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What Was the New Rochelle School Board Thinking with New Superintendent Contract?

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What Was the New Rochelle School Board Thinking with New Superintendent Contract?

August 28, 2011 - 16:51
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RichardOrganisciak.jpgWith little fanfare, the New Rochelle School Board extended Superintendent Organisciak’s employment contract with some interesting perks:

1. Healthcare coverage for life with New Rochelle taxpayers footing 100% of the bill when he retires.

2. A late model (that is, new) car for his personal and professional use. We will also pay for his gas except in the case of “extended” vacations.

3. 40 vacation and sick days and each year he can exchange up to 5 unused days for cash!

4. A restoration of his salary even though the Board broadly advertised that he would take a pay cut.

Worse, we just had an election which put some fresh faces on the Board, and yet the new contract was rushed through before the new members were entitled to vote. What were the motives of the Board and its outgoing members?

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“The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.” - John Galt

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Certainly is disgusting!! When does all this end!!!

Robert Cox's picture

As a candidate for BoE, I raised the issue during the PTA debate in May that the "final" budget did not include the pay freeze for Organisciak, Quinn, Massimo, and Korostoff that Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak had grandiloquently announced in March

Camille Edwards-Thomas, sitting in the front row, said loudly "That's a lie".

I continued to raise this issue to the point that Organisciak made a statement to the lapdog media that what he meant by taking a pay freeze during the run up to the May 2011 budget was that he would take a pay freeze in 2012. Within 6 weeks of making that statement, Organisciak and the outgoing BoE President orchestrated a pay increase. The purpose? To pre-empt a salary cap on school superintendents in New York as proposed by Governor Cuomo.

Having been publicly called a liar by Ms. Edwards-Thomas in front of about 100 people and on TV, I invite readers to see who the liars are and who has been telling the truth.

For those not familiar with Ms. Edwards-Thomas, she was hired by Organisciak three years ago for a six-figure job which, according to a statement by Richard Organisciak at a BoE meeting earlier this year, has never been defined. Her husband, Colin Thomas, was also a candidate for school board at the time. He worked either for or with Organisciak in the NYC school system. Thomas is related to the head of the NAACP New Rochelle education committee. If you are thinking that Edwards-Thomas was hired to buy off the African-American community in New Rochelle by giving a six-figure, do-nothing job created especially for her to a relative of the head of the NAACP education committee I am not going to debate you on that point.

You can count on one hand the number of times the head of the NAACP education committee has attended a BoE meeting in New Rochelle to stand up for African-American or other minority students, even when there was a BoE meeting in 2010 specifically to address the massive drop in test scores for Black/African-American students. While minority students are routinely given the short end of the stick, the NAACP Education Committee remains completely uninvolved in the public debate over the direction of our school system. When hundreds of parents showed up last spring to debate the busing issue, the NAACP Education Committee was AWOL.

I guess now we know the price one needs to pay to buy off the NAACP Education Committee in New Rochelle -- hire one do-nothing administrator for a made-up position and you can dump all over black students in New Rochelle and be praised for doing so. If you are Richard Organisciak and the New Rochelle Board of Education that is $100,000 well spent!

I think the recent lawsuit filed jointly by the NAACP and I believe the teachers union speaks volumes for the lack of foresight and constituent service that has befallen the NAACP. As you likely know this suit is all about Charter Schools and I raise it merely to point out the the NAAACP has literally turned into a stumbling block for advancement of children of color. Their motives are obscure and the little we know is spin. Many leaders of different segments of the African American community are in opposition to this foolishness and I am sure people of the quality of Couch and Canada would have volumes to say about the current New Rochelle decision.

We have a board largely consisting of lawyers, ex pedagogues and former PTA members who are known by the term, "helicopter parents." Many social scientists label such parents as being overly selfless or narcissistic insisting that nothing is too good for their child and yet, they continue to provide for the continuing downhill slide of the education of New Rochelle's children via their blind support and unwillingness to face up to the reality of what is in front of them.

Ms. Thomas should take a breath, lower her voice, and take stock of what is going on in this and other communities. What the board has done in terms of the Organisciak and other contracts is reprehensible. There is no logical or moral basis for it. We are rewarding people who manage a troubled and deteriorating school district and it is highly questionable whether this board possesses even a modicum of skills in the traditional areas of oversight and policy. This is what boards do! they do not obfuscate, stand idly while problems with expense management continue to abound nor do they permit the children under their direct stewardship to travel such a tenuous path in this competitive day and age.

I am sick of defending the fact that such comments are not indicative of the level of dedication and skill we find in the majority of classroom professionals. I have seen them, experienced them, and worked with them. They are fine! What they need is what an military force in combat needs --- skilled, dedicated, and skillful leadership. The finest rifleman can do little if central command is loadedd with self-interested, grasping, unthinking "me firsters" and that includes the all too loud voices of Ms. Thomas and others like her. Yes, I am sure if the questions are put to the right people in New York City, there was a working relationship between Mr.Thomas and Organisciak and speaking of him, I wonder if he gets some living allowance for travel, lodging, and related expenses given the fact that he does not seem to have taken residence in New Rochelle but still lives in Suffolk County.

Bob Cox has said it all over the past few years. It is time to continue his voice and to add another dimension to his call which to me is simple. How can New Rochelle and its Mayor, Council and Business Manager be so silent on the key area that defines city taxes, growth and development? It makes no sense. Put yourself in the position of a business or individual looking to move here --- given the facts and history of this school district, its costs to the taxpayer, its steadily deteriorating student results when compared to other municipalities in the County, and so forth, how can any responsible parent and taxpayer sit back and accept the status quo? It boggles the mind and I challenge every member of City government to step up and explain their lack of interest or involvement in this area and what they plan to do about this absence of diligence and care in 2011. A separation of powers is hardly a responsible or mature respond given the pre-requisite tax structure, the impact of any school district on city planning and development, and the clear moral imperative to put some form of affirmative and corrective action against this district. And, the same goes for the second most impactful planning area for growth and development and that is a vibrant and safe small business commercial base.

Yes, I am sick of both sides of the equation turning a blind eye to the people who put them into power. It is time to stop spinning and actually, to turn away from the "safe issues" that dominate our City fathers interest via Council meetings and otherwise, and get to the heart of the matter. You want to cut the tax base? THINK!

I am also tired of the apathy and shortsightedness of the influential parent groups be they in the higher net worth ares up North or anywhere else in the City. Are you so complacent that you mortgage the future of the children of New Rochelle as an entity? This school system is inexpertly led by a guy that had no viable future in New York City and is overseen by, God help us, lawyers, parents, and people who have been on this board well beyond their useful years. When Ms. Kelly ran the district, we experienced tax hikes, but she got results for these hikes and her mantra was to compare our kids to a much higher plane, Scarsdale, for example. Not now.... we are satisfied with a much lower standard of comparison and I don't even like to compare a child here against a child there. I want much much more for our kids and I have never had a child in the District and lived here for 40 or so years. I know many youngsters here.. black, white, brown, yellow... I don't care they all deserve the best we have in us and there are ways, responsible ways to ensure fast track kids remain on a fast track while the immigrant, developmentally challenged, slow learner, etc. get more than they are given now. We have a fine staff of teachers being led by political hacks in some cases, and, oh well, what is the difference. It is up to the City Fathers and the parents to make a change.

Bob Cox I ask you to continue your work in this area. You are uniquely qualified as well as gifted in knowing what it takes to bring a district up to speed. You have seen what goes on in other cities, you know how the labor unions are overly influential, you know the sweetheart arrangements between our administration and the unions.

I close with Organisciak's boast in the latest public handout via public mail how teachers have forfeited their raises during the next year or so. Yet this paragon of avarice and self-interest along with his management team have forfeited zilch.

I really close with the request of Bob to educate us about the benefits in the union contracts. Depending on what you read and when I am not sure how this fared in third party negotiations. I believe it was hardly mentioned in any briefing at budget time. It seems clear that this area was not touched in negotiations and I wonder how this board could be so uninformed about finances that it actually thinks deferral of salary increases is comparable to bargaining for union member contributions to health and welfare plans, Can the board be that out of touch? I am sure other salary increase opportunities are still in contractual existence such as step increase, tuition, and others. Benefits costs on the other hand, will not come down; the only solution is to relieve budgetary burdens (and so taxpayer burdens) by some contributory agreement). And, enough about what cannot be controlled. Cuomo will have to look at mandates and better minds than his on pension planning.

I am so tired of the inaction of our city fathers, the lack of foresight on the part of parents, and the total ineffectiveness of the school board. I would have taken a strike and let the Taylor law play its role rather than to deny one additional unemployed voter, senior citizen, or disenfranchised voter (such as someone who owns propery but has no chldren) one further day of pain. Shame on all of you who approved this travesty, for the out of place comments of people who are vested in the wrong outcomes, and mostly, for the parents who let this continue because of whatever foolishness enters their minds when Johnny or Mary head out to school.

God help us.

Mr. Gross,

This is a brilliantly written piece and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Actually, you took the words, rearranged them to make sense and formed a patently strong and concise commentary on the true state of affairs. I thank you. Honestly, I could not have said it better. Well done sir.

As someone who has been working in the NYC education system for 11 years, I can understand completely why the NAACP has joined the UFT to support a fight against Charter Schools. Charters have little to do with closing the gap, as they are for-profit. Many (90%+) Charter "leaders" (principals) set their own salaries. Many at $250,000 plus a year, while underpaying staff members. Need I add that a large number of Charter teaching staff is unlicensed and many of their schools have a large faculty turn-over rate.

Charters pop up in the most underprivileged areas because they know there is little input from families for a variety of reasons. They do not take the vast number of NYC's special education students, nor will they take on students who have recently been incarcerated. They receive large funds from both private organizations and tax payer money, but do not have to accept all of the tax payer's children. Regular public schools in NYC have zero say in who is enrolled in their schools or if they are allowed to stay.

It is an unfair and unequal education for many minority children and THAT is why the two have joined. Don't buy what you hear from pro-charter financed commercials and documentaries.

But you are right on- all the children in NR deserve the same quality education - not just those who live in a certain zip code. Our neighboring cities in Westchester would never tolerate the kind of garbage that goes on here. Why do we?

Nice job,great use of taxpayer money,the same taxpayer that will be enduring cuts due to layoffs and lower minimum staffing.While the majority of the city employees work without contracts and the city has no intention of negotiating,the rich get richer.What an absolute insult to every citizen and employee of the city.And on top of it all, you had to add that there are do nothing lackies on the payroll just because of an affiliation with a certain ethnic group.Man, I cant wait for what happened in New Haven to finally trickle down to New Ro.
Hey Chuck,how many relatives work in City Hall?Better yet I think they were hired during a hiring freeze.Wise up New Ro,the lunitics are really running the asylum.The time is now,vote for a change and some fiscal responsibility,not just talk of it.

Just wait until your tax bill comes in October.

Guaranteed to be more than the 4.5% increase that was approved by the voters in May. Last year's increase was 5.4% on a proposed 3.4% budget that the voters approved.

If we fired the top 20 earners (mostly administrators) from the BoE, we'd save over $5 million.

I'm taking bets on whether this years tax increase will be over 6% or under. My money's on over 6%, that's 3 times the rate of inflation, whose getting a raise of that amount? Why do we continue to elect the people we elect? They have a hard time finding their way out of a box as it is. This is surely going to NEGATIVELY impact the value of your home.

WE are to blame for this. WE keeping voting them in. WE are the suckers who keep getting fleeced. WE are the ones who are told "they" are the best money can buy. Until "WE" get fed up, this will continue. The Governor should pass legislation to to have the perks as part of the overall compensation package.

Tell me what the Superintendent has done that is sooooo great as to justify this?

Very, very, sad.

We're all to blame. We allow the school elections to be dominated by the PTAs and not by citizens. When only 10% of the electorate votes, what does that say to you?

To me it says, most people don't care and then we end up with what New Rochelle now has, an bloated expensive system that caters to a few but misses the mark for most.

Robert Cox's picture

I raised this issue at the BoE meeting last night: http://bit.ly/nZ5cPQ

BoE President Chrisanne Petrone denied the story and said that all employees, including Organisciak got a pay freeze.

I wrote a follow up email requesting a copy of the contract (under FOIL) and more precise explanation because you cannot square this article and her statement. Someone has it wrong and I would like to know who that is.

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