Ochser, Architect of Faculty, Renews Contract.

11 O’Clock All News Final, Filed 2/11/02 11:30 PM EST Updated 2/12/02 11:20 PM: The Board of Education voted to renew Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Dr. Linda Ochser, for three years through September, 2005, Monday evening, retaining the architect of the School District faculty review system during the Saul Yanofsky years.

Dr. Linda Ochser was praised by Dr. Saul Yanofsky Monday evening at the regular February meeting of the Board of Education, as the Board renewed her contract. Yanofsky said she was the senior member of the Superintendent’s Cabinet having served since 1989.

The outgoing Superintendent said that, in her dozen years at the faculty helm, Dr. Ochser had designed the system of committees, involving “stakeholders” of parents, teachers, labor, community and school-based groups that deal with personnel and policy issues in the schools, “bringing definite perspectives.” The Superintendent credited Ochser for having createdd “most thorough processes” for reviewing teachers for tenure, and unique evaluation forms and procedures for that review.



FACULTY “GENERAL MANAGER” INKED FOR ANOTHER THREE YEARS: Dr. Linda Ochser, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources will be with the City School District for another three years. She is shown in the front row Monday night at Education House, as Dr. Yanofsky announced her retention. Dr. Ochser’s familiarity with District personnel stabilizes the district as it faces “a changing of the guard” in faculty ranks and at the top. On Monday, fifteen teachers representing 500 years of experience were announced as retiring. Dr. Joseph Casbarro, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services is also pictured.

Photo by WPCNR


While the retention of Dr. Ochser was good news, the Board accepted the retirement of Dr. Barbara Gruen, Director of Guidance Services for the District effective next October 2, 2002, and the resignation of Karen Kettlewell, Food Service Director effective March 1.

Gruen praised as “Total Guidance Professional.

Dr. Barbara Gruen, Director of Guidance Services until next October, was lauded for her fifteen years as head of the guidance program, which has seen the number of counselors districtwide go from 12 to 18 counselors.

Yanofsky praised her for the “painstaking” way she selectes counselors, her knowledge of colleges, and her ability to work with students and their families, “appropriately and sensitively, linking kids to resources within the community.” He said Dr. Gruen was “a leader within her profession.”


DIRECTOR OF GUIDANCE SERVICES,Dr. Barbara Gruen, listens to Dr. Yanofsky and Dr. Casbarro recognize her contributions to the school district. Gruen will stay in her position through Oct.1, 2002.
Photo by WPCNR

Dr. Joseph Casbarro, Assistant Superintent for Pupil Services, said Ms. Gruen had three charactertistics which distinguished her “body of work,” her compassion, her advocacy, and her professionalism. He said that in the twenty years he’d known her, “she exemplified what it means to be a professional.”

Food Service Director leaves for Directorship of National Food Service Organization

Dr. Yanofsky said Ms. Kettlewell had turned around the District Food Service program since 1993, the year she joined the District. Yanofsky said she turned a program that was running a deficit of $150,000 a year, to a program that now has a $725,000 surplus (built up from 1997).

“Karen has proved you can feed children good food and make money largely by marketing food services to agencies, community groups, camps and nursery schools in the community.”

Richard Lasselle, speaking Tuesday evening, clarified his statement of Monday night, saying $425,000 of this surplus was going to be used to pay for costs of the new food service facility at White Plains High School including kitchen equipment and cafeteria tables.

The Rochelle Group, Ltd., of Congers, New York has been hired to manage the Food Service operation, taking over for Ms. Kettlewell on March 1. The group found Ms. Kettlewell for the district nine years ago, and will conduct a search for viable candidates for the position, Dr. Yanofsky said.

The group will supply an interim director who will intern a week with Ms. Kettlewell before taking over her duties when she leaves. Rochelle Group will be hired at a cost not to exceed $9,100 a month through June 30 of this year. Part of this cost will be paid for by the funds allotted for Ms. Kettlewell’s salary. (The Rochelle Group has a website on White Plains Links. Simply Click on White Plains Links and go to “Schools” to get to their site.)

Superintendent Yanofsky said Ms. Kettlewell tightened up management and had designed a system that will continue in White Plains for “years to come.” He said she also was leaving “a wonderful legacy,” in deigning the new food service facility at the White Plains High School. Dorothy Schere, Board Member, recalled when Ms. Kettewell was hired, “I honestly couldn’t believe she could make money (with the food service).”

District resolves to lobby Albany to repeal Wicks Law.

Richard Lasselle, Assistant Superintendent for Business, explained a resolution the Board of Education passed advocating Albany lawmakers allow School Districts across the state to be able to choose one contractor for construction projects over $50,000.

Currently, the law on the books dating back to 1912, requires districts outside New York City to hire four different contractors: a general contractor, a heating a ventilating system contractor, electrical contractor, and a plumbing contractor.

School superintendents across the state have determined that this arrangement doubles the time it takes to complete major school projects and adds to the expense of the project. The superintendents urge citizens to write Albany by March 1 suggesting repeal of the Wicks Law.

Lasselle said there are often disputes among contractors that prolong the jobs. It happened in White Plains in 2001, when the district lost 17 working days due to wildcat work stoppages.

The two-page resolution asks Albany lawmakers to repeal the Wicks Law, allowing a one-contractor job. Lasselle expressed optimism that this year Albany lawmakers seem receptive to some change.

Fifteen Teachers retire

In a news item that shows the fortunate advantage of the Board of Education retaining Dr. Ochser, the Board of Education announced the retirement of the fifteen teachers. Yanofsky noted these men and women represented 500 years of teaching experience within the district:

Brenda Davis, School Social Worker, George Washington School; Robert DePrato, Foreign Language Teacher, High School; Susan Hirsch, Elementary Education Teacher, Church Street School; Michael Levine, Math, High School; Henry Miller, Physical Education Teacher, Mamaroneck Avenue School; Jeffrey Miller, Physical Education Teacher, MS-Highlands and High School; Beth Post, Learning Facilitator, Post Road School; Patricia Rita-Woodman, Elementary Education Teacher;Nancy Rodriguez, ESOL Teacher, High School; Regina Setikas, Special Education Teacher, MS-Highlands; Thomas Stevens, Elementary Education Teacher, MS-Highlands; Carolyn Tokson, Learning Facilitator, High School; and Steven Toovell, Art Teacher, Mamaroneck Avenue School.

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Free Agent Deadline:Little League Late Registration CLOSES Feb 23.

From White Plains Little League: Children 5 to 15 wanting to play Little League Baseball must return their personal applications (which you should have received by now), to the Little League, postmarked no later than February 23 in order to play this Spring. Children not knowing whether they will make a middle school team or not, should sign up. Money will be refunded if you choose not to play.

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White Plains News Links Continue to be Added Daily

White Plains New Links: Aficianados of White Plains CitizeNetReporter should be advised that WPCNR is adding “News Links” daily. By clickingon White Plains Links in the upper left column of this page, you will be taken to our roster of websites that can provide more information for you on the stories we cover. Today for example, we have added WestchesterARC. Last week we added a number of companies involved in negotiations with Louis Cappelli. Use the White Plains Links!

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Bradley: Decision with Statewide Implications Looms at Court of Appeals.

6 O’clock Lightning Edition, Filed 2/8/02, UPDATED 10:15 AM EST Saturday: New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals granted the Glen Hockley Motion for Leave to Appeal the Appellate Court-ordered citywide election Friday. The court agreed to hear oral arguments on Mr. Hockley’s case on Thursday, February 14 at the Court of Appeals, 20 Eagle Street in Albany. Attorneys Adam Bradley, representing Mr. Hockley and Jeffrey Binder and John Ciampoli, representing Larry Delgado will present arguments at 2 PM. The case was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved back on the Calendar at the request of Mr. Delgado’s attorneys who are arguing a case in Manhattan Tuesday.

Hockley gets the good news from WPCNR

Glen Hockley first learned of the court decision Friday morning in the Galleria Parking garage when WPCNR broke the story to him. Mr. Hockley’s first reaction: “I’m very pleased, just very pleased, we’ll just see where it goes at this point.”


GLEN HOCKLEY GETS THE GOOD NEWS: Candidate Glen Hockley, the “Councilman in Waiting” receiving the news from the Court of Appeals that they are going to hear his case. WPCNR personally broke the news to Mr. Hockley Friday morning.
Photo by WPCNR


Asked if he had made any plans for any subsequent campaign, (he has sent out fund-raising letters to Democratic District Leaders), Hockley said, “Well, if we have a campaign, we may not have one. I’m certainly ready for a campaign. I think our campaign will be victorious that’s what I feel.”

WPCNR asked Hockley if he felt the Court of Appeals decision was a vindication of Adam Bradley’s legal strategy, Hockley said,

“I think what we’ve been doing is terrific. He’s been a tremendous attorney, and excellent.”

Asked if there was any time Bradley had lost heart at all during the process, Hockley said of his attorney, “ Not at all…not at all.”

WPCNR asked Hockley if Mr. Bradley was confident all the way.

Hockley didn’t hesitate, saying “Absolutely, he’s the best. He’s the best election law attorney that I have heard about, that I know about.”

Bradley calls it a case with statewide impact.

Interviewed in his offices at 140 Grand Street in White Plains Friday afternoon, Adam Bradley, Hockley’s attorney was passionate in his belief in the importance to the state of the Hockley appeal:

“I’m obviously pleased that they recognized there were very important legal issues being raised, that they were certainly worthy of the highest court of the state of New York making determinations as to what the rule of law in the state of New York is.”


ADAM BRADLEY SEES HISTORIC RAMIFICATIONS: Glen Hockley’s attorney, Adam Bradley, in his offices on Grand Street in White Plains, discussed why he appealed the Appellate Court decision.
Photo by WPCNR


We asked Bradley about whether he had argued before the Court of Appeals before: “I’ve been before them on oral argument on leave applications. I’ve not argued before them on the issues themselves before a full panel.”

Bradley described the Court of Appeals experience: “It was nice. I enjoy arguing before the Appellate Division and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy arguing before the Court of Appeals. It will be a challenge. They’re obviously experienced jurists. That’s why they are there.”

Not just a little White Plains Case.

WPCNR asked about the significance of the Hockley appeal, Bradley responded,

“What I’m most pleased about is that there is a recognition by the highest court in the state of New York that we’re dealing with very important legal issues that deal with the rule of law that transcend election law cases, that deal with all cases.

That there needs to be something said by the highest court, and that’s fine. Whatever they decide is going to be what the law of the state is, and that’s a good thing.”

We asked why, when the Appellate Court ruled for a citywide election, (that Mr. Bradley had argued for in his first appeal,) did he take the appeal higher to the Court of Appeals.

Bradley said it was a matter of principle: “Because obviously, I was pleased that the Appellate Court recognized that if there is to be any remedy here it should be a citywide election. That is something I felt was very important. Something I argued, as you know before the trial judge.

The reason why there’s an appeal is because, this case as I’ve indicated, has tremendous ramifications well beyond election law in this state. It has ramifications that deal with the civil procedure rules in the State of New York on all legal cases filed in this state.”

A look beyond the election result.

Bradley feels the appeal has statewide significance: “I think it’s very important the Court of Appeals set the precedent, make a determination of whatever the rule of law is going to be in this state. Certainly in the past, the many errors that were made in this case have been determined to be fatal errors in many other cases, and in cases where there were certainly very equitable claims that were dismissed for very similar reasons as to the issues that are occurring here.”

Bradley rests his case: “I have no problem if the Court of Appeals wants to change the precedent that has been set in these types of cases, that instead of a standard that requires strict conformity, they want to create a standard that allows for some equitable considerations. I am following the precedents that have been set.

And certainly knowing that many cases in the state of New York have been dismissed for the exact same reasons that there are problems in this case, leads me to believe that the Court of Appeals (by agreeing to hear the Hockley case), recognizes that they need to make a determination as to what that standard should be for all lawyers and all litigants practicing in the State of New York.

The issues clearly are not trivial, what’s clear is, nobody can suggest that the issues being raised are in any way trivial….the highest court of the State of New York the equivalent of the Supreme Court on federal issues in Washington, has determined these are issues warrant their insight and input on determining what the law in this state is going to be. That in and of itself, is important.

This is not a case that is just some minor little issues in the City of White Plains. I’m very pleased that that that’s what’s going to occur here.”

Westchester 1982 case threw out far more “numbers anomalies” than one district.

WPCNR asked when do you look at an unusual result in an election district and examine a machine under election law? Bradley said that there had be more argument for a voting machine examination than simply that you think the result is too low. He uses a case in Westchester in 1982 involving, ironically a candidate named Bradley:

“The Bradley case was a countywide election” Bradley recalled for us, “candidate lost by 45 votes, countywide. There were anomalies in districts throughout the county as there always is. Candidate comes in, says, ‘Hey, I need to know what’s going on here I’m only down 45 votes countywide.’ Substantially closer than this case. (The candidate said) ‘I can point to not one district, but 30 districts where there’s clearly unusual numbers anomalies that don’t look right.’ The court said that’s not enough. Case dismissed.”

Larry Delgado trailed by 47 votes after the canvas was completed on Election night, and claims to have lost at least 100 votes as a result of the jammed voting machine.

Bradley advised WPCNR that Delgado’s attorney John Ciampoli has “misconstrued” his brief dealing with a motion for a declaratory judgment when Ciampoli said Bradley was claiming they were denied a jury trial at the trial court level.

Jeffrey Binder, Larry Delgado’s attorney, said he and John Ciampoli, Delgado’s other election law specialist were “ready,” for the oral argument.

For information on the Court of Appeals, its judges, and directions to Albany, CLICK ON WPCNR’s “White Plains Links” and go to “Courts in the News.”

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Cappelli’s Choice: Gets 90 Days to Make a Deal. McMansions Passed!

Milkman’s Matinee News, Updated with Pictures, 2/8/02, 8:30 AM: The Common Council voted unanimously to give Louis Cappelli “90 Days To Deal” for a hotel or a major retailer Thursday night. The developer has his choice of both deals to pursue.

The Council also completed the historic land-use rezoning of the city, passing the “anti-McMansions” Zoning Ordinance.The issue of nonconforming homes in the outer neighborhoods will be further studied by the Planning Department.

Perils of Cappelli

Louis Cappelli, put in his third appearance at the Common Council in 4 days, Thursday evening, with a sobering update on the condition of the financial markets.

The volatility of the financial climate has prompted him to request a precedent-setting council approval of letting him choose his best configuration for the City Center. The council resolution made official a deal hammered out last Friday before the Urban Renewal Agency and constructed by Edward Dunphy, Corporation Council, Monday.


SUPER DEVELOPER GETS 90 DAYS TO WOO SEARS, WOW THE RITZ. Louis Cappelli showcases thumbnails of two ways he could take the City Center: 5 Floors or 4 Floors to the Common Council Thursday evening.
Photo by WPCNR


The resolution allows Mr. Cappelli 90 days to negotiate either a major retail tenant for the second floor of the city center, (Sears Indoor Store or a shadowy new retailer). If Mr. Cappelli cannot make Sears happen, he can eliminate the second floor retail footage in favor of a potential hotel deal.

Should a hotel deal fall into place, one floor (175,000 square feet of retail) would be eliminated from the City Center, and the enticing Ritz-Carlton Hotel worked into the Martine Avenue side of the Center.

In this scenario, Mr. Cappelli would come back to the Council with the hotel design for approval. Mr. Cappelli already has a preliminary design of how the Ritz Carlton might look, but he feels it is premature to have it photographed.

The City Center Lineup Today

Mr. Cappelli appeared tentative, concerned, highly respectful to the Council, but undaunted as he made his plea to the council to give him 90 days to shape the City Center configuration.

The Super Developer started off with an update, confirming again that he has the Target Store, Circuit City, and National Amusements signed to lease agreements.

He reports Legal Seafood will be inked to a lease Friday. He is in lease negotiations with Barnes & Noble and final lease negotiations with California Pizza Kitchen, Stir Crazy, and Bertucci’s, an Italian restaurant, “so all the restaurants (on the first floor street level) will be filled out.”

Cappelli is also confirming, “We’re talking to Bally’s and Equinox health clubs.” Asked where they would go in the project, Cappelli said it all depends what happens on “the spec floor.”

A two-week closing begins Monday

Cappelli, showcased the 1-inch thick “Closing Checklist,” assuring the Common Council that his three financing partners, CIBC, ULLICO and a third bank were in place to deliver the $150 million in financing. Cappelli has already spent $40 million of his own money, and continues to bankroll the pace of construction at the rate of $1 million a week, he said. Steel has been ordered and will arrive on May 25.


THE HANDS OF CAPPELLI hover over a 1-inch thick sheaf of “Closing Checklist Papers” last night.
Photo by WPCNR


Cappelli said his bank consortium would not approve the financing on the project if it had two speculative floors. The “man who makes things happen” said the banks needed the Council approval that the project would go ahead with either 5 floors or 4, prompting his creative request for an “either/or” approval from the Council.

Council partners with Cappelli – and he wants it all—Sears and Hotel.

William King enthusiastically nodded his assent to the 90 day negotiating window. Rita Malmud kept all in suspense before saying she would vote for the 90 days to give Mr. Cappelli “flexibility” to close his best deal.


CAPPELLI MAKES HIS PLAY, awaits the Common Council verdict last night. Clockwise, from top, Cappelli, Councilperson Rita Malmud, Councilman Roach, Mayor Delfino, Councilman Robert Greer, and Councilman William King. The Council broke new ground to give Cappelli carte blanche to make his best deal and satisfy his banking syndicate.
Photo by WPCNR

Greer provokes an intriguing answer

Robert Greer, asked an interesting question – what would happen if Cappelli was able to sign both the Sears Indoor Store and the Ritz-Carlton. Cappelli said he would then be using “the air rights” over the city parking garage which he purchased. This comment indicates that he is trying for the best of both worlds: the complete retail and a hotel.

Councilman Tom Roach said he was willing to consider the reduction of one floor a minor site plan amendment. Mr. Greer said, “I have no problem with it.”

McMansions Gets Done: A Habel Achievement.

Susan Habel, Commissioner of Planning who presided over the city rezoning the last three years, reported that the McMansions zoning ordinance addressing overbuilding in the outer neighborhoods was now completed as a result of the Council vote Thursday evening, commenting,

“I’ m pleased they passed it. It’s something the Council’s been looking at for approximately a year. A concern was raised by one resident (in the meeting) with respect to rebuilding on a non-conforming property, and that is not an issue directly related to these amendments it relates to another section of the zoning ordinance which the Mayor and Council have asked us to examine, and we will be examining it.”

Time for an FAR Check.

Habel said the final zoning ordinance passed yesterday evening,

“addresses the changes that were recommended in the City Comprehensive Plan. We have now completed with the exception of some changes that will be coming on the environmental recommendations, we have completed the land use recommendations of the comprehensive plan for zoning changes.”

As of 6:45 PM Thursday evening, Habel, relaxing in her office, reported with a satisfied grin that “the FARs are now in effect, yes, and coverage, changes in coverage creating a main building coverage and the side yard changes are now in effect as a result of the council’s action tonight.”

Mayor hails completion of the land-use rezoning. Says Cappelli has “heart in this project.”

Mayor Delfino, the last to leave City Hall, said, “The zoning ordinance we passed tonight is a very very important issue as it releates toprotecting the integrity of our neighborhoods. I’d have to say the Planning Department probably went to about 14 neighborhoods to redo these planning revisions and it was well-received. There’s always a small house here and there that faces and issue, but if we have to we’ll resolve them individually, but in turn this will be a great great difference for the city of White Plains. It will really protect the integrity of the neighborhoods.”

Asked to comment on the “perils of Cappelli,” the Mayor said, “I think as Mr. Cappelli said, things are changing every day. Fortunately, he has his heart on this project being completed, and I’m glad the council went along with his proposal tonight.”

Dunphy calls “Cappelli’s Choice” a precedent.

As we walked out of City Hall after the historic deliberations, WPCNR encountered Edward Dunphy and his legal entourage.

We asked the Corporation Counsel, crafter of the 90-Days to Deal measure, if the council acceptance of the elimination of one floor as a minor site plan amendment and the 90 Days to Deal measure was a precedent.

Without hesitation, Dunphy, walking swiftly West down Main Street away from City Hall, grinned and said, “It’s a precedent. We’re breaking new ground here. But, we’ll persevere. We always do.”

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Bucks for Buses, More Staff, Benefits Drive 8.8% Hike, $129MM Budget

Milkman’s Matinee News Filed 2/7/02 2:15 AM EST UPDATED 1:30 PM EST:The Annual Budget Committee learned Wednesday night the School District is looking at an 8.8% increase in the 2002-2003 school budget, pending anticipated trimming by the citizens committee.

The 02-03 projected budget is now sitting on $129,184,227 up $10,597,541 from the 2001-2002 expenditures of $118,686,686.

Salaries make up 60% ($78MM) of the new $129MM “Cabinet Budget.” Salaries for proposed new staff and scheduled step increases for present staff, make up $5.8MM, of the $10.6MM year-to-year increase.

Transportation (buses) is seen increasing at least $1.454MM or 13% of the increase. Benefits, pegged to increase $3.18MM, constitute 30%.

Yanofsky identifies the vulnerabilities

Situations driving the budget are the negotiation of a whopping new bus transportation contract yet to be determined. There is a sharp increase in fringe benefits, and need for sustained upgrading of curriculum and specialized staff. Staff growth is necessary to upgrade state assessment test performances and enable students to pass new Regents requirements for graduation at the high school, Yanofsky said.


YANOFSKY WRAPS IT UP FOR THE ANNUAL BUDGET COMMITTEE WEDNESDAY NIGHT as the Board of Education, in background watches him introduce a budget to the community for the final time. Yanofsky was optimistic more cuts could trim the projected increase. He said “Response to the state mandates has been extremely costly for us,” and that “There’s not an adequate safety net for kids who turned out to be in the middle of this.” (the institution of Regents exams).
Photo by WPCNR

Yanofsky and Lasselle make their case

Dr. Saul Yanofsky, Superintendent of Schools and Richard Lasselle, Assistant Superintendent for Business, took turns unveiling the new preliminary budget to the 30-member Annual Budget Committee of White Plains residents. The distinguished gallery is drawn from the PTA, Rotary, League of Women Voters, city organizations and concerned citizens.


LIKE SUMMERALL AND MADDEN, Richard Lasselle teamed with Dr. Yanofsky to present a $129MM school budget for 2002-03. Lasselle listens to a question from a Board of Education member.
Photo by WPCNR


The lucid two hour and 10 minute presentation, identified the money pressures dictating the increase which is 1.9% more than the 7.9% increase overwhelmingly approved by voters last year by a 4 to 1 margin.

ABC given a challenge

The Superintendent expressed hope that the committee would give the District ideas on where they could cut the budget to bring the budget down to last year’s level of increase. Yanofsky urged Committee members to give feedback on what areas they wanted more information and understanding on before next Tuesday, and to bring questions to the next session of the ABC on Tuesday evening, February 12 at 7:30 PM.

Increased staff to raise performance makes up half the increase.

Yanofsky said that before the ABC convened, there had already been three go-rounds by the Superintendent’s Cabinet of Assistant Superintendents on December 5, January 7 and January 9. The superintendent and the Board and the school leaders were able to bring down the budget increase from an original 11.3% hike, down to the 8.8% level. They eliminated 17.85 new Certified teaching positions and 10 new Classified positions to bring the budget down $812,155 as of Wednesday evening. Now it was the ABC’s turn to guide them where to prune and shape the budget next.

Enrollment swells at high school.

The new budget is designed to deal with natural enrollment increases at White Plains High School as the school population bulge, now in the Middle School, works its way into the high school. Because part of that population came in before the new state regents standards were instituted, the school district is having to provide increased special services to bring that population up to standard to pass the Regents examinations in Math, Science, English, American and World History required by the State Education Department for a high school diploma in “2 to 3 years.”

Addressing the Regents Challenge for Students Not Ready for Regents Time

Yanofsky said the district fears many high school students may not pass the Regents the first time they take them, raising the spectre of the student population swelling with fifth year high school students staying in school to get their Regents diploma. The new budget now adds 5 new high school teachers in Science, and a combination of Social Studies, Reading,ESOL/Psychologist, Special Education and Foreign Language to work with at-risk students to them Regents-ready.

The Middle School at Highlands is scheduled to add a third eighth grade team by adding 1 new ELA teacher and 2 Special Support Teachers and a parttime psychologist to upgrade skills in eighth grade students whom teachers identify as not ready for high school level work. Eastview will receive a new ESOL teacher and 2 new teachers in the ELA/Science/Social Studies fields to bring down the average of Eastview classes to the 24-25 student level.

Staffing increased to cut Special Education out-of-district costs;
address achievement skills in grades K to 8

In the elementary schools, the District plans to institute a “Passages” program to keep special education students within the district, saving on BOCES tuition. Hiring one teacher and an aid to conduct the Passages Program across the elementary schools is less expensive than paying BOCES $45,000 per student to educate special education students out of district. Three Instructional Specialists and one occupational therapist are scheduled to be hired to serve in all the Kindergarten to 8th grade schools to provide special services to students needing to strengthen skills to reach appropriate grade level.

In Civil Service Employee Union positions, the District proposes adding full-time security aides at the two middle schools and three teaching assistants for technology support in the elementary schools and three new custodians.

A total of 34.4 new positions are projected in the new budget at a cost of $2,231,817.

It will be the Annual Budget Committee’s unenviable task to pick and choose which newly proposed positions should be kept and which cut as the budget process moves forward. A budget including no staff increases was also submitted. When you keep staff levels as they are now, (adding no staff at all), the 2002-03 budget still increases 7.0% to $126,952,410. This is because the budget is taking hits in other places.

Cost of bus transportation out of control

The cost of Transportation is projected to rise $1,453,899 to $6,592,890, up 28%. This increase is unavoidable because White Plains Bus Company informed the district they could no longer serve the district under their present contracts. The district has put out Requests for Proposals to a number of bus companies and has been shocked by the numbers coming back. Dr. Yanofsky said he would provide more detail on this at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Fringe benefits Rise Sharply.

Dr. Yanofsky, in his patient lucid, “what can we do style,” told the sober audience Fringe Benefits which are the second largest slice of the budget pie were projected to go up $3MM or 17.6% due to increased health care premiums (“It’s killing us,” Yanofsky said).

Another factor driving up the benefits bill is the lowered return on state pension funds. Yanofsky said the state is now billing the district 4% of $45 million, an extra $1.8 Million to pay the cost of district pensions.

Lasselle explains new state pension payments to WPCNR.

WPCNR interviewed Richard Lasselle Thursday afternoon to clarify the matter of the new pension payments required by the state. Mr. Lasselle told us that in recent years, though the School District is required to fund pensions based on the salaries of teachers and district employees, the District did not have to contribute to the state.

Lasselle said in the investment markets of the late 90s, the state was able to sustain its portfolio return on investment so well that it did not require school districts to replenish the pension fund.

Now, Lasselle says the weak investment market has forced New York State to require replenishment from the School District.

“This year is different than that,” Lasselle said. “ Because of the budget shortfall, the state is passing on the costs to organizations. A new expenditure we had not had to budget before.”

Lasselle amplified Yanofsky’s statement on the pension payment of Wednesday night. Lasselle reported the district is obligated to make a payment to the state of 1-1/2%, approximately $705,000 to the Teachers Retirement System, based on the $47 million in White Plains teacher salaries. There is also a 4% payment of $800,000 to the Employees Retirement System, based on the $20 million in White Plains district employee salaries, creating an increase in benefits costs of $1,505,000, about $300,000 less than what was said last night.

Hope for a cut to the 7.6% Level

Wrapping up the evening, Dr. Yanofsky offered encouragement to the Committee, reporting that at the first Budget Committee meeting last year, the budget was looking at a 9.1% increase and it wound up being eased down to 7.9%. He noted at at 8.8% now, the increase is just about where it was last year, and if the same process were to happen it would put the finished budget at 7.6% “which might be where we want to be.”

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Hockley Claiming He Was Denied a Jury Trial in His Appeal

Drivetime News Caravan, Filed 2/6/02 3 3:00 PM EST:The Glen Hockley appeal raises a new issue as a basis for appeal. Today the Hockley matter of the ongoing District 18 Machine Jam Case awaits a Court of Appeals evaluation as to whether New York’s highest court will review his case. The brief states they were denied a jury trial at the Trial Court level where Judge Francis Nicolai ruled for a continued election in District 18, in addition to raising the familiar procedural matters as basis for denying a new election.
Another new wrinkle that Hockley’s brief raises in his appeal cites one of John Ciampoli’s former cases as evidence that the Delgado camp should have filed a new index number before filing their second step in obtaining an examination of the voting machine in District 18. (John Ciampoli is Larry Delgado’s specialist in election law).

Ciampoli explained to WPCNR that the Hockley brief simply lifted part of his former case to show that the Delgado camp should have filed for a new index number. Ciampoli said this was taking a case out of context, because this case involved absentee ballots and was not as time-sensitive as the events on Election Night, 2001 in White Plains.

If you recall, results did not look right after District 18 totals came into Republican Headquarters, and the Delgado camp filed for impoundment of the voting machines suspecting an election machine had jammed on the Delgado line. Attempts to get the court to examine the machine were contested by the Hockley camp, as not being allowed under election law.

When Judge Nicolai refused to deny an examination of the machine, and ordered it, the machine was found to have a jammed Delgado counterwheel. On the basis of “having identified a wrong, the court is forced to manufacture a remedy,” Judge Nicolai ordered a continuation of the election in District 18. The Hockley camp sought a stay from the Appellate Court in Brooklyn to stop this election from taking place.

The Appellate Court refused Mr. Hockley’s appeal by a 3-1 decision. On Thursday of last week, January 31, Mr. Hockley appealed to the Court of Appeals. This is where the case stands today.

Ciampoli said Wednesday regarding his response brief to Court of Appeals on the Hockley matter, that “We replied at this point, and nothing else is in play.”

Ciampoli also said that the jury trial denial piece to the appeal was strange, because according to the practice of law you cannot use an issue as a basis for appeal, if you did not ask for that relief at a lower court level. Mr. Ciampoli says at no time did Mr. Bradley ask for a jury trial in Judge Nicolai’s court.

Two Week Wait Possible.

Asked how fast the Court of Appeals might move on deciding to take up the case, Ciampoli thought two weeks at the latest before the Court of Appeals would make the review-no review decision.

Thursday, February 7 was the date when Judge Nicolai, Administrative Judge of the New York State Supreme Court, Ninth District, had set to bring the parties back to set an election date. Unless the Court of Appeals rejects the case today, the parties will not reconvene.

Ciampoli said the Hockley brief prepared by Bradley recites his previous arguments on procedural issues. Ciampoli reviewed the events in question on Election Night: “He (Adam Bradley) managed to convince one (Court of Appeals) Judge that the case had technially concluded after the machine impoundment proceeding (requiring a new index number). But, he cannot produce anything (document) from Judge Perrone (the Judge ordering the impoundment) that says the (impoundment) case was concluded. I do not see how you can end the impoundment until you get results of the recanvas (to check for reporting errors). All he (Bradley) has is his letter to Binder about a court appearance.”

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Opening Night for School Budget Process

Hign Noon News, Filed 2/6/02 11:30 AM EST: The citizens’ Annual Budget Committee begins deliberations on the 2002-2003 School Budget this evening at Education House. The meeting begins at 7:30 PM.
The ABC Committee meeting brings together 30 citizens, 16 from the PTA Council, Area 4 Realtors, service clubs, neighborhood associations and the Council of Ministers. The balance are volunteers or selections made by the Board of Education.

This year’s ABC members are: Dianne Averill, Carl Barrera, Kevin Barry, Peter Bassano, Ann Bernstein, Frank Cantatore, Al Dold, Eli Fritz, Octavio Gomez, Michael Graessle, Nikki Gray, John Harrington, Marilyn Harris, Libby Hollahan, Peter Jensen, Garry Klein, Beth La Torre, Judy Lee, Reverend Odinga Maddox, Melissa Morello, Eileen Oleet, Louis Petralia, Marc Pollitzer, Jonathan Rodney, Sarina Russell, Ronald Shakeridge, Betsy Steward, Robert Tuck, Gloria Vasquez, and Nick Wolff.

Tonight we expect to see the outgoing Superintendent of Schools Saul Yanofsky present the first go-through on the new budget which has been developing internally since November. Members were briefed last week on budget nomenclature and categories. Tonight they will see the blanks filled-in. It is expected through the process that members of the committee will raise questions and articulate community support or lack of support for key areas of fiscal sensitivity.

Observers of the meeting will get a broad view of current and longterm District needs, key expenditures, revenue expectations, areas that cannot be cut, and plans to expand or introduce programs and, the bottom line, tax increases.

The ABC meets again next Tuesday, February 12 at 7:30, and Wednesday, March 6 at 7:30. Following these three meetings, after each the cabinet retires and adjusts the budget, the Superintendent’s cabinet prepares the “Preliminary Budget” that a Public Hearing will be conducted to discuss on March 18. Following the consideration of concerns voiced at the Public Hearing the Final Budget will be prepared and presented to the Board of Education April 1.

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Council: Study Waller Decks. Malmud Veto Stymies McMansions, Cappelli

Midnight Special Edition Filed 2/6/02:Rita Malmud refused to agree to allow inclusion of an environmental resolution newly attached to the “McMansions” zoning ordinance, or to allow the new Cappelli site plan compromise to be considered because the paperwork had not reached her until 5:15 PM.

The Council agreed, 4-1, to spend $70,000 on a feasibility study of adding decks to the Waller & Maple Parking lot, over William King’s objective.
After meeting until 20 minutes to 1 o’clock in the morning, Monday, White Plains “Short Council” reconvened Tuesday evening in the Mayor’s Conference room for what they expected as the weekly routine big Cappelli Change, and to pass finally the “McMansions” new expanded FARs Zoning Ordinance for the outer neighborhoods.

It was not to be.

Paperwork to go with the McMansions ordinance and extensive resolutions executing the Cappelli site plan amendment matter were submitted late Tuesday. The documents for the Cappelli matter were created by the city Corporation Counsel, Edward Dunphy working the night early Tuesday morning and most of the day. Susan Habel came in off a sickbed Tuesday afternoon to finish the McMansions Zoning Ordinance environmental piece (when it was discovered missing), in time for the meeting so the Council could execute the agreed-on agenda from Monday.

Malmud needed time to reflect

Rita Malmud expressed her concern that she had not gotten the new paperwork for the agenda earlier, saying she had only time to review them quickly. She pointed out these were new collateral paperwork items added to the pre-agreed on agenda (which should have been there last night) extended from Monday evening.

The Mayor said he was “learning about working with these continued meetings.” The second meetings are made necessary by the unfilled seat on the Common Council.

Mayor Delfino said that the legal work on the new compromise on the Cappelli request for dropping a floor off the Cappelli Center took Mr. Dunphy longer to research case law than expected, because the “parameters” of the Cappelli proposal were just presented Monday, the Mayor said.

The McMansions paperwork consisted of a letter from the Environmental Officer and an EnvironmentalFindings Resolution to be attached to the new anti-McMansions Zoning Ordinance which has been lurking on the Council agenda unchanged since September, 2001. In September, an architect who stands to lose a project in the Highlands if the McMansions ordinance is passed before the Zoning Board of Appeals approves the project, orchestrated a small group of neighbors to protest the new outer neighborhood FAR restructions. The Council, with the election campaign in full swing, tabled it.

Southend neighborhoods have been clamoring for this to be passed and really pressuring the Council to get it done. Once more on Tuesday evening, the same architect appeared. He is designing the subdivision next to Mary Ann Keenan’s home in the Highlands that would not be legal under the new FAR’s. Tuesday he submitted a letter protesting he needed more time to review the FAR with the environmental resolution. He is currently, at last report redesigning the placement of the garage on the property he is working on to develop, and is due next month on the Zoning Board of Appeals agenda.

The Cappelli paperwork was more extensive, and Mr. Cappelli was present for the second evening in a row to present the plan to the Council.

Ms. Malmud refused to add the new items she had not seen before 5:15 PM to the agreed-on-in-advance agenda.

Malmud is not comfortable reviewing on the spot

“Our rules and laws we’re supposed to operate under, we’re supposed to publish what we’re doing,” Malmud scolded the Mayor.

In the first confrontation of the new term between the Mayor and Ms. Malmud, Mayor Delfino quietly asked, “How would you suggest I do it better? It took that long (to create the documents). You think I wanted to give this to you Tuesday at 5:15?”

“Don’t take this personally, Mr. Mayor, but when you start adding things we should have had…”

Delfino muttered slowly, speaking slowly, “Every day something changes…every day. We’re trying to meet expectations.”

Mrs. Malmud concluded the exchange, saying, “Process or procedure is just as important as the end.”

Malmud is unyielding. Unanimous vote necessary to proceed. She vetoes

With that the role was called, and Ms. Malmud voted “no” very quietly to adding the new paperage to the agenda. Tom Roach, William King, Benjamin Boykin, Robert Greer and the Mayor voted “yes.” An uncomfortable silence followed for 15 seconds, and the Mayor started to proceed, when Mr. Dunphy said, “Mr. Mayor, you need unanimous consent.”

The Council requires a unanimous vote in these circumstances to add material to an agreed-on agenda, so Malmud’s vote delayed action on these measures.

The Mayor then, showing aplomb and professionalism polled all councilpersons on when they could come back for the third time in the week to pass the McMansions item and finally listen to Mr. Cappelli’s minor site plan compromise. The cast-aside matters were agreed on to be taken up Thursday at 5 PM in the Mayor’s Conference Room.

Benjamin Boykin however will be unable to attend, so there will be only four Councilmen present plus the Mayor. Mr.Cappelli who has spent six hours in City Hall in two days cooling his heels cheerfully said he’d be there, and declined comment on his hotel romance with the Ritz-Carlton.

Work is Done.

The Council did hear an impassioned plea by Juan Camacho of United Financial Corporation of New York, a business with offices at 5 Waller Avenue. Mr. Camacho told the Council that building more parking was “a must that an expansion of some sort (of parking)” be constructed.

William King said office workers had plenty of unused space in garages at the old Macy’s and the Galleria which always have space in them, that they could walk the 3 to 5 long blocks to their offices.

Mr. Camacho did not see it that way at all, saying it was very hard for him to retain $30M to $50M a year office workers if he could not offer them convenient parking. He said the city parking duration limitations forced them to move vehicles to find new parking slots elsewhere in the middle of the day which were hard to find. He also advised that he had to interrupt meetings to feed the parking meters of parked clients.

Tom Roach said he strongly supported the Waller Avenue Constructibility Study before them authorizing $70,000 to determine how many decks could be incorporated into a parking structure envisioned for the openair lot stretching from Kinkos to the Christian Science Monitor offices on the corner of Waller and Maple. “The reality is this is a suburban city, people in this area drive.”

Robert Greer admitted, that he too often added to traffic by cruising for parking spaces and supported the measure.

The “Short Council” passed the study, 4-1.

Beth Roach appointed Commissioner of Common Council Commissary?

Tom Roach passed around some brownies and oatmeal cookies made by his wife, Beth, and this was the highlight of the meeting.

WPCNR reports the brownies were tastefully rich and creamy textured with balanced nut-to-cake ratios, not too heavy and not too light. The cookies were of delicate, hearty Pennsylvania Dutch crumb that reminded the consumer of warm country kitchens, counterbalancing sweetness with soul.

Edward Dunphy, Corporation Counsel, is drawing up a resolution appointing Mrs. Roach, Confectionairress to the Common Council.

Upon consultation with the Editor of Westchester County Business Journal, WPCNR has chosen to spell McMansions with one “c.”

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The Scoop:Knights Without Armor in A Savage Land

The kidnapping of Dan Pearl, Wall Street Journal reporter highlights the world’s most dangerous profession: reporter. Of course, the inquiring press are not police, soldiers or private detectives, but those heros and heroines carry protection. The inquiring reporter ventures into enemy territory unarmed with pencil, tape recorder, and digital camera, and has only his or her faith in the reliability and dubious decency of their sources as protection.
The reporter is not greeted with good cheer when we approach subjects. Nervousness ensues. Ingenuousness is not uncommon. A number of subjects have something to hide, or a personal agenda that might be compromised by the truth, and, shudder, the very concept of giving a reporter a “straight” answer.

I have to tell you that no one likes the truth because it puts them in the true perspective in the public eye. Why does the press make errors? Because subjects are not forthcoming. They use the reporter when they feel like using him. Leak stories to other media when they feel it is to their advantage. Ask you to hold stories, tell you things off the record, and do everything, including lying to hide the truth of virtually every matter, (regardless of how mundane or harmless) from you, the public.

Reporters only are respected after they have discovered a universally accepted “spin.” Woodward and Bernstein, the Watergate reporters, became famous after the Watergate hearings had vindicated their original reporting. Karen Silkwood, became martyred after she was murdered. Victor Riesel had to be blinded by an acid-throwing mob attacker before the public believed his crusading reporting on the corruption of the Teamsters in the 1950s. Walter Winchell was severely criticised by the Liberal press for his early “outing” of Adolf Hitler as anti-Semitic and dangerous.

Sadly, the lonely investigative reporter is not welcomed at all, and is only mourned by the press who realize just how dangerous real reporting is. Pearl is the latest example of a reporter trying to get at the truth and perhaps paying for it with his life.

What Pearl was doing in Pakistan when he was abducted was trying to get an exclusive interview, and he went alone to meet some less than savory Pakistani types. Now he is among the missing. You cannot imagine how hard that is to do to expose yourself like that not knowing who you are dealing with. I liken it to undercover work, with one exception, they know who you really are. Sometimes the reporter can hide the fact he or she is a reporter. I do sometimes, but it’s hard to be believable. You have to ask just a few questions, and not too many.

On the other hand, there is a thin line between investigating and conducting a vendetta to prove a point. Following avenues of inquiry wherever it may lead may uncover some things that hurt everyone. Judgment has to be used.The art of investigative reporting to expose wrongdoing before people were hurt by the wrongdoing, has been lost, thanks to the legal profession.

Nowadays, swarms of reporters are turned loose on stories after the damage has been done. It’s amazing what they find out with just a little digging. But, isn’t it surprising that they never find out before a disaster hurts everybody? Major media specialize in investigative reporting after the horse has left the barn.

Enron: Where was the press before Enron went down? Mesmerized by glamour and glitz no doubt. Today’s press at the major papers is naive. Remember the Dot.Com boom? I cannot remember any critical articles predicting the dot com business plan did not make sense.

Generally what passes for investigative reporting today is a vendetta. Reporters are told to collect information supporting a certain point of view, which is really easy to do. However, when a reporter goes out to find out about something, he or she has to examine all sides of the issue.

Examine claims, see if they hold up. Let facts do the talking, ignore giving speculation the same gravitas as fact. You can make a case for any speculation if you talk to activists against the issue. You have to check their statements.

The latest Indian Point controversy was fueled shamelessly by politicians seeing a way to curry favor with voters by showing concern for their welfare. Ever since a local story wrote of Indian Point “melting down,” it has brought anti-nuclear power interests back from their graves like a legion of long dead Draculas.

According to Entergy and a nuclear engineer source of WPCNR’s, Indian Point cannot melt down because the fuel is not “weapons grade,” and there are backup systems in place that were not at Chernobyl. That was not reported in the original “meltdown” scare in September.

Talk has escalated to the point where the politicians want to replace Indian Point with a natural gas powered plant and purchase electricity from other power regions without any handle on how this would affect electricity rates. How irresponsible is that? Study it, yes.

The folly is that even if Indian Point were to close tomorrow, as Governor Pataki pointed out, and Comptroller H. Carl McCall agreed with him, Tuesday, the fuel rods would still be there for around a decade for any cowboy terrorist to dive a plane into for ten years. Converting the plant will not eliminate this threat until the United States figures out where to ship the fuel rods, and how.

To do that they have to get past the same environmental elitists who will complain bitterly about how the rods are shipped to the caves in the West, that the government wants to store them in. Oh, did I tell you the “Enviros” still to do not agree that is the right site? And, oh, yes, we, the taxpayers would have to pay Entergy for the conversion.

I have a solution: Let’s put anti-aircraft guns on the domes. Manned 24 hours a day. That should do it. But, I’m sure the anti-rifle people would be up in arms.

Indian Point is a bogus issue, sustained by “what if?” speculation fanned by self-righteous favor-currying politicians to rouse the public who have not done their homework. Arousing hysteria is not investigative reporting or responsible leadership.

Not once has the fuel rod storage problem that makes Indian Point a target regardless of whether it’s working or not, been explained in the media. Except when WPCNR wrote it last fall. The New York Times reported it in its Westchester Section Sunday (and Governor Pataki mentioned it in a speech recently), that closing the plant does not remove the threat posed by the fuel rods. That is not good investigative reporting not to have revealed that little old problem of fuel rods lying around all along.

Evacuation plans? Of course they are going to be hard to execute. Perhaps the one good thing that has come out of the evacuation plan criticism is the revelation of the County directive that parents should not drive to schools to pick up their children. This ignores human nature. How does evacuation work? It worked pretty well during the Twin Tower disaster. People just walked North.

Reporting is not what it once was. Because there is not as many of us. In fact, reporters might be actually liked more today by the public than they were in the early years of newspapering in this country, when they asked tougher questions, were suspicious of all they were told, and received far rougher treatment from officials than they do today.

There were a lot more reporters with twelve newspapers in New York alone.

Real investigative reporting is a dangerous job. It does not mean interviewing advocates for a point of view, it involves digging out facts over a period of time. And, you are often running against a “storylife” in doing so. Putting yourself at risk as Mr. Pearl did. And, sometimes, dying for the truth.

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