NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Yvette Goorevitch picked a fight with the wrong Latina and as a result, she is being shown the door at the Norwalk Public Schools where she went to work in 2017 after 25 years in New Rochelle.
In 2017, a Hispanic woman from Mount Vernon, casually dressed, showed up at City Hall to confront Goorevitch over her failure to provide special education services to her children enrolled at a private school located in New Rochelle. By all accounts, Goorevitch was highhanded and dismissive of the Hispanic mother of three and the mother’s concerns for her children, setting off a shouting match witnessed by several people in City Hall.
Goorevitch left New Rochelle over the summer of 2017 but a few weeks later, on October 3, 2017, the Latina mom, Alexandra Estrella addressed the New Rochelle Board of Education. She expressed her frustration with the Special Education Department in a thinly veiled criticism of the recently departed Goorevitch.
Estrella calmly described her frustration to the Board in no uncertain terms. She said she was “highly disappointed” in the “lack of engagement” especially considering her children were “children of color”. She said she filed a State complaint, noting that her children had not received services.
She said she had two children at the Hudson Country Montessori School in New Rochelle. The children needed special education services. She said that for over a year her children had not received services and support they were entitled to receive. At the time, Estrella and her children lived in Mount Vernon, NY but under New York State law, as her children attended school in New Rochelle, they were required to receive special education services through the “district of location” of the school.
“I can understand it was the first time going through the process, this year there is no excuse,” said Estrella. “I shouldn’t have to advocate as much as I did to get an answer and I cannot imagine what happens to parents that are not as aware as I am of the system when they encounter these challenges.”
Estrella’s frustration will sound familiar to many parents, especially parents of children of color, in particular Hispanic students. As we wrote a year ago when Goorevitch was seeking to return to New Rochelle as Assistant Superintendent, Goorevitch has a long history of targeting Hispanic families. Her favorite trick was to convince parents who spoke little or no English to sign complex legal documents written in English they could not understand giving up their children’s civil rights as a pretext for reducing or denying services.
As is widely known, Goorevitch used her position as Special Education Director in New Rochelle to dole out special attention to a chosen few including custom programs, accommodations and sometimes insanely expensive services including placement at private schools costing tens of thousands of dollars a year to cultivate power and influence in New Rochelle. This largely entailed a focus on North End families, predominantly white, predominantly Jewish. Goorevitch is white, Jewish, and lives in the North End of New Rochelle.
Estrella was not just any Latina mom. Although she did not mention it in her address to the Board at least one board member knew exactly who she was. Sal Fernandez was a school principal in the New York City Department of Education. Estrella was his boss.
Dr. Estrella was superintendent for Community School District Four in East Harlem, a district comprised of twenty-three schools serving approximately 13,500 students.
Flash forward to April 2020.
Estrella became Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools on July 1, 2020.
Goorevitch, realizing her days were numbered in Norwalk began scrambling for an exit strategy. This explains her sudden interest to be Assistant Superintendent in New Rochelle last Fall. We, along with others familiar with Goorevitch’s sorry history in New Rochelle, pushed back and her candidacy went down in flames.
Meanwhile, Estrella began to lay the foundation for her payback to Goorevitch.
Estrella hired the Urban Collective, a non-profit associated with Arizona State University, to evaluate the Norwalk Special Education Department under Goorevitch. They had little good to say, laying the predicate for ousting Goorevitch.
The conclusions of the report were damning.
Under Family Engagement, Urban Collective found a two-tier system for White and Minority students, a system that is familiar to families in New Rochelle under Goorevitch.
“Families who are white and with the means to hire advocates/lawyers are able to secure wanted special education supports/ services.”
“Families with capital have more access.”
As one might expect with Goorevitch, under Equity & Inclusion, Urban Collective found a culture of “us vs. them” where disability as diversity was not evident. Goorevitch set a tone of low expectations for students with disabilities and generally disowned students with disabilities and other underserved students where there was little agency or empowered language used in describing students with disabilities.
Under Processes & Systems, Urban Collective found a two-tiered system under Goorevitch:
“Families with advocates/lawyers influence decision-making and receive services and placements; families without these resources appear to have more limited voice.”
Throughout the Urban Collective report is criticism of special education “as a place, rather than a service” under Goorevitch: Special education and academic departments are siloed, creating separate systems for students; responsibilities across departments and between central office and schools are siloed; special education is seen as a place or a program, rather than individualized supports to reach high academic standards.
The idea of special education as a service rather than a place is meant to reduce social stigmas and improve academic achievement for students.
This criticism — that this concept is not manifest in the Norwalk Public Schools — lays the predicate for redefining the role of special education leadership in Norwalk, to effectively re-write the current job description of Director of Special Education.
Rather than fire Goorevitch and all that entails, Estrella has brought in consultants to justify eliminating the job currently held by Goorevitch.
We asked the NPS Communications Director about reports that the job of Director of Specialized Learning and Student Support Services had been changed or subsumed into another job title. We requested a particular a board resolution or document confirming our reporting.
“There isn’t any Board resolution or meeting document that changed this job title,” said NPS Spokesperson Brenda Wilcox Williams. “We are in the midst of a year-long process to develop a new strategic plan for the district, but that has not been finished yet and isn’t expected to be presented until the end of May.”
A response known in the journalism world as a “non-denial denial”.
We will continue to monitor board meetings in Norwalk but Goorevitch is not letting the grass grow under her feet. She is now consulting for the Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla, NY.
The Westchester Institute for Human Development is an authorized vendor of the City School District of New Rochelle.
The Director of Community Support Network and Coordinator of Policy at the Westchester Institute for Human Development is former New Rochelle Board of Education Member Naomi Brickel.
Naomi Brickel has a long-standing relationship with Yvette Goorevitch. Brickel has special needs children, she was a parent advocate on Committees on Special Education in New Rochelle under Goorevitch, she was heavily involved with the New Rochelle Special Education PTA and a past President of SEPTA, she was elected to the New Rochelle Board of Education in 2011 and served one 5-year term.
Brickel and Goorevitch co-authored presentations and traveled together around the country to deliver presentations.
- September 2016: “Shifting the culture: a story of collaboration” at the National State Directors of Special Education/Council of Administrators of Special Education Annual Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- July 2015: “Shifting the culture: a story of collaboration” at the United States Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.
- Summer 2012: “Crossing Academic Borders: GAELS RICE at Iona College” at the NYCASE Summer Institute in New Rochelle, NY.
- Summer 2012: “Moving From Adversary, Past Advocacy, to Effective Parent Collaboration” at the NYCASE Summer Institute in New Rochelle, NY.
- Fall 2011: “Moving From Adversary, Past Advocacy, to Effective Parent Collaboration” at the CASE National Fall Conference in New Rochelle, NY.
The Westchester Institute for Human Development recently announced the Transition Thought Exchange described as “an initiative to support school districts in strategic planning and implementation for post-secondary transition for students with disabilities”.
The program takes place starting tomorrow, April 22, 2021.
“Yvette Goorevitch, Special Education Administrator and Educational Consultant will lead this timely work, which will include a process to assess assets and challenges, plan strategically, and explore funding opportunities, to support development of model transition.”
With Goorevitch consulting for the Westchester Institute for Human Development and with the Westchester Institute for Human Development consulting to the City School District of New Rochelle and Goorevitch’s close connection to Brickel and Goorevitch’s thwarted attempt to return to New Rochelle as Assistant Superintendent, the question becomes whether Goorevitch intends to worm her back into the City School District of New Rochelle through a side door.
Goorevitch has been telling people since last Fall, when her bid for the Assistant Superintendent was blown up (in no small part courtesy of your author), that she might even try the front door by running for school board.
We reached out to Dr. Alexandra Estrella, Ms. Yvette Goorevitch and the Norwalk Public Schools Communications Officer but did not receive a reply to multiple emails.
UPDATE: After this article was published, we were contacted by Brenda Wilcox Williams, the Communications Director for the Norwalk Public School. For purposes of context, as we were preparing to publish the story, a week after repeatedly emailing and calling Ms. Wilcox requesting information with no response, we received a response this morning.
There isn’t any Board resolution or meeting document that changed this job title. We are in the midst of a year-long process to develop a new strategic plan for the district, but that has not been finished yet and isn’t expected to be presented until the end of May.
We held the story yet again and responded early this morning:
While I do appreciate your getting back to me, I have been holding a story for a week and do not wish to hold it any longer. My deadline is 2 pm today.
My interest is based on a meeting of the New Rochelle Board of Education on October 3, 2017.
Dr. Estrella addressed the board to express her disappointment with the Special Education department in a thinly-veiled criticism of Yvette Goorevitch who had recently left New Rochelle for Norwalk. My sources tell me Dr. Estrella and Ms. Goorevitch had gotten into a shouting match at City Hall during the 2016-17 school year in front of then-Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne.
Last April, NPS hired Dr. Estrella as Superintendent.
Last October, Ms. Goorevitch applied for the Assistant Superintendent position in New Rochelle.
Urban Collective, a non-profit associated with Arizona State University, was hired to evaluate the Norwalk Special Education Department under Goorevitch. They had little good to say, laying the predicate for ousting Goorevitch.
[Norwalk Public Schools Comprehensive Review of Special Education Processes, Supports and Services]
Ms. Goorevitch is said to be attempting to return to New Rochelle again, this time working for a consulting business with a contract in New Rochelle and/or as a School Board Member.
The nub of my story is this: Ms. Goorevitch treated Dr. Estrella and her children badly in New Rochelle. Now Dr. Estrella is Ms. Goorevitch boss — and Dr. Estrella’s children are now enrolled in Norwalk. Dr. Estrella is now handing Ms. Goorevitch her hat and pointing her towards the door.
Hard not to see this as karma.
Given the delayed response to my previous inquiry, I am not optimistic about getting a response to this email so I am setting a tight deadline: 2 pm today.
If I get a response after the story is published I will update the article.
I have copied Dr. Estella and Ms. Goorevitch on this email and will publish any statement they care to add to any District statement from you.
After the 2 p.m. deadline and after we published this story we heard back from Ms. Wilcox.
Your statements below include a lot of speculation and innuendo, and we will not respond to gossip. What I can tell you is that the Urban Collaborative confirmed the significant progress made in Norwalk special education programs since 2017, while providing a roadmap for the next stages of development. Ms. Goorevitch will continue to work with the district as Norwalk continues to focus on improved outcomes for students with disabilities.
As a side note, I would suggest that you may want to consider being careful with information that could personally identify students, as I’m sure you do not want to disrespect privacy protections under the law
As we said we would update the article if we received a statement after 2 p.m. and have done so.
Here is our reply:
You can’t eat your cake and have it too.
I did not ask you to respond to gossip. I asked you to provide documents, links to web pages and answer specific questions. You chose the path you chose. That is on you.
Having made two unfounded claims, I would be interested to know…
What statements are “innuendo” (a veiled or equivocal reflection on character or reputation)?
What statements are “speculation” (presumably, the definition as conjectural consideration of a matter)?
Do not worry, I do not expect a genuine response just more mudslinging.
I would note that like your previous non-denial denial, you say “Ms. Goorevitch will continue to work with the district as Norwalk continues to focus on improved outcomes for students with disabilities”.
Does that address my inquiries or my article? No. It does not.
My reporting is that the Superintendent does not like Ms. Goorevitch, wants her gone, and is accomplishing that by doing away with her position, and Ms. Goorevitch will be out in Norwalk after the current school year.
That is only a few weeks away so there is no need for debate on the matter. We can just wait and see.
As for privacy protections under the law, you must be delusional if you are talking about Dr. Estrella’s children. Setting aside that HIPPA and FERPA which apply to you but do not apply to me, I reported what Dr. Estrella stated at a public meeting about her children (watch the video in the article).
UPDATE 4/29/21: It took all of 8 days to get confirmation that Yvette Goorevitch has been given the heave-ho at Norwalk Public School.