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The education beat has been dominating the Examiner headlines — for all the wrong reasons

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, April 20, and you are reading today’s section of Examiner+, a digital newsmagazine serving Westchester, Putnam, and the surrounding Hudson Valley.

Before we dive into today’s main topic, a quick word about a Pleasantville man’s success story, and his embodiment of the American Dream with an almost too-good-to-be-true, Hollywood-sounding back story.

We reported last week on the recent opening of W. Paul Alvarez’s new law office in Pleasantville. When I first moved up to Westchester in 2001, I remember my mother-in-law (then just my girlfriend’s wife) singing the praises of Guillermo Alvarez, an Ecuadorian immigrant she met when he was a deli worker who subsequently helped Sharon and my father-in-law Ken with odd jobs.

Because of his work ethic and genuine nature, many local people began hiring Guillermo for his labor on one task or another. Guillermo’s reputation as hard-working and industrious grew and a few odd jobs eventually became a burgeoning business, a cleaning service that continues to operate today. 

Arriving in the United States with his family at eight years old, Paul absorbed his father’s work ethic and community-mindedness, studied hard, went to college, graduated law school, was elected to the Pleasantville Village Board and, last week, the family’s triumph culminated in the opening of a law office designed to help immigrants navigate the legal process involving asylum requests, visas and naturalization applications. Talk about going full circle.

“This is my dream come true,” proud papa Guillermo gushes alongside the rest of the family in Examiner reporter Abby Luby’s coverage of the opening. “Thank God I can see that he has his own firm. Paul was illegal when he came to this country and he knows what that’s like. I pushed him when he was in college and pushed him to finish law school so he didn’t have to work with me. And by the way, the ‘W’ in his name stands for Washington.”

Big congrats to the entire Alvarez crew. Here’s Abby’s piece in case you missed it: www.theexaminernews.com/pleasantville-village-trustee-opens-new-law-office-to-assist-immigrants/

OK, onto today’s headline topic

It’s pretty remarkable how much news local school districts have been generating in recent weeks. In fact, last week’s spring break delivered our overtaxed, tiny staff a much-needed (partial) reprieve from the education beat onslaught.

Examiner Editor-in-Chief Martin Wilbur reported last week on the unexplained firing of Horace Greeley’s lacrosse coach. Greeley does seem to generate a lot of extra chatter when it’s in the news but, in fairness, critics of the district are often guilty of ample and pretty transparent schadenfreude, annoyed by Chappaqua’s self-regard.  

Anyway, members of our sports staff detected something possibly afoot when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman was in attendance for a mid-season (particularly chippy as it turned out) road game on Apr. 2 in Putnam Valley. Coach Brian Zusi was officially relieved of his duties four days later, on Apr. 6, without an explanation from district officials. Here’s our report from last week: www.theexaminernews.com/greeley-lax-coach-fired-as-team-supporters-rally-in-support/

But the anger articulated by Greeley parents and student-athletes alike at the board of education meeting was nothing compared to the public outrage expressed by Bedford parents over a deeply disturbing incident at Fox Lane. Details have emerged about the circulation of images and videos of naked special education students at the high school. 

Having recently attended an elementary school event myself, visiting my younger daughter’s writing celebration hours before the Bedford board meeting, I can attest firsthand to the palpable public anger, having spoken with a few local parents directly. While the district is sometimes attacked prematurely, especially from a crowd of people often unnecessarily loaded for bear, even when unarmed with details, it does appear as if the district flunked badly in communications with impacted parents, at the very least. 

This quote from an emotional, teary-eyed parent in Martin’s piece really raised my antennas: “The bathroom incident had been reported to the school, yet the school administration failed to inform the potentially impacted families until the families brought it to them.” Here’s last week’s report: www.theexaminernews.com/bedford-school-officials-assailed-for-failures-in-bathroom-pictures-videos/

Over in Carmel, there’s the case of Tatiana Ibrahim (of last year’s viral video notoriety) recently targeting an individual high school librarian for a public scolding. Ibrahim has collected a national following on social media, gaining more than 15 minutes of fame for an anti “CRT” rant last June at a Carmel school board meeting, cheered in certain conservative circles for her racially-charged rhetoric. Mahopac native Jeff Pearlman, a best-selling national sportswriter now based in California, has been critical of school districts for failing to stand up to bullies and has taken on Ibrahim directly as something of a pet cause. In fact, he wrote a piece for us about Ibrahim in January. 

Abby was assigned to report on the incident further, probing the broader story, and we hope to publish a piece on the topic in print and online in the coming weeks. The bottom line is there should be plenty of space for civil, public debate over curriculum without attacking average Joes and Janes working middle-class jobs in education. Let private people live private lives. What exactly are you trying to achieve when sharing a photo and the work contact information of a local librarian to adoring fans as part of a screed against them over transgender-themed book selection? 

People sympathetic to the views (but not the tactics) of the Ibrahims of the world need to be the ones to police behavior like this. Just two months ago, there were reports of a Lakeland educator followed after a meeting. A Feb. 10 Lakeland Board of Ed session we covered had become disorderly when several individuals screamed racial epithets; Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Gagliardi was escorted by police from the building. (Here’s one of Abby’s reports from the time: www.theexaminernews.com/community-packs-tense-but-orderly-lakeland-school-board-meeting/).

It’s scary to contemplate what could happen if casual hate and nastiness (whether in the form of racism, transphobia, or otherwise) are entirely normalized.

And in proof we regularly publish more run-of-the-mill but meaningful school news, Examiner reporter Bailey Hosfelt covered the White Plains Board of Ed passing its proposed budget unanimously. The zero percent tax increase will likely appeal to district residents when voters go to the polls. Don’t forget to read up on your district’s school budget (and board races) in advance of the May 17 statewide vote. Keep it tuned right here for more of that coverage when the time comes. Here’s Bailey’s quick wrap from last week on the White Plains spending package: www.theexaminernews.com/white-plains-boe-unanimously-adopts-proposed-school-budget/

All right, that’s it for now — see you in the funny pages. 

Till next time,

Adam Stone is the publisher of Examiner Media. When not running local news outlets or chauffeuring his children, Stone can be found on the tennis courts at Mt. Kisco’s Leonard Park, on his Ipad playing chess, or on the floor cleaning after his two dogs.

We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s section of Examiner+. What did you think? We love honest feedback. Tell us: examinerplus@theexaminernews.com

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