On June 25, the final School Board meeting of the school year, there were kudos for departing board member Kendall Egan and a surprise announcement at the 3.5-hour mark of the meeting of a two-year contract for teachers granting only a 1.5% salary increase.
By Sarah Varney
On June 25, the final School Board meeting of the school year, there were kudos for departing board member Kendall Egan and a surprise announcement at the 3.5-hour mark of the meeting of a two-year contract for teachers granting only a 1.5% salary increase. The increase does not kick in until February 2014. In addition, the Rye Teachers Association agreed to a freeze of the “step” system that automates pension and salary increases under UFTA rules.
As with the June 11 Board meeting, many residents voiced their displeasure over the handling of the Osborn ELA Testing controversy. In May, two teachers at Osborn and one at Milton were removed from their classrooms and suspended after allegations of “improper coaching” during the state language arts and math tests in April. Later, another teacher at Milton was suspended.
In the interim, at least five other parents have come forward to make similar allegations of improper coaching, according to sources.
At this meeting, most parents complained of the District’s handling of the matter at Osborn School and pointed out alleged disparities between school officials’ accounts of events in the classrooms and those of parents with children in those classes.
Lisa Baer, a mother of one of the students, expressed her displeasure at what she views as a disingenuous explanation given to her when she asked Principal Angela Garcia for permission to question her son after the testing. “When I called back, I was led to believe that my son was part of a group of children being asked a few questions about the testing. It didn’t sound necessary for me to be there but I went anyway.”
Another mother recounted a similar impression after a call from Mrs. Garcia to request permission to question another child. “Why weren’t all of the children interviewed and why weren’t these interviews recorded?” asked Boukje Van den Bosch-Smits, another parent of a child in one of the classrooms.
Dr. Alvarez defended Principal Garcia and added that the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum at the time, Mary Anne Evangelist, had conducted the questioning. “Mrs. Garcia has acted properly in every step that she has taken,” he said. Parent Peter Girard noted that any resulting lawsuit arising from the controversy could result in legal costs that the District is unprepared to absorb. “We need to fix this quickly before this becomes financially ruinous,” he said.
Regarding a possible timetable for resolution of the investigation into possible cheating, the District released the following statement: “The District is addressing this matter promptly and hopes to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible.”
Rye family therapist and school parent Kim O’Connor said, “This has to be solved before school starts in September. The last thing we need is for this to continue to be an issue through the beginning of the school year.” At the same time, she added that it’s important to respect the process that the District is moving through.
However, some parents, dissatisfied with the answers given by the District, are circulating an iPetition to residents, “Reinstate Osborn Elementary Teachers.” The anonymous authors – no names are given on the site – are seeking 5,000 signatures. As of press time, 70 residents have signed the petition.
To view the petition, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reinstate-osborn-elementary-teachers/