2013 Review; 2014 Priorities

The Power of Ten Update

In this Issue:

  1. 2013 Review
  2. Let’s Make Education Our Priority for 2014
  3. Advocates for Justice End of Year Donation Plea

1) 2013 Review

2013 was a very active year for the struggle for educational equity in East Ramapo schools. It began with Letters from the NY State Education Department (NYSED) demanding that East Ramapo get its financial and educational house in order.  That initiative by the state was stalled by a lawsuit brought by the district against NYSED. That was another of several suits, fought with our education tax dollars, that the school board has lost. In January, Power of Ten went to Albany with students and parents and 4,994 signatures asking for NY State to intervene.  We got a response from Commissioner King, who said that there was pending legislation that could be a solution to our problem. In June The Power of Ten submitted petitions to Governor Cuomo with 6,152 signatures in favor of the passage of the bill. We have never received any response from Governor Cuomo.  In October, The Civil Rights lawsuit brought by Advocates for Justice survived another challenge by the school board’s $600 an hour lawyers. The judge has ruled that the case will proceed, and we are confident that Justice is Coming to East Ramapo!

Read an Abbreviated History of Actions to Save Our Schools or check out the archive of Power of Ten updates for a look back at more actions, 

2) Let’s Make Education Our Priority for 2014

All of our actions have had the single goal that every child’s right to a quality education shall be ensured and protected by the community at large.  We have promoted candidates for school board, we have conducted informational rallies and protests, we have delivered our message to the school district and to our elected officials.  We have filed appeals with NYSED, some of which have been successful. However, resources continue to be diverted and programs and staff continue to be cut.  In 2014 we will continue to rally, and to lobby. We will also be in court!

3) Advocates for Justice End of Year Donation Plea

When your civil rights are trampled, and the politicians are unwilling to act, it has traditionally been the legal system which has acted to protect your rights. Access to that legal system often depends on ability to pay, and too often justice is denied due to lack of funding.

We have been extremely lucky to have our issue taken up by a not-for-profit, public interest civil rights law firm. Advocates for Justice has been working tirelessly to get the US Federal Court to order that the East Ramapo School District stop diverting funding from public schools and restore funding to the way it is mandated by law.  The case also includes recouping damages from the school officials whose actions have caused so much damage to our educational system.

Advocates for Justice is not charging a fee to any of the over 400 people who signed on as plaintiffs in this suit. However, this is a very complicated suit and the school board has already spent millions of dollars trying to make it go away.  They know that if this case goes to trial, they will be personally liable, and they are using every desperate measure to try to stop this case from ever being seen by a jury.

We must come together to sustain our side of this legal battle.  That means each of us needs to pitch in for the costs, in whatever way we can.

Click Here to Donate to the Advocates for Justice East Ramapo Save Our Schools Legal Fund

Donations to Advocates for Justice are tax-deductible.

WE can make Justice come to East Ramapo! Please donate today!

Abbreviated History of Actions to Save Our Schools

May 2008 –  Stakeholders candidate gets 2400 votes

Jan 2009 –  Hundreds Rally to Save Hempstead Elementary

March 2009 – Stakeholders write NYSED Commissioner Mills, advising of de-facto segregation and warning of impact of non-public school interests controlling the public school board.

March 2009 – Petition with over 1000 signatures made to board opposing the closing or sale of any school

April 2009 – First Appeal to Commissioner: Peggy Hatton Appeals Closing of Colton

May 2009 – Stakeholders Candidates file Lawsuit regarding election irregularities

May 2009 – Stakeholders candidates double 2008 turnout, receive 4500 votes

July 2009 – First NY Times Article “Rancor where private school parents make public school decisions”

April 2010 – NYSED Special Education Quality Assurance Compliance Office finds inappropriate placements of students in private schools and orders ERCSD to correct its practices

April 2010 – Over 1000 rally against closing Hillcrest Elementary

April 2010 – Mendel Hoffman writes board need to put yeshivas first, threatens to bring public schools “to their knees”.

May2010 – Stakeholders candidates double 2009 turnout, receive 8600 votes

August 2010 – Appeal of Sale of Hillcrest to Yeshiva Avir Yakov

August 2010 – NYSED spec education report directs ERCSD to stop making inappropriate placements

October 2010 – ERCSD public school enrollment is up dramatically, over 1000 more students than the district had predicted when it proposed closing schools

November 2010 – Complaint filed with NY Attorney General re: appraisal fraud in sale of Hillcrest

January 2011 – ERCSD attempts to ‘absorb’ RISE yeshiva

January 2011 – NAACP files complaint with USDOE OCR alleging civil rights violations. OCR begins investigation

February 2011 – NAACP writes to oppose RISE ‘absorption’

February 2011 – NAACP requests NYCLU support oppose RISE take over. School board backs off

August 2011 – NY Comptroller finds ERCSD failed to fulfill its stewardship, oversight and leadership responsibilities

February 2012 – NYSED Special Education Quality Assurance Compliance Office finds inappropriate placements of students in private schools continues and requires ERCSD to publicly post the finding of non-compliance and resulting loss of state funding

July 2012 – NY Attorney General states ERCSD is hampering its investigation into sale of Hillcrest School

July 2012 – Advocates for Justice appeal to Commissioner to remove board members and appoint a state monitor

August 2012 – Advocates for Justice files class action civil rights lawsuit seeking monetary damages, punitive damages, removal of ERCSD board members and appointment of State monitor

October 2012 – Carmand and White appeal to Commissioner to stop ERCSD from using district funds for legal fees of defendants in class action suit and appeals for their removal

January 2013 – Petition with 4,494 signers submitted to Gov Cuomo and Commissioner King to appoint oversight monitor for East Ramapo

January 2013 – Two non-orthodox board members resign citing lack of transparency and inappropriate board practices

March 2013 – Parent files ethics complaint against E. Ramapo attorney who abused her son at a board meeting

March 2013 – District sues NYSED over special education placement criticism

March 2013 – AP article about East Ramapo crisis appears in papers around the US

April 2013 – New York Magazine feature article on the destruction of the East Ramapo School System

May 2013 – Thousands turn out for school budget vote, turnout is double other Rockland districts and 75% in favor of budget, but budget is defeated by bloc vote 100% against budget.

May 2013 – Federal Judge dismisses ERCSD request to dismiss class action lawsuit, lawsuit goes forward

May 2013 – Olivia Castor and Peggy Hatton Explain the Crisis in East Ramapo Schools on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show

May 2013 – One thousand high school students walk out of school, march 3 miles to demand a quality education

June 2013 – Petition with 6,152 signatures sent to Gov. Cuomo asking him to pass NYSED intervention bill to “Save East Ramapo”

July 2013 – Abuse of public at ERCSD board meetings gets international attention as lawyer curses at parent in viral video

July 2013 – Hundreds rally to protest abuse of public by district lawyers, board president says law firm must go (note: as of this printing, 4 months later, firm is still there)

July 2013 – Commissioner King upheld a petition by an East Ramapo public school parent to nullify the current lease of the Hillcrest Elementary School building to a New Square yeshiva

July 2013 – Appraiser in Hillcrest Elementary sale scandal arrested for grand larceny and filing a false instrument

September 2013 – Federal Judge dismisses second ERSD request to dismiss class action lawsuit, lawsuit goes forward

October 2013 – Federal Judge dismissed East Ramapo lawsuit against NYSED, upholding NYSED findings of inappropriate special education placements

October 2013 – East Ramapo parent appeals to state over lack of music, art instruction

D’Agostino Still Here?; Peace Award Details

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

  1. D’Agostino is still here?
  2. Peace Award Details
  3. Message from The East Ramapo Underground

1) D’Agostino is still here?

Many people might think that after the school board said that they would “transition” from the law firm of D’Agostino that meant he was no longer working for the district. They would be wrong.  A letter was written to the JN (by Power of Ten editor Steven White): E. Ramapo board, in another failure, still employing tainted law firm

The County Exec elect wrote a letter to Commissioner King about the subject.  Article in Pearl River Patch: Rockland Exec Elect Asks State to Step in on East Ramapo Schools’ Lawyers

2) Peace Award Details

The Fellowship of Reconciliation will present the 2013 Nyack Area Peace Award to East Ramapo activists Steven and Emilia White on Sunday, Dec 22 during the Winter Solstice Celebration.

The Event will be at the FOR headquarters at 521 N. Broadway in Nyack from 1:00 – 7:00 PM and will include music and food (potluck).  There is a suggested donation.

The Award Ceremony will be at 2:30 PM

All the information is available at http://forusa.org/events/2013/12/22/winter-solstice-house-concert

The information about the award and this year’s recipients: http://forusa.org/events/2013/12/22/winter-solstice-house-concert

3) Message from The East Ramapo Underground

The East Ramapo school board meeting (Dec 16th) had two executive sessions that lasted a total of three hours. Here are the videos that show what happened during the other 25 minutes of the meeting. East Ramapo started Extended Learning Time for schools on December 16, 2013. Title I, II and III funds are used for this. Some of the time is before and after school. Do the parents know about this program? http://youtu.be/N-eseFGyCXQ 

East Ramapo states that the amount of students that are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch now stands at 76%. One school is at 89%. Are these numbers accurate? Who checks these numbers? http://youtu.be/ttzP1Zyy5ZA

East Ramapo which has been sited three times in the past for making improper settlements continues the practice. Listen as four more settlements are made. Special Ed costs have risen by over 45% in the last three years.  http://youtu.be/bmGmkDVbF94

Watch all the East Ramapo Videos on www.youtube.com/LuckyLouProduction

East Ramapo Underground provides messages about school board meetings and other news topics often more quickly and with more detail than the Power of Ten Updates.

You can now subscribe to the East Ramapo Underground messages directly by sending a message to eastramapounderground-subscribe@npogroups.org

Invitation to FOR Celebration; Spring Valley – East Ramapo Crisis is an Emergency

Power of Ten Update

In this Issue:

  1. East Ramapo activists to receive Peace Prize
  2. Crisis in East Ramapo declared an emergency priority by the Village of Spring Valley
  3. New lawsuit addresses failure to provide basic education to all students

1) East Ramapo Activists to Receive Peace Prize

YOU are INVITED to attend this celebration featuring the Living Legend, America’s best-loved folksinger, Pete Seeger!!! There will be many other performers, including East Ramapo parent Tjokorda Gde Arsa Artha.   Follow the link below for times, suggested donation, and more info.

The 2013 Fellowship of Reconciliation Nyack Area Peace Award Winners are Steve and Emilia White!!!

The award will be presented on December 22nd at the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Winter Solstice House Concert and Nyack-Area Peace Award Presentation

2) Crisis in East Ramapo declared an emergency priority by the Village of Spring Valley

Calling the situation in East Ramapo a “crisis,” the Village of Spring Valley passed a resolution stating that it will play an active role to address the issues facing the East Ramapo Central School District.

The Journal News: New Spring Valley board focuses on East Ramapo’s troubles

 3) New lawsuit addresses failure to provide basic education to all students

The cuts to programs in East Ramapo have affected many students. If you are a parent who is concerned that your student may not be receiving all the educational programs that they should be, you may be interested in a new lawsuit which addresses this issue on a statewide level.  Please contact Dr. Oscar Cohen for more information at oscarpcohen@optonline.net