White Plains School District administrators and parents harangued the Board of Education Monday evening at a routine public work session, demanding the Board reverse its decision to dismiss Superintendent of Schools, Saul Yanofsky. New Curriculum Head first to face revealing Board queries on consultant-use.
The Board of Education, after experiencing a weekend of private telephone calls to their residences, faced the music Monday evening and listened silently for a hour as key school administrators praised Saul Yanofsky and condemned the Board decision. Parent attendees were more vocal and pointed in their criticism. At one point, School Board President Donna McLaughlin was reported “close to tears.”
School President Donna McLaughlin, according to two CitizeNetReporter operatives, opened the routine work session on curriculum saying that she would allow time for some public comment by the district administrative heads, principals on the firing of Saul Yanofsky that was announced last Wednesday.
Nothing new as to what’s behind the sack. No wrong doing involved.
McLaughlin read a statement at the outset of the meeting which was described by our observer, as not shedding any more light on the reasons for the dismissal of the 12-year superintendent.
“Donna said that the district thanked Sal Yanofsky for all his work and contributions, the first time the Board has said thank you,” said Althea Fusco, who was in attendance. “Donna also said there was absolutely no impropriety or wrongdoing on Dr. Yanofsky’s part involved in the decision.”
She said that Hugh McKiernan, Principal of Mamaroneck Avenue School, and President of the Administrators and Supervisors Association (in the district) stood and spoke on behalf of the supervisors about Dr. Yanofsky. He praised Dr. Yanofsky’s work over the years, and she reports him saying that he had never heard of any criticism of Dr. Yanofsky over the years.
No “Path” by McLoughlin
Parents protested more vehemently. Fusco reports at one point McLoughlin, (reportedly the only board member who spoke to the irate audience), reached out to the angry parents to “travel with us down this new path together as we always have.”
This was met with the question from one parent, “But, what is that path?”
McLoughlin did not say anything in response as to what new directions the Board was planning to take that Dr. Yanofsky apparently by the board’s guarded comments was not willing to take.
Other comments during the one hour blast-session, Ms. Fusco reports, criticized language of the letter sent by the Board, announcing Dr. Yanofsky’s departure effective in June, 2002. The letter was criticised for its run-on sentences and for not officially thanking the superintendent. The board was accused of being “unethical” in dismissing the Superintendent without taking the matter up with the community.
What a Night to Present a Curriculum!
Meanwhile, what was new Assistant Suprintendent for Curriculum, JoAnna Maccario, thinking? She is a no-nonsense, pleasant and earnest woman, so typical of the “White Plains School Professional” who operates with the same intensity and commitment as her predecessor, Constance Iervolino. You could tell in the respective and fiesty way she answered questions and presented.
Here she is, on the job three months, fresh out of New York City, thinking she is taking a job in a stable school district with a great reputation, and here the parents and administrators are to a person blasting the Board of Education. It must have made her feel right at home.
In what was anticlimactic at best, Ms. Maccario presented a powerpoint presentation on the curriculum for the 2001-02 year. She will present the “Curriculum Show” again at the PTA Council meeting on Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 PM at Education House.
Clues Emerge as to the Board of Education New Era
WPCNR did not hear all the presentation, coming in through the glass doors of the Board meeting room (the front door to Education House was locked), however, we arrived.
The first comments made by Board of Education President McLaughlin to Ms. Maccario, were whether there were any “new initiatives or content?”
Maccario said, “it was a continuation of things we’ve been doing.”
Consultant Evaluation Asked.
McLaughlin also asked if the consultants contracted to conduct new teacher and staff development were doing what they were hired to achieve. Maccario responded they were working to get “something quantifiable” on the success of the consultants, and the success of student improvement based on consultant-derived methods and training procedures, saying “Quality of work is what we need.”
“Are we all on the same page?” McLaughlin asked.
“That’s what we’re starting to feel,” Maccario answered.
“I just want to be sure that the money were spending is meeting the need.” McLaughlin said casually.
Dorothy Schere made it pleasantly clear in Ms. Schere’s casual voice, “We just want to make sure whether or not it’s (the consultant-spending) is helping to teach, and how you go about evaluating these consultants.”
Maccario said she would devote a session with the Board to consultant evaluation, and said she would find “some way of us having a healthy conversation on this topic.”
Pre-K effectiveness inquiry.
Michelle Tratoros, another member of the board asked a question about Pre-K effectiveness and got an answer from Ms. Maccario that non-English speaking Pre-K-ers “at the end of six months, still had no English.”
Yanofsky a silent observer. No back-up this time.
Dr. Yanofsky in the past when his assistant superintendents would make presentations and run into questions from the Board of Education members, amplified the extenuating circumstances influencing the condition being called into question.
This Yanofsky trait of standing up for his people, endearing him to his staff, was obviously not coming from a clearly hurt and troubled Dr. Yanofsky, sitting to the left of Donna McLaughlin at the very end of the table.
Lewis Trippett a silent witness.
Our CitizeNetReporter operatives report Mr. Tippett, a member of the Board of Education at the time it voted to remove Dr. Yanofsky last April was in the audience.
They report he did not rise to aid Ms. McLaughlin in facing the shock and displeasure voiced by everyone in the audience.
Our operative said that Mr. Trippett was asked by those around him in the audience, how the board could dismiss Yanofsky, and Mr. Trippett responded, “Well, you don’t know the stories we heard.”
However, when pressed by persons around him for those stories, Mr. Trippett did not elaborate on what the board had been told.
Trippett the Trigger?
WPCNR has pieced together from three different sources that Mr. Trippett may be the driving force behind Yanofsky’s ouster. The feeling we encountered was there was rivalry over power between the two men.
Another source advised there is some unhappiness over two new principals in the district, and that contributed to the decision.
Another observer we spoke with over the weekend, pointed out Trippett was a very strong advocate of school standards testing. Yanofsky was critical of the way in which the New York State Education Department administered and conducted the tests. He consistently maintained that the state lack of liaison on test content resulted in misleading representation of district performances.
Dr. Yanofsky was an outspoken champion for other school districts seeking to alter the testing procedure. Another source said this was a direct challenge to the teachers by the Board of Education because the Board resented the latest teacher contract Yanofsky negotiated.
Budget Balooning a Concern?
A source tonight told WPCNR that Board members Ms. Schere, Ms. Tratoros, Mr. Stephen Sules, and Mr. Richard Bernstein were “quite conservative,” translating that into consistent concern for budget impact of special programs and special education. Yanofsky has championed special need after special need. Another source Friday said the 9% increase in the 01-02 budget shocked the board, and “was the last straw,” and contributed to their decision to end Dr. Yanofsky’s employment.
First Comments Reveal “New Path?”
Based on the first words heard from the board tonight in response to their new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, costs of performance-enhancing programs are going to be scrutinized “on the new path” Ms. McLaughlin is talking about.
The fact that the first comments to their new Assistant Superintendent, after her slide show, revolved right off the bat over the value of consultants for training teachers and evaluation of them, may be just coincidental.
To be fair, other comments may have been made of a positive nature by Board Members during the presentation of Ms. Maccario which we did not see.
“There’s No Money Here. It’s All Accounted For.”
However consider this exchange for what it is worth: Uneasy laughter came from the board when Ms. Maccario said that working for the New York City Board of Education, she could always find extra money for things and always put in for them.
She said this in a very humorous way. There was a chuckle from the board, and someone remarked, “well there’s no extra money here. It’s all accounted for.”
Nervous laughter was uttered by the seven Board Members.
Ms.Maccario got her request in anyway, saying she hoped for laptops for her staff to faciliate communication. Nobody laughed.
Petitions being circulated.
WPCNR has learned that parents have begun to circulate petitions through their neighborhoods today calling on the Board to reintstate Dr. Yanofsky. Petitions ask residents of the city who are eligible to vote to sign the following resolution:
Petition to Retain Saul Yanofsky
AS SUPERINTENDENT OF THE WHITE PLAINS CITY SCHOOLS
We, the undersigned, are appalled at the decision of the White Plains Board of Education not to renew the contract of our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Saul Yanofsky. While the Board of Education may technically have the right to make such a decision, they have a clear ethical obligation to represent the voters who elected them and to seek input from the community before making such a critical decision. We maintain that they have clearly failed in this obligation and that they move immediately to reverse this decision and offer Dr. Yanofsky the opportunity to remain as our Superintendent.
Teachers Union to Meet Tuesday at 4 to Consider Response
Jerry Gorski, President of the White Plains Teachers Association, commented to WPCNR on the Yanofsky denouement,
“I was shocked just like everybody else when I got the letter. I didn’t see it coming. We’re having a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) to consider the matter. It is a regularly scheduled meeting.”
Gorski said he had “no official response at this time.”
Gorski reported that, to his knowledge, there was no legal mechanism to overturn the Board decision. He said the Board of Education has “final say in all personnel matters, and that’s that.”
He said he spoke to the Board President (McLaughlin), and she said “no more to me, than was said in the letter” to the district.
Yanofsky has not confided in Gorski. He keeps it to himself.
Gorski remarked that the teachers “couldn’t believe it. They are angry. They did not like the letter, and the way it was stated.”
The WPTA President said Yanofsky was “going about his business.”
Our correspondents at the Education House meeting Monday said Yanofsky appeared genuinely touched by the spontaneous display of support.
Westchester Superintendents Shocked.
A person speaking to New Rochelle’s Superintendent of Schools said that that superintendent said they were shocked Yanofsky had been let go, “He’s the most respected superintendent in Westcheser County.”
Based on the outcry Monday night, he is also the most respected superintendent by the people who work for him and the parents who trust their children to him.
The Big Hurt.
Passing Dr. Yanofsky on the way out between the dignified columns of Education House, we noted Yanofsky talking with a companion in the shadows. We saw his withdrawn melancholy. The soft features of his face. The reticence, so unlike him, and wondered about the personal discipline it took to keep this hurt secret for six months.