This bill (http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/A5355-2015), introduced by Ellen Jaffee, Ken Zebrowski, and David Carlucci on February 18, 2015, provides for a monitor to oversee the East Ramapo Central School District, develop a strategic improvement plan for the district, supervise the fiscal and operational management and academic programming of the district, and override problematic decisions of the school board.
- According to the 2010 Census, there were 31,116 school-aged children (5 – 19 years old) in the East Ramapo Central School District.
- Henry Greenberg’s November 2014 report on the district, titled “East Ramapo: A School District In Crisis” estimates 33,000 school-age children
- 9,000 students attend public schools, of which 91% are from African American, Latino and Haitian backgrounds and 78% qualify for free or reduced lunch
- 24,000 students attend private schools, of which 23,778 are believed to attend Yeshivas
- According to a 2013 Trulia.com survey, the Hamlet of Monsey (located in the East Ramapo Central School District) has as many as 86% of its school-aged children enrolled in private schools.
Public School Ratings and Test Results:
According to real estate site, Zillow.com, East Ramapo, once a thriving school district, receives a Great Schools rating of 4, while the nearby Nanuet, Clarkstown and Pearl River school districts receive ratings of 9. Ramapo Central, which is also part of the Town of Ramapo, received a rating of 8. Driving down the average for East Ramapo are the high schools, which both receive ratings of 3, or “Below Average.”
Hank Greenberg’s November 2014 report on the district, titled “East Ramapo: A School District In Crisis” identifies the following test results for East Ramapo and surrounding schools for the school year 2013 - 2014:
The number of students testing below or well below proficiency in ELA and Math since the school year 2010 – 2011 has risen substantially. In 2010 – 2011, 61.7% of students tested below or well-below proficient in ELA and 55.7% of students tested below or well-below proficient in Math.
Budget, Budget Cuts and Allocations Provided to Private School Students:
School districts nationwide receive funding for budgets from three sources – Federal, State and Local. According to the National Center for Education Statistics , in school year 2010 – 2011, the breakdown for the National and New York State averages, respectively, were as follows:
As you can see, New York State relies less on State and Federal funding than the national average.
For school year 2013 – 2014, Mr. Greenberg’s report found that the East Ramapo Central School District relied more heavily on local revenue (see below). In 2013 – 2014, the average district in New York State received 40.4% from state revenue. It is likely that the state gives East Ramapo less money, at least in part, because it determines funding based on many formulas, including property values (which are high in East Ramapo) and public school enrollment, which is low relative to the entire school-going population. Essentially, the money is allocated for ~8,000 public school students, but certain line items that benefit private school students are being split over 33,000 students.
Non-public school students are entitled to some publicly funded services, including Health Services, Homebound Instruction, Textbook Loan Program, Computer Software Loan Program, School Library Materials Loan Program, Transportation (students must reside within 15 miles of the nonpublic school), Special Education Services, Dual Enrollment Programs, and Mandated Services Reimbursement.
The Budget Allocation numbers below were provided in Henry Greenberg’s November 2014 report on the district, titled “East Ramapo: A School District In Crisis.” The 2013/2014 Budget is split accordingly:
- From school year 2006-2007 to 2013 – 2014, transportation costs in East Ramapo increased by 48.1%, while the state costs increased by 21.9% during the same period of time.
- Specifically, transportation costs for public school students increased by 76.6%, while the statewide average increase was 24.1%. Such increases are due in large part to the fact that there are:
- No mileage limitations on transportation for K-12 students. Although the state caps transportation provisions at 15 miles, it is possible to provide transportation beyond specified limits by voter approval.
- Over 300 active bus routes to 14 public schools and more than 140 private schools where students are enrolled. The district provides gender-segregated bus routes to private school students, despite the fact that at least some of the Yeshivas in the district are co-ed.
- Given the projected increases in the public school population, transportation will likely consume an even larger portion of the budget in coming years.
- Special education costs have increased by 33% from school year 2010 – 2011 to 2013 – 2014, when Mr. Greenberg found $60MM was being spent on special education services for 2,423 students.
- Federal and state law requires that special education students are served in the “least restrictive” environment, preferring to mainstream students as much as possible as long as there exists “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE)
- Many members of the private school community would prefer their special-needs children be educated with other students from the community so that everyone speaks the same language, eats kosher food and shares the same values and points of reference.
- In June 2014, the State Education Department said that East Ramapo lost out on state reimbursements for 63 cases over the past two years, for placing special education students in private schools when FAPE placements were available. According to Mr. Greenberg’s report, the statewide average for reimbursements for special education students was 36.8%. East Ramapo received only 27.9%. Mr. Greenberg remarked, “My hypothesis is that one reason why the district receives less is because they are not seeking reimbursement for claims that they at least believe the department won’t reimburse.”
- An Education Department spokesperson has said that East Ramapo has a pattern of placing students in private schools without properly documenting the decision making process. The board prefers settling with parents rather than litigating against them. As legal discussions, the board is empowered to handle such matters themselves.
- Although the majority of special education students come from the public school population , private school students received special education services, paid for by the district, from ~40 different Yeshivas and the Kiryas Joel Union Free School District.
- While we have not been able to pinpoint exactly how much is spent on private placements for the ultra-Orthodox or Hasidic community, students who attend Kiryas Joel Union Free School District do so at a cost of $72,500/year . Busing to Kiryas Joel occurs at a cost of $30,000/student. Students that attend Rockland Institute for Special Education (RISE), do so at a cost of $26,000/year. There are 62 students enrolled in RISE.
- A pilot program is underway to educate special education students in a separate area within Elmwood Elementary school, one of the district’s public schools. Next year, enrollment will grow from 14 to 36 students.
In school year 2009 – 2010, the East Ramapo School District had $12.5MM in an “unreserved” fund, to be used for unforeseen expenses. Today, there is a deficit of -$7MM. Mr. Greenberg, in his remarks, stated “The heart of the academic program in this district suffered a grievous blow. At the same time, however, programs that benefited the private school community increased.”
Cuts to Public Education:
- Beginning in 2009, the board has made significant spending cuts to public school programs in order to balance its budgets. These include, but are not limited to:
- Elimination of 400 positions, including 168 teaching positions (93 at the secondary level), all social workers, and all deans
- Cuts to programs and academics, including the reduction of kindergarten to a half-day, elimination of summer school, elimination of gifted and talented programs, reduction in Advanced Placement classes, reduction of high school electives, athletics and extra curricular activities reduced by 50%, and the elimination of transportation for field trips.
- Other cuts, including supplies and materials
- Cuts are so substantial, that in Ramapo High School, former principal Jean Fields indicated there were conversations about letting seniors go halfway through the day. A student activist at Spring Valley High School, Olivia Castor, collected schedules from classmates, illustrating that students were spending more than half of the school day in non-academic classes like lunch and study hall. New York State does not require how many hours of instruction a student must receive throughout the day.
Questionable Conduct by the School Board and Constituents:
The East Ramapo public school community has a number of grievances with the school board for their treatment of parents and students, stemming from when the board was overtaken by a Hasidic/Ultra-Orthodox majority in 2005. Mr. Greenberg’s report Among them:
- Violation of the open meetings law
- According to the Committee on Open Government, “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonweal (sic) will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it.”
- Openness in public meetings is supposed to be the rule, not the exception. Mr. Greenberg’s report estimate that 60 – 70% of East Ramapo school board meetings take place in executive session. With regard to executive session, the Committee on Open Government states that “Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with section one hundred five of this article.”
- In fact, executive session may only be conducted upon majority vote of its total membership AND only for the below purposes:
- Matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
- Any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
- Information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;
- Discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
- Collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;
- The medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
- The preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and
- The proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.
- Further compounding the lack of transparency is that public participation is limited to comments at the end of meetings, which routinely occurs after 10 or 11 pm.
- On November 18, 2009, the School Board, in executive session, abruptly dismissed their legal counsel, Stephen Fromson – a local attorney and district graduate – for Albert D’Agostino, an attorney from Long Island. D’Agostino’s firm charged fees of $250/hour to Fromson’s $120/hour.
- Since that time, legal fees incurred by the school district ballooned 668%, from $383K to $2.9MM. Over that time, $7.3MM was paid to 13 law firms.
- D’Agostino was known for his work in Lawrence, LI, where among other things, he helped the school district place ultra-orthodox and Hasidic students in private schools and arranged the sale of public school buildings to Yeshivas. East Ramapo parents were warned against D’Agostino’s firm by the Lawrence school district parents.
Mistreatment of parents/students
- Parents and students are routinely mistreated by the Board’s legal counsel.
- In 2013, after a widely-publicized incident where an attorney from D’Agostino’s law firm verbally abused a public school parent, the Board announced it would seek to replace the firm. After a rigorous search, the Board reversed this decision in the summer of 2014.
- D’Agostino himself has also repeatedly attacked students and alumni, calling one “ignorant” and another a “piece of shit.”
- District officials resort to name-calling and attacking the integrity of parents and students, often branding their critics as anti-semitic. Former School Board Chairman, Daniel Schwartz, likened a student’s criticism of the board to that of Saint Augustine, which ultimately “paved the road to Auschwitz and the crematory at Treblinka.” He went on to tell the audience, “Let me tell you right now, you don’t like it, find yourself another place to live.
Reaction of School Board to State intervention:
- In June of 2014, Governor Cuomo appointed a Fiscal Monitor, Henry Greenberg, to report on the district. Yehuda Weissmandl, president of the School Board, responded by writing, “They assume – based on our religion alone – that we have stolen from the very children we have been elected to serve. This is nothing but hateful bigotry.”
- Also in June of 2014, the School Board elected to reject a $3.5MM state aid advance because of a condition that an advisory committee would direct how the money would be spent. Superintendent Joel Klein stated, “The board feels – and I agree with them – that this is the responsibility of the Board of Education and they are both affronted and insulted … that an outside group of people could determine how the money is used.”
Closing and Selling of Public School Buildings to Yeshivas:
- The East Ramapo School Board commissioned the Western Suffolk BOCES’ Office of School Planning and Research to conduct a study of enrollment projections. Three reports were generated and results were presented publicly in November 2008. The study concluded that enrollment was declining and would continue to decline.
- In May of 2008, the Board Superintendent formed a Long Range Planning Committee on Restructuring and Reorganization, which was expanded to include parents, teachers and community members. The group reviewed demographic data, transportation simulations, building capacities and Special Education/ESL needs. Three public forums were also held for input.
- After all of these activities, the Superintendent recommended closing Colton Elementary School on April 1, 2009. About a year later, the Superintendent recommended also closing Hillcrest Elementary School.
- According to the New York State Education Department, enrollment between 2008 and 2012 actually increased +3%.
- Regarding the schools specifically:
- The sale of Colton elementary school was announced on July 24, 2014 for $6.6MM, less $1.5MM of rent already paid on the property. The school was appraised for $6.8MM on March 17, 2010. A second appraisal was obtained by the same appraiser, estimating its value at $6.6M. The sale was originally halted for a year and a half due to a petition by a parent, who claimed the school was actually worth $11.9MM, based on an appraisal by the Town of Ramapo. The petition was dismissed for a number of reasons, including an acknowledgement that there was a lack of information indicating that the Town’s appraisal was an accurate assessment of the fair market value of the school.
- The sale of Hillcrest elementary school was completed on November 21, 2014 for $4.9MM. Hillcrest was also the subject of several appeals and controversy.. The original sale, for $3.1MM was annulled in 2010. The school was originally appraised for $5.9MM in May 2010, but a second appraisal for $3.1MM was submitted on July 26th, just two days before the attempted sale. Education Commissioner Steiner annulled the sale, finding that the board acted hastily and questioning the dismissal of the first appraisal. Separately, but related to the original appraisal, the board’s appraiser plead guilty to fraud for taking a $5,000 bribe to falsify his appraisal. The school board has not been charged related to the deal.
*All data, information and quotes were collected through public sources. For information on the facts as presented, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEBRUARY 2, 2017 -- Governor Cuomo signs a bill restoring the full term of school board member Sabrina Charles-Pierre.
JANUARY 18, 2017 -- Governor Cuomo includes special state oversight and aid provisions for East Ramapo in his 2017-18 budget, which will now be subject to negotiations with Assembly and Senate leaders.
JANUARY 18, 2017 -- The New York State Assembly joins the New York State Senate to pass a bill restoring the full term of school board member Sabrina Charles-Pierre, who was in danger of losing her seat because she had not been sworn in properly. Governor Cuomo must now sign it.
DECEMBER 6, 2016 -- With Commissioner MaryEllen Elia pledging to ensure state monitors watch the entire spending process of major renovations to East Ramapo, a small but decisive number of voters pass a $58 million bond.
THROUGHOUT NOVEMBER -- The district holds forums to educate the public about the $58 million bond vote for major building improvements, to be held December 6. In response to concerns about potential financial mismanagement, Monitor Chuck Szuberla assures the NAACP in writing that he and the state will be monitoring "every step of the process." The Journal News also covers the upcoming vote.
NOVEMBER 9 -- Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci are re-elected to their seats in Albany.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2016 -- The State Education Department officially approves the $3 million proposal, and restored programs (full-day kindergarten, elementary arts) are slated to begin the week of October 3 through the end of the school year. Commissioner Elia will host a public forum about East Ramapo at Rockland Community College on Wednesday, September 28 at 6 p.m.
SEPTEMBER 7 -- Monitor Chuck Szuberla presides over the long-awaited public hearing for the $3 million in state aid, indicating that full-day kindergarten for all students, plus a slew of elementary arts programming, should be reenstated by September 26.
SEPTEMBER 1 -- Because the board has not yet held a hearing to spend the $3 million in state aid, the superintendent holds a sudden lottery for 156 full-day kindergarten seats, the amount provided by the May budget. At the lottery, the district announces the date for the long-awaited public hearing (Wednesday, September 7), which could result in full-day kindergarten for all by the end of the month.
AUGUST 26 -- NYCLU joins the defense of Sabrina Charles-Pierre, filing an appeal to the State Education Commissioner that asserts that the East Ramapo board used arbitrary rules when deciding that her election was invalid.
AUGUST 25 -- Critics call upon new school board member Joe Chajmovicz to verify his residence after protesters reported that others are currently renting the house where Chajmovicz has claimed to live.
AUGUST 24 -- The East Ramapo School Board has still not held a public hearing to solicit comments for how to spend the $3 million in state aid, risking a delay in the start of full-day kindergarten.
AUGUST 15 -- Respected former deputy commissioner of education Charles Szuberla has been named to lead the latest monitor team for East Ramapo.
AUGUST 8 -- Strong East Ramapo hosts a large protest at the school board meeting and presents a petition of over 1,250 signatures, calling for the restoration of Sabrina Charles-Pierre's full term or the resignation of Board President Yehuda Weissmandl. At the end of the meeting, the school board passes a resolution to appeal to the State Commissioner of Education about Sabrina's invalidated election.
JULY 26 -- The East Ramapo School Board announces that, due to an "administrative oversight," public school advocate Sabrina Charles-Pierre will not be permitted to serve the two-year term to which she was elected. The board also announces the appointment of Joe Chajmovicz, a private school parent with no history of running for school board, to the district's open seat over Jean Fields, the former principal of Ramapo High School who garnered 4,000 votes in the last election. Community members demand justice.
JUNE 30 -- Governor Cuomo signs East Ramapo oversight bill into law.
JUNE 16 -- The Legislature -- both the Senate (60-2) and the Assembly (unanimously) -- approves the proposal for East Ramapo oversight and aid. The bill must now be signed by the Governor.
JUNE 14 -- Lawmakers officially introduced Assembly Bill 10723 and Senate Bill 8131 after the Senate leader, the Assembly speaker and the Governor came to an agreement that would provide East Ramapo with three million dollars in additional aid, plus the Commissioner's oversight of the entire district budget.
JUNE 7 -- East Ramapo advocates continue push for oversight plan, visiting Albany and urging Governor Cuomo to intervene before the legislative session ends.
MAY 21 -- Students from Spring Valley and Ramapo High Schools host a rally demanding better for themselves and their peers.
MAY 2 -- Padres Unidos, Strong East Ramapo, the NAACP, the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Rockland Board of Rabbis and Uri L'Tzedek urges Albany to approve a proposal that would empower the State Commissioner of Education to oversee the budget of the East Ramapo School District.
APRIL 5 -- The East Ramapo School Board seeks to intervene in a lawsuit filed by parents against the State Education Department.
MARCH 31 -- Seeking options to bring change to East Ramapo this year, Rockland's representatives to Albany tried unsuccessfully to introduce a measure inside the New York State budget that would have brought oversight and funds to the district. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski announced his intention for the approach, which is endorsed by the school board, to become a standalone bill.
MARCH 24 -- For the second year in a row, tensions flare in East Ramapo when a family celebrating the demise of the villain Haman during the holiday of Purim hanged a life-sized doll with black skin, dreadlocks and a hoodie from a window in Spring Valley. The family responsible told the news that they did not realize the lynching of a dark-skinned effigy would be considered abominable. Rockland's Jewish leaders condemned the act.
MARCH 21 -- Regent Betty Rosa, a consistently staunch supporter of public education in East Ramapo, is named Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.
MARCH 17 -- Rockland County Executive Ed Day blasts Senator Marcellino's remarks from March 10, saying, "A comment like this from the head of the Senate Education Committee is an outrage. I wonder how such an opinion could be formed by an elected official who has never stepped foot in an East Ramapo school building." Day invites Senators Flanagan and Marcellino on a tour of East Ramapo.
THROUGHOUT MARCH -- Strong East Ramapo announces that seven Long Island School Boards (North Shore CSD, Three Village CSD, West Babylon UFSD, Fire Island UFSD, Oceanside UFSD and Brentwood UFSD, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park UFSD), including those in both Senator Flanagan and Senator Marcellino's districts, have all passed resolutions in favor of East Ramapo oversight with veto power.
MARCH 15 -- The Rockland County Legislature unanimously passes a resolution endorsing the state oversight bill for East Ramapo.
MARCH 10 -- In a shift from a previous refusal to accept state money that contained stipulations, school board president Yehuda Weissmandl says he would accept funds "with strings attached" in order to finance full-day kindergarten, art and music and other line-items for public school use.
MARCH 10 -- Senate Education Chair Carl Marcellino from Long Island tells the Gannett news bureau that East Ramapo should "resolve the issues on their own, without the state getting involved; without the state putting in a monitor."
MARCH 8 -- Lobbying group Agudath Israel has an audience with Senator Flanagan in Albany and emphasizes their opposition to an East Ramapo oversight monitor with veto power and an independent election monitor, calling both "unprecedented and unwarranted."
FEBRUARY 10 -- State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia tours East Ramapo schools, surveys the conditions of the dilapidated Ramapo High School roof, meets students and teachers, and reiterates her support for a monitor with veto power.
JANUARY 13 -- Press reports cite support for East Ramapo oversight as one of the top two issues represented at the State of the State Address in Albany.
JANUARY 12 -- After tabling the issue and going into executive session until 11 p.m., the East Ramapo School Board votes to spend $42,000 of the schools' funds to hire lobbyist Pat Lynch in order to kill the oversight bill.
JANUARY 2016 -- Rockland County School Boards Association, Rockland Business Association, Reform Jewish Voice of New York, T'ruah: Rabbinic Call for Justice, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Bend the Arc, the Ecuadorean Association of Spring Valley, and The Journal News are among the latest supporters of the New York State Board of Regents' renewed recommendation for oversight with veto power in East Ramapo.
DECEMBER 14, 2015 -- Dennis Walcott and his team call for a monitor with veto power, echoing Hank Greenberg's report from a year ago. (Full report here.) The Board of Regents supports the recommendation, saying increased funding is needed but must be accompanied by strict oversight. In the meantime, the current monitoring team will continue indefinitely.
DECEMBER 8 - Strong East Ramapo sends a petition with over 600 signatures to Dennis Walcott and his team, requesting that they reaffirm the recommendations of Hank Greenberg to bring a monitor with veto power to the district.
DECEMBER 7 - LatinoJustice, a New York-based civil rights organization, writes a five-page letter calling upon the monitoring team and Commissioner Elia to endorse comprehensive oversight in East Ramapo given the severe neglect of English language learners.
DECEMBER 2 - The East Ramapo board introduces School Leadership LLC, a search firm hired to identify a permanent superintendent.
DECEMBER 1 - The Wall Street Journal reports that the district has seen some initial changes since the beginning of Walcott's tenure, but the problems "run deep."
NOVEMBER 25 - Interim Superintendent Deborah Wortham lays out priorities and strategies, including more frequent assessment of students to inform instructional decisions, at a board meeting.
OCTOBER 27 - The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has outlined discriminatory decisions by the East Ramapo Central School District against students of color. This document from the OCR outlines the findings, and this is the resolution agreement signed by the district.
OCTOBER 7 -- Superintendent Joel Klein, the subject of persistent community protests for over a year after his offensive attitude toward students from immigrant families, resigned. Dr. Deborah Wortham, most recently the head of the Roosevelt School District on Long Island, is named as the interim replacement.
OCTOBER 1 -- The monitoring team held a tense community forum in which attendees said they left with few answers.
SEPTEMBER 16 -- The monitoring team presents its initial findings to the Board of Regents. Dr. Monica George-Fields notes that the board has not operated with urgency around the district's academic under-performance.
AUGUST 31 -- Parents demand swift changes to the East Ramapo School District, or they will begin legal action against the state with the help of the Education Law Center and O'Melveny and Myers LLP.
AUGUST 13 -- Dennis Walcott is named as the lead monitor for East Ramapo, joined by experts Dr. Monica George-Fields and Dr. John Sipple. The New York Times, Education Week, Wall Street Journal, WNYC's Schoolbook, the Albany Times Union, WCBS NewsRadio 88, the Journal News, Hamodia, the Associated Press, the Daily News, CBS and NBC all covered the story. The Journal News also penned a strong editorial.
AUGUST 11 -- News reports indicate that, on Thursday, August 13 at Rockland Community College, Commissioner Elia and Chancellor Tisch will announce the appointment of a temporary monitor to observe and advise the East Ramapo School Board, hold public hearings and write a report for Albany. The monitor will not have the right to reverse board decisions, given that New York State does not pass this year's legislation that would have authorized veto power.
AUGUST 11 -- The board holds a special meeting without alerting the public in accordance with Open Meetings Law.
AUGUST 4 -- Students take to the podium at a board meeting to demand better for themselves and their peers. In addition, President Yehuda Weissmandl refuses requests from the public to use the results from the last election to fill the board seat vacated by Juan Pablo Ramirez.
JULY -- The district is found failing in all areas, according to a State Education Department report.
JULY 28 -- With an extra-large, over-capacity audience waiting for the board meeting to begin, the clerk abruptly announces a lack of quorum for at least the fourth time this year and cancels its meeting.
JULY 27 -- The New York State Supreme Court determines that the East Ramapo School District overpaid its defense attorneys by $2,000,000.
JULY 23 -- Board member Juan Pablo Ramirez resigns his post six weeks into office, paving the way for the board to appoint his successor. Community members demand that one of the candidates that garnered the next number of votes should be installed instead.
JULY 20 -- New State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia indicates that the state will soon release plans for further intervention in East Ramapo.
JULY 7 -- Two years after the district promised to replace the infamously disrespectful and expensive Long Island law firm Minerva and D'Agostino, East Ramapo hires new counsel, Harris Beach.
JUNE 28 -- Dozens of parents and community members have the first of several protests calling for Superintendent Klein's resignation outside his home in New City.
JUNE 26 -- Statement by Strong East Ramapo: "NEW YORK STATE SENATE UTTERLY FAILS THE CHILDREN OF EAST RAMAPO. It is unconscionable that Senate Leader Flanagan would turn his back on the children of East Ramapo by not even conducting a vote for the oversight bill, S. 3821. The legislation had the support of dozens of prominent organizations, including the Rockland County School Boards Association, which clearly would have objected if it felt the bill had jeopardized the concept of local control. Speaker Heastie emerged as a real champion for East Ramapo today, disagreeing with Senator Flanagan, noting that the Assembly approved the oversight bill, and saying, "I think that's what government is here for." We expect that the government will act regardless. The State Education Department released new evidence this week of the district's gross neglect of students, and Assembly Zebrowski is calling on the department to impose sanctions, controls and oversight on the district. Chancellor Tisch just called for the resignation of Superintendent Klein. We are also not done protesting and advocating. As we said and demonstrated on on June 22, we will march on."
JUNE 23 -- The State Education Department releases three new studies that detail the district's profound neglect of East Ramapo students, including denying English language learners a path to graduation.
JUNE 22 -- Joined by Assembly Members Jaffee and Zebrowski, County Executive Ed Day, Regents Judith Johnson and Betty Rosa, hundreds gathered in Spring Valley to call on Senator Flanagan to bring S. 3821, the original East Ramapo oversight bill that passed the Assembly, to a vote. The crowd then walked a mile to the East Ramapo District Headquarters, sang "We Shall Overcome" hand-in-hand in English and Spanish, and committed to march on until victory is won.
JUNE 17 -- Assembly Members Jaffee and Zebrowski announced that they are not supporting the amended bill and indicate that there may still be room for negotiation for the end of session. The community hoped for the best, but prepared for the struggle ahead.
JUNE 16 -- After hearing public opinion and receiving amendments from Assembly Members Jaffee and Zebrowski, Senator Carlucci went back to the table with Republicans and emerged with a few of the requested changes in a revised Senate Bill 5974(A). The new bill now authorizes the governor to appoint the monitor and set a clearer timeline and a process for appealing the board's decisions. Yet the bill still only enables the monitor to object to board actions that violate state or federal law, a provision that many believe would prevent the monitor from addressing the historic pattern of technically legal, but clearly unsound decisions made by the board.
JUNE 14, 11:59 p.m. -- After negotiations with Senate Republicans, Senator David Carlucci introduced Senate Bill 5974, a new bill that removed veto power from the monitor. Instead, a monitor could issue an objection to board actions that violate state or federal law, which the commissioner of education or the comptroller would review. It still mandated the creation of a long-term strategic plan, but added a $5 million/year grant for the district to use to expand academic programs that have been cut. The bill reduced the monitor's term to two and a half years with a provision for renewal, empowered the comptroller, in consultation with the governor, to appoint the monitor, and added oversight responsibilities for the comptroller.
JUNE 11 -- The Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus of the New York State Legislatiure has issued a statement urging the Senate to pass S. 3821.
JUNE 11 -- The New York State Assembly passes A. 5355, 80-56. The Journal News reports that Senator Carlucci is working toward a vote in the Senate.
JUNE 10 -- The bill's co-authors join with supporters, including Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, former Assemblyman Alex Gromack, recent Spring Valley High School graduate Olivia Castor, current parent Romel Alvarez, Reform Jewish Voice's Rabbi Michael Churgel, NAACP's Willie Trotman, and AQE's Jasmine Tripper, for a press conference in Albany, advocating for the legislation,
JUNE 10 -- The Assembly Rules Committee votes to support A. 5355. The Journal News reports that the bill is expected to pass the Assembly.
JUNE 9 -- The Assembly Ways and Means Committee votes to support A. 5355.
JUNE 8 -- New York State Education Department deems East Ramapo's Spring Valley High School ineffective (the lowest possible rating) in four different areas in new report.
JUNE 5 -- New York State Appeals Court becomes second court to reject East Ramapo School Board's attempt to use public monies for out-of-code special education placements.
JUNE 5 -- Anti-Defamation League issues press release in support of East Ramapo oversight legislation and tweets support of A. 5355 and S. 3821.
JUNE 4 -- Jewish groups unite to support A. 5355 and S. 3821, refuting claims that the bill is anti-Semitic. Bend the Arc: A Jewish Social Partnership for Justice, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Labor Committee, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College all join the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Uri L'Tzedek as supporters. of East Ramapo oversight.
JUNE 3 -- Governor Cuomo reiterated his advocacy for East Ramapo in the Assembly and Senate.
JUNE 3 -- The Assembly Education Committee has passed the bill, and it now moves to Ways and Means.
JUNE 3 -- The New York Times has published a definitive op-ed titled "When A School Board Victimizes Kids" (http://nyti.ms/1SV8RhY) by the New York State Schools Chancellor, Merryl Tisch, and the Executive Director of the Education Law Center, David Sciarra.
JUNE 2 -- New York Civil Liberties Union issues official legislative position in support of A. 5355 and S. 3821.
JUNE 2 -- The Jewish Daily Forward publishes Rabbi Ari Hart's outstanding commentary, "An Immoral Use of Jewish Power in Upstate New York" (http://forward.com/opinion/national/309145/in-east-ramapo-an-immoral-use-of-jewish-power/).
JUNE 1 -- Rockland County School Boards Association, of which East Ramapo is a member, endorses A. 5355 and S. 3821, noting that "the public school students of the East Ramapo School District would greatly benefit from the much needed and overdue oversight."
MAY 28, 2015 -- The New York Civil Liberties Union announces their support of A. 5355 and S. 3821. The Lower Hudson Valley branch plans to honor long-time East Ramapo activists Steve White, Oscar Cohen and Willie Trotman at their annual dinner in June.
MAY 14, 2015 -- The American Jewish Committee endorses the East Ramapo oversight legislation. A-5355/S-3821 “is an important step in healing the rifts that divide the community by requiring the monitor to attend to the needs of all students residing in the district and will also guarantee that the East Ramapo School District will provide its students with the education to which they are entitled by law,” said Marc Stern, the General Counsel for the American Jewish Committee.
MAY 12, 2015 -- The New York City Bar Association issued a legislative report in support of East Ramapo oversight, indicating that students in East Ramapo have not received a sound and basic education, that the board has neglected its fiduciary responsibilities, and that oversight legislation is appropriately scoped.
MAY 11, 2015 -- The New York State School Boards Association announces that it is "encouraged by the fact that the legislation respects the democratic process" and will not oppose the bill.
FEBRUARY 2015 -- Rockland County's legislators introduce a bill to the New York State Legislature, calling for state oversight of the East Ramapo Central School District.