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
“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
“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
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
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
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.