Yonkers Board of Education Letter Addressing Yonkers City Council President Mike Khader By Yonkers Board of Education Trustee President Rev. Steve Lopez Herein
Dear Rev. Lopez,
YONKERS, NY — September 7, 2018 — I am in receipt of your letter regarding the press conference held on the steps outside of the Enrico Fermi School on the afternoon of September 6th, 2018. Although I very much appreciate and echo your call for the City Council, Board of Trustees, the Superintendent of Schools, the Mayor, and our State delegation to work together to address the challenges facing Yonkers Public Schools, I must strongly dispute your assertion that my call for the development and implementation of an extreme weather plan was “grandstanding.”
As I hope you heard in my remarks to the press, I saluted Superintendent Quezada and the Central Office’s response to the extreme heat of Thursday, September 6th, as well as hailed the remarkable recent achievements of Yonkers Public Schools, including the significant rise in graduation rates over the past five years. Although I am proud of the work of our students, teachers, administrators, and staff, I am unwilling and unable to turn a blind eye to the public outcry that my office received the morning of Thursday, September 6th from both parents and staff regarding the heat and potentially unsafe conditions for our students. If being responsive to one’s constituents and putting our children’s safety first is “grandstanding,” I make no apologies. It has been, and will continue to be my practice to use the platform granted to me by public office to amplify and seek to address the concerns of my constituents, especially when the safety and welfare of our children are at stake.
As I am sure you are aware, the Yonkers Public Schools Emergency Management Plan has no stated policies for extreme heat such as we experienced on September 6th, heat which drove neighboring school districts to enact early release times. Although I salute the efforts undertaken by the Central Office to provide relief to the students and teachers suffering in the extreme heat, I believe that the development of an official policy for such conditions is in our long term interests, and would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the Superintendent, Board of Trustees, parents, teachers and students to develop one.
I am pleased that you acknowledged the coming budget shortfall faced by Yonkers Public Schools. As I am sure you are aware, the City of Yonkers approved a $25 million increase in budget appropriations for the Board of Education for “maintenance of effort” in the last budget, despite an otherwise challenging budget season on both the school and municipal sides. This demonstrates a unanimous commitment on the part of the City Council to the mission of Yonkers Public Schools, however, accountability cannot and should not be deflected at the expense of our students. As I am sure you are aware, I personally have actively sought to collaborate with the Board of Education on a variety of issues, from the formation of a Children With Special Needs Advisory Board, to joining the Board of Trustees and other officials in lobbying trips to Albany to appeal for additional funding from the State. My office has drafted resolutions and sought testimony from Yonkers Public Schools officials including yourself on a variety of matters intended to increase dialogue and collaboration between the City Council and the Board of Education. I look forward to hearing your solutions in the future as to how we can further and sustain the achievements of Yonkers Public Schools in the years to come, however, will not silence the concerns of my constituents as they relate to Yonkers Public Schools.
What unites us, from the City Council, to the Administration, to Yonkers Public Schools, is a shared desire to see our teachers and students be successful. Let us keep that in mind as we approach the challenges ahead.
Michael Khader, City Council President
cc. Mayor Mike Spano, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin Quezada, Members of the City Council
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September 7, 2018
Mike Khader, President City Council
Yonkers, NY 10701
Dear President Khader,
Your actions yesterday, holding a press conference in front of a school on the first day of instruction, “about lack of proper air conditioning in multiple Yonkers Public School buildings,” put the Board of Education Trustees and the citizens of the City of Yonkers on notice that you are unwilling to work collaboratively with the Yonkers Public Schools. I sincerely hope that this was not your intent.
As you know, our city more than ever needs their City Council to work hand-in-hand with the Trustees, Superintendent of Schools, Mayor and our State delegation for your public schools. Looming heavy before us is the potential for a $60 million shortfall for the 2019-2020 school budget. We must have a unified voice as we seek both short and long-term solutions to continue the significant progress made over the past five years by our students, educators, administrators and families of the Yonkers Public Schools.
In the future, rather than grandstanding without first seeking proper information, please make a sincere effort to reach out to us. We welcome your questions and concerns on behalf of our citizenry. Yesterday, was extraordinarily hot, one (1) day out of 180 days of instruction. The Superintendent of Schools did prepare our schools to ensure that the health and safety of our students and staff was the top priority.
Our building administrators with the support of Central Office magnificently handled comforting our children on their first day, providing additional water, indoor recess and monitoring everyone throughout the day. The Trustees applaud their work. Yesterday, our students were happy, eager and engaged on their first day of school; let us find ways to celebrate that enthusiasm.
Yes, your public schools need repairs and upgrades. The City Council controls the City of Yonkers budget. Join our advocacy to change the State foundation aid formula to address Yonkers students’ needs, provide additional dollars in the City’s budget and work collaboratively with us and the Mayor to grow the campaign to Rebuild Yonkers Schools. Our united voices have the greatest potential to produce long-term sustainable solutions for the Yonkers Public Schools and the future of our city.
/s/ Rev. Steve Lopez, President