Urgent: week of January 14

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Messages which absolutely need to be seen today due to time constraints or breaking news. Remember to check the"new answers" link for the most active topics. This topic will run for a week, and then we will start a new dated "urgent" file.

-- Anonymous, January 13, 2001


Carol: You are right..we must be extermely careful.....he is a public figure and therefore open to certain comment, ridcule, poarody, etc...but no slander please...We can always give "in my opinion" comments, that are protected speech...no need to call him anything by any oif us..let him fight it out (hopefully in public)...will be most interestiung to see if he does bring character witnesses to the BOE, how that falls into the agenda of business before the board! any guesses??? I don't believe anyone at any board meeting ever called him a "r", do you?

No letter to the editor that i ever saw was in newsweek but I have not scanned all past newsstand issues...I know that at least one was sent from an activist in NCarolina...don't know if it got in...

Here's a news item about another board that voted 4-3 to make the change. This is from kansas....

Indian leaders hail Hiawatha Board decision to eliminate Indian names for school mascots as 'precedent-setting.'

By ANDREA ALBRIGHT The Capital-Journal

As administrators last week mapped out the steps that will lead to new mascots for Hiawatha schools, American Indian advocates rained praise on the district for its decision to make the change.

Hiawatha Unified School District 415 board members voted 4-3 in December to eliminate Redskins, Warriors and Braves as school mascots after receiving the recommendation from a committee that spent about six weeks studying the issue.

Organizations from as far away as Washington, D.C., have congratulated the board for its decision, calling the resolution historic and precedent-setting.

Susan Masten, president of the National Congress of American Indians,said her organization thanked the Hiawatha board and hoped the change would inspire other school districts to make similar changes.

"For more than four decades, NCAI's member tribes have collectively gone on record strongly opposing the use of such mascots," Masten said. "These mascots in no way honor Native Americans. They are an unnecessary element of today's society and represent the last vestiges of a time thought long past when such stereotypes were commonplace."

Masten said the change was a step in eliminating prejudice and would help build a bridge between the two cultures of Hiawatha.

Nancy Bear, chairwoman of the Kickapoo Tribe, also said mascots that portrayed American Indians and their cultures in a negative manner perpetuated racism. She told the board she hoped other districts would follow its lead.

"We commend your precedent-setting action for Kansas school districts, and we hope that other schools will look to your example and respond accordingly," Bear said in a letter to the board dated Jan. 8. "Thank you for helping to eliminate prejudice and helping to promote equality of our cultures."

Additional praise came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Horton and the Kansas Office of Native American Affairs.

Hiawatha superintendent John Severin said Thursday that the board this week finalized plans for the selection of new mascots. Severin said the district would take suggestions from anyone in the community through mid-February, when the board of education and administrative council would review the list and narrow it to six or eight choices. The student council then will have the responsibility to reduce the number to three, and students in grades four through 11 will make the final selection through a district vote.

Chick Hale, a Hiawatha Middle School parent of Kickapoo and Potawatomi descent, said he was pleased that the schools soon would have mascots that would inspire all the children in the district.

"Even though this was a mascot issue, it was spiritual in nature," he said. "If we can get a mascot in there that will motivate the children it will help them stay in school and pursue their diplomas. We don't want anything in the school system that would discourage or deter them from that."

Andrea Albright can be reached at (785) 295-1208 or aalbright@cjonline.com.

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2001

I am guessing the old complaint was by Mr. Evers? I beleive this is his name. He mentioned it in the video tape of his birthday.

Charles CYow@Yowlaw.com

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2001

got a letter today from the DOJ saying they have forwarded my complaint about Onteora to the D of Ed Office for Civil Rights. Like apologize for the delay in responding...It's been since October 30th... Anyway...seems like a bit of progres...anyone esle actually made a complaint and filed? And recieved a letter back.. IF you feel, like I do, that the district is in violation of the non discrimination policy by promoting one race of people ("Indians") with their policies and actions on the mascot, and not allowing others to be equally "stereotyped" or "honored" by being a mascot, symbol or logo, it's not too late to file...send complaints to: Ms. Norma Cantu US Dept of Education Office for Civil Rights 400 Maryland Avenue, SW -1100MES Washington, DC 20202-1100 (202) 205 5413; 1-800-421 3481

send copy to Charles and keep one for your file or send another to STAND...

Go get'em. Tobe

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2001

We need to gather info, just like Jim has outlined...Ask anyone you know in suprrounding school districts who their district uses as attorney and as auditor. Every year each school attorney must sign a paper saying the district doing nothing illegal...if even one of Shaw's districts is over the 2% mark of unencumbered fund balance, that targets him as a hypocrite of the first order. We believe he is the attorney for Webbetuck which reportedly has a 17% fund balance...needs to be confirmed.

Also, same holds true for Randy Bullis CPA...He MAY be the outside auditor for New Paltz, which reportedly had a disaterous million dollar plus fund imbalance (negative fund balance...not allowed)and didn't "catch it" for three years. This also has to be confirmed...know anyone in that district?

It turns out that Onteora does not even have an outside auditor at present...Doan refused to re-hire the firm that just reported on last year's books since he claimed they charged too much...so we have not had anyone to look over things since last summer... Another of the Doan deals that needs to be made public..anyone guess who they'd like to hire as outside auditor...wonder if they dangled that in front of him...the CPA firm he works for is Nugent and Haeussler, but I could not find a web site or a listing of clients....

Can we get ANYONE who heard Perry spouting off how they were going to get Hal to speak out in public be heard...how about anyone who heard them discuss the possibility that Hal would be "charged" last night? It's been reported that the reason CARE came out in force was because they were lead to believe this was going to happen...then they'd get a chance to cheer...It got stopped cold for the time being...but we know (and Hal knows) it's only a matter of time (a short time) before he is brought up on "charges." The hatchet job is in. And this leaking of info shows that the board trio discussed the contcnts of the report with Shaw before the rest of the board knew what was in it.

Keep on sleuthing...we have three days to DO IT!!


-- Anonymous, January 19, 2001

I see by google search that Shaw and Perelson represent New Paltz, Hyde Park Central, and Dobby Ferry ($17 K retainer and $140/hr...they charge us $150/hr/), Roxbury, NY and Washingtonville. maureen doesn't your mom live in roxbury...???Can't we find out who large their unexpended fund balance is???Quick... tobe

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2001

The other (maybe older/newer??) Shaw firm is named Shaw and Silveira. A search on google brings up many case laws from the DOE commisioner. I've waded through a number of those and compiled one's I felt needed to be printed up.

Seems as if Shaw is very well know as a union buster and dreaded negotiator in labor relations for school boards. I've spoke to several 'outside the district' union negotiators who had to deal with Shaw. His tactics include stalling, makes it difficult to schedule appointments, does whatever the board wants him to but he is also considered very smart, astute and respected as an tough opponent of labor. He represented Poughkeepsie until recently replaced by our own Mr. Donahue (revenge? because of what I heard was a personality conflict with an attorney on the Poughkeepsie BOE. All the union reps know him well and dislike dealing with him because of his smirking arrogance and disrespect. His wife, Margo, works with him as well as his partner Gary Silveiri of Highland. His relationships with other districts include at the least Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Highland, Pine Bush, Warwick, Sullivan Co. BOCES, Pine Plains and Rhinebeck. He is a big NY Rangers fan.

I've also found out that the 2% limit on the surplus unexpended budget is definitely law. But all of the cases I've seen brought before the DOE commissioner have resulted in, at most, a reprimand. There also seems to be a statue of limitations of 30 days after the fiscal year to bring a case before the commissioner. It seems as if board business managers seem to find ways to subvert the 2% law by "creative accounting".

We need to find out all the districts of which Shaw is involved and what the surplus' are of these districts. It is critical that we control the potential damage and spin on this problem with the press. Perhaps by Sunday we can compile our info and compare notes and potential strategies. Everyone must speak at public be heard with hard concrete information to feed to the press. Let's get the facts and stay together on this. Thanks.

Anyone know Gary Lowenburgh the past superintendant of New Paltz or Barry Kaufman former Teachers union rep of Poughkeepsie?

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2001

For those of you leaglly inclined here's a clarification on the legalities...what we are dealing with is the Real Proerty Tax Law (RPTL)sec.1318(1) which states that at the conclusion of each fiscal year, a board of education must apply any unexpended funds to reduce its tax levy for the upcoming school year. Surplus funds are defined as "any operating funds in excess of two percent of the currant school year budget, and shall not include funds properly retained under other sections of law".

It further states that "the warrent of the collecting officer...shall state the amount of unexpended surplus funds in the custody of the board and shall further state that except as authorized or required by law, such unexpended surplus funds have been applied in determining the amount of the school tax levy".

But pursuant to sec, 275.16 of the commissioner's Regulations, an appeal to the Commissioner of Education must be commenced within 30 days of the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of. Under RPTL sec. 1318(1) an appeal is timely if it is brought within the fiscal year during which unexpended surplus funds are improperly retained.

On the subject of allowable expenses during an austerity budget I found the following:

Generally and expense may be considered contingent if it is a legal obligation of the district or if it is necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property or assure health and safety of the students and staff. (Appeal of Brousseau, 36 ED Dept Rep 150, Decision No. 13,685; Fromal Opinion of Counsel No. 213,7 id 153)

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2001

A late night thought so please bear with me. If an appeal can be made to the commisioner regarding the unexpended budget fund only during the fiscal year in which it occurred or 30 days thereafter, is that logistically or practically possible? What are the timelines? Is the fiscal budget reconciled before the fiscal year is over? When is the fiscal year at Onteora? Is it possible to find out if the unexpended budget exceeds 2% when it needs to be in order to appeal such a surplus? If this is not possible, perhaps that is why everyone does it and so few care? The cases I've read about it are almost always denied because the statue of limitations is over.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2001

Good work on the research! It would be so great to be able to discredit Shaw and whatisname the accountant....

Let's see if I have this straight: The reason Onteora and many other school districts use a fund balance greater than 2% is that 2% is too low. The reason that the DOE doesn't hardly ever reprimand them is that they acknowledge that 2% is too low. In fact,all money from the fund balance which is not spent is returned to the taxpayers in the form of budget revenue for the following year, so no money is ever lost in this process. A fund balance that is the same year after year costs essentially the same every year, but a greater sum is available in case of unanticipated expenses, in which case there's less money left over, but the money was spent from necessity (we hope). So what's the big f-g deal, anyway?

The NYS School Boards Ass. is overwhelmingly in favor of restoring the fund balance to 5%, and the NYS senate (Republican controlled) has already passed a bill to restore it to 5%. Is this all true?

Yes to Morty Schiff.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2001

I beleive you got it right. On a further note, the NYS School Board Association lobbyist told me 'off-the- record' that the reason that the raising of the unexpended fund balance to 5% is because it is strongly opposed by the Pataki administration. Reason being is conservative politics. Lower taxes. And it seems that there is some reason due to the payment of state funds to the districts which makes the state look better if the unexpended fund balnces are low. I wasn't that clear on the explanation.

On a further note, the accounting firm of Nugent and Haeussler has been active in the districts of New Paltz, Haldene (Cold Spring), and Hyde Park in addition to others. We desperately need to find out about the unexpended fund balances in these districts and if Nugent and Haeussler has participated in any districts with over 2% balances.

Haldene, for example, has on record that in 11/99 it has an "unreserved fund balance" of $491,000 and was reported to be in fine financial shape by Nugent and Haeussler. But I don't know what this means at the end of the year with the budget.We need hard budget numbers. Make calls to friends in other districts and let's try to compile these numbers.

Hyde Park ended the fiscal year on June 30, 2000 and the N&H audit findings reported the district as "a clean audit with no significant findings". What was the unexpended fund balance for that district in that year?

Nugent and Haessler has as a partner Norman M. Sassi. Former co-owner, Robert Wltzen died in 11/00. CPA's include Sassi, Randy Bullis, Peter Bullis, Robert Pettine.

Need to further check into Saugerties and New Paltz where there may have been involvement by Shaw and N&H.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2001

I would strongly recommend to anyone with an interest to file a appeal to the DOE commissioner Mills as to the improper use of funds during the austerity budget for the Shaw investigation...the criteria doesn't seem to be met for the hiring of Shaw and Co.. But someone needs to file an appeal to the DOE because it must be done in a timely fashion according to my research. Otherwise the commissioner dismisses the case. This could possibly put a stop to all this madness and spin it in our favor.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2001

Ah, your'e all marvelous.What a Bulletin Board.I do not type . I'll do all I can stand.I've spoken to Bonnie Walker. Pres. of Roxbury Central School BOE.Indeed RCS hired Shaw et al when a "tax payer friendly" group got control of the BOARD AND WANTED TO INITIATE PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THE SUPT. The supt. was bought out of his contract with Shaw's help. The district considered it expensive but unavoidable. The year following, the Board became concerned about the firm's slow response time to requests for reports, became unhappy with the failure to successfully resolve outstanding litigation and fired the firm. The Board Pres. refers to Shaw as the slimeball, but implies that his ability to win cases is reknown.She will call before Monday pm to give me fund balance numbers.They always carry a balance over the legal limit and feel quite safe and sound about it.Churchill et al is their auditor,too.Regarding the fund balance issue, I found some interesting info on line.http://www.asbj.com/schoolspending/resourcessielke.html I downloaded an article titled A PENNY SAVED. The article addresses the issue of fund balance from a national point of view. It acknowledges the need to comply with State laws, but in general it recommends that districts keep no less than 5%.The article also presents a clear and straightforward explanation of the whole affair. Jim recommended we make it available at monday mtg.Good idea.I just remembered I do have a connection in the New Paltz district, I'll get right on it.The more local districts that we can list on Mon. night, that share our criminal budgeting procedures, the better.OK.Next. Open meeting issues.I'm going to be quoting from the Sunshine Laws..A Hand book for SB members.Ready? It's alot." In one case,NYS Appeals court held that a Board which held an executive session, based on the attorney's belief that an adverse decision would almost certainly lead to litigation, DID NOT justify conducting the public buisness in executive session.In so holding, the court reasoned that to accept this argument would be to accept the view that any public body could bar the public from it's meetings, simply by expressing the fear that litigation may result from the action taken therein.Such a view would be contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law.Here's more.In order for an exec.session to be validly convened there must be strict adherance to the procedure set forth therein.It is insufficient to merely regurgitate the statutory language ; to wit,'discussions re: proposed,pending or current litigation.This does not comply with the intent of the statute.To validly convene an exec. session the public body must identify "with particularity " the subject to be discussed. Both these opinions, undercut Shaw's opinion of Thurs. night.My focus for PBHeard is,if our Board is concerned with following the letter of the law, despite the danger to the district's fiscal health,than how do flagrant violations of the open mtgs. law go unchallenged?Indeed is it legal at all to be spending this Shaw $$ on a contingency budget? Jim has found some info that I'm going after as soon as I write all these damn words.I also have some good dope on the use of personnel records, but later for that. Keep talking so we don't get redundant with all this research. Big Love.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2001

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