New Rochelle Students Health Only Important When it Comes Cheap?

I have reported already numerous times on how bad Polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) trays are for our children’s health, our environment and our bottom line.

The material was classified in 2011 by the Department of Health as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen”.

Yesterday I reported that Mr Quinn was enthusiastic when I shared with him that combined buying power makes “green” trays less expensive then Polystyrene trays. He said he will look into taping into that pricing.

Yesterday I was excited about this progress.

Today I am thinking, is the health of our children only important if it is the cheapest option? Can we really afford to feed our children on reasonably anticipated carcinogenic materials just to save a few pennies. Pennies that we could save BIG TIME if the district revamped their waste management system.

The District has received a grant of 1 million dollars to implement healthier foods for our children,. If one looks at the break down of the usage of that money, most of it goes into instruction, retirement, health benefits and travel.

This grant should go squarely into actually providing healthier foods and most of all, on healthy trays/plates.

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6th Graders amazingly creative approach to recycling

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Meet Jannah Sharpe, a proud 6th grader, who is student in one of the Westchester schools that recently embraced the School Lunch Recycling Program. This small charter school used to generate 13 bags of garbage per lunch, and now they are down to only 1/2 bag per lunch.

After learning all about how to save the environment and how to reduce, re-use and recycle Jannah had the fantastic idea of taking strips of single use plastic bags and crochet them into a fashionable hand bag.

Check out this amazing product!

That is a lesson well learned and applied to life. Way to go Jannah!

New Rochelle’s Trinity Elementary School chosen as Green Writing Grant Recipient

Trinity Green Writing Contest

New Rochelle‘s Trinity Elementary School has been exemplary in regards to Recycling. Under the leadership of Principal Anthony DiCarlo, and Assistant Principal Inas MorsiHogans, the students created a continuous culture of recycling in their lunchroom.

Trinity is the only school that has never faltered in their efforts to source separate all materials in the lunchroom, and I credit Ms MorsiHogans and the very supportive lunchroom staff with this. Way to go.

In this spirit, the school has been chosen to be the recipient of this years “Green Writing Contest” given in Honor of Nina Chin.

Snow Removal New Rochelle School District , do we really need to spend $100.000 on outside contractor?

These are my comments at the Board Meeting on February 25th, 2014.

Dear Board,

I wanted to ask you about the snow removal and how it works. I know we have custodians in each school that are responsible for snow removal on sidewalks and such. And then we have Buildings and Ground crews that are coming with pick up trucks with plows in front of them.

What happens on days when schools are closed?

On Wednesday evening, Feb 5th, I saw district vehicles together with Mario Bulfamente trucks plowing and piling up at Ward. Wednesday was a school closing day. Did we give the day off to the B&G employees, just to hire them back on overtime?

I know, we have contracts with two outside contractors Zonzini and Bulfamente for ”Snow Removal Equipment Rental with Operators” for “not to exceed $100,000.” These contractors are supposed to be used “during severe snowstorms when normal standard School district snow removal procedures may be insufficient.”

What are normal standard School district snow removal procedures?

I am asking you, what are the deciding factors as to when our guys with plows in front of their trucks are not sufficient to plow, even if they have, due to school closings, nothing else to do?

How are Zonzini and Bulfamente paid? Do they have to submit invoices per occurrence? How is an occurrence determined? By time spent? By inches of snow? By building? Are their services billed as emergencies, in spite of the advance notice of school closing?

How come our B&G guys are working TOGETHER with the outside contractor?

Who checks they actually worked as long as they said they did? Who signs off on these invoices?

The City of New Rochelle has changed the way they deal with snow removal. They moved away from time and material contracts. They are now having a set formula for actual snow tonnage removed. The districts areas are very easy to survey and set. With actual figures per formula, possibilities to milk the system would be reduced.

Government money is often seen as easy money, because oversight is often lax. Insiders actually call government contracts “Tit Jobs”, because you just have to suck on them. Putting checks and balances in place is necessary to curb corruption.

You, as our elected officials, are the ones that should be putting checks and balances in place. However, the suggestion to observe contract negotiations was voted down. Checking up on our employees was considered “micro-managing”.

We have now GPS on garbage trucks, who reads that data?

We have $305,000 of supplies coming in, who controls inventory?

Robert Cox has uncovered many incidences of where either employees or contractors took advantage of the lack of over sight. These examples, as well as the garbage truck incident of last summer, were dismissed as “isolated incidents”

The district is spending millions of tax payer dollars and even so called “isolated incidences” are corruption and theft of public money that needs to be dealt with and not dismissed.

Maybe it is time to look at them rather as the “tip of the ice berg”

Let’s change that. Let’s put checks and balances into the system. Let’s make sure purchase orders are reasonable and corresponding invoices are of matching amounts. Do not leave approval of all transaction in just one hand, that just lends itself to abuse.

It is in our best interest that the money we spent is going into the education of our kids and NOT anywhere else.

Goodbye Styrofoam. City Schools to Serve Lunch on ‘Green’ Trays

Here is a great article by Topher Forhecz about New York City’s decision to eliminate Styrofoam trays and switch to round plates made of sugar cane byproduct, starting this fall.  This initiative is “the first result of the Urban School Food Alliance –- comprised of Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago and New York City — which formed in 2012 to boost the schools’ purchasing power in the private sector.”  Read the full article here.

NYC, Miami, Chicago and many more School Districts are ditching Styrofoam trays

The largest School districts in the country have finally woken up to the fact that schools, and the kids that are in those schools are the biggest players in environmental and sustainable planning.

Doing an Earthday project and then calling it done as far as it goes for instruction around sustainability is NOT ENOUGH.

Fortunately, the largest school districts are starting to wake up, that life is not disposable around us and that it is not cheaper and better to serve children on disposable Styrofoam trays. BTW, these trays are made of Polystyrene which has been classified as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by the US Dept of Health in 2011.

Here is an excellent read on that topic. Some Westchester school districts are already following suit, but some is not enough. Westchester incinerates its garbage and guess who is breathing the air after burning 100.000 Styrofoam trays per day.

http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/05/schools-ditch-styrofoam-for-compostable/

Tax Breaks for Big Oil?

OilProfits-table
Source via EcoWatch: Company profit reports, OpenSecrets.org, “Lobbying Spending Database Oil & Gas 2013.” available at https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=E01

In its article “Despite $93 Billion in Profits, Big Oil Demands Continued Tax Breaks,” EcoWatch describes “why, despite their outsized earnings, the oil companies are not only fighting to keep their tax breaks but also lobbying to lift the crude oil export ban.” Instead of investing in tax breaks, the American people would benefit more from investing in clean transportation alternatives.