- Would you support a more involved public process to review and discuss the annual audited financials, perhaps incorporating a review of actual spending into projected spending? Explain.
Yes I would. My primary responsibility, after creating a nurturing and educational environment for the children of our school district, is to the taxpayers of our community. As a Board member I would seek to create the highest level of transparency possible. The act of involving the public in the most basic function of the BOE cultivates trust while discouraging waste and or fraud.
- Would you support hiring an in-house legal staff to handle routine matters to reduce District legal expenses? Explain.
The answer is again yes. My fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers would compel me to seek savings wherever I could. This idea is a common sense approach to handling the district needs without the overspending which is often characterized by a lack of respect for taxpayers.
- What are the skills and experiences you will bring to the school board, if elected?
Being a resident of New Rochelle for 65 years I spent 12 years as a student in the New Rochelle City School District. I began my professional career as a teacher and a coach. I then became an administrator in the district. I believe not only do I have the skills and experience, but also the leadership needed to make the necessary changes at this time.
- Under Dr. Feijóo, since January, the District has refused to fill Freedom of Information requests and, since March, disallowed public comments at regular school board meetings. What is your position on the Board’s role in enforcing transparency?
This is totally unacceptable and I will make sure if elected this will change. The school board should have the highest commitment to cultivating fairness, transparency, and access. There is nothing that is discussed in board meetings that the residents of NR should not have access to.
- What do you see is the first immediate priority of the school board? Looking out to the end of what would be your term in office, list three outcomes not currently under consideration by the board that you would like to see accomplished by 2025.
Change the toxic leadership immediately and if the bylaws don’t allow for it, form a coalition to make sure their agenda is not supported.
I don’t know what outcomes have been considered so until I know it’s hard to complete this question. What I believe MUST be addressed, not every student in the high school being provided an education. You have AP College Prep Curriculum for those students interested in college, you have theater, art and music for those students and then you have about a third of the high school population that has no idea what to do once they graduate. When they decided to eliminate the amazing in house vocational program in 1979-80 that had 903 registered students in the program they defended the decision by saying they could continue at Westchester BOCES. My Goal would be to figure out a way with federal funds to bring the vocational in house programs back.
- Do you support retaining or removing Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo?
No, I support removing Dr Feijoo, she never should have been hired in the first place.
- There has been significant “Black Flight” from the New Rochelle public schools since 2010, with about 650 Black students now “missing”, how would you propose the Board address Black Flight?
The Board must seek to restore excellence and purpose to every student’s education in our schools. We must reverse this trend of disastrous leadership and return to proper board governance and sound hiring decisions. I do not think that flight from our schools is based on race as much as it is based on quality education or the lack thereof.
- Would you support commissioning a study to evaluate the feasibility of Universal Pre-K to 5 busing?
- There was a great deal of controversy earlier this school year regarding former head football Coach Lou DeRienzo. What are your thoughts on the matter?
This incident is by far the most telling on how out of touch this board is with the New Rochelle community who entrusted them with their vote. Throughout the process I couldn’t understand how the superintendent could take an incident that should have been handled internally by Coach DiRienzo’s supervisor and the high school principal, then blow it up into a national disgrace. Dr. Feijoo and the board’s leadership blew it so out of proportion that it only added another stain to a once outstanding national reputation. Having hired and then supervised Coach DiRienzo for a number of years I had the pleasure of seeing the interaction he had with his students which was amazing. I only wished that the rest of my staff could connect with their students like Coach D did. To have a 30 year reputation destroyed by Dr. Feijoo and the BOE is nothing less than a crime and those responsible should be held accountable their actions or lack thereof.
- The District recently announced the hiring of Adofo Muhammad as the new NRHS Principal who then subsequently withdrew. What are your thoughts on that situation?
This is a prime example of unprofessionalism at the top that creates confusion and division that weakens our school district. Who announces a hire without actually hiring the person first. That is what the school district did in this case. The announced the hiring of Adofo Muhammad without him ever signing a contract. No one does this.
- The District plans on moving the Alternative High School from St Gabriel’s Church to Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle. What are your thoughts on that?
I just don’t understand the move, is this a payoff to a friend, did they consult with Joel Fridovich who was the principle of the Alternative School for the past 25 years now retired, who I consider one of the finest school administrator I’ve ever known and had a profound impact on his students. Probably not, but it’s something that needs to be investigated.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many issues but two of the prominent for the District are Food Distribution and Distance Learning. Address those two points specifically and your thoughts on the District’s pandemic response generally.
- The demands on school board members have increased exponentially over the past decade. Is this a concern for you and, if so, how would you address it? Would you support shorter terms, shorter board meetings, less “required” non-boarding meeting activities, annual stipends?
Spending more time doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. Having recently attended a number of presentations I found that school board members seemed to think they had to show their audience through their comments how intelligent they were. To be honest, quite often it wasn’t necessary. I assume, if you hire the right people and place them in the right position they will do an outstanding job. They do not need to be told by 9 board members on what a great job they did. Also, I would support shorter terms and shorter board meetings but would not support annual stipends.
- Since the law changed from appointed to elected school board members, over 90% of school board members have resided within North End elementary school districts. What are your thoughts on this?
I believe the only way to change this is to follow or adopt the New Rochelle City Council model of dividing the city into district so only residents from those districts can represent them on the board. This is integral to ensuring fairness and equity throughout the city school district.
- COVID-19 is scary, and with good reason, but many people have learned quite a bit about their own minor weaknesses or idiosyncrasies during the crisis. What is something the pandemic caused you to realize about yourself that in hindsight you took for granted and have now changed? (try to have a little “fun” with this question)
- To what degree have you been involved with the New Rochelle School District over the past 10 years? Prior to 2019-20, how often have you attended New Rochelle Board of Education meetings?
I have not participated or been involved until the Coach DiRienzo incident occurred. My wife Janet and I have been attending sporting, music and theater events over the years and have remained in contact with many staff members. Also, prior to selling my wife’s family business, Jan Mar Trophy Co. on January 2, 2019, we sold and/or donated awards and apparel products to many of the schools in the district.
- What are your thoughts on Apex Grade Inflation Investigations?
It’s sad because as a former teacher at the end of each class I would take time to ask my students what they learned. If they didn’t have a reasonable answer then I didn’t do my job. It was the administrator’s and supervisor’s responsibility to make sure that each teacher asks that same question. Also, the administrator/supervisor’s should ask themselves did I provide the proper atmosphere that is conducive to learning for all students.
- Do you think Board Members should be allowed to take jobs with the District or its vendors upon leaving the school board?
Absolutely not it’s a direct conflict of interest.
- If you win a seat, you will be responsible for spending about $1.5 billion dollars of other people’s money over the next 5 years. What is your level of financial literacy and how does it apply to this responsibility?
I believe the most important job of a BOE member is to oversee the fiduciary responsibilities of the district. As director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for both the New Rochelle and White Plains City School Districts I was responsible for my programs budgets so I have a fairly good financial understanding.
- The board operates under a “strategic road map”. Identify three elements of the strategic road map that you feel the board got right (and why). Identify up to three (if any) elements that you would change or drop altogether (and why)?
BONUS QUESTION: Anything else you feel voters should know about you when they go to the polls on June 9th?
SUPER BONUS QUESTION: BUDGET AND BALLOTS
Will you vote for the budget?
Do you have anything to say about the mail-in ballot distribution snafu?
It really concerns me that if this BOE can’t run a simple annual election how have they managed to oversee a $280 million dollar budget and have they.