NEW ROCHELLE, NY — At the June 23rd meeting of the New Rochelle Board of Education Board Member Julia Muggia-Ochs asked Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo how many locations she personally visited before deciding on the Bethesda Family Life Center as the new location of the Alternative High School which had been housed at St. Gabes School for decades.
Here answer was “none”.
Feijóo admitted that she had not visited any potential locations for a relocated Alternative High School other than the Bethesda location from when she became Superintendent on November 1, 2019 until Muggia-Ochs asked her question on June 23, 2020.
So, why is that?
The District is required to show taxpayers that a reasonable search was done whether by RFP or some other competitive processes.
That did not happen.
In fact, quite the opposite, with Feijóo feeding information to Deacon David Peters, the point person for Bethesda Baptist Church. There was no negotiation on price, just Peters asking Feijóo how much the District paid for space at St. Gabes School even though the space at Bethesda is much smaller than the space at St. Gabes.
Initially, Feijóo told Peters the District paid $149,000 per annum to lease St. Gabes from the Archdiocese of New York.
With no counteroffer from Peters, effectively negotiating against the District, Feijóo sent a second email stating there was “an additional $12,000 a month for each of 2 months over the summer” and bumped the figure to $173,000 per annum.
Asked about summer programming at St. Gabes, Neil Mattera who recently retired after 43 years, the last 28 years working for the City School District of New Rochelle at the Campus School, said the Alternative High School has never offered summer programming. Students in need of summer school attended classes at New Rochelle High School.
Setting aside that Dr. Feijóo is admitting there was no competitive process for obtaining a lease agreement for a property to house the Alternative High School, Feijóo told a fanciful story of how she first came up with idea of relocating the school to Bethesda.
“This opportunity came up when I was there and I saw the space for…I forget what breakfast,” she said, waving her hands dismissively,”…and…um…thought of having it.”
The breakfast Feijóo waived off was the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast at the Bethesda Family Life Center held on the MLK Holiday on January 20, 2020
Warming to her tall tale, she went on.
“It was so close to here… and so close to the high school…that it was an amazing opportunity…really…just a great space,” said Feijóo.
Her statement is flatly contradicted by emails seen by Talk of the Sound.
Feijóo did not come up with the idea of Bethesda as the new location and definitely not while “seeing the space” while she attended the MLK Breakfast as emails seen by Talk of the Sound.
The idea to move the Campus School from its long time home at St. Gabes School to the Bethesda Family Life Center was a scheme cooked up by then-Board President Amy Moselhi and her “best friend” David Peters, a Deacon at the financially troubled Bethesda Baptist Church and the founder of New Rochelle Against Racism or NewROAR which had been lobbying since the day Feijóo’s hiring was announced on June 28, 2019 for her removal.
Moselhi and Peters had already discussed the plan when Peters sought and received approval from the board of the Bethesda Baptist Church to enter into negotiations with the District.
On January 21st, a day after the MLK Breakfast on January 20th, Moselhi informs Peters that “per our discussion” Feijóo is looking to move “campus school” to a new location. Moselhi says “the location of the classrooms in Bethesda seems exactly like what we are looking for”.
Moselhi is not talking about the classrooms themselves or the facility but “the location” of the classrooms, meaning in the Lincoln Attendance Zone.
Setting aside that Moselhi has no authority to represent the District in a real estate transaction, or that there was no consideration of any other facilities, that there was no published criteria for a new site for the Alternative High School or the rather obvious conflict of interest of Moselhi entering into discussions with her best friend to set up a half-million dollar real-estate deal to benefit her friend, what this email shows is Moselhi and Peters had already entered into discussions before Feijóo had ever met Peters or seen the classrooms.
Moselhi’s January 21st “intro email” was sent at 9:23 pm. Feijóo did not respond until the following day but Peters is telling Moselhi and Feijóo at 11:14 pm on January 21st, less than two hours after Moselhi’s 9:23 pm email, he had received the “necessary approval” to enter into negotiations to lease the Bethesda Family Life Center to the City School District of New Rochelle as the new home of the Alternative High School.
Feijóo acknowledged the Moselhi email introduction of Peters at 6:38 am on January 22nd, thanking Moselhi for “making the connection” and asking Peters to set up a “walkthrough” of the facility with no mention of having seen the classrooms.
The collaboration between Peters and Moselhi goes back a number of years, pre-dating Moselhi’s election to the New Rochelle Board of Education.
Amy has described David Peters as “my best friend in New Rochelle” and the first person she met when she moved to New Rochelle,
She said much of what she knows about New Rochelle she knows from David Peters. It is worth noting that although David Peters grew up in New Rochelle he moved away for decades and himself had only recently moved back when Moselhi first arrived in New Rochelle. Moselhi and Peters are ideologues, proponents of far-left critical-race theory seeking to impose and imprint their ideological beliefs on a community to which they had had little or no connection until recent years.
At the 27:30 mark of the 2017 Board Reorganization Meeting, Amy Moselhi, sworn in as a new Board member just moments earlier, interrupted voting on a consent agenda because Moselhi felt that School Board Clerk Liz Saraiva had not fulfilled what Moselhi later said was one of her campaign promises, to hold an annual school board meeting in the Lincoln School District, even though the Board had already agreed to hold a meeting in the Lincoln School District during the 2017-18 school year. Moselhi was not satisfied because although several meeting dates on the calendar were listed as “TBD” there was no articulation that one of the dates would be a meeting in the Lincoln District.
Then-Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne explained that the motion as written was sufficient, Moselhi insisted on a motion to amend the calendar anyway.
Saraiva attempted to explain she was waiting to hear back from potential venues and that not knowing which venue would be chosen made it difficult to set a date. The Board acted on Moselhi’s motion by amending the resolution to add asterisks to each of the TBD dates with a footnote that redundantly re-stated the Board’s previous agreement that on one of the TBD dates there would be a board meeting in the Lincoln Attendance Zone on a date “to be determined” at a location “to be determined”.
In 2018, as Board Vice-President, Moselhi pushed for David Peters to provide so-called “Undoing Racism” training at New Rochelle High School. The program title was originally to be called “Anti-Racism” training. When then-Board President Jeffrey Hastie complained that Anti-Racism training sounded negative, Moselhi helpfully explained to Hastie in an email dated October 8, 2018 that Peters, a “core trainer” with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, could not use the “Undoing Racism” brand because “it was not his to use without charging for it through the institute.” Invoices for the event seen by Talk of the Sound show Peters overcame those concerns as the program was presented at New Rochelle High School as “Undoing Racism” on November 17-18, 2018. There are no records of any fees charged or passed on from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. The District paid $597.16 for lunch over the two days including sandwiches, cookies and bottles of Pellegrino sparkling water.
At the June 23, 2020 school board meeting Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Alex Marrero made a presentation and formal recommendation to move the Alternative Campus High School from St. Gabes School to Bethesda Family Life Center. The presentation was not well received.
Moselhi, then-Board President, became emotional as it became clear that few of her fellow board members were prepared to support the proposed move.
Frustrated, Moselhi lashed out at Feijóo.
“Because you decided to do this without even informing the board along the way, I for one find myself in a position where I am absolutely supporting it in spite of your management style not because of your management style and it could have been a moment where the community came together and really celebrated this really wonderful thing that you’re doing, something that Superintendents before you wanted to do its very unfortunate we find ourselves where we are.”
The emails seen by Talk of the Sound show Moselhi was fully in the loop before Feijóo as the idea came to Feijóo from Moselhi on January 22, 2020. As Board President it was Moselhi’s responsibility to keep her fellow board members informed not Feijóo’s job.
Whatever the Board knew initially, they all knew about the move to Bethesda by March 2nd because it was the subject of public remarks to the Board by F.U.S.E. Vice President William Coleman during a Board meeting as well as questions from Robert Cox after the meeting and a story published on Talk of the Sound the same night.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound, staff at the Alternative High School were briefed yesterday on the move. According to these sources, staff were told that due to limited space at Bethesda teachers would have to share classrooms. ￼There is limited parking for the 25 district employees. There is no gymnasium at Bethesda. Required indoor physical education classes would take places at the Remington Boys & Girls Club on the other side of Lincoln Avenue on the other side of Lincoln Park. Outdoor physical education classes would take place in Lincoln Park. A banquet hall and kitchen on the second floor could serve as a cafeteria.
The same article noted the irony of David Peters cozying up to Feijóo.
Peters has been at the forefront of the effort to oust Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo. He and his NewROAR activists have picketed and protested Feijóo at every school board since Feijóo was hired. They have held press conferences, issued statements and participated in anti-Feijóo rallies. Peters was one of the key players in the creation of The Collective which filed a complaint with the New York State Education Commissioner opposing Feijóo’s hiring and demanding she be removed. The Collective under Peters’ leadership, filed a similar lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court. The Collective held a meeting a few months ago to explain the Supreme Court Lawsuit to The Collective members. It was held at the Family Life Center at Bethesda Baptist. David Peters was an active presence at the meeting, addressing the crowd and working the room.
Upon entering into negotiations with Feijóo, Peters quit the Collective and stopped agitating against Feijóo or calling for her removal.
Moselhi, at times near tears, continued her remarks, “we talk about equity, we talk about access, we talk about understanding what has happened to the Lincoln District, to the Lincoln Corridor, the Lincoln Attendance Zone, we talk about the lack of a school there, what that means for a District not to have heart, not to have a location.”
Moselhi is talking about herself.
“The Board moved board meetings to the Lincoln Corridor three years ago under the leadership of I think it was under Ms. Relkin’s leadership because we understood that that area was an area that the District had overlooked for so many years and even when we went to that play at the Boys and Girls Club part of the protest that happened as a part of the play was to bring education back, to bring a heart back to the center of a District that has been gutted for years.”
Whatever sop she tried to throw Relkin’s way, moving school board meetings into the Lincoln Attendance Zone was Moselhi’s stated goal before she was elected to the school board.
Amy Moselhi came to the board with an agenda aligned with her mentor David Peters to advocate for the Lincoln Attendance Zone. That agenda was articulated during her campaign for school board and made manifest during her first few minutes as a school board member. And while there is nothing wrong with that agenda it also means that Moselhi and Peters were not animated by any concerns for the students at the Alternative High School at St. Gabes but by the opportunity to use those students to achieve a long held political aim.
Having gotten Feijóo to go along, Moselhi and Peters spent the next five months playing both ends against the middle, all while secretly pushing to fit a square peg into a round hole.￼ When it blew up in her face at the June 23rd school board meeting, Moselhi turned on Feijóo, blaming Feijóo for her own failure.
“You robbed me Dr. Feijóo,” Moselhi wailed. “I believe you robbed the board (meaning herself) from the opportunity to rejoice in this in a way that was really our right (meaning her “right”) to do so because we (meaning her and Peters) have been working for a moment like this for a very, very long time and it may not be as important to you as it is to us (meaning her and Peters) or it is to me (a brief glimpse of her real meaning) but I think you really were very unstrategic in the way that you rolled this out.”
“The Board (meaning her) is put in a really unfortunate position and its also very unfair to Bethesda (Peters) which has also been invested for six months plus (5 months), their congregation has been invested for six months plus (email shows otherwise).
“Given there is no other option, we need to start the healing process. In my opinion I am ready support this completely in spite of your leadership and then I think we should bring the community together,” Moselhi said.
Having not considered other options and having held off from January 21st until June 23rd to present the Bethesda proposal to the Board, at a public meeting, Moselhi then sought to block further discussion, block tabling the vote, block developing other options, block waiting until two new Board members could begin their 5-year terms on July 1st, and block anything else other than an immediate vote to approve the move to Bethesda based on a fictitious deadline of June 30th.
As Board President, as the person who with David Peters conjured up the move to Bethesda long before June 23rd, as the person who went to Feijóo on January 21st to introduce David Peters, a Deacon of Bethesda Church, as the “point person” for negotiations, as “best friends”, as someone seeking to put money into David Peters church, as someone with a history of the same behavior, it is apparent that Moselhi deliberately maneuvered the board so that consideration of the proposal to move to Bethesda came at the last minute so she could claim (falsely, we now know) that there were no other options for the board and so no choice but to go along with her.
Moselhi’s plan did not work.
The Alternative Campus moved several weeks ago to New Rochelle High School making the school: “The Alternative to the High School Campus School located on the Campus of New Rochelle High School.”
There is a real question as to whether Moselhi and Peters were plotting to get the Campus School moved to Bethesda between the day Feijóo’s hiring was announced on June 28, 2019 and her start date of November 1st, 2019. What we do know is that one of Feijóo’s first order of business was to announce that she considered the St. Gabes facility “unacceptable” and that less than 90 days later she was in negotiations on a Bethesda lease deal at the behest of Amy Moselhi and David Peters.
To put in this context requires going back to 2012.
The New York State Education Department informed the City School District of New Rochelle of a citation for disproportionality for the 2012-13 school year during the 2013-14 school year. The District then conducted comprehensive record reviews in 2013-14 and undertook required corrective action in 2014-15.
Among those actions was the creation of Solutions to Suspensions Task Force, the implementation of Crisis Prevention Intervention and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports. As part of this effort, the District created “CHOICES”, a program designed as an alternative to out-of-school suspensions. The District made a deal to house CHOICES at the Remington Boys & Girls Club starting in September 2018.
At the New Rochelle Board of Education Meeting on October 30, 2018, speakers from David Peters’ NewROAR group (but not Peters himself) addressed the Board to complain that the CHOICES program was located in the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood, some claiming it was “racist” to do so because the decision was predicated on the idea that the students sent to CHOICES would be minority students and that parents of white North End students would not allow their children to be sent to program housed at Remington.
By way of contrast, the program Peters was more than happy to move across the park from Remington, the Alternative High School, has traditionally had 97% minority students and no white students (or any students for that matter) from the North End.
Numerous sources, all too afraid to speak on the record, told Talk of the Sound at the time the real reason is that David Peters wanted the CHOICES program at Bethesda and if Bethesda could not have it then no one else in the Lincoln Attendance Zone could have it.
Ironically, the CHOICES program was moved to St. Gabes School where it was housed with the Alternative High School.
It is difficult to see this as anything other than a corrupt, backroom deal where Moselhi sends hundreds of thousands of dollars in the direction of her “best friend”, who in turn puts a largely unused facility on a paying basis for at least three years but possibly decades, all while Feijóo pleases her one strong supporting on the school board and buys the silence of the leader of the organization attempting to remove her from office.
Peters supported Moselhi when she ran (and won) for school board in 2017 and Moselhi supported Peters when he ran (and lost) for school board in 2018. Peters led the opposition to Feijóo from the time her hiring was announced until the time Moselhi and Peters entered into discussions for a lucrative lease agreement to bail out Peter’s struggling Church using taxpayer dollars to rent the “white elephant” known as the Family Life Center at which pointed he wrote a letter stating he would no longer be involved in the “Collective” opposition to Feijóo’s continued employment which includes a lawsuit and a petition to the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department.
Emails obtained on September 16, 2020 in response to a Talk of the Sound Freedom of Information Law request sent to the City School District of New Rochelle on June 30, 2020 re: “All communications between the City School District of New Rochelle and Bethesda Church and any all Church representatives including Deacon David Peters from January 1, 2018 to present. This to include ANY communications involving board members including their public and private email accounts (so please ask each current and former board member for their emails and text messages).”
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