Power of Ten Update
In this Issue:
1. Gov Cuomo Visits East Ramapo
2. Gov. Cuomo Proposes Receivership Model for Failing Schools
3. Rockland Clergy for Social Justice Press Conference Wednesday
4. Community Forum Thursday
5. PTA Barnes and Noble Book Fair Monday and Tuesday
6. Bond Vote Fails
1) Gov Cuomo Visits East Ramapo
Governor Cuomo made a stop in the Nanuet section of East Ramapo on Friday. He expressed confidence that legislation will be passed which will implement the recommendations of the fiscal monitor’s report which was done last year.
The Journal News: Cuomo: East Ramapo oversight bill expected by June
2) Gov. Cuomo Proposes Receivership Model for Failing Schools
Gov. Cuomo has adopted the recommendation of Chancellor Tisch and proposed a law based on the Massachusetts receivership approach. He has asked that the NY State Education Department do a comprehensive analysis of the successful Massachusetts model, with an added approach that includes promoting community schools with wrap around services.
A letter from Gov Cuomo’s director of operations to Chancellor Tisch is available here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/LetterMalatrastoTisch_0.pdf
The Buffalo News: Governor wants study of school district takeover model
This letter represents a renewed commitment by the State Board of Regents and the Governor’s office to uphold the state’s constitutional responsibility to ensure education for its children. If the state chooses to delegate to a local agency, that can be an effective solution, but when the local agency is corrupt or incompetent, that does not absolve the state of its responsibility.
I support this initiative by Governor Cuomo. Join me in thanking him here.
3) Rockland Clergy for Social Justice Press Conference
Wednesday, February 18, 1 p.m.
First Baptist Church, Spring Valley, 3 Hoyt Street, Spring Valley
The public is encouraged to attend. Rabbis, ministers, pastors, imams, elders and trustees call for New York State legislation authorizing State oversight of the East Ramapo Central School District by a person who will have incontrovertible authority over Board and administrative decisions.
Speakers: Reverend Weldon McWilliams IV, PhD, First Baptist Church Spring Valley; Rabbi Paula Mack Drill, Orangetown Jewish Center, Orangeburg; Pastor Joel Michel, French Speaking Baptist Church, Spring Valley; Azeem Farooki, Islamic Center of Rockland; Rabbi Ari Hart co-founder Uri L’Tzedek (Orthodox for Social Justice)
On Tuesday March 3rd Rockland Clergy for Social Justice will travel to the New York State Capitol to meet with legislative leaders and members of the Executive Chamber seeking support for legislation to implement Mr. Greenberg’s and the Board of Regents recommendations.
4) Community Forum Thursday
East Ramapo will be the topic of discussion at a community forum sponsored by “We The People” from 7 – 9 PM on Thursday, February 19, at the Martin Luther King Multipurpose Center at 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley.
5) PTA Barnes and Noble Book Fair Monday and Tuesday
We need volunteers to: read to other children, recite poetry, sing, dance, play a musical instrument, act, – etc….ANYTHING that would be entertaining for them and the other students. PLEASE help make this PARP event a success: you will get more out of helping others than you know, AND we appreciate whatever time you can give!
To schedule a slot contact Ramona Jones, PTA Council President, at email@example.com
6) Bond Vote Fails
Voters soundly rejected the school board’s proposal to borrow $40 million dollars. The vote was 626 to 472, a solid 57% majority voting NO. Turnout was expected to be very low due to the frigid February weather and the almost non-existent publicity. One thing which was accomplished was an opportunity for discussion of the way the board handles real estate decisions.
Much of the deferred maintenance that the district is experiencing is the result of failed budgets and budget proposals that did not meet the needs of the district. Superintendent Outstacher acknowledged that it was the ‘private school community’ which prevented him from introducing budgets which met district needs. He did not want to propose a budget that would be voted down by ‘private school’ parents.
According to the only study of the issue that we know of, done by the district in 2007, district spending on the ‘private school community’ is already much more than the taxes paid by private school parents. The same private school parents that are guaranteed these benefits and subsidies have the power to vote down budgets that maintain programs and buildings used by the public school students. Local spending for public education is lower in East Ramapo than any other district in Rockland.
Just this year two schools were sold to yeshivas for about $10 million total. That sale price should represent the total value of the land and the buildings. These were the only two schools that NY State evaluated as not needing major spending to fix.
So the current board, which was put in place 100% by the users of private schools, who are being subsidized by the other taxpayers, and who have voted down any reasonable school budget which could have maintained the school buildings, now is asking the taxpayers to borrow millions of dollars to make the repairs, and at the same time opposing any oversight from the state that would prevent them from just transferring the buildings at bargain basement prices to yeshivas.
While some public school parents very understandably are wanting the bond to pass, because the conditions are unacceptable, most are just not going to agree to anything without a state monitor with veto power, at the very least. Unless the ‘private school community’ decides to support it, another vote (before a monitor is appointed) is unlikely to pass. If those voters did pass it, that would only serve to increase the distrust. People would think “If they are willing to spend to fix up buildings, is it because they have their eye on them? If they are willing to spend on that, why not spend on full day Kindergarten?”
Making the problem worse is the divisive rhetoric coming from the board and the superintendent. The truth is that if the bond passed, schools would not be miraculously fixed the next day. It would be a long process, and along the way there would still need to be emergency repairs. There would would still be kids in unsatisfactory schools. Managing a $40 million dollar project would be a challenge even for a district that was fully staffed.
A good place to start rebuilding the district is by rebuilding the trust. Propose and pass a budget that provides the programs necessary, and retains a fund balance for ongoing repairs. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars suing the State Education Department and the NY Attorney General. Try following the law instead. Accept the $3.5 million dollars the state wants to give you, which you rejected rather than have a community advisory board. Accept a monitor, or any other help from the state. If the school board fails to earn the trust of those who use the schools, the result could be a state takeover, or nightmarish social unrest. It is not too late.