Rockland County’s elected representatives in Albany will introduce legislation to provide oversight to the troubled East Ramapo Central School District. Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland), Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) will ask the NYS Senate and Assembly to approve appointment of a state monitor for East Ramapo.
The state monitor position, recommended by the state-appointed fiscal monitor, Hank Greenberg, would oversee the district’s financial and operational management to ensure that the school district moves toward fiscal stability and academic excellence.
Seven out of nine members of the local school board are members of the local Orthodox Jewish community overseeing a district where more than nine out of ten students are black or Latino. It’s a district where 24,000 students attend yeshivas compared to 9,000 kids that attend public schools. Greenberg’s report said the board has made “draconian cuts to public school programs in order to balance its budget.” Many high school students require five and six years to graduate because budget cuts have reduced the frequency that classes required for graduation are offered. “Most disturbing, the board appears to favor the interests of private schools over public schools,” he said.
“By providing the state monitor with the powers to act in the best interest of the public school students and to ensure the fiscal stability of the district, my colleagues and I have taken a major first step toward resolving this crisis,” said Jaffee. “This legislation has the potential to bring together the East Ramapo community by working towards a long term-solution that will address the unique needs within the school district.”
“I believe that the bill adequately addresses the issues described by Hank Greenberg,” says East Ramapo public school activist Steve White. “I expect that Governor Cuomo will not allow this bill to fail. I thank NYS Assembly members Jaffee and Zebrowski, and Senator Carlucci for writing a bill which is responsive to the educational needs of our children.”
Last November Greenberg released “East Ramapo: A School District in Crisis,” an analysis of the district’s problems which included a call for an oversight mechanism that can “override, in real time, unreasonable decisions by the board.”
“This plan is a blueprint for East Ramapo to receive further funding based on the unique needs of the district and its students,” said Carlucci. “This oversight bill will begin to restore trust in this troubled district,” added Zebrowski.
If the legislation is passed by the assembly and the senate and signed by the governor, the legislation will require the adoption of a strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan that will be developed by the monitor, the NYS Commissioner of Education, the East Ramapo Central School Board and the schools’ superintendent. The strategic plan will establish fiscal and academic goals for the district and include benchmarks to measure the district’s progress. The state monitor will attend all board meetings, including executive sessions, to assist in the operations of the district.
“As a community we have come closer to restoring what has been taken from our children’s education, but we are not there yet,” said Reverend Weldon McWilliams IV from the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice. “Now is the time to come together to close the deal. Now is the time to work with our passion and our efforts…to work to pass legislation for strong real time oversight and leadership for the E Ramapo School District.”
Photo: Rockland Clergy Social Justice Press Conference on 2/18/2015. Credit: Triny Hertzberg
- A Not-So-Simple-Majority, This American Life, 9/12/2014
- Cuomo, East Ramapo and Hasidic Influence, 4/13/2014
- Them and Them, NYMag.com 4/23/2013
- East Ramapo: A School District in Crisis presentation by Hank Greenberg, 11/18/2014
- ‘Power Of Ten’ East Ramapo Schools Advocacy website