Why is the New Rochelle Board of Ed Statement on Union Negotiations so Unappealing?

Arroz con Mango

Why is the New Rochelle Board of Ed Statement on Union Negotiations so Unappealing?

Regardless of how one feels about the current state of relations between the FUSE union and the New Rochelle Board of Education (in a word, ugly), the statement issued by the District is so odd that it warrants attention.

My wife’s Cuban family often uses the phrase arroz con mango to mean things that do not go together. There is a lot of rice and a lot of mangoes packed into the CSDNR statement, and, as you might expect, the combination is not appetizing.

To briefly set the context, after FUSE declared an impasse last June an arbitrator was appointed and directed both parties to work on a three-year contract. Six months later, those negotiations ended. Earlier this week, on Monday, the New Rochelle Board of Education went into Executive Session to discuss the situation. In short, the Board wants a one-year deal, the union wants a three-year deal and there are many demands on both sides that are unreconciled.

FUSE publicly announced they were at an impasse and posted a list of their objections on their website, a link on their new Twitter feed and in an email sent to every user on the City School District of New Rochelle email system.

Here is the CSDNR Statement I published last night, which I requested late in the day on Wednesday, December 23rd and received soon after:

We are unaware that the FUSE statement is within the public domain, and as such we agree to a confidentiality agreement clause, which we are honoring at this time. Therefore, we have no statement at this time.

The District will be issuing a statement regarding FUSE negotiations sometime after school reopens on January 4, 2021.

This is such a mind-numbingly confused statement that few readers picked up on the tortured logic, internal inconsistencies within each sentence, between each sentence and between the paragraphs.

If I had hair to stand on end, I expect I would have looked like this lady when I read it the first time.

The statement begins, “We are unaware that the FUSE statement is within the public domain."



On December 22 at 7:22 pm, the FUSE statement had been sent to thousands of people on the CSDNR emaildistrictwide-allusers list which includes every single administrator and board member. It was then published on the FUSE website. It was published on Facebook and Twitter.

It is hard to imagine the Board and Administration were unaware the cat was out of the bag and even if it were true how is it responsive to my request for a statement? And why tell me (and my readers) about it?

The FUSE statement had been in the "public domain" over the course of two days before I even requested a statement late yesterday.

The CSDNR statement continues, “and as such we agree to a confidentiality agreement clause, which we are honoring at this time."

"as such"?

"we agree"?

Whatever the intent of this language what it says is because the District did not know it was widely known that FUSE had publicly declared an impasse (doubtful but let’s pretend), the District decided to unilaterally agree to a "confidentiality agreement clause" with an unnamed party (presumably FUSE). This makes no sense as one has nothing to do with the other -- you do not ex-post facto agree to a clause in a contract because you do not now know something that happened in the past. Further, this is an insinuation that there is a written agreement, a contract, (with whom it is not stated but, again, presumably FUSE) with a clause in it (verbal agreements do not normally have "clauses") that has been broken by the other party (again, presumably FUSE). Even if there was an agreement, and a promise to "honor" an apparently unilateral "confidentiality agreement clause", it is a qualified promise to "honor" an "agreement" only for now — or "at this time".

The statement continues, “Therefore, we have no statement at this time."

You cannot see it but imagine at this point I am pulling out what little hair I do have.

The District is stating it will make no statement by issuing a 55-word document which is, in fact, a rather long, convoluted statement -- as opposed to alternatives such as not issuing a statement at all (due to a confidentiality agreement clause?) or a traditional "no comment".

Do not get me wrong. I ask for official, on-the-record statements all the time. I am happy to get such statements (or not) and happy to publish them verbatim (or note their absence). I appreciate getting this statement. The statement appears without comment on my news outlet, Talk of the Sound. But this is my Words in Edgewise substack platform, an outlet for my personal musings and observations, and what I observe in the District’s statement is contradictory and nonsensical.

The larger message of the first paragraph of the non-statement statement appears to be an attempt to convey the idea, without being explicit, that there was a confidentiality agreement between the District and FUSE, and it was violated by FUSE, and the District is taking the high road and will not, for their part, break the agreement, even if the other party did. And all this while "breaking" the putative "agreement" in an effort to blame the other party and imply our request for a statement from the District was based on a "leak" when the information was known by thousands of people by the time of our inquiry including everyone involved in crafting the statement they issued.

It gets worse.

Even if one were to accept the implied predicates -- there was a confidentiality agreement clause, that FUSE violated that agreement, that the District will not stoop to FUSE's level in violating the confidentiality agreement clause, that the District will not issue a statement "at this time", then what to make of the second paragraph?

"The District will be issuing a statement regarding FUSE negotiations sometime after school reopens on January 4, 2021."

Wait! Huh?

Having spent the first paragraph of the statement claiming they could not issue a statement because of a supposed confidentiality agreement clause and making various insinuations about FUSE they end by saying they will issue a statement after the Christmas break.

Talk about a distinction without a difference.

Basically, the District is saying “we are now issuing a statement that we agreed not to issue a statement, so we will not issue a statement, but we will issue a statement…later" -- all while issuing a statement.

Head-spinning, mind-boggling, bewildering, confounding or any similar adjective one cares to choose.

Perhaps most troubling about all of this tangled, labyrinthine statement is that it was issued by an educational institution charged with educating over 10,000 New Rochelle youngsters. If the leadership cannot write coherent public statements meant for publication why expect the students they lead to learn.

Contract negotiations between FUSE and the District have broken down for the second time this year and FUSE members are working without a contract for the first time in decades -- no one seems to know for sure.

While it is not known to the public precisely why things have reached this point, it is worth noting that there are currently two major differences in contract negotiations from the past: the involvement of the law firm of Ingraham, Smith which is universally despised among FUSE leadership and the addition of school board members to the District negotiating team — Rachel Relkin, Amy Moselhi and William Ianuzzi — none of whom to my knowledge came to the negotiating team with experience as labor negotiators and one of whom has a well-documented shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to even the most anodyne conversations.

Readers can decide whether the heated, adversarial posturing by either side is good or bad but there is no getting around the fact that the District's stated position on FUSE declaring an impasse is befuddling.

Read more