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Mam'k Schools Talk Civil Rights Complaint

The Mamaroneck School District incorporated a community discussion on the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) complaint as part of a regularly scheduled board meeting last night. The session was scheduled for 6:45-7:15 p.m.

 

In what was the first public forum since the federal (OCR) complaint against the Mamaroneck School District was made known parents, community activists and board members voiced their opinions on a topic that many had hoped never to confront in a diverse community such as Mamaroneck.

 Rina Jimenez, whose son attends Central Elementary School, filed the complaint against the District last December after she noticed a disproportionately high number of minority children in her son’s kindergarten class.  In August 2012, the OCR concluded that the District had applied its criteria “inconsistently and subjectively,” and that non-white students had, in fact, been disproportionately assigned to the class in question in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

As part of the agreement negotiated with the OCR, the District must submit a breakdown of students assigned to kindergarten classes by race and national origin in September of 2012 and 2013.   

Keiko Tannenbaum, co-president of the Central School Parent Teacher Association (PTA), praised the efforts of the District to work with the parents who initially complained about the kindergarten class and pointed to the District’s effort to educate the community about the kindergarten procedure by holding an event on the topic.

School Board President Nancy Pierson apologized to staff at Central School, acknowledging that many of them had to weather the blows of the community’s reaction to the complaint.

“I commend the way they handled this,” she said. 

And, in reading the numerous comments posted on local websites in response to the OCR complaint, Pierson said she came to one conclusion: “Our District values diversity.”

Luis Quiros, a community activist and author of An Other’s Mind, argued that systems of racial disparity were more deeply rooted in the District.

“The school district is contaminated with systems and subsystems that protect segregation…a laundry list by the district of activities and meetings held on behalf of Latino families are disguises of power tactics organized to minimize Latino complaints,” he said. 

Others directed their ire toward fixing what they saw as a broken system.

The parent of a child who was previously in the District, Eleanor Sherman, admonished school officials for their “appalling actions.”

“I am offended that you all are sitting there complementing each other….you have an obligation to the law,” she said, continuing, “There are other parents that are too frightened to speak on their child’s behalf because they’re afraid of retribution.”

But not all parents were aggrieved with the school’s actions.

A Central School parent, Bijan Anvar, said, “I’m a minority…I don’t feel like anyone was segregated here.”

He went on to say, “All my experiences have been positive…I think there’s a lot of parents that feel the way I do.”

Midway through the forum, the public comment session turned contentious when a parent identified by his first name only, Kurt, approached the podium to speak.  As he began to speak, the Central Elementary yearbook in hand, someone shouted from the audience, “Is he doing that again,” referencing the public outcry after pictures of the school yearbook surfaced in local media.

Kurt then directed his comments to Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, referencing an incident that occurred at a school where he previously worked in New Hampshire.

Deemed a personal attack against the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Anthony Minotti yelled “Sit down” several times, before Kurt, with Jimenez in tow, stormed out of the meeting, frustrated by the interruptions.

As the comment session continued, Jonathan Sacks, a member of the school’s Selection Committee and Citizens Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) who has two children in the school district, said that he came to Mamaroneck because he felt it was, “very important to raise children in a diverse community.”

“Unfortunately the way this thing has come up it’s going to limit the way we deal with diversity and race,” he said.

School Board member Stan Futterman, an attorney in private practice, cited an example of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle Schools as an example of the complexities inherent to racial issues within school districts.

The 2007 case involved the Seattle School District being taken to task for their method of determining who would be admitted to certain popular schools.  The “tiebreaker” would admit whichever race of student that would restore the school’s racial balance as closely as possible to a predetermined percentage that mimicked the diversity of the student population as a whole.  The original decision of the Supreme Court was overturned.

“Judges don’t agree on requirements,” he said, continuing, “The most important issue was for us to do what we think is right…we’re going to try and define policy that we think makes sense.”

Board member Robin Nichinsky, a former member of the Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Commission and Minority Achievement Task Force, said that, “the issues are very close to my heart and I care about them.”

“We recognize that these classes were imbalanced,” she said.

Board member Ann LoBue said, “I support the policy committee looking at this so it doesn’t happen again.”

Pierson said, “When we look at policy, we look at law, educational impact and who we want to be as a community…We’re not going to come up with a solution that pleases everyone.”

Referring to future policy committee meetings, Pierson said that, “We welcome the community at large to be part of the discussion.”

After the forum, the mother of three boys who had attended Central School who gave only her first name, Phyllis, said, “I am so supportive of the school district…it’s nothing but a top-notch education.” She identified herself as a minority.

“I think Ms. Jimenez is looking for a multi-million dollar settlement,” she said.

jjinla October 07, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Eleanor...I was referring specifically to the comment above mine. To insinuate that we are warehousing minorities because a large population of minorities in town congregate on one side is ludicrous. Some people are obviously pushing to get rid of neighborhood schools, and I can tell you with near certainty that if that happened, our entire district would implode (as either affluent people would move, go private, or Larchmont would create their own district altogether). This case is provoking animosity among a community that IMO used to be pretty harmonious. It's not moving us forward, it is drawing a line in the sand of us vs. them.
Eleanor Sherman October 07, 2012 at 11:59 PM
jjinia, I am glad you clarified and I apologize for misinterpreting your comments. During middle and high school, there doesn't seem to be issues. There may be some people who sell their houses and flee, but truly I don't believe that would happen because rich and poor children attend Hommocks and MHS. I think "IF" the district reacted more responsibly, with compassion and humility...it would have not escalated into what it is today. There are school board members who are saying the most aggresses comments, and clearly don't understand educational law. They don't belong as a School Board Member if they want to implement their "own" opinion, and aren't there to institute laws that are on the book. Dr. Shaps and the Board said they "asked the parents" what to do. He is our SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT and is supposed to be educated in his responsibilities to execute the laws...but didn't. Asking the parents???? Give me a break. I do wonder if we should be calling for "heads to roll" to correct our errors.
jjinla October 08, 2012 at 06:57 AM
If the administration is in any way failing their duties, yes they should be replaced. But people are overreaching in many cases and wanting to shake up the whole system in many ways, which is just plain wrong. K placement failed in one case...it has not failed systematically. Our elementary schools, although varied demographically in some cases, equally and well prepare our kids to attend the same middle and HS. I'm surprised by some of the responses and the way this was handled seems sloppy at best but I've had many experiences with administrators over the years and have been very happy with them.
jj October 08, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Eleanor you should run for the School Board. You happen to be a very articulate, sensible woman with a heart of gold and lets not forget courage. The administration should have apologized to all especially the parents that brought the action and above all the children. To spin the facts of the case, to make the parents look like they were the criminals and that the board and administration were the victims is reprehensible. Just remember the feds cited the School with discrimination and they chose to accept the findings in a resolution agreement. It's too late for the School District to state they did nothing wrong
Eleanor Sherman October 08, 2012 at 03:29 PM
jjinia, you "said it"...We KNOW the administration failed their duties because OCR cited us and we are in legal agreement to be monitored. So now what???? Who is going to pay for not doing their duties as School Board Members and Administration? Of course, this is not systematically...but it is in the Central School. So, I have to think...hhmmm....how did this really happen? Who are responsible for isolating minorities??? Dr. Shaps doesn't seem to be angered by it. The School Board Members are patting their own backs. Appropriate reactions to this situation if it were an anomoly would be apologizing, being humble, uniting the community and they aren't happening. I found the School Board Members, particularly Mr. Futterman appalling. I don't trust them, and I think we will be paying for their ways. What kind of punishment did the people who set this situation up get? NOTHING!
Eleanor Sherman October 08, 2012 at 07:15 PM
enuf, I am not here to defend or judge the parent whom I don't know. I am not going to judge her motives either. However, I can say from my own perspective that if I had a child who is entitled to a "free appropriate education" no matter what my address was, I would not move them into another class and leave behind a "segregated class" of "others." Yes, an apology is needed to "all of our parents" for having a segegated class in our school district. Personally, I think that the parent's action to go to the Board and Superintendent was appropriate. If they didn't do their job which they have an obligation to do, then it is "their responsiblity" to correct it for "all the children." From what you are saying "she had an opportunity to be greased" but didn't take it. Instead, she went on to the OCR which is her due process. I don't think you and I can talk about our community as being so diverse, when we didn't experience what this parent did. Apparently, it is diverse for "us" but not for "some others." Let's not get angry at the parent, but get angry for letting our School Board and Superintendent do nothing when it was brought to their attention.
Eleanor Sherman October 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Delete Eleanor Sherman 3:30 pm on Monday, October 8, 2012 Enuf, regarding your posting my educational law suit that I brought against the district for denying a child with a disability the use of a scientific graphing calculator many years ago. After 8 years of litigation, my son was graduating college and when I asked him if he wanted me to continue the suit and challenge this Appelate Decision, it was his decision to stop. The tactic the district use is to try and financially bankrupt the parent to stop them. I won the case at the Second Circuit which you did not post, but the district challenged it. But this is NOT ABOUT ME, IT IS ABOUT "YOU." YOUR POSTING THIS LINK is the district's tactic to try and SABATOGE AND DESTROY A PARENT who stands up to them. But you know, the district can no longer harm me or my son. Enuf, I apparently threaten you, the School Board and perhaps the Superintendent and I suspect you are one of them. YOU HAVE NO POWER TO INTIMIDATE ME. I will speak the truth. Peace! Reply
enuf October 08, 2012 at 07:39 PM
the fact is, ms sherman, that they DID do their jobs. they put the children into classes where they would do their best. central was cited, in the report for two years but afterwards, OCR admitted that it was on the ONE YEAR, 2011-2012, that was "disparate". but said that once findings ae issued, they do not amend. was central "called on the carpet"? no. rather, they simply need to comply with reporting for the next two years of racial makeup of k classes. if there were findings of discrimination or segragation their findings would have been VASTLY different. but in the end it doesnt matter. what DOES matter is the impact on the kids and wht is best for them. MY kids are minority and i am thankful for that because i have recourse aainst this nonsense. I want them to be in the class where they thrive best and dont CARE what color their classmates are.
Eleanor Sherman October 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Enuf, if you don't mind having your children in "segregated classes" then please feel free to move them out of our school district because it won't happen in this district again. May I say "enuf" to your comments. I think everyone can see through your "cloak."
enuf October 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
apologies Ms Sherman, i didnt mean to hurt you but you know, "the facts will out" as they say. This is an anonymous forum pretty much so you dont have to beleive me....but i am simply a parent. NO ties to board or attys or anyone other than MY KIDS and their best interests.
jjinla October 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Oh please, the parents ARE criminals. As stated above very clearly, the mom is the one with major issues against her race and only started this once she was refused to attend the whitest school in the district (and now one of the whitest districts in the county on our dime). She won't even refer to herself as hispanic but 'a 5th generation American of Mexican descent". And, we all saw her openly refer to another parent as "trash" in the meeting...after parading her son's photo and that of his classmates all over the place. She is a vindictive brat that didn't get her way, and did way more harm than good. Rosa Parks she is not!
jj October 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The spin your using to state it didn't occur in 2010-2011 is not described in the OCR report. So their findings stand.! Your twist also reminds me of should have could have. You saw no reason to fight OCR....their findings stand. OCR nailed the board, Scraps, and Priore.
Eleanor Sherman October 08, 2012 at 08:59 PM
enuf...No, I don't believe you. If you truly are a minority parent, then you got "a favor" cashed in for trying to intimidate me. That is what the district tried to do with Ms. Jimenez, if they offered to put her child into a "white class" and she refused. The district offered me a "blank check" for any school I wanted if I just left and I refused as well. You are just digging a deeper hole for them. :( You know there are some that just don't know "when to cut their damages." Enuf...."Well behaved women rarely make history." - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Stefani Kim October 08, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Hi, I'd like to remind everyone to refrain from personal attacks on Patch, as it violates our terms of service. Comments with personal attacks will be removed. Best, Stefani Kim
JP October 09, 2012 at 01:44 PM
From the article: Doing What’s Best for the Child 10/7/12 Read in it’s entirety at: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012310070002 The scenario is typical: A group of experienced elementary school educators sit in a room at the end of a school year to determine the classroom teachers to whom their current students will be assigned in the following year. A great deal of care and concern goes into this process. Among the factors often considered by classroom teachers are matching each student with the teacher whose teaching style, pace, personality, and expertise best matches the student’s learning style and his/her unique social and emotional needs. In making these assessments, educators view their students, as they should, by who they are as a person and learner (the “content of their character”), and not by the color of their skin or the pronunciation of their last name….
JP October 09, 2012 at 01:48 PM
And this....from the same article "The racial equalization theory espoused by some is based on the false premise that students who are judged on their individual merit must nonetheless be equally distributed based solely on their skin color. This turns Martin Luther King’s dream on its head. It is also a clear violation of the rule of law in this country as unambiguously stated by the United States Supreme Court. See Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 127 S.Ct. 2738 (2007) (“We have many times over reaffirmed that racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake… outright racial balancing is patently unconstitutional.”) ...In the end, while statistical skews may lead to understandable concerns, the remedy should never lie in using race to determine who will educate a child.
Susan October 09, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Both "Enuf" and Jonathan Sachs have referred to the OCR admitting that they were incorrect in their findings about school year 2010-2011. May I asked from whom/or what documents you have received this information? At this time, the most recent comment from the OCR does not reflect/or support what you are saying.
Mark October 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
JP...How many times does one need to say it....It's not what you think or what others have to say regarding class placement. There are rules, guidelines, statutes and laws to follow....Central School FAILED to follow....they were cited for discrimination by the FEDS! Stop the spinning of the facts. Stop creating the atmosphere that there exists a fuzziness to the law....The law is absolutely explicit regarding segregation....just as the speed limit through town or on the highway. It's there in black and white!
Eleanor Sherman October 09, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I say LET"S GET RID OF Mamaroneck School Districts Practice Group, Bond Schoeneck & King, a law firm representing school districts and universities throughout New York as they had the audacity to identify themselves in an article they wrote for the Patch. Clearly, they are misinterpreting the law and we are going to pay for it. I suggest they share the whole story of THE 2007 case "Seattle School District" which has nothing to do with our case. This had to do with a tie breaker to achieve racial balancing...not unbalancing.
jjinla October 09, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Jesus people, calm down already...there is no systemic discrimination in our district. The school failed to make sure that minorities in one class in one year were appropriately doled out equally in each class so that people feel good about progress and narrowing the achievement gap. Some people obviously have much bigger axes to grind with the district for unrelated reasons (i.e. losing a ridiculously long and expensive IEP battle), which are just a distraction. And as for the Seattle case, might I just say that they USED to bus (which is obviously what Eleanor wants) and it failed miserably. The schools were horrible and only filled with poor minorities. Seattle learned the hard way and ended bussing and surprise, surprise...the locals are returning, families are moving back from the suburbs, funding is flowing, and schools are making huge improvements. And as for well-behaved women rarely making history...hell, Lindsay Lohan made history. It doesn't mean that she made the world a better place.
JP October 09, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Mark, you obviously have not taken time to read the entire artlcle - I posted the link. I did not write those words, so why are you saying it has nothing to do with what I think? Read the article. They did not break any laws. And just because another case has now been cited (and it isn't Brown vs. Bd of Ed - for a change) and you either haven't taken the time to read it or don't agree with it, doesn't make it null and void. Read the article - then come back and give your opinion without "yelling".
Eleanor Sherman October 09, 2012 at 10:31 PM
jjinia, I never said I wanted to bus students. Our case has nothing to do with Seattle. It has to do with our School Board and Superintendent failed to act with their duties when they were notified there was segregation going on. LAST TIME....WE LOST THE CASE BECAUSE "ALL MINORITY STUDENTS" WERE PUT INTO ONE K CLASS @ CENTRAL. THE GRADE WAS NOT INTEGRATED. IT WAS SEGREGATED. END OF CONVERSATION ABOUT THIS. Now what does Linsey Lohan have to do with this case. P l e a s e ... use your head. This conversation is getting SILLY. Talk about distraction, using Linsay Lohan is "ridiculous." However, I would suggest that you read more about the actual author of "Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History" - Author "Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, is a historian of early America and the history of women and a university professor at Harvard University. Ulrich's innovative and widely influential approach to history has been described as a tribute to "the silent work of ordinary people"-
JP October 09, 2012 at 10:35 PM
And check below too......and read all of it before you (and or Eleanor) claim that this person shouldn't be listened to or taken seriously. Because, you know, they see this differently from the two of you. Re: “Mamaroneck race controversy: Mom says feds should look at 5-year data,” Sept. 24 article: As a follow-up to the above mentioned article, I would like to present some additional points to your readers, which were omitted during my lengthy interview with The Journal News reporter. First, the Office of Civil Rights report did not state that the Mamaroneck school district engaged in any form of intentional discrimination related to the manner in which kindergarten children were assigned to their classes. Second, the report did not indicate that the school district’s policies, which formed the basis upon which student class assignments were made, were flawed in any manner. Third, it is important to point out that the U.S. Supreme Court recently determined that school districts cannot use race as a determining factor when assigning students to schools or classes. Accordingly, it would appear that unfair, negative conclusions about the district’s intentions and actions are being drawn. The district should be given the opportunity to move in a positive direction in the future, as it has already dedicated itself to doing. Jay Worona Latham, New York The writer is general counsel, New York State School Boards Association.
Eleanor Sherman October 09, 2012 at 11:32 PM
JP, apparently you appear to be the attorney who helped get us into this mess. We are not talking about the district's "policies." Oh, we had policies in place. We are talking about the district was guilty of "not following their own policies." Stop double talking please. I am starting to wonder how much it cost our district in legal fees to have you represent us and if you continue with your gibberish, we are going to have a lot more legal fees to come. I am sure more legal fees will make you happy. But, I will not be happy...nor will our community. Stop talking already. YOUR FIRM LOST THE CASE and we had to enter into an agreement with OCR. Your firm is scrambling to do "damage control." No wonder. If I were you, I'd cut my losses and stop digging a deeper hole for yourself. Sshhhh.
jjinla October 10, 2012 at 12:10 AM
There was no 'case' in the first place! Only a complaint and subsequent investigation. All spurred by a bitter parent that hates her own race and housing/economic situation. You tried to make this woman sound like a saint (a la your well behaved woman comment) and that is a huge joke. Now I know why you and the others are so nuts about this...you don't even have the facts. All minority students were absolutely NOT put into one class at Central. Come on, seriously?!? There were just too many in one class...along with whites. The other classes absolutely had some minorities in them. Just come clean...you hate the school district because of your experience (losing a court case) with your son. Now, you are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill trying to get bad PR for the district. What was the school supposed to do in the middle of the year when it was brought to their attention (since it was NOT intentional in the first place)? Switch all of the classes around? Yeah, that would have caused a huge sh*tstorm and would have screwed up the year for an awful lot of kids and parents. The only parents complaining were the two who wanted to go to Chatsworth (one got to... Jimenez was denied and only then filed this complaint.)
JP October 10, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Ms. Sherman, you stated above, "Our case has nothing to do with Seattle". But you going on and on both here and last week at the meeting about whether or not your son should have been permitted to use a specialized calculator does? Please stop using these forums to vent about your own personal vendetta against the district. And I am about as far from being a lawyer as one can be. You are completely off base in your last post directed to me. Once again, you are making accusations and assumptions about people without proof or reason. You don't believe what "Enuf" is saying nor that s/he is a minority; you don't believe that the people involved with class placement at Central could possibly have put together classes with intent to segregate by race; you don't believe that I could possible post what I did above without being some attorney trying to dig myself out of some imagined hole. It must be a sad way to live, always thinking such negative things about people. You also stated, "enuf, I am not here to defend or judge the parent whom I don't know. I am not going to judge her motives either." Then why is it you are so willing to judge the people who did placement at Central? And in particular to judge their motives?
JP October 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Finally Ms. Sherman, you say regarding your own parent, "You see race didn't matter to her. It is what is within the soul, not the exterior of the skin that matters." Seems to me your mother would be in agreement with Central in not using race as a criteria for placement. It's the soul that matters, right?
Eleanor Sherman October 10, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Shhhhhhh JP. My mother is deceased. :(
JP October 10, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I'm sorry, Eleanor. Mine is as well. I was not disrespecting her in the least - she sounds like a very special and wise woman based on the bit you've shared here. (as an aside, please stop shhhhhhhing me. I would never do that to you and you've certainly shared a lot more on this topic than I have.....).
Eleanor Sherman October 10, 2012 at 04:29 PM
JP I accept your apology. However, I think that there are some people that are bordering on slandering the parent calling her a "criminal" for wanting to desegregate a class. Others have said "she hates her own race" which is a dispicable comment and based on just "mean words." Only a loving parent would have gone so far to right an injustice in my opinion. I think that "any parent" would protect their children from injustice. At least, I hope so. I think all that needs to be said "has been said." Let the law take over now. It is not up for us to decide anything further. What was..happened and I am sure will never happen again, because we are "wiser." Let's all "play nice children" and show our own kids that we can have differences of opinion, and don't have to play dirty. Peace be with you all. :)

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