$78.66 million bond breakdown:
The proposed $78.66 million bond is broken down between John F. Kennedy Magnet School, King Street School, Park Avenue School, Thomas A. Edison Elementary School and Port Chester High School. The Board of Education is adding about $34,800 for the public relations firm Focus Media to help explain the bond to the public. All of the numbers are subject to change depending on state aid, construction cost and the overall timeline of the project.
$78.66 million bond breakdown: The proposed $78.66 million bond is broken down between John F. Kennedy Magnet School, King Street School, Park Avenue School, Thomas A. Edison Elementary School and Port Chester High School. The Board of Education is adding about $34,800 for the public relations firm Focus Media to help explain the bond to the public. All of the numbers are subject to change depending on state aid, construction cost and the overall timeline of the project.
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The cost of the potential $78.66 million bond proposed by the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) and the Board of Education is growing to include Focus Media Inc., a public relations firm to help educate the community on what exactly will be on the ballot in 2017.

The firm will cost $6,600 per month for the first four months the district utilizes them, then the price will increase to $6,700 for any additional months. In order to produce a YouTube video, Focus Media is asking for $10,000 and is charging $5,000 for boosted posts on social media and Facebook.

Board President Jim Dreves expects to only need Focus Media for three out of four months, which would cost taxpayers $34,800. However, it could cost more if the board president’s three-month goal isn’t met.

“It’s very important we begin the process of getting the public relations firm on board,” Dreves said. “This is not to sell the bond. What we’re going to do is go out with the public relations firm and explain the bond.”

“How many people voted the last time out?” he asked. “It’s embarrassing how many people didn’t show up. We’ve got to go out and explain to them what the bond is all about and let them decide if it’s worth it or not.”

In their previous work, Focus Media received over 50,000 hits on a YouTube video they made that described a $106M capital bond in New Rochelle and over 20,000 views on a video that explained a $108M school bond in Mount Vernon. After both of those bonds failed the first time, the public relations firm was hired, the cost of the projects increased, the videos were made and the communities passed bonds the second time they went to a vote.

The company’s success in aiding both cities was what tipped the scale in their favor for the Port Chester school board. Although the board reached out to eight firms and met with a couple of them, Focus Media was the only one to respond to the board’s request for proposals.

Focus Media’s success with New Rochelle and Mount Vernon was not enough to justify the added cost to some members of the audience, who commented before the action to appoint the firm went before the board.

“You’re going to spend taxpayers’ money,” said Tom Ceruzzi, co-chairman of the Tax Payers Alliance Group. “It’s like attacking your own army with your own ammunition.”

“That money may be better spent in the schools,” he added.

Ceruzzi suggested that the board look in another direction, such as sending out educational newsletters without paying a public relations company.

However, other members of the BAC thought differently. Heather Mateus went up to the microphone next to deliver an impassioned speech about how she believes Port Chester is like two pennies that you can rub together and get $1,000 from them.

“There is nothing insulting about getting facts out,” the former BAC member said.

“I don’t understand why it’s so hard to do things for the greater good,” she continued. “It’s for children.”

Mateus also stood by the idea of a public relations firm helping the board. She believes that it takes a trained team to send out accurate information to combat any false assumptions the community might have about the bond.

Former BAC alternative chair Keith Morlino agreed.

“One of the tragedies about the last bond was all of the misinformation,” he said in reference to the proposed high school bond that failed in December 2015. “Hiring a PR firm would alleviate that tremendously.”

Although most of the Board of Education members echoed Morlino’s statement, Anne Capeci did not.

Her main concern was that the price tag was too high for the taxpayers’ wallets and she believed the cost of the firm could go as high as $48,000. She suggested tabling the action until the board knew exactly what they wanted to build. 

But Dreves disagreed with her numbers and said they won’t need the firm for more than three or four months, depending on when the bond goes for a public vote.

“Jim, will you pay the difference between what you’re actually saying and what we’re going to spend?” Capeci fired back.

Dreves did not respond to Capeci and moved the discussion into a vote.

The decision to hire the firm passed with four of the members approving it and Capeci opposing the move.

The board also unanimously voted to give themselves the authority to begin discussions about the State Environmental Quality Review Act and with the State Historic Preservation Office about the impact the school additions would have on the environment and the historic façade of Port Chester High School.

To view the bond presentation Joe Fuller of Fuller & D'Angelo, P.C. Architects and Planners, go to the Board of Education's website (http://www.portchesterschools.org/board_of_education) or click here

 

Park Avenue School awards students and teachers

At the beginning of the Board of Education meeting, Park Avenue School Principal Rosa Taylor, with the help of Superintendent Dr. Edward Kliszus, gave out awards to district students and teachers. Some of these awards included music students like William Brakewood, who made the alternate chair in the New York All-State Symphonic Band, the high school marching band, One World Club students and more. Randye Jacobs, a special education teacher, was also honored for her 41 years of service at Park Avenue School.

The next Board of Education meeting will take place Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at King Street School. The board plans to further discuss the proposed bond and potentially cut it down to reduce the estimated cost.