Sustainable Playland Proposal Needs Your Support
As President of the board of Directors of the Friends of Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, I am writing to ask for your strong support for the plan submitted by Sustainable Playland Inc. (SPI) for reinventing Playland Park. The Westchester County Board of Legislators will be voting soon on which of the submitted plans for Reinventing Playland will be approved. I encourage you to support SPI because it is the MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PLAN submitted for consideration. SPI’s plan will protect the buffer zones of property adjoining the Read Wildlife Sanctuary, including more wetlands habitat restoration along the Manursing Lake edge and protection of the fields along the road to Read where killdeer regularly nest. The plan also describes a detailed Environmental Sustainability plan (e.g., reduction on fossil fuel reliance, solar panels) and supports passive, non-polluting recreational uses of the land and water (e.g., kayak launch, jogging trail, sports fields). Please visit SPI’s website to view the proposed plan at: http://sustainableplayland.org/
The Board of Legislators are holding an open meeting this Wednesday Feb 13 at the County Center starting at 6:30pm. All four proposals for reinventing Playland will be presented, and are also available on the BOL’s website: http://westchesterlegislators.com/committees.html?id=2029
Please go to the meeting if you can, and view the presentations and ask the tough questions. Then show your support for the proposal you feel is best during the open comment period. If you cannot attend, then I urge you to express your support by writing to your Westchester County Board of Legislators at this website: http://westchesterlegislators.com/contact-us.html
I hope you will agree with me that the SPI proposal makes the most sense for our local community in Rye, for the wider community of Westchester County, and for the environment.
Joy Reidenberg, Ph.D.
President, Friends of Read Wildlife Sanctuary
The District’s Residency Requirement
We would like to clarify several points regarding student residency in response to a topic raised at our last Board of Education meeting and addressed in a letter to the editor posted on The Rye Record website.
The District takes the issue of residency very seriously. Not only is it our responsibility to educate the children who live in the District, but also to spend taxpayer monies in the most fiscally responsible way. The District has an obligation to its taxpayers to ensure that all students who attend the Rye schools at taxpayer expense are residents of Rye.
It is a part of our due diligence on behalf of taxpayers to ensure that all of our students meet the basic residency regulations for attending our schools when they first register in the district. We stand by our policies for student admissions and non-resident students, and have guidelines that are used in determining whether students meet the eligibility requirements for attending our schools.
Unfortunately, every year there are students who seek to attend Rye schools even though they do not reside in Rye, and in these cases we must decline enrollment. On occasion, we are confronted in individual cases by information that compels us to investigate residency issues further. These reviews are handled with discretion, confidentiality and common sense. It is a practice that other school districts exercise as a part of sound business operations.
We want to make it clear: the District does not randomly check the residency of enrolled students. Further, all residency reviews, which are generally few in number, are addressed within the context of our existing budget.
While residency is an important matter, the heart of our mission is to provide the students of Rye with an educational program that will prepare them to be life-long learners and grow to their potential. We are committed to ensuring that the children who live in our community receive the educational support, guidance, and encouragement that will help them to thrive in the 21st century.
Dr. Frank Alvarez, Superintendent of Schools
Rye Mother Speaks Out
The following letter was sent to the Rye City School District and forwarded to us by the author for publication.
My name is Laura Shuler. I have been a resident of Rye for the past 14 years. My husband and I have raised our family here … our four children have attended Midland Elementary, Rye Middle School and Rye High School. We’ve been supportive of the schools, our kids have done well and we’ve never lodged a complaint.
So you can imagine my surprise on January 10 when, with no forewarning, I received a registered letter from a Kathleen Ryan, who identified herself as the Assistant Superintendent for Business of the Rye City School District. In it, I was informed that my daughter, who is currently a senior at Rye High School, would be expelled from the school in eight days hence. This was based on quote “facts” that were substantiated by surveillance of my daughter that documented that she predominantly lives at (another address) in CT and is therefore not legally entitled to attend the public schools.”
The letter went on to say that I had a right to an “informal meeting” with Ms. Ryan to understand the factual basis for her decision to expel my daughter, where I could provide documentary evidence to try and disprove her “facts”. In other words, my daughter was guilty, I was guilty and it was now up to us to prove our innocence.
Needless to say, I was shocked and upset.
For the record:
- I am a resident and taxpayer of Rye.
- My daughter lives with me and my husband.
- She spends three nights a week at the home of her biological father, with whom I share joint custody.
Given those facts, I couldn’t imagine how or why my daughter’s right to attend Rye High School would be called into question. Or why the district would resort to covert spying on her, rather than contacting me directly to discuss a concern.
I contacted Ms. Ryan and Dr. Alvarez, the Superintendent of Schools, for an explanation. I wanted to know why my daughter had been targeted, what type of surveillance had been used, and what they were prepared to do to correct the situation, given the true facts.
In a phone call and follow up letter, Ms. Ryan told me that the eligibility requirement for a student to attend Rye City Schools is not whether he or she predominantly lives in Rye with a tax-paying parent, but is instead where he or she spends the majority of school nights. When I said that I had never heard of such a rule, Ms. Ryan said it was a regulation set forth by the Commissioner of Education.
I contacted the Commissioner’s office. They told me that there is no such requirement at the state level and that determination of student residency is left to the Board of Education of each district. I have scoured the Rye City School District’s Resident Student Admissions policy and its Application for Resident Students and have been unable to find a single mention of school-night-sleeping arrangements as a requirement for establishing residency.
And yet, this supposed regulation was the basis for setting up covert surveillance of my daughter and lead to a unilateral decision to remove her from the school I help pay for.
I guess I made a persuasive-enough argument in my phone call with Ms. Ryan to dissuade her from moving forward with the expulsion. I received a letter from her on January 15th in which she said that my daughter would be allowed to continue to attend Rye High School if she spends the majority of school nights sleeping at my home for the remainder of the school year. (While I found this to be over-reaching and invasive, at least I didn’t have to submit to a home inspection, something Ms. Ryan said I might be asked to do to prove my daughter lives with me.)
In her letter of reprieve, there was no mention of the details of the surveillance that was used on my daughter, and there was certainly no apology for the way the District had conducted itself in this matter.
And so, I am here today, to ask the School Board for some clarity. As a tax-paying member of this community, a homeowner and a parent, I think it is fair and reasonable to know the answer to the following questions:
Are you aware of and do you condone the District’s use of covert surveillance of its students? If so,
- What are the conditions under which surveillance of a student is considered warranted?
- Who is allowed to authorize it?
- How is it being conducted?
- How does a parent or student who has had this happen to them gain access to the records? (I do know that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), I have the right to inspect these records within 45 days of having made the request to see them. As I requested this in writing on January 10th, the District has 45 days, or until February 24th, to provide them to me.)
Is a child’s right to attend Rye City Schools predicated on the number of school nights a student sleeps at the home of a parent in the district, rather than the fact that their parent is a tax-paying custodial resident? If so,
a. Where is this written down?
b. What is the purpose of this requirement, other than the targeting and removal of children of divorced parents from the school system? In our phone call, Ms. Ryan did say in that my daughter was one of a group of students under investigation. I’d like to know if they are all children of divorce.
Do you believe that the concept of due process and the bill of rights should govern the district’s interactions with students and their parents? If so, how can covert surveillance, false accusations and unilateral judgment be justified in a blue-ribbon school district where our children are being taught the value of our democratic rights to privacy and due process?
I’d like to know the answers to these questions. And I know a lot of other parents would too.
But perhaps the person who most deserves answers is my daughter. She’s done nothing wrong. And yet, the school district that she has called her home since she entered it in first grade targeted her, spied on her and was very ready and willing to throw her out.
Ironically, on January 9th, the day before I received the letter from Ms. Ryan telling me of “the surveillance”, of her “facts” and her decision-to-expel, my daughter attended an anti-bullying program put on by the Rye High School administration. In it, they talked about their intolerance of the behaviors that defines bullying: the intimidation of others through an imbalance of power that is characterized by harassment and threats.
Ironically, that’s exactly what arrived in a letter from the Rye City School District the very next day.
Thank you for highlighting our concern over the potential dramatic change this application for a change to the site plan at 279 Purchase Street will have on our City.
The neighborhood has shown dramatic investment over the last few years, arguably based on what occupancy the Planning Commission had approved for these developments. Although rated B1, there has been significant improvement in housing stock in the immediate vicinity of the property in question. Why would the City want to risk reversing this very positive quality of life trend with issues such as garbage and noise?
While offering the developers great latitude to invest in this property, the Planning Commission excluded food service. What is compelling about their argument for change now, a few years later? If granted, does this create a precedent that will constrain the Planning Commission in the future? Is the applicant’s case stronger than those who have been refused the same in the past?
Because the very large development at 269 Purchase Street is not yet operating, traffic and parking studies are generally irrelevant and will remain so until the space is rented and being used. What if the owners at this location can’t rent all their space in 11 months, will they have the right to plead financial hardship as well and push for “food service?”
The Planning Commission recently approved the site plan at the former location of the Black Bass Grill, at another gateway of Rye. Again, this was approved subject to a food service exclusion. Will that owner and every other owner with this restriction in the City of Rye apply for a change? Precedent matters.