Response to Mrs. Isseks' My View
Tough questions are welcome when the purpose is to understand. When the purpose is simply power politics, it is a waste of everyone’s time.
In regard to your Sunday editorial "The better the school the harsher the attack from board dissidents," you are, of course, entitled to your opinion. But I strongly disagree with your conclusion that it is wrong for me or other board members to ask tough questions, or that asking these questions amounts to an "attack" and a "crusade."
Asking tough questions is not the issue. However, asking the same questions over and over again, after a Board member has received the information several times, is not a productive use of time for Board members or paid staff members (click here to view video clips).
This behavior is not new for Mrs. Isseks, who in 1989, as a member of the Board, filed a civil law suit with the New York State Supreme Court against the Middletown City School District “seeking depositions of other Board members and attorneys for the school district to obtain information and documentation necessary to commence action” (click here to view the civil law suit filed (PDF)). In essence, Mrs. Isseks was complaining that the school board was violating open meetings law.
After a significant review of the complaint and evidence submitted to the Court, New York State Supreme Court Judge Peter C. Patsalos stated that, “Upon a review of the voluminous documents annexed to the motion papers and taking into account petitioner was present for many of the events she complains of, it is abundantly clear to the Court that the petitioner has sufficient information...Hence, the application for pre-action deposition is denied.” Mrs. Isseks was fined $5,000 for her “frivolous” law suit (click here to view the 1989 New York State Supreme Court Decision (PDF)). In essence, Mrs. Isseks knew her legal theories and complaints to be false.
Once again, as a Board of Education member, Mrs. Isseks has complained that the District has not responded to her questions. She has also complained that the District has not provided her with the information she requested. The District vehemently disagrees with those accusations.
As a result, the District created this Web site to provide specific, voluminous documentation and video footage demonstrating that Mrs. Isseks has indeed received the information she requested from the District. It also demonstrates that Mrs. Isseks was present at various events that have provided her with the information she seeks.
This Web site contains links to specific documents and/or video footage supporting the District’s position/rebuttal to Mrs. Isseks' My View.
Click here to view the civil law suit filed (PDF)
Click here to view the 1989 New York State Supreme Court Decision (PDF)
Since you chose not to include in the editorial any of the questions I have been asking, I am providing a sample of them here, so that your readers may decide for themselves if such questions are appropriate, or if they are indeed "slanderous" and "actionable" as threatened by Dr. Eastwood's lawyer.
Dr. Eastwood, as any other professional in his position, has a contract. This document guides both Dr. Eastwood and the Board of Education in their relationship. This document requires that any evaluative concerns, information, and/or statements from Board of Education members regarding the Superintendent be specifically addressed in executive session only. Breach of that simple requirement is a breach of the District’s contract with the Superintendent. There are also contractual agreements, addressing salary and performance, that must be followed by the Board of Education.
Note: Contracts are legal agreements that must be honored.
Many of my questions have been about the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of change orders from our last major construction project. I asked why the board is not hearing about the changes until as much as a year after they were completed.
The Board never indicated that it was dissatisfied with the procedures that were in place until Mrs. Isseks and like-minded Board of Education members were in the majority during the 2008-09 school year. There was no policy in place at that time, and procedures that were longstanding past practice were followed. After the concerns were raised, new procedures were put in place to address change order concerns. However, no policy was created until September 2009 (click here to view Board minutes (PDF) and click here to view the approved Board policy (PDF)).
In directing work that was subject to change orders, the District was within the approved scope of work authorized by the voters and the construction contracts authorized by the Board of Education. Those contracts, vetted by our attorneys, include project specifications that permit the District to direct the contractors to do work that needs to be completed in order to adhere to the schedule (click here to view bid documents on change order procedures (PDF)). This allows work to proceed, as directed by the architect, with the acknowledgment that the dollar value of the work will be negotiated and a change order created. The contractors proceed in good faith. Contractors were not paid for change orders until such time as successful negotiations of costs were completed, and the Board approved the change order.
Click here to view Board minutes (PDF)
Click here to view the approved Board policy (PDF)
Click here to view bid documents on change order procedures (PDF)
Larry Koch on change orders
Dr. Eastwood's comments from the August 27, 2009, Board of Education meeting
Mrs. Isseks' comments from the August 27, 2009, Board of Education meeting
Ms. Perkins' comments from the August 27, 2009, Board of Education meeting
Comments from legal counsel from the August 27, 2009, Board of Education meeting
The New York State Comptroller's Office instructs us that change orders should be approved by boards of education before any work commences.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
The statement does not accurately reflect the Comptroller’s letter to the District. The Comptroller’s June 17, 2009, letter states:
“Therefore, it would be reasonable for the Board to require that all project change orders over a specific amount be approved by the Board prior to work being done.”
This recommendation assumed that the District had a change order policy in place. The district did not have such a policy until September 2009, following the recommendation from a member of the Comptroller’s staff.
This advice also did not recognize any specific contractual requirements that might be in place between the District and the contractor. This is especially true when it comes to critical path construction activities.
The Comptroller can advise and make recommendations, but is not a lawmaking entity. Remember, at no time did the District violate any law, regulation and/or District policy. The District complied with its longstanding past practice relative to change orders, and has complied fully with the new change order policy enacted by the new Board last September. Note: Once the new Board attempted to pass a change order policy, as advised by the Comptroller’s Office, certain parties argued against its passage. Furthermore, the public authorized specific expenditures for each capital project. Those authorizations have never been exceeded by this administration.
The Comptroller accepted an invitation by Board of Education President Mr. Geiger to come into the District and review its change orders. Members of the Comptroller’s staff are currently in the District completing that review.
The change orders I questioned were not about emergencies encountered during construction, but were about substantive changes to the design and scope of the project, like the addition of extra locker rooms and the subtraction of an outdoor amphitheater, both of which the board learned about after the fact.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
The statement, made by Mrs. Isseks, does not state the facts. Both items were alternates to the original bid. The original base bid and alternates for the outdoor amphitheater were rejected. A re-bid then occurred without the amphitheatre, due to cost estimates.
The extra locker rooms were then bid as an alternate in the re-bid, and were awarded by the Board of Education on February 21, 2008 (click here to view the RSA presentation from January 17, 2008 (PDF)). The Board of Education had to award the contracts prior to the beginning of work. Tom Scott, superintendent of buildings and grounds, provided detailed copies of all the documents to Mrs. Isseks (click here to view documents) in three separate responses on December 9, 2008, January 11, 2009, and June 2009).
Click here to view the RSA presentation from January 17, 2008 (PDF)
Click here to view documents from Mr. Scott
Many of my questions were about expenditures that took place without the board's knowledge, like thousands of dollars spent on banners for the high school parking lot. While the flags look attractive, they are expensive, and they do not have a direct impact on our children's education.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
The Board of Education receives monthly copies of the internal claims auditor's report, showing all checks written for the week. The Board also receives a monthly treasurer’s report.
The Board of Education accepted the “member item” from Assemblywomen Gunther at the August 27, 2009, Board of Education meeting (click here to view minutes (PDF)). The Board received information about the "member item." Mrs. Isseks voted to accept the "member item," and did not question it at that time. Additionally, when Assemblywomen Gunther was presented with an acknowledgement and thanks for the money on September 17, 2009, Mrs. Isseks again did not have any questions. In addition, at the September 3, 2009, meeting, the disbursement for the banners was listed in the District’s claims report and was accepted by the Board (click here to view claims report (PDF)). Mrs. Isseks did not question the expense at that time.
Click here to view minutes (PDF)
Click here to view claims report (PDF)
Video footage of the presentation
While the flags look attractive, they are expensive, and they do not have a direct impact on our children's education, as our ongoing shortage of copy paper has.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
Mrs. Isseks did not provide any research or documentation proving that such motivational aspects of school environments do not have a direct impact on our children’s education. It is believed that just the opposite is true. We unequivocally believe that the flags have had a direct impact on high school students. Students feel there is a motivational effect (click here to view statements from students (PDF)).
Additionally, Mrs. Isseks’ accusation that there is an ongoing shortage of copy paper is false. At no time has she ever asked about copy paper supplies. Who could be the source of this false information? The fact is that this District, to date, has purchased $91,787 worth of copy paper. Click here for copy paper case distribution documents (PDF) for the past three years, including this year's paper distribution. In some cases, more copy paper has been requested and delivered than the building originally requested (click here to view e-mails from principals (PDF)). This is another example of false and misleading accusations from Board of Education member Mrs. Isseks.
There is no copy paper shortage. District officials have had discussions about curtailing the use of specialty colored paper, which is more expensive. District officials have also requested that copies be double-sided and that the District be discriminating in what it copies to get the best value for our taxpayer’s money.
Click here to view statements from students (PDF)
Click here for copy paper case distribution documents (PDF)
Click here to view e-mails from principals (PDF)
Many of my questions were about the hiring of consultants, a great number of whom come from the Syracuse/Oswego area or as far away as North Dakota, when we were given no evidence or indication that any other consultants were considered, or that requests for proposals even went out. I have asked why we don't hire local consultants, since we are spending tens of thousands of dollars on transportation and lodging expenses.
District officials have discussed, and reminded Board of Education members, that the District hires professional consultants who provide the best staff development services available in order to elicit the greatest gains in student achievement and performance. Such operating practices appear to be working, as can be witnessed from the significant improvements in student performance for all students and sub-populations.
Where individual consultants reside has no bearing on the quality or effectiveness of their services. Their residential addresses are not a defining characteristic for selection. The quality of their services and the results they achieve are the District's top priority when it comes to the selection process. Since the District has hired quality consultants, student performance scores have increased by an average of 24 percent in English Language Arts (ELA) since 2005-06. Click here (PDF) to view a presentation on historical performance data provided to the Board at the November 5, 2009, Board of Education meeting.
Lesley University was a matter of much conversation (click here to view Board minutes (PDF)). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching studied the value-added effects of this program and found significant positive results for students. Click here to view Literacy Collaborative Highlights (PDF) and click here to view The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative On Teaching and Student Learning (PDF).
Beverly Flaten, a consultant from North Dakota, provides training for teachers (click here to view 6+1 Writing Traits (PDF)) in the area of writing (grades K-12), which has a strong correlate to ELA performance. The Board of Education received this year’s update on September 19, 2009, and unanimously approved the action (click here to view information provided to the Board of Education on September 17, 2009 (PDF)). This consultant, as well as many of the District's other staff development consultants, is paid with grant funding. Such grants require professional development and each consultant is approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) during the application process. Each grant is approved by the Board of Education after the NYSED reviews it and approves the program.
Our purchasing policy (click here to view policy 5410 (PDF)) does not require a Request for Proposal (RFP) for professional services. It requires procurement in a manner “that assures acquisition of goods and services of maximum quality at the lowest possible cost.”
Our current architect (RSA) has a Syracuse address. In addition, the District did have a staff development consultant on the agenda for 12/3/09 who resides in Syracuse. The District does not believe that two consultants make a “great number.” No other consultants with Syracuse/Oswego addresses are working for the District.
Again, false and misleading statements are being made without a factual base. What is the real purpose of these false accusations?
Click here to view a presentation on historical performance data provided to the Board at the November 5, 2009, Board of Education meeting
Click here (PDF) to view Board minutes regarding Lesley University
Click here (PDF) to view Literacy Collaborative Highlights
Click here (PDF) to view The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative On Teaching and Student Learning
Click here (PDF) to view 6+1 Writing Traits
Click here (PDF) to view information provided to the Board of Education on September 17, 2009
Click here (PDF) to view policy 5410
Click here to view the RSA Web site
Many of my questions were about programs, like the decision to cut our highly successful pre-kindergarten program for lack of only $55,000…
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
The Pre-K program was not cut, it was expanded. Why would Mrs. Isseks and others continue to misstate the facts, especially when Mrs. Isseks was present at the June 18, 2009, Board of Education meeting where a Pre-K program discussion took place? The Pre-K program is currently servicing more children (269) with $55,000 less than last year. In most communities, that would be cause for celebration. Additionally, and for the first time, the District is servicing all students who requested service.
The change made for the 2009-10 school year was to move all half-day programs to community-based providers. These providers are required to adhere to all of the regulations for Pre-K services. In addition, teachers must meet all of the same certification and curriculum requirements as public schools. On June 17, 2009, an e-mail, with detailed information, was sent to all Board of Education members. A copy of that e-mail and the detailed information provided can be viewed here (PDF).
Click here for a copy of the e-mail sent to the Board and detailed information provided on the Pre-K program (PDF)
Video footage from the June 18, 2009, Board meeting
Video footage of Dr. Eastwood discussing Pre-K funding
…or the decision to move our special education students out of BOCES and into the new Chorley building without any public discussion or fact-finding by the board.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
This issue was clearly discussed at various Board of Education meetings, as well as contained in Board of Education meeting material and the Referendum document materials sent to the public (click here to view Referendum information (PDF)).
New York State regulations require that the District educates its special education children “as close as possible to the student’s home” (click here to view special education regulations (PDF)). This information was part of the original discussion and Board of Education approval, which authorized the public vote for the new elementary school on October 20, 2008 (click here to view Board minutes from October 30, 2008 and click here to view Board minutes from November 20, 2008). The information was also contained in the presentation on the financing of the new school presented to the Board on October 30, 2008.
District administrators understand and comply with all state and federal regulations regarding special education and cannot be swayed by individual philosophies that are neither current or not in compliance with current federal or state laws.
Mrs. Isseks' response (1)
Mrs. Isseks' response (2)
Parent response (1)
Parent response (2)
Click here to view Referendum information (PDF)
Click here to view special education regulations (PDF)
Click here to view Board minutes from October 30, 2008
Click here to view Board minutes from November 20, 2008
I have asked other questions about the new Chorley school, like why we did not put out a request for proposals so that we could look at other plans from other architects.
We who? This specific issue has been discussed and the District has provided this information to Mrs. Isseks in Board of Education information packets sent to her on December 9, 2008, and January 11, 2009. At that time, Dr. Eastwood offered to meet with Mrs. Isseks to explain the process and what had occurred, but she declined his invitation (click here to view e-mail declination (PDF)).
The District appointed RSA as the District's architect after an RFP process for professional services and visitations to representative projects (click here to view Board minutes from November 17, 2005 (PDF)). The District authorized RSA, as the District’s architect, to proceed with drawings on the new elementary building at the December 4, 2008, Board meeting (click here to view Board minutes from December 4, 2008 (PDF)). A meeting with Dr. Eastwood would have clarified the fact that architects do not present plans without a contract for services.
Click here to view e-mail declination (PDF)
Click here (PDF) to view Board minutes from November 17, 2005
Click here (PDF) to view Board minutes from December 4, 2008
The letter that I wrote to the New York state comptroller and New York state attorney general asked for advice about how to fulfill my responsibilities as an elected official when answers to my questions about district spending are not being answered. Their responses were supportive.
As shown throughout this document, Mrs. Isseks has been notified, informed, and presented with information on numerous occasions and in duplicate. Mrs. Isseks' correspondence with elected officials informing them otherwise continues her practice of providing misinformation as if it were fact, for reasons only she can answer. For instance, four members of the Board of Education wrote a letter to the Comptroller (click here to view the letter sent to the Comptroller's Office (PDF)) without discussion or approval of the full Board. As a result of the significant amount of misinformation and false statements present in the letter, the District felt it necessary to respond (click here for the District's response (PDF)).
The Comptroller’s reply to the original letter was based on the aforementioned misinformation (click here for Comptroller's response (PDF)). Reasonable people would question the intent and agenda associated with this continual dissemination of misinformation.
Click here to view the letter sent to the Comptroller's Office (PDF)
Click here for the District's response (PDF)
Click here for Comptroller's response (PDF)
All of the comptroller's audit reports of New York State school districts state clearly that school boards have an obligation to be informed about all details of district spending.
The District doesn't disagree with that, and it has continually complied with this requirement. That is why the Board approves contracts, has the internal auditor provide weekly reports on checks written, and receives a monthly treasurer’s report. These reports have never been rejected by the Board of Education.
Mrs. Isseks has consistently stated that she has no information on the flag pole banners at the high school. However, she received the reports linked above and voted in the affirmative on them. It is questionable as to why Mrs. Isseks states she has not received any information on these expenditures when she continually receives back-up information regarding resolutions and votes affirmatively on those resolutions.
Bear in mind that I have asked Eastwood all of these questions and he has not answered any of them.
NOT TRUE AND MISLEADING!
Bear in mind that Mrs. Isseks has been offered numerous opportunities to meet with the Superintendent of Schools, but has refused to do so. She has never called the Superintendent during her year and a half on the Board. Additionally, on more than one occasion, when Mrs. Isseks received the information that she requested, she queried “Why are they sending me all this stuff? I don’t have time for this,” and “Why are they sending all this stuff, it is a waste of paper.”
As is referenced above, through documents, minutes, and video footage, these questions have been answered in various forms as well as through public Board discussion and action. The Superintendent has, on numerous occasions, offered to meet with Mrs. Isseks to discuss her concerns over the phone. She has declined or said “I don’t need to meet with you.”
School board members are volunteers, elected by the community to keep an eye on how the professionals spend our money and educate our children.
The District provides, as indicated above, all required information to the Board of Education through internal auditor's reports and treasurer’s reports. Any Board member's request for supporting documentation is sent to all Board members. In regard to how we educate our children, thank you for the opportunity to include information regarding the significant student performance improvement in our District (click here to view Middletown schools on rise story).
Click here to view Middletown schools on rise story
Click here to view Results that Matter, a presentation by Dr. Eastwood (PDF)
Bad things can happen when school board members keep quiet and do not ask questions. The recent Sigler fiasco is a perfect example.
Bad things happen, not when tough questions are not asked, but rather when people act with ulterior motives. Tough questions are welcome when the purpose is to understand, especially when the questions relate to our students and their progress.
The Middletown City School District is about hard working people with children who deserve to be provided with an education that will make them competitive and successful in whatever avenue they pursue, whether it is college, the work force, or the military.
This community is proud of how quickly it has rebounded from one of its darkest periods. It is shameful, selfish, and insufferable that some people do not want to celebrate with us and join in our tremendous success and progress.