This is War!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Battle of the Bus Depot Today
2. Declaration of War
3. A Global War on Children’s Education

1) Battle of the Bus Depot Today

Today, August 8, 2017, The East Ramapo school board will meet at 7:30 PM at their headquarters at 105 S. Madison Ave in Spring Valley, with the purpose of laying off bus drivers and selling buses. This is part of their plan to transfer real estate, 45 acres, from public ownership to private hands.

As we have seen with the Hillcrest and Colton school buildings, these “sales” are really land grabs. The school board will be selling, but they themselves are selected by those who will be the buyers. The conditions that create an excuse for the sale are manufactured.

The bus drivers are innocent bystanders. They are just in the way. The same way the children were in the way when schools were taken.

The NY State Education Department is complicit. Both school sales occurred during the tenure of the first “Fiscal Monitor”. The recommendations of the second monitor were ignored with no consequence. The current monitors endorsed a plan to use public dollars to provide extended courtesy busing for yeshivas while public school teachers are still spending money out of their own pockets for school supplies.

As the LifeLock commercial says: “Why monitor a problem if you don’t fix it?

2) Declaration of War

Today’s battle of the bus depot is part of a longer war on our public educational institutions. This became obvious when Aron Wieder appointed Al D’Agostino as the lawyer for the district. Joe Farmer, the Assistant Superintendent at the time, said “This is a declaration of war“.

He went on: “Here is the most unique community in the state of New York …  It’s not fair to destroy the potential of this community … and this community is being taken apart … and just from raw power, selfishness, to take control is not why we are in this business, and these students deserve more, they deserve better.”

3) A Global War on Children’s Education

It’s not only public educational institutions which are under attack in this war. Posters have gone up warning of “crossbreeding Yeshivas” in Israel that teach secular studies including about “other religions like Catholicism and Islam, God forbid.” “The ultra-Orthodox community in the United States will not let that happen under any circumstances.” “The sages already led a war against it.”

Who leads a “war” against Social Studies, Science and Math? Is it dangerous to know what a molecule is? Will learning the meaning of PEMDAS or SOHCAHTOA harm children? Would they be damaged from learning what happened at Harper’s Ferry? 

There is such a thing as right and wrong in the world. It is wrong to deny education to anyone, and it is illegal in NY to deny it to children. Those who would oppose education for their own families, or allow it to happen to their neighbors should not be entrusted with overseeing education of the general public. That applies to the East Ramapo school board and superintendent, and it applies to the NY State Department of Education – Commissioner, Monitors, Regents and all.

Coming to a school board meeting to stand up against laying off school bus drivers may not seem like a big step, but its a lot better than doing nothing. You don’t have to be Malala to make a difference, you just have to do what is there for you each day. Come to a meeting, write a letter, vote, make a donation to YAFFED, even just talking about the problem with your neighbor or co-worker makes a difference. But seriously … see you tonight!!!



Comparative Accountability

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Community Meeting Saturday
2. Bus Depot Land Grab
3. Comparative Accountability

1) Community Meeting Saturday

A Community Meeting has been called for Saturday, August 5 at 12 noon at the Martin Luther King Center, 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley.

This message from school board member Sabrina Charles Pierre: The youth in our CommUNITY needs us now more than ever. Who is down for change? Who would like to make a difference? Let’s work together. We can only fail our children if we don’t try.

2) Bus Depot Land Grab

The Board of Education will be meeting on Tuesday August 8 at 7:30, at 105 S. Madison Ave in Spring Valley.

There is a rumor that they will be laying off bus drivers.

If this is true, it would be one more step in their plan to sell off the bus depot for pennies on the dollar, the same way they have sold off elementary schools.The previous steps have included deliberate neglect of the bus fleet as a precursor to closing the depot. The drivers are innocent bystanders.

Even Superintendent Oustacher, who cooperated with the closing of the schools (to a point), was opposed to outsourcing all of the busing and closing the depot. He felt there was an advantage to having a mixture of some district owned and some outsourced busing.

However, this school board does not consider what is best for public education or what the stated mission of the district is, except as an afterthought. The primary focus of this board is advancing the cause of the yeshivas and the real estate investors. That is their unstated primary mission.

You are encouraged to come on August 8 to see for yourself if this rumor is true and to bear witness to the un-rehabilitated school board. Our goal is for the public mission of the school district to be the actual measure against which all district actions are measured.

3) Comparative Accountability

Compare these two scenarios:

  1. A lawyer curses at and threatens a student; a school board spends public dollars on private tuition; public schools are sold at below market value. – No one is held accountable.
  2. Students are subject to a zero-tolerance policy. – There are consequences when students violate the rules.

It seems that the more powerful one is, the less likely they are to be held accountable.

Consider this report from a student who was disciplined: “The Assistant Principal stated that if he did not (suspend me) it would seem as if he wasn’t doing his job.”

The state of New York has whitewashed the actions of the East Ramapo school board. Multiple “monitors” have done nothing while these illegal actions have gone on. Yes, it seems as if they are not doing their job.

Why the double standard? It seems that the more powerful one is, the less likely they are to be held accountable. Is this the model that we desire for our society? Is this will you want to teach our children? Persecuting the weak and protecting the strong is moral cowardice.

East Ramapo does not have a zero-tolerance policy for lawyers or board members or superintendents. It has a zero-tolerance policy for students. But students are immature and prone to make mistakes. Parents, guardians, and educators understand their role is to escort these young people through this mistake prone time of life, but too often our institutions single-minded focus on “zero tolerance” leads to them becoming part of the “school to prison pipeline”. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. I was a volunteer with the PASS (Positive Alternatives to School Suspension) program. This was one of the many programs which fell victim to the cutbacks of the last several years. Suspended students reported to the Spring Valley RCC extension (now a yeshiva) and received tutoring in STEM, English and Social Studies, and even the Arts (I was teaching percussion instruments). It was an unforgettable experience for teachers, students, and volunteers. These were kids with similar stories to the report that I published here. Many did have a POSITIVE experience.

What are we willing, as a society, to invest in these kinds of endeavors? Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”