Rye City Review to roll out new website

 

rye--constructThe website for The Rye City Review is currently under construction and a new website is in the process of being created to provide viewers with an enhanced digital version rivaling our newspaper. This new website has been in the works for more than a month already and is set to launch, under the same domain name, in the coming weeks. The new ryecityreview.com promises to offer a fresh look, improved functionality and a uniqueness that has long been missing from our online presence. Speaking on behalf of the company,  we’re excited to put the old, archaic site to bed in favor of launching something new, fresh and worthy of complementing our traditional print product.

All you have to do is stay tuned.

-Christian Falcone, editor-in-chief

Rye councilwoman preps for state Senate run

Rye councilwoman preps City of Rye Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican, plans on launching a campaign for state Senate. Killian will try to upend popular Democrat George Latimer. Both candidates live in the city of Rye. File photofor state Senate run

City of Rye Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican, plans on launching a campaign for state Senate. Killian will try to upend popular Democrat George Latimer. Both candidates live in the city of Rye. File photo

By CHRISTIAN FALCONE
Julie Killian, a city of Rye councilwoman, will try to do what no other Republican has been able to: beat George
Latimer.

Killian announced that she pl-
ans to seek the New York state Senate seat for the 37th District currently occupied by Latimer, a Democrat, at a Rye City Republican Committee meeting last month, the Review has learned. She is in her first full term on the Rye City Council and earlier this year was appointed deputy mayor. Killian, a mother of five, first joined the council in 2012 after being appointed to the seat following a vacancy.

Tony Sayegh, a political analyst for Fox News and News12 Westchester, said the 37th District, which stretches from the city of Yonkers north to the town of Bedford, is one of the Senate’s very few true swing districts in the state, meaning that either political party could wrestle control in a given election cycle. “It really requires somebody who is independent in some respects,” he said, adding that it’s also a very diverse district.

Sayegh, also a Republican strategist, has already been retained by the Killian camp as she prepares to officially launch her candidacy with an announcement expected on Friday, after press time. According to Sayegh, she has been listening to people’s issues and gaining a better understanding of the district.

“Julie is trying to understand all of the concerns and slowly we’ll be rolling out some of the solutions to those problems,” said Sayegh, adding that as far as a platform, it’s still too early for Killian to start talking specifics.

But the analyst said, based on her record of service, Killian is viewed as a problem solver. “She knows how to build consensus, she’s worked across the aisle [and] she has been a thoughtful leader in the realm of public policy,” he said.

Killian, 54, has been a member of the Westchester County Charter Revision Commission, a group established to recommend changes to the county charter, as well as New Yorkers for Growth, a PAC that promotes fiscally responsible policies in the state.

In Rye, she has served on the city Finance Committee, been a volunteer in the Rye school district, and a supporter of the Rye library, Rye Historical Society and Rye Arts Center. Her latest project was helping to launch an anti-drug coalition in Rye in 2015.

“Julie is a positive person, that is one thing that overwhelms you when you talk to her,” Sayegh said. “I imagine she will stand up for issues she believes are right and also draw a contrast where there is a difference of opinion.”

Conversely, Sayegh criticized Latimer by calling his record of bipartisanship hollow, adding that he has voted with the Democratic leadership more than 98 percent of the time. “He has aligned himself with the Bill DiBlasio New York City agenda,” he said, referring to the liberal mayor of New York City.

For Latimer, 62, the criticism is nothing new, as he seems to always be the target of state Republicans, who want to maintain control of the Senate. The senator told the Review that he has a bull’s-eye on his back.

“It’s because I don’t have personal wealth,” he said. “I have lived within my means. Given the fact that my salary as an elected official is all the income I have, that is not a lot of money in a place like Rye. It’s probably laughable to people [with] successful business careers. [Republicans] know they can always outspend me.”

But Latimer, who is seeking his third term in the Senate, said there is a reason why he has been consistently re-elected.

“I don’t think anyone has proven they care more about the people they represent than I do, day after day,” he said.

Latimer has never lost an election, winning 14 consecutive races dating back to his one term on the Rye City Council in 1987.

Killian’s campaign is likely to be well-financed with a high level of organization and full of support from some of the top Republicans throughout the state.

However, the last time the GOP put an all-out assault on Latimer, it backfired.

In 2012, with Latimer seeking the Senate seat following the retirement of longtime Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, a Democrat, the state Republicans ran Bob Cohen, who nearly defeated Oppenheimer just two years prior.

Many pundits predicted 2012 was Cohen’s time.

Cohen and Latimer battled it out before a statewide audience. The duo set the record for campaign expenditures in a state race at the time; the Cohen campaign spent more than $4 million on attack ads, including radio spots and TV commercials. But Latimer won the seat in surprisingly easy fashion, with 54 percent of the vote, and celebrated his hardest fought victory to date.

In 2014, Latimer defeated Republican Joe Dillon, a late entry who didn’t launch his campaign until July.

The district encompasses the cities of Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle and Rye; and the towns of Eastchester, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Rye, Bedford and North Castle.

Candidates are elected to the Senate for two-year terms with an annual base salary of $79,500.

Killian could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: chris@hometwn.com

 

Senegal puts Mamaroneck High School on the map

Mamaroneck High School sophomores Colin Lavin, left, and Tim Sommer, far right, pose for a selfie with a trio of Cem Lambaye students. Just 30 students can be accommodated on the trip to Senegal. Photos courtesy Jamie Schiff

Mamaroneck High School sophomores Colin Lavin, left, and Tim Sommer, far right, pose for a selfie with a trio of Cem Lambaye students. Just 30 students can be accommodated on the trip to Senegal. Photos courtesy Jamie Schiff

By SARAH VARNEY
A few members of the Students for Senegal Club at Mamaroneck High School used to think that lions ran wild in the streets of the West African country of Senegal, but now that the organization has been around for four years, they know better. In this country, too, dangerous wild animals are kept in nature preserves far from populated areas.

While the distance between Senegal and Mamaroneck is about 4,000 miles, the gap has been bridged by AP Chemistry teacher Amary Sek, a Senegalese native who left his country 40 years ago.

Sek, who spearheads the high school club and its 24 members, recently traveled to the country over the winter holiday break to deliver books and other goodies. The club makes the trip to the village of Lambaye every two years, Sek, who grew up poor in the village, said.

Students for Senegal started out as a small club in 2009, and is now a separate nonprofit organization that strives to foster cross-cultural exchange and extend the gift of education to the people of Senegal, according to its website. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $75,000 and has sent more than 30 preschoolers to school in Lambaye. The organization has also expanded chapters to Hommocks and Fieldston middle schools.

Students for Senegal evolved from the childhood stories Sek used to tell his students after school. Although Sek left Senegal years ago, his memories of growing up are fresh.

“I would tell [students] stories about how I grew up, how things were in my village,” he said. “More and more students would come and listen, and then one day a student came up with the idea to have a formal club.”

Since its inception, the club has undertaken numerous fundraisers and charity drives and has raised a total of $100,000 toward its goal of building a Learning Center for Lambaye. The Learning Center will have a women’s center, a preschool and a meeting room. The students organize all the fundraisers themselves, Sek said. Once a year, they hold a gala event as their biggest fundraiser.

Sophie Miller, an 11th-grade member of Students for Senegal, hangs out with a group of middle schoolers in Lambaye. Group members say they feel like rock stars when they arrive at the village.

Sophie Miller, an 11th-grade member of Students for Senegal, hangs out with a group of middle schoolers in Lambaye. Group members say they feel like rock stars when they arrive at the village.

Lambaye currently has a population of nearly 13,000, but Sek said economic conditions are not so different from the way they were when he was growing up there, and that the area is still quite poor.

Senegal is a country about the size of South Dakota, sandwiched between Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Mali, with a population of 13 million. A secular Muslim country, 52 percent of the population is under 19 years old, according to a 2013 census.

While the value of an education is understood in more populated areas of Senegal, such as Dakar, the capital city, the message has been slower to trickle down to more rural areas like Lambaye, Sek said.

It is common for fathers to take one or more of his children away from a home village to the city to become street vendors. “There is an exodus of many of the men,” Sek added. “They are leaving their wives and kids behind and often they are not given support.”

Like many African countries, the culture is warmly receptive to visitors. “They are honored when someone comes to visit. They make lots of food; there is dancing. It is a very big deal,” Sek said.

Jamie Schiff, a senior member of Students for Senegal, bears out Sek. “Their [Senegalese hosts’] welcoming attitude and the way in which they received us was like nothing we’d ever experienced before,” she said.

Students for Senegal has donated thousands of books in both English and French, Senegal’s official language, and have founded a small library at the school.

The Students for Senegal Club gathers beneath its logo. The club at Mamaroneck High School currently has about 40 members. Photo/Sarah Varney

The Students for Senegal Club gathers beneath its logo. The club at Mamaroneck High School currently has about 40 members. Photo/Sarah Varney

One of Sek’s stories fostered “Smiles for Senegal,” a 2015 drive that collected hundreds of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste for their peer students in Lambaye. When Sek mentioned using a stick as dental floss, the Students for Senegal Club discussed how to promote dental health in the country.

Since the club’s involvement with the students at Cem Lambaye, the passing rate for students taking the critical exam that enables them to move on to high school has increased from 30 percent to 70 percent.

Mamaroneck High School students in the Students for Senegal Club benefit from their involvement as well. “You can see your efforts pay off firsthand,” junior Molly Nodiff said.

CONTACT: sarah@hometwn.com

 

Rye rolls in regionals

 

Madeline Eck drives to the hoop against Saugerties on March 1. Eck scored 23 points in Rye’s 57-37 win.

Madeline Eck drives to the hoop against Saugerties on March 1. Eck scored 23 points in Rye’s 57-37 win.

Taylor Maurer brings the ball up the floor against the Sawyers. Photos/Mike Smith

Taylor Maurer brings the ball up the floor against the Sawyers. Photos/Mike Smith

Katie Popp hits a jumper on March 1. Popp battled a stomach bug on Tuesday, but still scored 16 points off the bench.

Katie Popp hits a jumper on March 1. Popp battled a stomach bug on Tuesday, but still scored 16 points off the bench.

By MIKE SMITH
Rye fans who traveled to the Westchester County Center were in for something of a surprise on Tuesday, March 1, when the Garnets’ starting five was announced and Katie Popp wasn’t in it. But despite not having the junior standout at 100 percent, the Garnets hardly missed a beat, blasting Saugerties to win the regional semifinal game 57-37 in impressive fashion.

Popp, who led the Garnets to their first sectional championship in 11 years last weekend, was battling a stomach bug that threatened to keep her out of action on Tuesday, but provided a lift off the bench, scoring 16 points against an overmatched Sawyers squad. Senior point guard Taylor Maurer, who picked up the slack in Popp’s early-game absence, scored nine of the Garnets’ first 16 points on the night. According to Maurer, the Garnets didn’t have a real idea of how much the ailing Popp would be able to contribute and had to adjust their expectations accordingly.

“We didn’t know what was happening until we got on the bus to come to the game,” Maurer said. “But we knew that we were all going to have to pick up a lot of the slack, offensively and that we were going to have to step up and make plays.”

Madeline Eck, Rye’s other 1,000-point scorer, finished with a game-high 23 points and helped the Garnets take control in the second quarter, as they outscored the Sawyers 15-3 to open a 28-13 lead by halftime.

“We thought it was going to be closer,” Eck said. “But it was still a tough game, especially in that first quarter.”

Maurer attributes the Garnets’ success to a good game plan put in place by head coach Dennis Hurlie during the team’s Monday practice.

“We had scouted them, so we knew what holes in their defense we could attack,” Maurer said. “Everyone just stepped up and contributed.”

With the win, the Garnets (21-4) advance to the regional finals, where they will take on Vestal at SUNY Cortland on March 5. The winner earns a berth in the New York State Semifinals, which will be played at Hudson Valley Community College.

According to Maurer, Rye’s performance against Saugerties should provide a blueprint for success over length of the push towards states.

“I think we proved that we have a lot of weapons and that we’re a versatile team,” Maurer said. “Any one of our five players on the court can make plays, and that means a lot.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com  

Proposed school district budget to use $2.5M in reserves

glanceBy SARAH VARNEY
Despite the essentially flat tax cap for the 2016-2017 budget year, the Rye City School District superintendent presented a proposed budget on Feb. 9 that is balanced, thanks to the use of $2.5 million from the reserve fund.

Under this year’s state tax cap, schools are limited to increasing upcoming budgets by 0.12 percent. Statewide, school districts are struggling to accommodate the tax cap, which is tied to the inflation rate and not 2 percent. The tax cap law mandates either a 2 percent tax cap on either the allowable tax levy for municipal and school budgets or the rate of inflation,whichever is lower. This year, the rate of inflation is just 0.07 percent.

The draft budget calls for $85 million in spending, compared to the current budget, which is $83 million.  The estimated tax levy increase is 1 percent.

The reserve fund currently stands at approximately $10.2 million, which is 12 percent
of the 2015-2016 total $82.8 million budget. With the use of $2.5 million for the 2016-2017 budget, the fund reserve would decrease to $7.7 million, about 9 percent of the total $85 million proposed budget. Generally, in order to qualify for an AAA bond rating, a district’s reserves is supposed to be around 10 percent of a district’s total budget.

The proposed budget will preserve the current school program, add both a part-time math teacher and a part-time Spanish teacher and will continue the writing mentor program for grades 10 through 12. It will also add a full-time Project Lead the Way instructor for the high school science, technology,
engineering and math, STEM, curriculum.

Project Lead The Way provides a standardized curriculum for some STEM classes. Both STEM and Project Lead The Way are programs under the umbrella of the federal Race to the Top initiative, which was funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The goal of the STEM program is to add classes in math, science and computer technology to high school curricula and to encourage students to pursue careers in these fields.

Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez said the proposed budget is solid. “My main assumption was to have no cuts and that we keep to our promise not to go over the [tax] cap,” he said.

Board of Education President Katy Keohane Glassberg characterized the proposed budget as an attempt to maintain the program and make improvements with very little additional money.

While the community is likely to meet news of the balanced budget with some relief, the use of a higher amount of reserve funds is just as likely to cause consternation for some Rye residents.

Jim Culyer, a longtime resident and former school board president, expressed disappointment at news of the higher reserve fund figure for the proposed budget.

“In my opinion, the Board of Education is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Fund balance needs to be preserved not used to balance the operating budget. I really believe that the current tax cap legislation is
just wrong.”

Other board members had more sobering news.

Board members Karen Belanger and Chris Repetto brought up the possibly of another override vote for the 2017-2018 school budget.

On May 19, 2015, the Rye community passed the current  budget that exceeded the 2 percent tax cap, totaling a 4.43 percent override, with support totaling 70 percent of the vote. An override requires a 60 percent majority of the voting public.

“We need to start talking openly about an override for next year,” Belanger said. “We’re getting to the point where the reserves are at a much more worrisome level.”

But it’s possible that the funding situation might change for the better in the next few years as well, district officials said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has hinted at increasing state aid over the next few years. There is also talk of adjusting the 2 percent tax cap to a true 2 percent cap without the current formula that decreases it to less than that level in nearly every district.

There also may be more state aid on the way if the throttle on Gap Elimination Adjustment, GEA, funds either eases or is released. Passed in 2011, the “emergency” one-year formula decreases aid using a formula that decreases funding for all districts. Some districts are “owed” as much as $3 million in GEA funds. The adjustment has been in place for five years.

“Right now, there are a lot of ifs,” said Sarah Derman, the school district’s chief information officer. “Things could get better. It’s too soon to tell.”

On March 8, the school board will host an open topics forum for the community; budget adoption is set for the April 12 meeting and the public vote is scheduled for May 17.

CONTACT: sarah@hometwn.com

 

Column: Saying farewell to an icon

Many years ago, the D’Ono-frios used to be open seven days a week. Then supermarkets started to carry the Sunday Times, so it didn’t make sense anymore. Perhaps that was the first tremor hinting at bigger changes to come.

In today’s digital and health-conscious age, it might seem like an anachronism for a small storefront retail business to survive plying print journalism, tobacco and sweets. The gambling remains a big draw, what with billion dollar Powerball jackpots. But if T.D.’s Smoke Shop outlasted shifting tastes and more this long, it was because the main offering inside its authentic swinging doors was a timeless commodity, not for sale—a chance to touch base and check in.

Through the repetition of small transactions over many decades, Peggy and her husband Tony—and their son, Tony Jr.—developed familiar and lasting connections with their patrons. Brief and forgettable exchanges about the weather or the latest game or local gossip accumulated greater meaning over time. Rye residents, both young and old, have always gravitated to the corner of Purchase and Elm for more than just its central downtown location.

A high water mark for the smoke shop may have been 1994, when the Rangers hoisted their Stanley Cup in triumph down at the store—where else than at the center of the Rye universe?
Now the hockey club is long gone from practicing at the Rye Playland Ice Casino. But taped to the partition above the counter, there remains a faded snapshot of Eddie Olczyk and a dark-bearded and beaming Tony D.

The store proudly displays an array of sports memorabilia—Peggy’s collection of Mets bobble heads ought to make its way to the Smithsonian—and personally inscribed celebrity head shots. There’s Eli Manning, courtesy of the nearby Mara family members. And there’s Joe Torre, a Harrison resident who is a bit of a regular. As a testament to his down-to-earth reputation—and his clear ability to charm Peg—Joe is the only Yankee to warrant inclusion on the smoke shop wall of heroes.

But the most prominent section of photos is devoted to Rye customers, who hand deliver their annual Christmas cards bearing the family portrait. Each holiday season, a new batch of these smiling faces gets Scotch-taped overhead. The wall tracks children as they grow up, until one day, these kids are adults with kids of their own.

Packed away in a back corner of the store is an endless stack of thick manila envelopes. Each envelope contains the cards from one Christmas gone by. Peggy—“Mom” to Tony, and to the rest of us—has saved those cards with love. And now, we will carry forward in our hearts memories of the iconic green building facade, and—most importantly—the kind proprietors who kept shop inside for generations.

Joe Sack is the mayor of Rye. In 2014, he passed legislation to incentivize Peggy and Tony’s landlord to extend the smoke shop’s lease. Unfortunately, despite indications otherwise, the landlord went in a different direction. 

 

Iconic T.D.’s Smoke Shop set for final goodbye

Tony D’Onofrio has been running the smoke shop full time for the past 24 years. According to him, he’s going to miss the customers the most.

Tony D’Onofrio has been running the smoke shop full time for the past 24 years. According to him, he’s going to miss the customers the most.

By JAMES PERO
In March, a piece of history will vanish from Rye’s Purchase Street as T.D.’s Smoke Shop waits forlornly for its eviction.

On Jan. 27, the longtime owners of the smoke shop, Peggy and Tony D’Onofrio, were greeted in the morning, not by their usual slew of customers, but with news from the landlord of their building—John Fareri of Fareri Assoicates—explaining that they had just over one month to vacate
the building, after residing there for almost 70 years.

And while a final close is imminent, for the D’Onofrios it has been far from the first time the store has faced a penultimate fate.

In 2008, according to Tony D’Onofrio, Fareri took over ownership of the building—which encompasses three other storefronts on Elm Place—and while his original intention was to redevelop the property, the economy took a turn for the worse. As a result, the shop was allowed
to stay and they were offered a slew of one-year leases that lasted for five years.

Peggy D’Onofrio shows a sign that young supporters of T.D.’s made. The smoke shop is closing in March after being on the corner of Purchase and Elm for nearly 70 years.

Peggy D’Onofrio shows a sign that young supporters of T.D.’s made. The smoke shop is closing in March after being on the corner of Purchase and Elm for nearly 70 years.

But in 2013, D’Onofrio’s rent was set to increase to a rate that he said he may no longer be able to afford.

This time, however, when word got out, the smoke shop was saved by a petition, which garnered more than 4,000 signatures from residents and culminated in the Rye City Council drafting legislation for a special permit that would help save the shop.

Under the terms of the permit, Fareri—who was intent on redeveloping the property—would be allowed to forego the terms of a bank moratorium in Rye’s business district by renting out a portion of the building to a bank for a higher price. This increased rent, the council hoped, would compensate for T.D.’s lower rate.

Though the legislation passed in the City Council by a vote of 5-1, a three-month sunset clause—which dictated that the legislation would expire if an  application was not filed for the permit in three months—was also included.

Sometimes, Tony D’Onofrio told the Review, they would receive so many Christmas cards from residents that they would run out of room to display them.

Sometimes, Tony D’Onofrio told the Review, they would receive so many Christmas cards from residents that they would run out of room to display them.

On Feb. 7, 2015, after the lengthy negotiations between the city and Fareri to create the terms of the special permit, the window for Fareri to apply for the smoke shop’s special permit expired and the storefront was left without any real idea of where the future would take them; that is, until D’Onofrio was told that the bank wanted his property as well.

“After [the council] had passed that law, Mr. Fareri and his associates came in here to say that the bank had changed their minds,” D’Onofrio said. “They wanted our space as well.”

Famous customers of the establishment include former Yankee’s manager Joe Torre, whom the D’Onofrios knew well. Photos/Andrew Dapolite

Famous customers of the establishment include former Yankee’s manager Joe Torre, whom the D’Onofrios knew well. Photos/Andrew Dapolite

According to Ferari, both parties involved—the bank and the D’Onofrios—were unable to see eye to eye, and as a result, the application for the permit was never submitted.

“The bank has certain needs. The smoke shop has certain needs. Neither of them were able to be flexible,” he said, specifically mentioning a disagreement over the usage of the shop’s prime corner space as one of the main points of disagreement.

As a result, the D’Onofrios will leave, and while the bank can no longer replace the shop, the ultimate fate of their retail space remains unclear.

D’Onofrio recalls being shocked when he found out that the special permit would not actually save his business.

“I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Now, D’Onofrio and his mother are left to sell the stock left in their store until they’re forced to vacate the premises at the end of March.

Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, was among those in Rye who will miss the iconic store.

“It’s a true shame that their great run is coming to an end, but we will miss them tremendously,” he told the Review.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com 

 

School board to discuss larger class sizes

With school enrollment numbers oftentimes difficult to predict on a year-by-year basis, the Rye City Board of Education will soon receive a presentation on increasing class sizes. The school district’s fifth grade class enrollment, which includes the Osborn School, is considered massive this year, according to a district official. File photo

With school enrollment numbers oftentimes difficult to predict on a year-by-year basis, the Rye City Board of Education will soon receive a presentation on increasing class sizes. The school district’s fifth grade class enrollment, which includes the Osborn School, is considered massive this year, according to a district official. File photo

By Sarah Varney
At the Jan. 12 meeting, the Rye City Board of Education will hear a proposal to change the class size policy for grades three through five that would allow for an increase from 20 to 25 students per class.

The current policy with recommended class sizes of 18 to 22 students would remain in effect for kindergarten through second grade. Due diligence and the need for flexibility in accommodating enrollment fluctuations are the primary reasons for the proposed increase, according to Dr. Betty Ann Wyks, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“It’s budget time and these things come up,” said Wyks, who will be presenting the proposal to the school board.

Karen Belanger, a member of the city Board of Education, added that space constraints, aligned with enrollment increases in certain grades, are a continuing factor. Belanger is the chairwoman of the board’s school policy committee.

Unanticipated enrollment growth in the district’s schools has been a frequent factor over the last few years. During the 2014-2015 school year, overcrowding in 10th grade math classes necessitated adding another class, for which an additional math teacher was hired this past summer, according to school district officials. This year, the districtwide fifth grade class is “massive,” according to Sarah Derman, the district’s chief information officer. Rye Middle School gained 81 students for the current 2015-2016 school year. An enrollment increase at Rye High School during the 2014-2015 school year translated to approximately 100 students migrating into grades nine to 12.

“[The proposed policy change] gives us a way to start a discussion,” Belanger said. “It is a subject that needs to be discussed from an educational standpoint, the standpoint of space constraints and from a financial standpoint.”

Belanger stressed that cost-saving is not likely to be a huge factor in this policy discussion.

The current policy that recommends 18 to 22 students per class has been in place since July 2011. “Reasonable class sizes” without proscribed numbers is the policy for the middle and high schools, according to the current policy.

At the Jan. 12 meeting, Wyks will use a Brookings Institute 2011 compilation of class size research conducted in the United States and Canada since the mid-2000s to determine the recommended class size. The majority of those studies seem to suggest that for economically disadvantaged students, fewer students make a big difference.

Molly Ness, a Midland School mother and assistant professor of childhood education at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education, agreed that the research is mixed on the effects of class size.

“The research is really split on this, but overall it is not compelling enough to say that [an increase in suggested class sizes] would necessarily be a bad thing,” she said.

The fact that fifth-graders will soon move on to middle school and a larger class anyway is also a mitigator, Ness added. Research is more unified in showing that class sizes matter less in both middle school and high school also, she noted.

And in Rye, even if the proposed increase in class sizes for grades three through five does come to pass, it might not be very problematic. “If the proposal passes and parents aren’t happy, they’ll go out and get tutors for their kids,” Ness said.

Wyks noted that the flexibility to have either as few as 20 students to as many as 25 students in a class would not be drastic enough to have much of an impact. Starting in third grade, the developmental differences between children are pretty much evened out, she said.

In education circles, the 20 to 25 student range is considered “medium.” Eighteen to 22 students is considered small, and 27 to 32 students in a class is considered large.

Even so, “our big class sizes aren’t really that big in the real world,” Wyks said.

CONTACT sarah@hometwn.com

 

A new year with new council faces

 

Like her council colleagues being inaugurated, Danielle Tagger-Epstein, a Democrat, gave her vow with family in tow. Photos/Andrew Dapolite

Like her council colleagues being inaugurated, Danielle Tagger-Epstein, a Democrat, gave her vow with family in tow. Photos/Andrew Dapolite

By James Pero
With a new year, change is often in tow, and for the Rye City Council, that change is coming partially in the form of two new faces: councilwomen Danielle Tagger-Epstein and Emily Hurd, both Democrats.

On Sunday, Jan. 3, both councilwomen in addition to Councilman Richard Mecca, a Republican, who was recently re-elected for his third consecutive term, were sworn in as members of the City Council at Rye City Hall by Judge Joe Latwin.

Mecca had an opportunity to reflect on his past inauguration ceremonies, the latest of which he pointed out was his best yet.

“The crowd was a lot bigger than my first [inauguration],” Mecca remarked jokingly.

But both Tagger-Epstein and Hurd didn’t have the benefit of context, as the latest inauguration
was their seminal. When asked about her sentiments on her very first inauguration, Tagger-Epstein responded with a mixture of awe and pride.

“Can you ask me how I feel tomorrow?” she asked. “It’s great. This whole experience has been the culmination of a lot of people’s hard work and it’s very exciting.”

Hurd, who like the other inductees attended the evening’s ceremony with her family, spoke to the audience and fellow councilmembers with a similar sense of pride and gratitude.

Emily Hurd, a Democrat, like her running mate Danielle Tagger-Epstein, gave her first inauguration speech, and thanked both the community and her supporters at a crowded Rye City Hall.

Emily Hurd, a Democrat, like her running mate Danielle Tagger-Epstein, gave her first inauguration speech, and thanked both the community and her supporters at a crowded Rye City Hall.

“I appreciate the support of all of you here today,” she said. “It was definitely by the grace of God that my family and I landed in Rye five years ago when we moved east, and I can’t wait to begin to give back to the community that has blessed us.”

During the evening’s ceremony, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, also took the podium to share his thoughts with both audience members and fellow councilmembers alike.

“I would suggest simply that you listen to yourself and your good instincts and trust yourself to do what is right,” he advised the newest members of the City Council.

The three elected councilmembers will now begin their four-year terms on the council dais. Members of the City Council receive no compensation or benefits for their service.

Richard Mecca’s latest inauguration marks his third time going through the ceremony. He told the Review that the crowd seems to have gotten bigger each time. Rye City Mayor Joe Sack welcomes the newest elected and re-elected members of the Rye City Council to the Jan. 3 inauguration ceremony, offering the trio both his own advice as well as the advice of former councilmembers.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 

Rye police faces turnover, transition

 

With five policemen retiring at the end of 2015, the Rye City Police Department will see its staff decline from 37 to 32, a level which marks the lowest staff size since at least 2010, following the recession. File photo

With five policemen retiring at the end of 2015, the Rye City Police Department will see its staff decline from 37 to 32, a level which marks the lowest staff size since at least 2010, following the recession. File photo

By James Pero
The Rye City Police Department lost five ranking police officers to retirement at the end of December, effectively dropping their current staff size from 37 to 32 officers.

Among the recent retirees were two sergeants, one lieutenant, one patrolman and a detective. These five will account for a 13.5 percent decrease in the current overall staffing of the department, which is already undergoing a transition in leadership. In late December, then-Police Commissioner William Pease retired, serving as the one absence that had been anticipated.

According to interim Police Commissioner Lt. Scott Craig, the current levels are enough to qualify the department as short-staffed.

“We’re currently understaffed,” Craig said, “because some of the responsibilities we do day-to-day need to be covered with overtime.”

With the recent retirements, there are currently two lieutenants, four sergeants and 24 officers left on the force.

Despite the loss, however, City Manager Marcus Serrano, who described the amount of police officers leaving as “a good number,” said the services provided by the department won’t decline, but will instead be sustained through a combination of working overtime and promoting remaining officers.

The biggest effect of current staffing levels, according to Craig, will be seen in the interior operations of the department and not in active patrol.

“It’s not going to be noticeable on the street,” he said. “Places where we’ll see it is places like IT… What you might see is an increase in overtime.”

Of the five retiring officers, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said two had already been out of the rotation for some time due to injury and a third held an administrative position. Of the remaining two, neither were patrol officers, he added.

“For anyone to suggest that the department will somehow be understaffed either in the very short-term or even after all the retiring spots are quickly filled, that strikes me as an unnecessarily sensational perspective,” the mayor said.

According to Serrano, both he and Craig—who recently took over the department on an interim basis until his replacement, Michael Corcoran, takes the helm on Feb. 1—are already working to fill in the gaps.

“We were made aware of the potential retirement of these individuals,” Serrano said. “We’re working on what to do with the Police Department.”

The increase in overtime, Serrano said, will be a temporary fix until new officers are promoted or transferred in from other neighboring departments.

The department has historically had 40 officers on duty, but once 20090 hit, staff size began to diminish.

While the level of 32 is not an all-time low—in 2010, the active patrol force numbered just 27—it is, according to a 2011 assessment by former Police Commissioner William Connors, below the level of 35, which he deemed “just adequate.”

Currently, the levels of overall staff are at their lowest since at least 2010 when staffing plummeted to just 33 officers, 27 of them being active.

Now, the new commissioner, Corcoran, from the West Orange Police Department in New Jersey, will be tasked with overseeing a department with key positions to fill.

According to the mayor, the entry of a new police commissioner isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“In fact, it is a fortuitous coincidence that our new commissioner is starting in a few weeks, because he will now be able to shape the department through his own new hiring and promotional decisions,” Sack said. “This transition to a more fully staffed department will take place seamlessly under the leadership of the city manager and new commissioner.”

Further, Sack added that the retirements, positions which he expects to be filled in short order, will actually strengthen the department over time since the city will no longer be hindered by the two officers—Lt. Joseph Verille and patrolman Daniel Camacho—out on workers’ compensation.

Verille had been inactive since 2012 after sustaining a hand injury during a car crash in which he rear-ended a motorist on Interstate 684; it is unclear why Camacho was inactive.

Corcoran could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com