Graessle Resigns After 32 years with City. Habel Appointed Successor

Updated:Mike Graessle, Commissioner of the Department of Planning for the first four years of the Delfino Administration has announced his retirement. The Commissioner will be taking another position in the private sector in February.

Mayor Joseph Delfino has appointed Susan Habel to succeed Mr. Graessle. Ms. Habel will be officially appointed January 7 with the Common Council expected to approve the Mayor’s choice. Mr. Graessle continues as official Commissioner of Planning through January 4. However, he is taking vacation through January 4, with Ms. Habel, as Deputy Commissioner, covering in his absence, with Mr. Graessle contributing on an “as needed” basis the pair told WPCNR Tuesday evening.

Commissioner Graessle announced his plans to WPCNR Wednesday afternoon when asked about an unusual configuration for the New York Presbyterian Hospital public hearings.


MIKE GRAESSLE’S LAST DAY: Commissioner of Planning Mike Graessle talks things over with WPCNR prior to a farewell party held Thursday afternoon. The Commissioner recalled Alfred Del Vecchio persuading him to come back to work for the city in the second year of “The Mayor for All Seasons” first term. “I was in law school at the time. I didn’t want to come back in the worst way, but the Mayor said, You don’t understand, if you come in you’ll working in the Mayor’s Office. Do it for one year and see.’ Graessle served White Plains for 32-1/2 years.WPCNR PHOTO

“It’s been a privilege to serve the public here in White Plains because it’s a wonderful place to work,” Graessle told WPCNR, “because you can practice your profession at the highest level here and at the most meaningful level. That’s not true in all communities. White Plains is a place you can disagree in without being disagreeable.”

Mr. Graessle said that he would be taking another position in the private sector which will be announced by the firm in February.

Thursday, George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer announced that Mayor Delfino would appoint Deputy Commissioner of Planning, Susan Habel, to succeed Mr. Graessle, subject to Common Council approval.

Mr. Graessle is a fixture in White Plains. He worked for 17 years with the Alfred Del Vecchio administration, as Executive Officer for “The Mayor for All Seasons.” After a brief sojourn as Village Manager of Port Chester, he returned to his old stomping ground with the advent of the Delfino Administration in 1998.

Mr. Graessle is responsible for creating with Mayor Del Vecchio, the shape of White Plains as it is today, through the times of urban renewal. He oversaw the successful introduction of The Galleria, and the transformation of White Plains into a business center, are among his many accomplishments during the Del Vecchio era.

Graessle started with the city in the planning department in various positions as draftsman, junior planner, planner, for 11-1/2 years prior to Mayor Del Vecchio brought him back.

Associated with White Plains old and new

On his watch as Commissioner of Planning, Mr. Graessle has overseen the conception and approval of the most projects of any 4-year administration in city history: The Container Store, the Stop N Shop Supermarket, the Bank Street Commons, the City Center, the Jefferson at White Plains, Clayton Park, while presiding over the first overhaul of the Zoning Code since 1982.

Just as he helped create the White Plains of the 80s, as he rides into the sunset, he is creating the White Plains of the 21st Century.

His leadership, knowledge, smooth generalship and impeccable courtesy and grace under pressure have soothed neighbors, charmed developers into concessions, and persuaded reluctant councilpersons for 32-1/2 years. He has over 36 years of civil service experience.

His tireless efforts have set an example of work ethic for his Planning Department staff which works tirelessly and unselfishly for the citizens of this city.

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SERGEANT FRIDAY REPORTS: Transit Manager Explains New Downtown Bus Routes

Introducing WPCNR’s New Sergeant Friday Reports:
Recently a WPCNR fan wrote us about the impact of new bus changes downtown and The Director of Surface Transportation for Westchester County, Richard Stiller responded to our fictional Sergeant Joe Friday’s investigation and ansered our reader’s query.

In this new feature, White Plains CitizeNetReporter encourages citizens to report changes and circumstances that concern them. Tell us about a problem and we will put our fictional Sergeant Joe Friday on the case “to get the facts, ma’am.” Here’s what a recent reader wrote on the White Plains bus routes:

WPCNR READER: To start…Last month when the bus schedule changed, the “common normal everyday riders” were never informed about the changes in the schedule. Oh! And when I found the schedule, it was inaccurate! There were no “fare-freee” buses to be found at 6:00 am (or approximately). Then, some people found out by word to mouth that the buses were not running into town. But how? By sitting on a bus, and the unfortunate bus driver NOW is layden with the burden of announcing “last stop.” Anyway, got to go.

Sergeant Friday contacted the Westchester Department of Communications who referred him to Deputy Commissioner of Transportation, Henry J. Stanton. Sergeant Friday contacted him and Mr. Stanton referred the query to Richard L. Stiller, Director of Surface Transportation, Westchester County Department of Transportation. Here is Mr. Stiller’s report:

Good afternoon. Deputy Comm. Stanton has asked me to respond to your recent inquiry to him.

Earlier this fall, the City of White Plains directed us to eliminate the bus layover area on E J Conroy Drive between Main St. & Hamilton Ave. They told us that dump trucks carrying debris from the construction project at the site of the old Macy’s would need to use this street to transport debris away from the construction site.

As such, buses parked on E J Conroy would inhibit that operation. Since neither we nor the City could find a suitable
area to have buses layover uptown, we were forced to move the buses closer to the TransCenter.

With this relocation, very valuable (and costly) bus time was used up. To maintain the same schedules, buses that formally laid
over uptown, now had to go down to the TransCenter then back up to S.Broadway & Martine to start their next trips. To do this would require several additional buses to be added to the system (including the hiring of
drivers) and yet not increase ridership (read: revenue).

The estimated cost to do this was in excess of $ 1.0M annually. In the interest of cost containment, the decision was made to terminate or originate a number of trips at the TransCenter on Routes 1W, 5, 6, 14 and 20. These affected
trips were selected so as to minimize the impact to passengers.

As part of the marketing effort to our riders to inform them of these changes, we changed both the written public timetables and the schedules that are published on our website (www.beelinebus.com). We also had printed over 5,000 “palm cards” that were distributed to passengers by DOT staff at bus stops along Martine Ave. & Main St. both prior to and after the schedule
changes and RideGuide schedules that are posted at all bus stops were changed..

Please feel free to contact me if you need any additional information.

Richard L. Stiller

Director of Surface Transportation

Westchester County Department of Transportation
100 East 1st Street
Mount Vernon, New York 10550
914.813-7776
914.813.7766 FAX
RLS1@westchestergov.com

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City Agrees to Pay $2MM for Fortunoff’s Road Improvements

WPCNR has learned that the Common Council has agreed in principle to the city paying for the road improvements associated with Fortunoff’s coming to the former Saks Fifth Avenue site.

The city will, according to a reliable source, accept the Fortunoff suggestion that the city pay approximately $2 million for the reconstruction of Maple and Bloomingdale Road designs to accommodate the project. Details of the road improvements were not disclosed, but should be forthcoming when the council takes up final approval of the project December 20.

Our source advised that Fortunoff’s will not receive any tax abatement (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) from the city. “It will be a fully taxed project,” said our source.

Tax abatement on construction materials sales taxes for Fortunoff’s is pending from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, contingent on a December 20 approval by the Common Council.

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White Plains Lesli Cattan Honored With a “Zella” for Service to Disabled.

Lesli Cattan, of White Plains, has been recognized with the Zella Bronfman Butler Award, which annually honors professionals for their compassionate commitment to enriching the lives of children and adults with physical, developmental and learning disabilities.
The Director of Outpatient Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities at Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), Ms. Cattan received her “Zella” yesterday in New York City. The cash award, created jointly by the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation and UJA-Federation, is in tribute to Zella Bronfman Butler who devoted her life to expanding services that encourage individuals with disabilities to fulfill their potential.

“Lesli is dedicated to helping clients achieve independent, rewarding lives,” says Linda Breton, WJCS Assistant Executive Director. “Her efforts have already enhanced the lives of hundreds of disabled individuals and their families. I have no doubt that her commitment and leadership will shape the quality of services for thousands of people in the future.”

At WJCS, Ms. Cattan was instrumental in establishing outpatient mental health services for people with special needs who also experience significant emotional difficulties. As a result, WJCS is the only mental health agency in Westchester which provides both specialized clinical services for people of all ages who have co-occurring psychiatric and developmental disabilities and support and education for their families.

She also created an array of social, recreational and communal services for people with developmental disabilities including Havorah, Moving Forward and Family Advocacy.

In addition, Ms. Cattan designed a manual to train staff in community-based organizations to accommodate special needs children in their mainstream programs, which will be implemented by organizations throughout Westchester and the affiliated organizations in the UJA-Federation network. She also has helped bring together the county’s service delivery systems for mental health and mental retardation/developmental disabilities. Under her leadership, a cross-system team of professionals produced a training curriculum for staff serving young people with both serious emotional disturbances and developmental disabilities. The team’s work is likely to become a national model as it is disseminated through Westchester’s SAMHSA-funded system of care activities.

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100 STUDENTS NAMED SCHOLAR-ATHLETES

Special to CitizeNetReporter from Michelle Schoenfeld:One hundred White Plains High School students from six Spring Varsity Teams were honored as Scholar-Athletes by the Board of Education at its December Regular Meeting. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association awards this status, based upon an average of 90 or better from a specified number of team members. Athletic Director Mario Scarano presented the teams and their coaches to the Board.
Twenty students from the Field Hockey Team, coached by Joan
Behrends,
qualified with an average of 90.292. Students are: Virginia
Benda, Virginia Binford, Teresa Bologna, Leslie Busch, Margot Dempsey, Maura Duignan, Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Rozane Franco, Emily Grant, Amanda Hacohen, Michelle Loayza, Caroline Majsak, Christine Milliken, Lauren Mooney, Christin Pasqua, Jennifer Paulding, Elaine Ruda, Marygwendoly Ruda, Alice Scimia and Bridget Young.

From Women’s Cross Country, Lisa Weber, Coach, the following 12 athletes qualified with an average of 90.322: Kendall Alexander, Alexis Cohen-Pena, Ana Ginorio, Jenna Gordon, Brooke Keith, Bailey Rollins, Jennifer Russell, Rachel Salazar, Maria Jose Soto, Dorotea Szkolar, Heather Wynne and TamikoYounge.

The Men’s Cross Country Team, coached by Lamont McCormick, had 14 members qualify with an average of 90.578. Members are: Bryant Cassie, Daniel Getman, Vladimir Gogish, Benjamin Goldman, Robert Hollahan, Max Kravitz, Brian Lee, Michael Ohrnberger, Alex Porta, Jacob Riss, Chunny Sethi, Michael Smayda, Joshua Taft and Bryan Turo.

Twelve Football Team members, coached by Mark Santa-Donato, posting an average of 91.113, are: John Corretti, Michael DellaPosta, Kyle Eifler, Michael Fabiani, Darrell Fletcher, Matt Jones, Evan McGuire, Sean McLaughlin, Wilsson Moronta, Larry Parsons, Gabriel Robles and Donald Stevens. It was the first year ever that the Whtie Plains Football Team had qualified as A Scholar Athlete Team.

From the Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, coached by Patty Gilmartin, 26 members qualified with an average of 90.700. They are: Kathryn Berkowitz, Alyse Bonuomo, Meaghan Bradley, Morgan Bradley, Andrea Busch, Jen Casinelli, Emma Cornfield, Camilla Ern, Jennifer Estrada, Joanna Fusco, Siobhan Hopkins, Gemma Horowitz, Esther Kim, Janice Kim, Sarah Krieger, Aidan Lasher, Sari Lewis, Lyndsey McLaughlin, Sarah Millman, Jennifer Rhodes, Alice Rie, Glenna Sikdar, Nicole Tomlinson, Naama Wrightman, Shira Wrightman
and Christine Younkin.

The following sixteen Women’s Tennis Team members, coached by Sharon Greene-Dansby, qualified with 90.378: Jenna Amicucci, Allison Brown, Stefanie Falk, Jessica Isaacs, Sara Levine, Kylie Luik, Moeko Mikami, Krystina Muellerq, Julie Owens, Alison Panken, Amy Rose, Joanna Ross, Jillian Salik, Ilana Sitkoff, Jamie Su, and Rachel Zuck.

In addition, Mr. Scarano recognized nine athletes with averages of 90 or better whose teams did not qualify for the award.

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366 District 18 Voters Called to Vote Again Next Tuesday December 18

The 366 voters who voted in the disenfranchised District 18 on November 6 will get the opportunity to recast their ballot for any of 6 Common Council candidates next Tuesday, December 18.

Polls will be open from 6:30 AM to 9 PM at George Washington School, with the election machine in the Music Room.

If you voted November 6, you should be receiving notification from the Board of Elections this week of the impending “Continuation of the Election.”

Posted in Uncategorized

BULLETIN: Temporary Stay Denied. Dst. 18 Election On for Dec. 18

SPECIAL TO THE CITIZENETREPORTER: Judge Sondra Miller of the Appellate Court, Second Department denied a Temporary Restraining Order Motion filed by Adam Bradley on behalf of candidate Glen Hockley Tuesday.shortly after 5 PM in the Judge’s chambers at 140 Grand Street, White Plains, Her decision carries White Plains District 18 one step closer to an historic “continuation of the election.”

The “Continuation of the Election” has been set for Tuesday, December 18 in District 18 only, open to the 366 voters who voted in that district, November 6. It is at George Washington School in the Music Room. Voters should be receiving notices this week.
The decision was handed down shortly after 5 PM in the Judge’s chambers at 140 Grand Street, White Plains, taking White Plains District 18 one step closer to an historic “continuation of the election.”

“Continuation of the Election” ON for Tuesday, December 18 in District 18

The “Continuation of Election” has been officially called for by the Westchester County Board of Elections to take place Tuesday, December 18 in District 18 only, at George Washington School in the Music Room, from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM, according to Deputy Commissioner of the Board of Elections, Steven Levy.

Reginald LaFayette, Co-Commissioner of the Board of Elections said notices were sent out Monday to the 366 voters who voted in that district, November 6, as instructed in Judge Nicolai’s “Remedy” last week. He said a voting machine would be inspected and prepared this coming Friday.

Ciampoli, Delgado attorney, tells what’s ahead

John Ciampoli, attorney for Larry Delgado, reports to WPCNR that Mr. Bradley’s motion for a temporary restraining order was denied today.

Next in the legal tarantella will be a hearing on Mr. Bradley’s motion for a Full Stay of Judge Nicolai’s decision that will be heard tomorrow before a full panel of 4 Appellate Judges of the Second Deparment in Brooklyn, USA. Ciampoli said it would be a paper argument with the judges just examining the papers filed.

>


THE VOTERS’ VOICE: John Ciampoli, attorney for Larry Delgado, election law specialist, choregrapher of Mr. Delgado’s bid for a District 18 revote and make White Plains history. WPCNR PHOTO.

Ciampoli reports it is rare for a full motion for a stay is granted after a temporary restraining order is denied. He also reports that Judge Miller, who denied the Temporary Restraining Order asked for by Mr. Bradley Tuesday is on the panel of four Appellate Judges.

Mr. Bradley’s Notice of Appeal Could be Heard Friday

Ciampoli said that he and Mr. Binder will be meeting with the Court Clerk Attorneys of the Appellate Division to clear the way for briefs to be filed by 3 PM Thursday, with arguments to be heard Friday morning in Brooklyn.

Cross Appeal will be filed tomorrow to declare Delgado the winner.

Ciampoli told WPCNR that he would be filing a cross appeal asking the Appellate Court to declared Larry Delgado the winner.

“Mr. Bradley and Mr. Hockley are afraid of the voters. They think they cannot win (the continuation of the election),” Ciampoli said.

Stay of an upheld appeal would be filed in that event

Ciampoli has also lined up his Delgado strategy in the event the Appellate Division rules in favor of Mr. Bradley and Mr. Hockley that the court overstepped its jurisdiction.

“I can definitely get a Temporary Restraining Order Motion filed by Tuesday, to insure the election is held,” Ciampoli said.

Bradley seeks to rule out absentee ballots?

Ciampoli reports Mr. Bradley is trying to deny absentee ballots to any of the 366 District 18 voters who are going to be away for the holidays over December 18. Ciampoli said he would go to Judge Nicolai for a clarification on the absentee ballots if Bradley continues on this issue. WPCNR has been unable to confirm that with Mr. Bradley.

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UPDATED: Trippett Tells The Other Side of the Story

At the Monday evening Board of Education meeting, Lewis P. Trippett, previous President of the Board of Education, the man closest to contract negotiations with Dr. Saul Yanofsky, read a prepared statement relating his version of the events leading up to Dr. Yanofsky not being offered a new contract. WPCNR obtained the statement from Mr. Trippett and, the following is the text of his entire address. A video replay of the meeting will be cablecast by Channel 73 at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM Thursday by White Plains cable.

The School District Wednesday refused to release the “Letter of Intent” (WPCNR terminology) referred to by Mr. Trippett in the following statement, citing that it is an intra-agency document, and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Herewith is the word-for-word transcript of Mr. Trippett’s Monday evening address to the public:
December 10, 2001
Donna McLaughlin
President
City of White Plains Board of Education
5 Homeside Lane
White Plains, New York 10605
Dear Mrs. McLaughlin:

When I stepped down from the Board of Education in June, I said that I thought White Plains was fortunate to have dedicated members of the Board of Education who spend an enormous amount of volunteer time in service to the Dristrict. I said then, and I will say again, that during the time that I served on the Board of Education I believe that all of the Board members acted on every issue presented in what they believed to be in the best interests of the district. Although I certainly disagreed with my share of Board decisions during my years of service on the Board, I never doubted that those I disagreed with were acting in a principled manner and that they were doing what they thought was in the district’s best interests.

I made these comments knowing that unless Dr. Yanofsky chose to announce his retirement at the end of his current contract, this Board would face the kind of criticism that it has over the past two months.

I have listened to and read the criticisms and attacks that have been levied against the board over these past two months and have not made any public comment. But now, given the recent comments made in the press by Dr. Yanofsky I think it is an appropriate time to add my personal perspective on the choice not to offer a new contract to Dr. Yanofsky.

Several people have spoken about Dr. Yanofsky’s admirable qualities and his dedication to the district. I agree with them and, could add more than has been said. Many have spoken based upon their personal relationship with Dr. Yanofsky. During the two years I spent as Board President, I worked closely with Dr. Yanofsky and felt that we developed a good personal relationship, though we certainly had our differences. It is a relationship that I still value.

In criticizing the Board, some seemed to believe tat the Board did not understand Dr. Yanofsky’s skills or did not appreciate all that he had done for the district. They spoke as if the Board must have simply overlooked these factors. Others voiced the suggestions that there must have been some personality clash or adverse personal feelings that caused the board not to extend a new contract to Dr. Yanofsky.

For the most part the Board has not responded to these statements or a host of other unfounded criticisms, some personal and threatening. I respect the fact that the Board has not wanted to say much and simply to move on, believing that not much good would come from a public tit-for-tat discussion. However, in being as circumspect as it has been, I believe that the Board has unwillingly allowed there to be created a very misleading and inaccurate public record – one that has wrongfully caused some to believe that the actions of the Board were arbitrary, without substantial reason or simply based upon personality. That is why I would like to add a few things to the public discussion.

I recognize that those who have a strong personal attachment to Dr. Yanofsky are unlikely to be persuaded whatever I, or anyone else, might say. But I do believe that certain facts, not yet disclosed, will cause fair-minded people to look at this matter in a different light. They might not agree with where the Board came out but, hopefully, will understand that the determination to let Dr. Yanofsky’s contract expire without renewal was a principled decision based upon what the Board believed in good faith was in the district’s best interests, and no other factor.

There is a context for this contract extension discussion that is important to understand. I participated in the previous Board discussion and determination to extend a new contract to Dr. Yanofsky. In the discussions that preceded the last extension, Dr. Yanofsky presented the Board with a clear statement that he wanted to continue as Superintendent and outlined what he hoped to accomplish if a new contract was extended. Also, at Dr. Yanofsky’s specific request, the contract was made to run for a four-year term until June 30, 2002 rather than for a three-year term as the previous contracts had been. This was at Dr. Yanofsky’s request, for the stated reason that at the end of the current contract, Dr. Yanofsky will be fully vested in the pension plan and eligible for full retirement benefits. Thus, Dr. Yanofsky himself created the expectation that the end of this current contract would likely be the end of this tenure as Superintendent.

Dr. Yanofsky fostered this expectation when he advised me, well over a year before extension of his current contract was discussed, that he had begun circulating his resume on a selective basis for educational positions but not to be superintendent of another district.

Thus, prior to any discussion of a possible new contract, Dr. Yanofsky had led the Board to believe that there was at least a good likelihood that he would not want a new contract.

Even with this background, I entered the discussions about a possible new contract with the presumption that if Dr. Yanofsky gave to the board what he had given in the past – a clear expression of his desire to continue and a vision for what he would like to accomplish under a new contract – he most likely would be offered a new contract. Unfortunately, the Board never received any such communication from Dr. Yanofsky.

Under the contract, Dr. Yanofsky was required to inform the Board in writing whether or not he wished to continue as Superintendent under a new contract. The letter that Dr. Yanofsky sent to the Board hardly reflected a vigorous desire to continue. In the letter, Dr. Yanofsky stated that he was “ambivalent” about continuing as Superintendent but was “willing to entertain an offer.”

I was quite surprised by Dr. Yanofsky’s, at best, tepid expression of interest in a new contract. After receiving this letter, the Board provided Dr. Yanofsky the opportunity to explain his letter before we began substantive discussions about whether to renew the contract. Perhaps, I thought, he misspoke or made a poor choice of words. However, rather than back off of his letter, Dr. Yanofsky re-affirmed his statement that he was ambivalent about continuing as Superintendent. When asked if he could identify any cause for his ambivalence that could be addressed, Dr. Yanofsky gave no indication of anything that could be done that would change his feeling of ambivalence.

So we began our substantive discussions with a Superintendent who had received a contractual term that would enable him to retire if he wanted to, who had let it be known that he had been circulating his resume long prior to any discussion of contract extension and who expressed ambivalence about continuing.

We then entered into our substantive discussions attempting to address the issues that you (McLaughlin) explained in your latest letter, which I will not further discuss here. I found our discussions with Dr. Yanofsky on these matters to be distressing. Rather than offer a forward-looking view as he had in the past, Dr. Yanofsky said things like, “I don’t need this job” and “If you want to take your chances with someone else, that’s fine.”

But the most distressing comment came in response to a question I asked. I posed a question to Dr. Yanofsky similar to a question that I had asked during the previous contract renewal discussions. I asked “Where do you see the district being in four years if your contract is extended?” His response was an extraordinarily negative view of the future of the district. He said things are likely to get worse; test scores are likely to decline further and there is very little that can be done about it other than what is already being done. In short, it appeared to me that his heart was no longer in the job.

His statements, coupled with the prior contract history, his admitted job search and his own expressed ambivalence led me to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of the White Plains School District for the Yanofsky era as Superintendent to come to an end at the end of the current contract in June 2002.

Subsequently, Dr. Yanofsky stated that he misunderstood my question. He thought I asked where I saw the district in five years and he answered the way that he did because he did not see himself being superintendent in five years. I found this after-the-fact explanation unconvincing. Dr. Yanofsky knew that the Board was struggling with the issue whether or not to offer him a new contract and he had to know that I was asking his view of any continuation of his contract, as I had asked before. This was not some abstract discussion about what some future superintendent might face. This was not some abstract discussion about what some future superintendent might face. We were discussing whether or not to extend a new contract to him and what he would do if he received a new contract. If Dr. Yanofsky truly did not see himself in the picture five years from now he did not express that to the Board. And, in fact, contrary to what he has implied, during the contractual time that the Board had to notify Dr. Yanofsky whether or not it would offer him a new contract, Dr. Yanofsky never suggested that the Board should discuss an appropriate “transition” period to new leadership and never suggested a contractual time period, as he had done at the prior contractual renewal discussion. More importantly, even after he clearly understood my question he did not offer any view as to what he would do if he received a new contract.

For me, no one other than Dr. Yanofsky convinced me that it was not in the district’s best interest to offer him a new contract. Whatever else we thought about Dr. Yanofsky, the district would not be well served by having a superintendent who is ambivalent about holding this important job, who had been looking for another job, who wants to be “entertained” with an unspecified offer before he would continue and one who is resigned to an exceedingly pessimistic view of the future.

There were indeed re-occurring substantive differences between the Board and Dr. Yanofsky. These differences were not, as he recently stated, matters of style rather than substance. In fact, it was Dr. Yanofsky’s persistent minimizing of the Board’s concerns and his neglect in addressing them that led to increasing frustration. But, for me, the overriding issue was Dr. Yanofsky’s stated ambivalence and his lack of a positive vision of the future.

I am hopeful that once people get over the surprise and disappointment that Dr. Yanofsky will be leaving at the end of the school year they will recognize that the Board had no other responsible choice but to move on to new leadership. This transition would have taken place in one, or at most, two years anyway and, I believe, the district is better served by making the transition now, rather than having a self-described “ambivalent” superintendent for one or two more years.

I believe that the Board’s decision was proper, responsible and in the best interests of the district. In time, I believe that the community of White Plains will be pleased that it has a Board that is not satisfied with the way things are and wants to move towards improvement in the future, even if that means bearing with some unfair and unjust criticisms such as have been made over the past two months. I commend the Board for not yielding to the noise of the crowd at the moment and, instead, looking out for the needs of the future.

The selection of a new superintendent provides opportunity for all to participate in the re-vitalization of our district and positioning it for the future. While all change is difficult, it also provides opportunity for improvement. Although I am not on the Board anymore, I support the Board and stand ready to help the Board in any way possible in this important transition to new leadership.

Very truly yours,

Lewis P. Trippett

Posted in Uncategorized

Trippett Update: Yanofsky “Ambivalent.” Rejects Leader’s Story

Updated December 13:Lewis Trippett broke silence Monday night. The Former Board of Education President — in office when Dr. Yanofsky’s contract renewal was being decided — delivered a startling 10-minute statement disputing Dr. Saul Yanofsky’s public positions on events leading to the superintendent’s departure.

Michelle Schoenfeld reported to WPCNR Wednesday that the “Letter of Intentions” (our term for it), Dr. Yanofsky sent to the Board of Education in the Spring of 2001, a cornerstone of Mr. Trippett’s remarks reported as follows, is not available to the public, and the school district is not obligated to release it.
A copy of the all-important letter, which according to Mr. Trippett, set the tone for last spring’s stalemate with Dr. Yanofsky, was requested by WPCNR from Michelle Schoenfeld, Clerk for the School District. Ms. Schoenfeld wrote us Wednesday, and we quote: “Board Counsel advises us that this is an intra-agency document and therefore not available under the Freedom of Information Law.”

Dr. Yanofsky in response to our request for this key document Tuesday afternoon, stood by his desire “that nothing is served by continuing on with this,” and has not to this point released his letter.

Mr. Trippett took the podium at the request of Donna McLaughlin, President of the Board of Education Monday evening. He out rightly denied Dr. Saul Yanofsky’s public statements about the events, attitudes and positions taken by the Board of Education and the Superintendent himself leading up to the decision last April not to renew Dr. Yanofsky’s contract.

Dr. Yanofsky, visibly shaken by the unexpected appearance, called the letter filled with “distortions,” and saying, “everybody now is best served by putting this behind us,” rather than answering the charges.

Yanofsky Visibly Upset.

Mr. Trippett told WPCNR at the November meeting that he might speak out, but did not.

At the Monday Board of Education meeting at the high school, he unleashed a 4 ½ Page single-spaced statement for the record that shocked the audience of some 50 persons, left from over100 persons and students there at the beginning.

Trippett’s remarks rattled Dr. Yanofsky to the extent that, when Dr. Yanofsky resumed the agenda, the papers in the Superintendent’s hands shook and his voice quivered ever so slightly as he struggled to control himself and move on with the routine appointments and business that followed.

Trippett: Reports Yanofsky “ambivalent” towards staying and critical of school district future.

Trippett, in his calm, chilling delivery, painted a picture far different than the events Dr. Yanofsky has described to this reporter, the White Plains Watch and The Journal News surrounding his firing.

Trippett said Yanofsky had been looking at other jobs:

“…well over a year before extension of his current contract was discussed, that he (Yanofsky) had begun circulating his resume on a selective basis for educational positions but not to be superintendent of another district.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the hall of the All-Purpose Room. Then it got quieter.

The former Board President charged Yanofsky with “ambivalence:”

“The letter (which WPCNR attempted to acquire from Ms. Schoenfeld), that Dr. Yanofsky sent to the Board hardly reflected a vigorous desire to continue. In the letter, Dr. Yanofsky stated that he was ‘ambivalent’ about continuing as Superintendent but was ‘willing to entertain an offer.’”

“Take your chances with someone else.”

Trippett confirmed there had been a parting of the ways on the issues of test scores, program evaluation, and public relations, not on philosophy, but on level of concern:

“I found our discussions with Dr. Yanofsky on these matters to be distressing. Rather than offer a forward-looking view as he had in the past, Dr. Yanofsky said things like, ‘I don’t need this job’ and ‘If you want to take your chances with someone else, that’s fine.’”

By this time, it was excruciatingly still. No one was moving a muscle. All were shocked. You do not hear this kind of public statement read very often. The big shock was Trippett’s next revelation:

“…the most distressing comment came in response to a question I asked. I posed a question to Dr. Yanofsky similar to a question that I had asked during the previous contract renewal discussions. I asked ‘Where do you see the district being in four years if your contract is extended.’ His response was an extraordinarily negative view of the future of the district. He said things were likely to get worse; test scores are likely to decline further and there is very little that can be done about it other than what is already being done. In short, it appeared to me that his hear was no longer in the job.”

Rejects Yanofsky’s statements on contracts and style

Trippett reported that, subsequently Yanofsky said he had misunderstood the question, which Trippett called “unconvincing.” Trippett also flatly said,

“contrary to what he has implied, during the contractual time that the Board had to notify Dr. Yanofsky whether or not it would offer him a new contract, Dr. Yanofsky never suggested that the Board should discuss an appropriate “transition” period to new leadership and never suggested a contractual time period, as he had done at the prior contractual renewal.”

(Dr. Yanofsky made these statements about “a transition period to new leadership,” to WPCNR, and he made the statement about a contractual time period to both WPCNR and White Plains Watch).

Yanofsky’s “minimizing of the Board’s Concerns”

In a paragraph directly answering a recent Yanofsky-written piece appearing in The Journal News Trippett alluded to substantial differences:

“There were indeed re-occurring substantive differences between the Board and Dr. Yanofsky. These differences were not, as he recently stated, matters of style and substance. In fact, it was Dr. Yanofsky’s persistent minimizing of the Board’s concerns and his neglect in addressing them that led to increasing frustration. But, for me, the overriding issue was Dr. Yanofsky’s stated ambivalence and his lack of a positive vision for the future.”

Commends Board for not yielding to “the noise of the crowd at the moment”

“I am hopeful that once people get over the surprise and disappointment that Dr. Yanofsky will be leaving at the end of this school year they will recognize that the Board had no other responsible choice but to move on to new leadership. This transition would have taken place in one, or at the most, two years anyway and, I believe, the district is better served by making the transition now, rather than having a self-described ‘ambivalent’ superintendent for one or two more years.

I believe that the Board’s decision was proper, responsible and in the best interests of the district. In time, I believe that the community of White Plains will be pleased that it has a Board that is not satisfied with the way things are and wants to move towards improvement in the future, even if that means bearing with some unfair and unjust criticisms such as have been made over the past two months. I commend the Board for not yielding to the noise of the crowd at the moment and, instead, looking out for the needs of the future.”

Removal of Yanofsky “Provides Opportunity…revitalization…”

The selection of a new superintendent provides opportunity for all to participate in the re-vitalization of our district and positioning it for the future. While all change is difficult, it also provides opportunity for improvement. Although I am not on the Board anymore, I support the Board and stand ready to help the Board in any way possible in this important transition to new leadership.”

As Mr. Trippett finished his surprise statement, introduced as “a communication” to the public by Donna McLaughlin, the warm feeling of the previous Scholar Athlete Recognition Awards had been sucked out of the room.

Yanofsky reacts tersely

Red-faced and appearing in shock, Dr. Yanofsky described Trippett’s remarks as “distorted” and “inaccurate,” and that any further comment he would make “would not be the most useful outcome.” He attempted to set the record straight on what he meant by his “ambivalent” remark, saying it was his attitude “related to interaction between me and the Board and their level of interaction with other school administrators (in the District) who come before them. There was a variety of miscommunication. Everybody is now best served by putting this behind us.”

Evening started out on a high note

After the recognition of White Plains High School autumn sports teams who as teams have maintained a grade point average of 90 or better, the Trippett speech had turned an evening of achievement recognition into a somber occasion, apparently sealing Dr. Yanofsky’s departure for good. Donna McLaughlin, President of the Board of Education, when she closed the meeting one hour later, pleaded with the parents still in attendance, after enduring three scathing comments from a teacher and two parents, accusing the Board of ignoring parent concerns and expressing doubts about attracting good candidates for superintendent said there was no return: “We’ve made our decision…For the sake of the children, please move on.”

Football team qualifies as a Scholar Athlete Team for the first time

Highlight of the scholar athlete presentations was the announcement by Athletic Director Mario Scarano this was the first year the White Plains football team had qualified as a scholar athlete team. As each coach presented their scholars who perform on the books as well as putting top notch performances “in the books,” we met some of White Plains “Finest:” the Women’s and Men’s Cross Country teams, the women’s Field Hockey and Tennis teams, the women’s Swimming and Diving team.

Mr. Scarano said six of the 8 fall White Plains sports teams averaged over 90 to qualify as official Scholar Athlete Teams. The only two that did not, Scarano said average 88.3 (Men’s Soccer), and 88.77 (Women’s Volleyball).

Principal Colavito delivers a report on the High School Construction

Principal William Colavito was called upon to comment on the progress of the high school improvements. Mr. Colavito announced that the Library Media Center had been opened and is now being used extensively by students. He reported the second floor of the science wing had been opened and the first floor he expected to be open in January after the holiday break.

The Principal reported that the new administration offices had been moved into, and despite some phone trouble was functioning.

The two performing centers are nearing completion, he said. The auditorium is having sound and lighting work finished and is expected to be complete be mid February (two months). The Little Theater and Television Studio for the Theatre Unlimited group is targeted for February 1.

Colavito finished his report advising that North House would be vacated in January, so that work could begin on refurbishing that sector. He said ongoing work on art rooms and other sections would be worked around student schedules.

Colavito Resignation accepted.

Dr. Saul Yanofsky read a glowing tribute to Principal Colavito, crediting him with turning the high school around in his 6 ½ years as Principal of White Plains High School. After the glowing tribute, Principal Colavito, rather from shyness or sadness, spoke for less than one minute and sat down. In fact, when Michelle Berman, speaking during Open Forum expressed hope that the Colavito departure, in which he joins Dr. Constance Iervolino and Yanofsky, was not the beginning of a trend, Principal Colavito was seen clapping.

Three Awarded Tenure

Three teachers were approved for tenure, and their administrators spoke of their dedication and concern for students, rekindling for a few moments that White Plains was still standing tall in dedicated educators. The teachers are: Susan Brumer, Social Studies Teacher at White Plains High School; Dennis Polanco, English Teacher at the high school; and Dennis Scullion, English Teacher at the Highlands. The supervisors introducing them detailed their enormous popularity with students and dedication to school activities and abilities to create outstanding, popular learning environments within their classrooms. They received warm applause.

Yanofsky on departure: “I was surprised, too.”

For a meeting that lasted just two hours, it seemed longer than the 7 hour Common Council meeting last August. People were drained. People left as if leaving a funeral, cordial, polite, nurturing.

Dr. Yanofsky remarked to this reporter, “You always pick good meetings to cover.”

I replied, “Well, I was surprised.”

Yanofsky, smiling said, “I was surprised, too.”

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Flash Poll:Would You Grant a Stay, Delaying Dist. 18 Election?

WPCNR’s Court of Opinion grants a temporary “Stay” of the Nicolai Appeal Poll, in favor of your Instant Opinion on whether a “Stay” should be granted, delaying the District 18 election indefinately, pending Glen Hockley’s appeal. What would you do? If you’ve been following the Delgado-Hockley legal action, do you feel it is just to grant a stay? Or should the election be held while appeal proceeds? Vote in the “Flash Poll” at right!

The Nicolai Decision poll will resume after the “Stay” proceedings are adjudicated.

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