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New Rochelle Board of Education Engages in Reverse-Astroturf Campaign to Disseminate Propaganda on School Violence Issue

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New Rochelle Board of Education Engages in Reverse-Astroturf Campaign to Disseminate Propaganda on School Violence Issue

January 19, 2018 - 18:25
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY - As the community was reeling yesterday from the third major violent incident in 8 days with one assailant still on the loose, school officials were busy crafting propaganda to be sent by school members under the guise of personal emails to their “friends”. And herein lies a large problem in our district: a school board more concerned with Public Relations than actually solving problems. I wonder how these “friends” will feel to realize that their “friends” on the school board did not sit down to write them a heartfelt personal communique but that they were the target of a reverse-astroturf propaganda campaign.

Yesterday, at least two school board members (and likely more) sent out faux-personalized letters to their “friends”. There are many, many problems with both the fact of these emails and the content in these email. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.

That they exist at all is truly shameful.

What they say is also shameful.

They start off with the puerile notion that the faux-author (in this case, so far, Todd Kern and Jeffrey Hastie) is "only" Todd or Jeffrey or whatever and he (or she) is "your friend, neighbor and fellow parent" and they are definitely NOT writing as a school board member.

Except that they are school board members, duly elected and certified as such through a formal election process after they filed papers to be a candidate and stood for election. Elective office is not some rain poncho that you slip on and off.

And the communications are not personal letters from a “friend” but rather a boilerplate communique from the District.

So, a big question is who actually wrote these letters?

And, why are board members seeking to pass these letters off as personal notes to friends rather than what they are as officials school board communications (and hence public records and so subject to FOIL and the reason why I am printing the ENTIRE document here including personal email addresses and mobile phone numbers.

As the boilerplate template proceeds, the author, whoever that might be (a lawyer for the District perhaps or the Mayor or both), having said he does not speak for the school board they proceeds to speak for the school board even inviting their friends to send him secret, private communications which they propose to enter into confidential board discussions on topics like school safety.

But this is all a farce because obviously the District and Board and perhaps the Mayor crafted this message which was intended only to allow a privileged few to have access to secret deliberations of the school board. Unless you are a “Friend of Todd” or a “Friend of Jeffery” or know the secret handshake you do not have access to this information and you do not get to have input to the goings on of the secret society that runs our school system.

And folks wonder why the New Rochelle school district has the worst reputation of any in Westchester?

I draw attention to this line:

“Based on the information I have access to, I'm confident that these events are receiving the fullest possible attention by district, school, board and city leadership.”

This sounds very much like the remarks Mayor Bramson made at last night’s board meeting and public forum. I wonder why?

I also note this line "Despite all the understandable fear and outrage from the community, I think it's important to stay solutions-oriented and focused on understanding and fixing problems that have been surfaced by recent events"

In other words, do not be outraged at us for this mess, behave in a way that shields us from criticism.

It is worth noting that thes emails were sent BEFORE last night's public meeting was announced so it reads like a way to "work the refs"

I could go on but want to hear from readers. If you were one of the dupes sent this letter I am curious to know how you feel know that you realize that your are not actually a “friend” but a “target” of the propaganda machine?

Below is Letter 1 (Todd Kern) and Letter 2 (Jeffrey Hastie). If anyone has any others, please send them to be at [email protected]

==================

From: Todd Kern <[email protected]>

Date: January 18, 2018 at 4:53:07 PM EST

To: Todd Kern <[email protected]>

Subject: Update on unfolding events...

Friends:

Apologies for the blast EM, but since so many of you have reached out to me directly, I want to respond to recent events in our community.  While I am an elected member of the school board, let me be explicit that I send this note only as Todd, your friend, neighbor and fellow parent.  I am not speaking on behalf of the board or the school system - no individual board member is able to do that (for good reason - we only have governance authority as group).  That said, a few notes and updates from my perspective:

•Like all of you, I'm sure, I am deeply shaken by the tragedy of what's unfolded over the past week. How could we not be?

•Because the underlying issues are both complicated and moving quickly, there continues to be a swirl of information...some accurate and some not.  Please also keep in mind that legal privacy protections make it impossible to share some information that would otherwise be helpful.

•Based on the information I have access to, I'm confident that these events are receiving the fullest possible attention by district, school, board and city leadership.

•Obviously many open questions remain - about what exactly happened when, whether responses were appropriate/effective, what changes need to be made, etc. - and it's going to take some time to sort all out.

•No matter the substantive problems that need to be addressed, it's clear to me that we have a significant breakdown in timely/effective communication between school and home. As a parent, I'm frustrated and disappointed that 4+ hours elapsed between a "school on lockdown" alert and the next update.  It's simply unacceptable and added unnecessary anxiety to an already tense and scary situation.

•The process by which community concerns will be heard and addressed is not yet clear, but I am fully confident there is a shared commitment to do so.  Updates:

◦see attached joint statement if you have not already

◦there is a public forum being planned for Tues evening at the HS (had already been in the works) - deets to follow

◦this evening's regularly scheduled school board exec session (on other business) is being modified to create a forum for public comment.  Being held at CH council chambers (730p)

•Despite all the understandable fear and outrage from the community, I think it's important to stay solutions-oriented and focused on understanding and fixing problems that have been surfaced by recent events.  That's how I'm trying to engage.

•I am compiling a detailed list of the questions recent events have raised for me and that I will be pursuing.  I invite any of you to send your questions directly to me and I'll make sure they get added to the list.  I'm not going to guarantee a response to every question, but I do promise my very best to do so.

I will share updates as I have them.  Feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected] or 917.640.7608.  T

==================

From: Jeffrey Hastie <[email protected]>

Date: Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 5:32 PM

Subject: Recent incidents in the school district

To: Dayva Zaccharia <[email protected]>, Daniel Bases <[email protected]>, Akhil Bisaria <[email protected]>, Alex Bisaria <[email protected]>, Deborah Blatt <[email protected]>, Wendy Bloom <[email protected]>, Dominick & Judy DeRocco <[email protected]>, Rachel Destasio <[email protected]>, Philip & Sue DiBuono <[email protected]>, Amy Ecker <[email protected]>, Adam Egelberg <[email protected]>, Rob Feuer <[email protected]>, David & Sara Flemister <[email protected]>, David & Sara Flemister <[email protected]>, Alan & Jocelyn Forman <[email protected]>, Judy & Chris Fraioli <[email protected]>, James & Angelique Francis <[email protected]>, James & Angelique Francis <[email protected]>, Thomas Fritsch <[email protected]>, Dan Glusker <[email protected]>, Nelson Gomez <[email protected]>, John & Caroline Graves <[email protected]>, Pamela Grays <[email protected]>, Noel Greenstein <[email protected]>, Jeff Hammer <[email protected]>, Mark & Janet Keye <[email protected]>, Dmitry Khaykin <[email protected]>, Bernard & Angela Kyle <[email protected]>, Rachel Long <[email protected]>, Diane Luftig <[email protected]>, Linda Maier <[email protected]>, Michael Manley <[email protected]>, Bill & Ellen Miller <[email protected]>, Debbie Morris <[email protected]>, Robert Morris <[email protected]>, Bob & Lori Morrow <[email protected]>, Didier Munoz <[email protected]>, Andy Newman <[email protected]>, Joanne Orenstein <[email protected]>, Terry Ratigan <[email protected]>, Bradley Richmond <[email protected]>, Roland & Catherine Rogers <[email protected]>, Paul Salov <[email protected]>, Nancy Semenza <[email protected]>, Jodi Smart <[email protected]>, Michael Smart <[email protected]>, Mark & Aina Spellen <[email protected]>, howard stevens <[email protected]>, Noah Syken <[email protected]>, Albert Tarantino <[email protected]>, Ken & Lori Theobolds <[email protected]>, Mike Todd <[email protected]>

Friends:

Apologies for the blast EM, but since so many of you have reached out to me directly, I want to respond to recent events in our community.  While I am an elected member of the school board, let me be explicit that I send this note only as Jeffrey, your friend, neighbor, and fellow parent.  I am not speaking on behalf of the board or the school system - no individual board member is able to do that except the board president. That said, a few notes and updates from my perspective:

•Like all of you, I'm sure, I am deeply shaken by the tragedy of what's unfolded over the past week. How could we not be?

•Because the underlying issues are both complicated and moving quickly, there continues to be a swirl of information...some accurate and some not.  Please also keep in mind that legal privacy protections make it impossible to share some information that would otherwise be helpful.

•Based on the information I have access to, I'm confident that these events are receiving the fullest possible attention by district, school, board and city leadership.

•Obviously many open questions remain - about what exactly happened when, whether responses were appropriate/effective, what changes need to be made, etc. - and it's going to take some time to sort all out.

•No matter the substantive problems that need to be addressed, it's clear to me that we have a significant breakdown in timely/effective communication between school and home. As a parent, I'm frustrated and disappointed that 4+ hours elapsed between a "school on lockdown" alert and the next update.  It's simply unacceptable and added unnecessary anxiety to an already tense and scary situation.

•The process by which community concerns will be heard and addressed is not yet clear, but I am fully confident there is a shared commitment to do so.  Updates:

◦see attached joint statement if you have not already

◦this evening's regularly scheduled school board exec session (on other business) is being modified to create a forum for public comment.  Being held at CH council chambers (730p)

◦ There is a public forum being planned for Tues evening at the HS (had already been in the works) - details to follow

•Despite all the understandable fear and outrage from the community, I think it's important to stay solutions-oriented and focused on understanding and fixing problems that have been surfaced by recent events.  That's how I'm trying to engage.

I will provide updates as they come. 

J

Sent from my handheld device while not driving