent (the CEO of the District) from a direct role in making decisions on how to spend taxpayer money. This is what they want to avoid because it is the source of all of their power and they want that power.
This is precisely what we do not want because the school leadership over the past several years had taken us down a dangerous path which, if not checked, will permanently destroy the once excellent of the reputation of the New Rochelle public schools, reduce home values and corrode the tax base with follow-on effects beyond the schools to include city services, police, fire, and more.
Let me close with a few words on the New Rochelle Board of Education in 2020 and Transparency.
Since January, it has been the position of the Board that Freedom of Information Requests need not be complied with. In January, the pretext for this was that the School Business Office was working on the Budget. In March that changed to saying schools were closed due to COVID-19. On that basis, as schools are closed at least until July but possibly until December, it may be a full year of no Freedom of Information. Note that most records are electronic, that the District has not ceased to function and everyone is getting paid to work.
The Board and Administration have stopped responding to Media Inquiries.
Since March meetings have been held on Zoom without a public comment period. Before that meetings were held at City Hall but the public was barred. The board has discussed this and agreed to bar the public from commenting at meetings. The public was told questions could be asked via an online form. I asked 2 questions for the 5/5 meeting (on status of Adofo Muhammad contract and the new process to run for school board, neither question was read into the record nor answered). The board said the public could email questions but they would choose which were appropriate and which were “crazy”.
The recently released announcement for the special meeting on May 19th said “This meeting will be accessible to the public through Zoom at the designated time (time approximate) on the evening of the meeting. There will be a segment for public speakers at this meeting.”
This puts the lie to the idea that there is a technical or legal reason to bar public comment.
The videos from the Zoom meetings are not being published in a timely manner even though it is easier to publish them.
The zoom videos do not have a “title” embedded in them to indicate the date of the meeting. The date beneath the video on the BOE Home Page is the “published on” date. When the meetings are called to order neither the BOE President or Board Clerk states the date of the meeting. In other words, there is no way for the public to know which meetings have published videos nor the dates of the meetings that are published. With the various special meetings and budget review meetings and regular meetings it is not possible to simply pick the date (and type) of a particular meeting and watch it. The public is put on a wild goose chase.
The stonewalling on FOIL requests goes back to the fall of 2019 and appears set to continue until mid to late 2020. The stonewalling on Adofo Muhammad is of the same sort. Barring public comment when it is Board Policy to allow public comment may be illegal but it is certainly a deliberate effort to deny residents, parents employees and taxpayers a venue to raise concerns in a public forum as has been the practice in New Rochelle for decades.
I would add, the obstruction with getting information about the school board elections where 18 emails later, I never got answers to my questions on May 1st, and answers on how the process to get on the ballot was supposed to work (the change was announced on May 1, no answer until May 6, then an entirely new process on May 11, the deadline to file).
It is my view that this a deliberate effort to undermine transparency and accountability. It is NOT due to the Budget or Coronavirus because it began months BEFORE the coronavirus was an issue in the USA. It is in keeping with the general attitude of Dr. Feijóo who comes from a culture that abhors transparency and accountability. The Board under Amy and Paul have gleefully embraced Dr. Feijóo’s politburo style.
They have had THEIR say. The rest of us get to have OUR say on June 9 with the school budget vote.
You know what to do.
Convinced? Then please give some money to the cause and share this message with your friends and family.
CREDIT CARD via Paypal
PAYPAL USERS: send money
VENMO USERS: @Robert-Cox-199
Or you can call me to arrange cash/check Robert Cox 914-325-4616.