Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly got a little misty presiding over his last graduation ceremony of police recruits this morning.

At the graduation, which was one of Mayor Bloomberg’s final appearances in office, the mayor continued to tout his record of reducing crime in New York City.

“If you compare this decade to the previous eras’ murder rates, we can literally say that we have saved more than 9,200 lives in the last 12 years,” Bloomberg said.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Dov Hikind plan to introduce a bill denouncing the Washington, D.C.-based American Studies Association for boycotting academic partnerships with Israeli institutions over the occupation of Palestine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his 2013 year-end report featuring the progress New York has made in economic development. It points to new regulations and programs that contributed to the state’s tax cuts and job growth.

A Polish artist painted an unusual portrait of Bloomberg holding an owl. It can be yours for between $1,200 and $2,000 – or just make her an offer.

“Proud animal rights advocate” Russell Simmons called on Cuomo to sign a bill that gives local governments and citizens more ability to regulate puppy mills in their communities.

Connecticut State Police released a final report this afternoon on the deadly shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

Jerry Gretzinger is moving from WRGB (CBS Channel 6 in Albany) to take the job as the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s vice president for strategic communications and public relations.

Cuomo signed into law Sen. John DeFrancisco’s bill ending double sales taxation on vehicles owned by military servicemembers from New York.

Cuomo vetoed a bill seeking to increase the tax exemption in New York for vended food and beverages from 75¢ to $1.50. The the New York State Automatic Vending Association helped write the legislation.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in NYC with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio remains in Connecticut, where he is visiting family for the holidays.

At 10:30 a.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott awards Rose Shimony with an honorary diploma in celebration of her 100th birthday, the Sephardic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 2266 Cropsey Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg announces 2013 saw the fewest murders and shootings recorded in NYC history at the NYPD Graduation Ceremony with Police Commissioner Kelly, Madison Square Garden, Seventh Avenue between 31st and 32nd Streets, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., ATU International holds a press call to issue a study refuting Bloomberg’s plan to convert New York’s school bus industry save tens of millions by cutting school bus drivers and matrons salaries.

At 6 p.m., New Yorkers Against Bratton, a group comprised of parents and families against police brutality, grassroots organizations, activists and concerned community members, rally and march to protest de Blasio’s appointment of Bill Bratton as police commissioner; starts at Adam Clayton Powell State Building in Harlem, northeast corner of 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

At 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Time Warner Cable News NY1′s “Road To City Hall” features Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Headlines…

New York, whose status as the most populous state has long been ceded, will soon fall behind Florida into fourth place, a long-anticipated drop that is rife with symbolism and that could carry potentially serious economic consequences in coming years.

In a potential preview of the next presidential election, a new national poll suggests Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie would be neck and neck if the 2016 contest were held today. She leads all other potential GOP contenders.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s real estate company has spent $88 million for a vacant property in an up-and-coming neighborhood on Manhattan’s far west side.

Spitzer won’t say what he plans to do with the property. His family’s company, Spitzer Enterprises, has not built a building in NYC since his father, Bernard Spitzer, erected the 34-story residential tower at 150 East 57th Street in 1997.

At an event designed to highlight another of his achievements as mayor — a decline in the city’s incarceration rate — Mike Bloomberg appeared moved by the story of Michael Smith, a 24-year-old who is turning his life around after he was arrested last year.

Remembering candidate Bloomberg.

New York finished November nearly $590 million behind its projections, according to a monthly cash report issued by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

About 50 employees in New York City Comptroller John Liu’s office have been told their services will no longer be required at the end of the year when their outgoing boss is replaced by current Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer.

De Blasio is reportedly looking for a new communications director to take to City Hall now that Lis Smith, his current spokeswoman, has been outed as Spitzer’s girlfriend.

It took just two hours for the 1,000 public tickets to de Blasio’s Jan. 1 inauguration to get snatched up and only a few more minutes before they were being scalped on CraigsList.

As the NYPD has attracted an increasingly kaleidoscopic range of nationalities to its ranks in recent years — officers hail from Albania to Yemen — department statistics reveal a decline in new recruits among black New Yorkers.

An aide to incoming Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson has told a staffer to the man he’s replacing, Charles Hynes, that Thompson wants the toilet seat in the district attorney’s private bathroom replaced.

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Mid-Morning Headlines

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years in office come to a close, he’s been making thank-you calls to the families of city workers who died on duty.

In the Bloomberg administration’s final weeks, New York City’s Law Department has been actively trying to settle some of its longest-running court battles and, where that has failed, to at least put its stamp on significant legal cases before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office.

2013 was a year of political lowlights.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer spent Christmas at the family home of his reported girlfriend, Lis Smith, one day after he and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, announced their marriage is over.

Mike Lupica says the Chiara de Blasio substance abuse video was like a “final campaign ad,” and “ends up looking like old-time politicking, from a politician who acts as if everything he does is brand-new.”

The video and the Spitzers’ divorce announcement were part of a “celebrated tradition of dumping unfavorable news on holidays, weekends or days when the media is otherwise preoccupied,” the NY Times writes.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind wants AG Eric Schneiderman to take action against an umbrella group of college professors who have endorsed an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

De Blasio’s choice to head up the city’s child-welfare agency, Gladys Carrion, allegedly once allowed an X-rated party for juvenile inmates — part of her “therapeutic” approach to rehabilitating violent young offenders.

Next year, the state Parks Department will finalize the purchase of some 1,200 acres in the Hudson Valley – a deal that has already added land to Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, which sprawls over much of Putnam County, and will greatly add to the nearby Hudson Highlands State Park.

School elections might be over before Carl Paladino and attorney Daniel Chiacchia get an answer to their appeals to remove School Board members in Buffalo and Hamburg, because state education officials are reluctant to get involved.

US Attorney Preet Bharara says the federal government can’t meet a judge’s demands to quickly deliver documents so a civil-liberties group can analyze why thousands of people have been detained for months, if not years, as their immigration status is reviewed.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, has been pushing for months now to take away what he calls the “special treatment” that members of Congress and their staffs enjoy under “Obamacare” – but now he’s enjoying that special treatment himself.

The success of the styrofoam food container ban that was one of Bloomberg’s last victories in office depends on de Blasio and the city’s restaurateurs.

A New Jersey lawmaker who chairs a committee probing why traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed said he may issue additional subpoenas for two New Jersey appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Drug law reformer Anthony Pappa OpEds in the Buffalo News, calling for Cuomo to use his clemency power this year.

Small-town, independently owned theaters in the Adirondacks are struggling to comply with an industry-imposed transition from 35-millimeter film to digital.

Say Yes Buffalo may have to dramatically scale back its after-school program due to questions over funding.

Holiday Reading

Merry Christmas to all you blog readers, contributors, lurkers and sock puppets!

A few headlines you might have missed while wrapping presents, consuming cookies and egg nog and otherwise engaging in holiday revelry…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in the New York City area with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is in Connecticut with no public schedule.

At 9:30 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg will visit the 108th Police Precinct to thank NYPD personnel working on Christmas, 5-47 50th Avenue between Vernon Avenue and 5th Street, Queens.

At 10 a.m., Bloomberg visits visits FDNY Engine 258/Ladder 115 to thank FDNY personnel who are working on the holiday, 10-40 47th Avenue between Vernon Avenue and 11th Street, Queens.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall, have called it quits, announcing the dissolution of their marriage in a tersely worded statement issued on Christmas Eve.

The statement came just two days after the New York City tabloids revealed Spitzer’s relationship with his former campaign spokeswoman, Lis Smith, who is now working for de Blasio’s transition.

Bloomberg is a grandfather for the first time. His daughter, Georgina, gave birth to a baby boy on Christmas Eve.

The baby’s name is Jasper Michael Brown Quintana. His father is Ramiro Quintana, a professional equestrian from Argentina.

“I’m thrilled and just so proud of Georgina,” Bloomberg said. “They are going to make really wonderful parents and what an an incredible way to start the new year.”

The mayor spent his last Christmas Eve in office at an annual lunch for the homeless at City Hall restaurant.

Former President Bill Clinton plans to personally match donations made to his foundation through the remainder of the year, according to an email pitch from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As of Tuesday, Cuomo had given no commutations, in which prisoners are released; or pardons, in which convictions are nullified.

Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak’s community relations director was given the option of a paid leave of absence on Tuesday after filing a complaint against the embattled Buffalo-area lawmaker.

The government’s retooled health care website was put to its biggest test yet as record numbers of Americans rushed to beat Tuesday’s extended deadline for signing up for insurance.

The Obama administration said that it would provide more time for people to complete their applications for health insurance if they could show that they missed the deadline because of problems with the federal health care website.

Cuomo issued a statement remembering the two firefighters who were killed in an ambush attack a year ago yesterday in Webster, Monroe County.

State Democratic Party spokesman Peter Kauffmann on Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s potential run for governor: “Jobs are up, taxes are down, and the state’s credit rating is positive — as opposed to Westchester, which has been downgraded.”

With 2014 looming, there are 11 bills that have been passed by both the Assembly and Senate, but not yet delivered to Cuomo.

The subway-workers union and the MTA are cracking down on straphangers who use bogus bills to buy MetroCards.

Former New York Gov. ­Mario Cuomo saluted his former speech­writer Peter Quinn and his newest novel “Dry Bones,” the third offering in his Detective Fintan Dunne history-mystery trilogy.

Democrats Unite To Honor de Blasio

They’re just one big, happy Democratic family.

All of the state’s top elected Democratic officials will unite on Jan. 5 to host a breakfast at Gracie Mansion on Jan. 5. to celebrate the inauguration of New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio.

An invitation to what is officially being billed as an “inauguration committee breakfast,” lists Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, AG Eric Schneiderman, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, NYC Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer and NYC Public Advocate-elect Tish James as the hosts of the event.

The breakfast will take place form 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Gracie on Sunday, Jan. 5 – four days after de Blasio is sworn into office at City Hall.

Fourth Gabryszak Accuser Comes Forward

A fourth woman who is currently working for Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak has filed a notice of claim reserving her right to sue the Western New York Democrat for what she alleges was “severe, persistent and pervasive” sexual harassment.

Caitrin Kennedy, who started working as Gabryszak’s director of community relations on Sept. 30, alleges in her notice that the assemblyman was engaging in his inappropriate behavior as recently as Dec. 18.

As The Buffalo News reported, Kennedy says Gabryszak suggested during her first week on the job that she accompany him to a couples massage.

He also asked her to accompany him to strip clubs, harassed her about whether she had a boyfriend, suggested she “become pregnant,” and discussed his fantasy football teams that had names related to oral sex and female genitalia and around her and other staff members.

The Times Union broke the story on Dec. 21 of a trio of former Gabryszak staffers who filed a notice of claim detailing their own sexual harassment claims against him. In that story, Gabryszak refused to comment, saying that he hadn’t seen the claim, but also insisted he had no problems with the women who filed it.

Since then, Gabryszak has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations lodged by his former – and now current – aides. His attorney has counseled him not to speak, assuming this matter will eventually be the subject of litigation.

Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have said that if the allegations against Gabryszak are true, then he must resign his seat.

A fourth woman makes allegations against Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak. by embenjamin2001

Chiara de Blasio Discusses Depression, Drug Abuse (Updated)

The transition team of NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio took the unusual step today of releasing a video featuring his 19-year-old daughter, Chiara de Blasio, in which she describes her battle with depression and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Every kid who grows up in New York grows up pretty fast; it’s astonishing,” she says, before describing a struggle with clinical depression that lasted throughout her adolescence.

“It made it easier, like, the more I drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people that I wouldn’t have,” Chiara continues. “It didn’t start out as a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me.”

The teenager says she thought that going away to California for college (at Santa Clara University, where she is an environmental studies major) would help her leave her troubles behind, but instead, her use of alcohol and marijuana only intensified.

Chiara says she received support from her parents, especially incoming First Lady Chirlane McCray, who did “every little thing she could.” She eventually got treatment from a therapist and at what she describes as an “outpatient” facility in New York City.

“Removing substances from my life opened so many doors for me. I was able to participate in my dad’s campaign, and that was the greatest thing ever,” Chiara says.

“…Getting sober is a positive thing. And it’s not easy, by no means is it easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s so worth it.”

The video, released on Christmas Eve day, came in an email from Bill and Chirlane de Blasio with the subject line “Chaira’s story.”

“As parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle,” the couple wrote.

“But not only has Chiara committed to her own health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges.”

“Her courage to speak out demonstrates a wisdom and maturity far beyond her 19 years, and we are grateful every day for her commitment to lifting up those who need to know that they are not alone.”

At the end of the video, words appear across the screen urging anyone watching who believes they have a substance abuse problem to seek help, and also offering a website: “ok2talk.org.”

UPDATE: The NYT notes that during the campaign, de Blasio aides repeatedly refused to answer questions about Chiara’s rumored drug abuse or answer questions about whether she was receiving treatment.

Here and Now

Please note: Due to the holiday, there will be no “Extras” tonight or “Here and Now” tomorrow. There will also be no “Morning Memo” in your inbox (if you’re a subscriber) tomorrow morning.

These regular features – along with some light blogging, as dictated by the news cycle – will return on Thursday. Have a safe and happy celebration! – LB

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City today with no public schedule.

At 7:25 a.m., Donald Trump will be interviewed by Curtis Sliwa on 970 AM.

At 11 a.m., Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, celebrates Mass at George Motchan Detention Center , for the inmates and staff; 15-15 Hazen Street, East Elmhurst, Queens.

From 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., approximately 1000 students from Satmar Hasidic academies in Kiryas Joel, protest against current efforts by the Israeli government to draft their counterparts into the Israeli army; march down Second Avenue from 47th to 42nd Streets, ending with a rally across from the Israeli Consulate, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., Mayor Bloomberg thanks volunteers serving meals at the Annual Christmas Eve Lunch for the Homeless at City Hall Restaurant, 131 Duane St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Time Warner Cable News NY1′s “Road To City Hall” features Richard Steier from The Chief-Leader. (There is no Capital Tonight this evening or tomorrow night).

At 11:50 p.m., Bloomberg attends midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets, Manhattan.

Headlines…

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said if the sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak are true, then “I think there should be no other choice but a resignation.”

The next complaint to be filed against Gabryszak is coming from a woman who is still on his staff. Caitrin Kennedy is in her third month as his director of community relations, earning about $38,000 a year.

Kennedy said in the past three months, Gabryszak has invited her to a couples massage session, suggested she become pregnant, mentioned that he would like to join her in a hot tub and allowed a man to call her a “fox” at the office. Her boss also talked about fantasy football teams he had named for oral sex and female genitalia.

The Buffalo News says Gabryszak has just two options: “Issue a forceful and plausible denial or resign.” (Following his attorney’s advice, the assemblyman is currently saying nothing).

Betsy Hart, who worked in communications for President Ronald Reagan, says de Blasio’s spokeswoman Lis Smith can date whoever she wants, but should think twice about her choice of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Media strategist Alexis Grenell thinks differently, writing: “Regardless of her taste in men, Lis Smith has the right to make her own decisions. Her relationship with Eliot Spitzer is entirely irrelevant to her qualifications as Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s spokeswoman.”

And Andrea Peyser disagrees, saying: “If de Blasio continues to stand by Eliot’s unsavory love interest, his credibility as this city’s righteous voice for those without money, power and sexual corruption is shot to hell.”

Chris Smith chronicles how Mayor Bloomberg “gave” the city de Blasio.

Bloomberg leaves a sprawling legacy as he winds down his 12 years as the mayor of New York City.

His return to New York City for a second tour as police commissioner may create an awkward situation for Bill Bratton, who sits on the boards of two companies who hope to do business with the city, and is a senior adviser to a third. He is resigning all three positions.

De Blasio reached to Wall Street for a top aide, naming a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group as deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

Republican state senators George Maziarz, Patrick Gallivan, Mark Grisanti and Mike Ranzenhofer are urging Cuomo to personally intervene to help save the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca.

Rep. Chris Gibson donated his “shutdown” pay of about $5,400 to Catholic Charities.

According to Rep. Paul Tonko’s office, the congressman donated his shutdown pay in three equal parts of $1,550 to the Regional Food Banks of Northeastern New York in Latham, Leatherstocking Honor Flight in Cobleskill and the Northern Rivers Family Services Development Department in Albany.

More >

Extras

Another female aide to Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak is coming forward to complain about his allegedly lurid advances

In a symbolic move, President Obama has signed up for health care coverage through an online exchange.

He also extended today’s sign-up deadline by a day.

…The state followed the federal government’s lead and extended its exchange deadline, too.

NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed a Goldman  Sachs executive, Alicia Glen, as the deputy mayor of housing and economic development.

Glen said the de Blasio administration will shift focus away from the large-scale projects that blossomed under Mayor Bloomberg and move towards those that address the problem of income inequality.

De Blasio refused to discuss the “private” life of his spokeswoman, Lis Smith, who is reportedly dating former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

De Blasio’s campaign manager Bill Hyers defended her on Twitter.

Smith did not attend her boss’ press conference today, and the mayor-elect would not speculate on whether she’ll be joining his administration.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitted to playing budget “hooky” in 2011 – and getting busted.

A pay raise bill for Nassau County elections commissioners was poised to pass, but pulled at the last minute.

AG Eric Schneiderman issued a warning to potential gougers looking to take advantage of people in the regions hit by the recent ice storm.

A “Christmas miracle” for Interfaith Medical Center.

Outgoing NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly can’t see any failures in his 12-year tenure.

Kelly will join the Council on Foreign Relations as a distinguished visiting fellow.

A man was shot and killed a block away from the governor’s mansion in Albany.

Rep. Tim Bishop lost a staffer to the private sector.

Registration is now open for Cuomo’s fourth annual State of the State address on Jan. 8, 2014.

Reshma Saujani, who has lost two elections so far, says she plans to run a third time for a yet-undetermined office.

RIP Stan “Brooksie” Brooks. City Hall won’t be the same without you.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

Members of the governor’s cabinet will continue to deliver toys and coats to needy New Yorkers across the state:

At 9:45 a.m., ESDC CEO and Commissioner Ken Adams will be at ELMCOR Youth and Adult Activities, 107-20 Northern Blvd., Corona, Queens.

At 10 a.m., Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner and CEO Darryl Towns will be at the Grand Street Settlement, 80 Pitt St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito, Johnson Park Center, 26 Johnson Park, Utica.

At 11:30 a.m., NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones will be at the House of Hope, 22 East Fairview Ave., Valley Stream.

At 2 p.m., Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey will be at Project Hospitality, 100 Park Ave., Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Michael Gianaris introduces legislation cracking down on suspended drivers in deadly crashes; 61st Street and Northern Boulevard, Woodside, Queens.

At 11:30 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg cuts the ribbon on the first phase of the permanent Times Square Plaza and street reconstruction with NYC DOT Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan, Broadway Pedestrian Plaza, between 42nd and 43rd Streets, Manhattan.

At noon, NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio makes an announcement, MILGO/BUFKIN, 68 Lombardy St., Brooklyn.

At 1 p.m., Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver holds a news conference regarding the state DREAM Act. He will be joined by members of the Assembly majority and advocates, 250 Broadway, 23rd Floor, Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., Eleanor’s Legacy will join Gloria Steinem; President of NOW-NYS Zenaida Mendez; President of NOW-NYC Sonia Ossorio and women elected officials and women leaders from organized labor, health, and community organizations in support of Melissa Mark-Viverito for NYC Council speaker, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 4:45 p.m., Bloomberg donates blood in partnership with the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, Emigrant Building, 49-51 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Time Warner Cable News NY1′s “Road To City Hall” features NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Headlines…

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is still married to Silda Wall, is dating his former NYC comptroller spokeswoman, Lis Smith, who is now the mouthpiece of NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s transition.

A spokeswoman for Spitzer, 54, did not deny his relationship with Smith, 31, saying the former governor is a “friend” of Smith’s and “holds her in high regard.”

The state Legislature’s black and Hispanic lawmakers want Cuomo to reject his own commission’s call for $2 billion in tax relief, saying New York can’t afford that much revenue reduction.

Some advocates are getting nervous that Cuomo won’t be pushing for his Women’s Equality Act in 2014 because it’s an election year, and wonder if he’ll even mention it during next month’s State of the State address.

Cuomo is expected to break a self-imposed cap on education spending for the second year in a row.

The Moreland Commission referred its investigative findings about Relief Resources Inc. — a Brooklyn-based storefront charity that took in nearly $3 million in legislative grants but did not seem to provide many services — to US Eastern District Attorney Loretta Lynch and AG Eric Schneiderman for potential prosecution.

Donald Trump says he’s ready to take over Cuomo’s massive $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge construction project, getting the job done “for peanuts’’ by rebuilding, rather than replacing, the existing structure across the Hudson River.

Trump told Andrea Peyser Cuomo is a “weird dude” who is “controlled” by his former brother-in-law and anti-fracking environmental activist RFK Jr.

The state’s teacher evaluation system is off to a bumpy start, with principals complaining about the additional time it adds to their already jam-packed days, parents upset over testing and teachers saying the process seems like a game of “gotcha.”

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