Tag Archives: New York

Charters, Public Schools and a Chasm Between

Source: Javier C. Hernández, New York Times, May 11, 2014

…But two decades since the schools began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms. Testy political battles over space and money, including one that became glaringly public in New York State this spring, have inhibited attempts at collaboration. The sharing of school buildings, which in theory should foster communication, has more frequently led to conflict.

And some charter schools have veered so sharply from the traditional model — with longer school years, armies of nonunion workers and flashy enrichment opportunities like trips to the Galápagos Islands — that their ideas are viewed as unworkable in regular schools.

In recent years, educational leaders, concerned about hostilities between the two types of schools, have worked to encourage warmer relations. In Tulsa, Okla., charter schools and district schools are working together to improve teaching quality. And in Spring Branch, Tex., charter school leaders are helping train district teachers and principals…..

…Education experts said it might prove difficult to encourage the kind of sharing of ideas that charter schools were originally supposed to foster, given competitive dynamics. Charter schools serve about 5 percent of public-school students nationwide, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, up from about 1 percent in 2003. In some cities, like Detroit, New Orleans and Washington, the percentages are much higher. (In New York, it is 6 percent.)

“It’s like putting a Burger King kitty-corner to a McDonald’s and expecting — in the same location and competing for the same families — warm and fuzzy cooperation,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Charter schools are known for aggressive recruiting campaigns, and at schools with dwindling enrollment, every student counts: In New York, each brings more than $10,000 in education financing….

Consultants Want More for Botched Helwig Telecommunications Fiasco

Source: Mike Hudson & Frank Parlato, Niagara Falls Reporter, April 29, 2014

Niagara County legislators will be asked tonight to vote to pay additional money to two consultants responsible for the failed telephone system design that the county government decided not to move forward with. A pair of resolutions to spend $12,000 in additional costs ask lawmakers to award Cannon Design of Grand Island and ECC Technologies of Penfield, money for attending three legislative meetings earlier this year and being present for a couple of interviews, in addition to the $144,500 already paid to the consultants. At the heart of what is now a hopelessly botched job is Niagara County Director of Information Technology and Wheatfield Town Councilman Larry L. Helwig. Helwig’s position as the county’s IT director pays him $93,000 a year. The plan to install a new phone system in county buildings was canceled by the legislature under threat of lawsuits by two of the bidders. Tonight, the same consultants who helped create the problem will go before lawmakers and argue for another $12,000 in consulting fees for the phone system that never materialized. In March, the Republican-controlled legislature drafted a resolution to admonish Helwig for the failed deal that some are calling “bid rigging.” According to documents in the possession of the Niagara Falls Reporter, Helwig and his consultants clearly changed the bids of the two lowest bidders, Advance 2000 and IP Logic, in an apparent attempt to get the legislature to award the contract to IP Logic. ….
Zona and Burmaster: Cancel Award on Flawed County Phone Network Bid
Source: Frank Parlato, Niagara Falls Reporter, April 1, 2014

The debate over the bidding for installation of the new VOIP data network for Niagara County may have taken a turn in another direction. No one, including the lowest bidder, may get the award. The project may be scrapped for the foreseeable future. Two weeks ago, Legislator Randy Bradt (R-North Tonawanda) sponsored a resolution to admonish IT Director Larry Helwig for his role in what has been called “contract-steering efforts” for the data network. Bradt condemned Helwig for “attempting to undermine and create confusion related to the contract.” Bradt further charged that Helwig did not select the lowest bid for products and services, but was “driven by personal preferences or comfort levels.” … Advance 2000 of Amherst had the low bid of $605,184. The second lowest bidder was IP Logic at $673,641. But Helwig inverted the two lowest bids by adding and subtracting cost, thus artificially inflating the bids to $761,773 for IPLogic, and $816,862 for Advance 2000. …

Dinapoli introduces bill to curb N.Y. state contractor conflicts

Source: James M. Odato, Times Union, April 29, 2014

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Tuesday introduced legislation to hold contractors working in state agencies and authorities to standards similar to those for public employees who must avoid conflicts of interest. The legislation would forbid contractors, some of whom work for years at state agencies in jobs that are comparable to those of public employees, from using information they acquire to get free services or in negotiating for new positions. …

School bus driver from Port Jervis gets 2 years in prison after crash / Driving and drugs don’t mix in court

Source: Heather Yakin, Times Herald-Record, April 22, 2014

A former bus driver from Port Jervis was sentenced Monday to two years in prison for a 2013 school bus crash she caused by driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Caitlin Railo, 32, pleaded guilty in December in Orange County Court to second-degree assault and aggravated driving while ability impaired by drugs, felonies, in the Feb. 14, 2013 crash in Huguenot. Railo was driving for Quality Bus Service, transporting students for the Port Jervis School District….
Port Jervis schools to privatize bus system
Source: By Stephen Sacco, Times Herald-Record (NY), November 18, 2008

PORT JERVIS — The Port Jervis School District is planning to privatize its transportation system by the end of the school year in 2010. District officials say capital investments weren’t made, so they can’t run the system properly. Union representative and district bus driver Betty Kranz, however, says the decision is causing distress to people who might lose their jobs. …… A recent negotiation with the CSEA, the union that represents the bus drivers, allows the district to bid out to a private company a minimum of five bus runs. In exchange, the district has guaranteed that all current transportation department employees, even those on leave, will keep their jobs at least until the 2009-2010 school year, which ends on June 30, 2010. The CSEA contract also ends on June 30, 2010.

PJ School District approves privatizing student transportation in budget
Source: Mid Hudson News (NY), April 24, 2009

The Port Jervis City School District Board of Education Thursday night approved a $59 million 2009-2010 academic year budget which includes the privatization of student transportation. …… There are 100 district employees who work in the transportation department and are represented by the CSEA. Some may get picked up by the private company, but they would lose in the end, said union spokeswoman Jessica Ladlee. “It’s lower wages, minimum benefits,” she said.
“Right now, we have workers here who have invested many, many years with the district, but they are not quite at retirement age, so it puts them in a very tough position because they had years in the state retirement system but they are not quite where they need to be in order to receive a full pension.”…

First Student closing location, laying off 80

Source: WIVB, April 17, 2014

First Student is closing its Getzville location and laying off around 80 employees. The transport company would not say what led to the decision to close their Millersport Highway facility, but Student Transportation of America Inc. announced their company had been awarded contracts with Batavia City Schools, the Attica Central School District, and Williamsville Central Schools….
First Student to close Getzville office
Source: TWC, April 18, 2014

First Student to close Getzville office
…First Student notified the state that its office will close on July 14. It cited economic reasons in its notice to the state labor department….

inBloom to Shut Down Amid Growing Data-Privacy Concerns

Source: Benjamin Herold, Education Week, April 21, 2014

After months caught in the crosshairs of parents, advocates, and educators concerned about student-data privacy, controversial nonprofit inBloom announced Monday that it will close its doors. …. The announcement comes on the heels of the New York state legislature’s recent enactment of legislation that effectively pulled the plug on inBloom’s last remaining large partner.Founded in 2011, inBloom aimed to store, clean, and aggregate a wide range of student information for states and districts, then make the data available to district-approved third parties to develop tools and dashboards so the data could more easily be used by classroom educators. Over the past year, however, the organization became a lightning rod for those concerned about the increased collection, use, and sharing of sensitive student information. The backlash prompted a string of withdrawals by planned partners in Colorado, Louisiana, and elsewhere. …

Review of The Effect of Co-locations on Student Achievement in NYC Public Schools

Source: Tina Trujillo, Marialena Rivera, National Education Policy Center, April 2014

From the press release:
A recent report argues that co-locating charter schools with traditional public schools doesn’t harm the achievement of the traditional public school students. But the report leaves out the necessary documentation by which its conclusions could be reasonably assessed, a new review released today explains….

Trujillo and Rivera reviewed The Effect of Co-locations on Student Achievement in NYC Public Schools, written earlier this year by Marcus Winters and published by the Manhattan Institute.

The Effect of Co-locations argues that its data analyses show no statistical impact on traditional public school student achievement in New York City resulting from co-locations of charter schools with traditional public schools. The underlying issue has garnered recent interest as a result of the election of Bill DeBlasio as New York City mayor and the resulting shift away from former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education policies.

In their review, Trujillo and Rivera write that the Manhattan Institute report omits details about its analysis that would enable readers to evaluate the merits of its methods and its claims. Additionally, they write, the report does not examine existing related research or background information on co-locations. The reviewers also point out the report’s decision to reject any consideration of “important outcomes related to students’ socio-emotional development, safety, health, and broader academic experiences.”

As a consequence of its shortcomings, “The report ultimately serves more as a marketing tool for the continued growth of charter schools in New York City than as a carefully presented research study,” the reviewers conclude. It therefore offers neither policymakers nor educators adequate information to evaluate co-location’s impact on students’ educational experiences and outcomes….
The Effect of Co-locations on Student Achievement in NYC Public Schools
Source: Marcus Winters, Manhattan Institute, Civic Report, No. 85, February 2014

Private money, public projects: More U.S. states doing deals

Source: Hilary Russ, Reuters, April 14, 2014

Short on funding but big on need, U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to such deals, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s, hoping to leverage assets that can bring a quick infusion of private dollars to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. … The projects include everything from a light rail system in suburban Washington, D.C., to the replacement of hundreds of bridges in Pennsylvania. In the past, the United States has had an average of one or two public-private partnership deals valued at more than $500 million in the works annually, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s municipal banking group. This year, the bank said, there are 8 to 10 such projects. Thirty-three states allow varying levels of public-private partnerships for transportation projects, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, up from 23 in 2006. Kentucky lawmakers passed such legislation in late March, but the governor vetoed it on Friday. …

Country Manor closure plan to begin

Source: Observer Dispatch, April 10, 2014

The closure plan for Country Manor adult home soon will be set in motion. “It’s a sad day in Herkimer County,” said Patrick Russell, county legislature majority leader. The closure plan for Country Manor adult home soon will be set in motion. “It’s a sad day in Herkimer County,” said Patrick Russell, county legislature majority leader. Though the measure passed unanimously by the 14 present legislators – legislators Fred Shaw, Kurt Ackerman and Robert Schrader were absent – it was not without debate. The legislature had not done its due diligence in fixing the problems some legislators claimed were a reason for the manor’s closure, said JoAnne LeClair, Civil Service Employees Association Unit 7100 president in a prepared statement….

Legislature votes to close Country Manor
Source: The Times, April 9, 2014

The Herkimer County Legislature last month authorized the cancellation of a contract with Advanced Healthcare Management for the sale of Country Manor. Wednesday afternoon, the Legislature voted 14-0 to take all “necessary steps” to close the adult care home on state Route 28. Those steps, according to the resolution, include obtaining the approval of the state Department of Health and any other agency whose approval is necessary, developing a closure plan for the facility, ensuring the safety and well being of the home’s 19 residents during the transition process and finding appropriate alternative living arrangements for the facility’s residents….

Country Manor sale step closer to reality
Source: Observer Dispatch, January 17, 2014

Herkimer County officials say they have received the appropriate agreements from the local union they needed to officially extend the sale contract for Country Manor. The county received a letter from the Civil Service Employees Association Unit 7100 on Jan. 6 dropping its appeal of the sale, said county Administrator James Wallace. Additionally, attorneys for the union signed off on an appeal withdrawal Jan. 8, according to documents from the county. The lawsuit between CSEA and the county had barred the sale of Country Manor.

Deadline on Country Manor sale extended
Source: Telegram, December 30, 2013

The Herkimer County Legislature voted Monday to approve a resolution that could extend the deadline for the sale of Country Manor by six months. The extension is contingent upon the Civil Service Employees Association withdrawing its lawsuit, which attempted to block the sale of the adult home. … Attorney Robert Malone reviewed the sequence of events regarding Country Manor. The Legislature voted to enter into a contract with Advanced Healthcare Management on Oct. 31, 2012. The agreement stated the county could terminate the contract if the closing had not taken place on or before June 1. That deadline was later extended, but the CSEA brought litigation to set aside the proposed sale, saying the county had not demonstrated there was no need for the facility. The county won the initial round of the case in Supreme Court earlier this year, but the CSEA filed an appeal. Malone pointed out Monday the resolution proposed by the county Legislature’s committees on County Properties, Human Resources and Ways and Means would rescind the Legislature’s Dec. 11 resolution and give Advanced Healthcare Management until July 15 to close the deal to purchase the county’s adult care home if the CSEA withdraws its lawsuit by Jan. 15….

Country Manor’s future uncertain
Source: Donna Thompson, Telegram, December 12, 2013

The future of Country Manor remains uncertain after the Herkimer County Legislature voted at a meeting Wednesday to cancel its contract for the sale of the facility if an agreement cannot be reached by Dec. 27.

Legislature approves Herkimer County budget
Source: Amanda Fries, Observer-Dispatch, December 11, 2013

The Herkimer County Legislature approved the $101.5 million 2014 county budget Wednesday, and it extended the sale contract for Country Manor… The county is giving Advanced Healthcare Management LLC until 5 p.m. on Dec. 27 to work out a deal with the Civil Service Employees Association Unit 7100 – which filed a lawsuit earlier this year, claiming that the county hasn’t demonstrated that there isn’t a need for the adult home – and move forward with the purchase of the adult home in Herkimer….

Herkimer Co. officials consider closing Country Manor adult home
Source: Amanda Fries, Observer-Dispatch, November 19, 2013

A continuing delay in the sale of Herkimer County’s adult home has prompted a move to cancel the contract. More than a year ago, the county Legislature approved the sale of Country Manor to Advanced Healthcare Management LLC after the facility became too much of a financial burden. … The county Legislature Committee on Ways & Means voted last week to move a resolution that would cancel the contract with Advanced Healthcare. The full Legislature will vote on the measure Dec. 11. Now, officials are talking about possibly closing the facility that employs about 30 full- and part-time workers and houses 19 residents.

Country Manor transfer delayed
Source: Amanda Fries, Observer-Dispatch, June 10, 2013

Country Manor will remain in the hands of Herkimer County – at least through September. County legislators voted on Thursday during a joint committee meeting of Human Resources and Ways & Means committees to extend the contract with Advanced Healthcare Management LLC and allow it to take over the adult care home on Sept. 30, rather than June 1, like originally stipulated. …

Herkimer County renews request for beds at Country Manor
Source: Amanda Fries, GateHouse News Service, March 10, 2013

Herkimer County will once again be asking for assisted-living beds for Country Manor. During a joint meeting of the Herkimer County Legislature’s Ways & Means and Human Resources committees, legislators from both committees unanimously agreed to resubmit an application for 80 assisted-living beds at the facility, located on state Route 28 in Herkimer. … If the sale goes through, the business would purchase the facility for $335,000; but the purchase price decreases each year Country Manor remains open. If it remains open for five years or more, the company would owe the county nothing. The county also has to pay Advanced Healthcare a transition fee of $18,000 per month during the first year of purchase. …

Union challenges Country Manor sale in court
Source: Amanda Fries, GateHouse News Service, February 22, 2013

Herkimer County will find itself in court next week as a local union challenges the county’s plan to sell Country Manor. The Civil Service Employees Association Unit 7100 filed the complaint against the county in mid-January asserting the county hasn’t demonstrated there’s not a need for the adult home, union associate counsel Amanda Valazquez said…. Last week, the legislature voted 15-2 to amend the resolution involving the sale of Country Manor to Advanced Healthcare Management. The amendment specifies the property is “no longer necessary for public use.”…

Compliance With the Reimbursable Cost Manual – State Education Department – TheraCare Preschool Services, Inc.

Source: New York State Office of the State Comptroller, Division of State Government Accountability, 2012-S-21 April 2, 2014

Key Findings
We disallowed $876,898 in costs claimed by TheraCare because they did not comply with applicable provisions of the Manual. The disallowances include:
• $316,539 in compensation paid to TheraCare’s Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer and acting Assistant Executive Director in excess of SED’s allowable compensation levels;
• $474,080 in employee bonus payments that were not in compliance with Manual guidelines;
• $76,766 in unnecessary and inappropriate South American recruitment-related costs;
• $9,513 in other non-personal service expenses that were either unsupported or not program-appropriate.

From the press release:
TheraCare Preschool Services Inc, a downstate provider of preschool special education services, overcharged state taxpayers by more than $875,000 for improper staff bonuses and executive compensation over a three-year period, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. …. TheraCare, headquartered in New York City, is a for-profit organization that provides special education services to children between the ages of three and five who reside in New York City as well as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. TheraCare served 651 students during the 2010-11 school year and reported program-related costs for reimbursement of about $50.1 million for the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2011. …..
Audit reveals that preschool special education contractor overbilled New Yorkers for $875G
Source: Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News, April 3, 2014

TheraCare Preschool Services gave out $474,000 in improper bonuses and three executives overbilled the State Education Department for $316,539 in salaries, according to state Controller Thomas DiNapoli….

State Comptroller: Preschool special ed contractor overcharged for exec bonuses
Source: Mareesa Nicosia, lohud.com, April 3, 2014

…Bonus payments to employees are reimbursable by SED only if they are based on merit as measured and supported by employee performance evaluations. Auditors found that TheraCare claimed $253,205 in expenses for bonuses predicated on the organization achieving its budget, not employee performance. In addition, auditors found that TheraCare often awarded its teaching staff a sign-on bonus with the agreement that they will remain in TheraCare’s employ for at least one year. These payments are not performance based and thus do not meet the eligibility requirements for reimbursement by the state. TheraCare inappropriately charged SED $220,875 for these improper bonuses….