Important School Board Election Info

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Important School Board Election Info
2. East Ramapo Author Publishes New Book
3. Message from School Board Member Carole Anderson

1) Important School Board Election Info

Our candidates have always worked together as a team, together with the community for the best interests of the students. This year, the rights of East Ramapo voters have been affirmed by the court’s decision to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Our candidates will be elected by and responsible to the people who use the public schools!

Our candidates are:

Ward 1 – Ashley Leveille

Ward 2 – Sabrina Charles-Pierre

Ward 3 – Sherry McGill

Ward 9 – Carole Anderson

For more information on Our candidates, Our Issues, and Voting Info, visit the campaign webpage at:

Like every other campaign, school board campaigns have expenses. There will also be volunteer opportunities. Please visit the campaign webpage for more info:

2) East Ramapo Author Publishes New Book

Michael’s Legacy – Transcending Life and Death is a new book written by Mark Judelson, an author and playwright whose previous work include “East Ramapo”, a play. His new book is about how one family’s tragedy became a life-changing story as Michael Bovill’s life went on in the five people who received his organs in life-saving transplant operations.

To recognize and support the essential work of the NAACP in general and the Spring Valley Branch in particular, Mark will donate $1.00 of his royalties for each book sold to the Branch by buyers who identify the Branch as their chosen recipient. Visit for details.

3) Message from School Board Member Carole Anderson

Recently, I viewed a webinar offered by the New York State School Board Association entitled “Institutional Racism: Raising awareness and meeting the needs of all students” which greatly reminded me of what happened to me when I was in high school.  I was failing geometry and my mother went to see the teacher to find out what needed to be done so I could pass.  The teacher told my mother that I didn’t have the mental ability to be able to comprehend “geometry”.  My mother told the teacher she would get me a tutor.  The teacher told her that she would be wasting her money.  Upon hearing what the teacher said I was devastated, but my mother and grandmother wouldn’t allow me to dwell in self-pity.  They got me a tutor and I received an 80% on the final which forced the teacher to give me 65% as a final grade.  The teacher had the nerve to call me in her office to ask me if I had cheated on the final!

How often do our Black and Brown children have to endure similar humiliation?  If I didn’t have the support of my mother and grandmother I wouldn’t be where I am today.  They pushed me into going to college where I received a BA in Elementary Education and I went on to get two MAs in Education.  They instilled in me that quitting when there is adversity is not an option!  We have to give that kind of support to our children in this community.  They need to know that we have their backs.  Your attendance at meetings informs you of what is going on and what is needed to improve the education for the children of ERCSD.

We not only have to support our children but we have to support our interim Superintendent Dr. Giamartino who is doing an outstanding job.  Believe me when I say he has a handle on the situation and can bring about changes if given the chance.  The schools in ER didn’t get to where they are now overnight; thus, change isn’t going to happen overnight.  We, as a community, need to be on top of things.  Please encourage your friends and neighbors to listen in to school board meetings on YouTube. Information on when meetings happen is available on the district website,


2020-21 School Board Election Update

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. 2020-21 School Board Election Update
2. Remote Learning Continues?
3. Yaffed Gala

1) 2020-21 School Board Election Update

Due to the historic victory in the NAACP court action, voters in East Ramapo will use a ward system to elect school board members. This system provides that at least some of the school board members will be accountable to the communities of color whose children make up 95% of the students attending the public schools.

Each of nine ward areas will have their own representative on the board. Each voter will vote to select just the one board member who will represent the ward where they live. 

Both the May 2020 and May 2021 school board elections are cancelled. The new plan is for an election for all nine board seats in February 2021, and then gradually revert back to a system where three seats are chosen each year, starting in May 2022. There will still be a budget vote each year in May.

The new date for the school board election is Feb 2, 2021. All voting will be by mail-in ballot only. All voters will receive a ballot by mail sometime in January. Watch your mailboxes!

Board members will be required to live in the ward they represent. Some of the candidates who were running in 2020 lived in the same ward as each other, or in a ward where the current board member has had the support of the voters of color in the past. These board members and candidates talked it over, and unified around a common group of candidates who will work together for this election, and will continue to work with the community to maintain the unified voice in support of quality education. 

The candidates who were part of the 2020 campaign but who have graciously steeped back for the sake of unity in our community are Kerry Victor and Ana Maeda Gonzalez. They really worked hard and demonstrated the true meaning of teamwork. Our heartfelt thanks go to both for their selfless devotion to the children.

The candidates this for the 2020-21 election have their own webpage: Please visit that page for all the campaign information and updates.

2) Remote Learning Continues?

East Ramapo was among the first districts in the nation to experience school closures due to the pandemic. The impact has been most damaging to those who were most vulnerable. Many students have not been getting remote education due to lack of devices to access the internet and to language and literacy barriers. The numbers are shocking. According to The Journal News, as of October 22, nearly 47% of students were considered chronically absent

The new superintendent, Dr. Giamartino, has begun distributing thousands of Chromebooks and has also made arrangements for thousands of free Wifi hotspots. Hopefully the next report of attendance will be substantially better!

3) Yaffed Gala

The public school children are not the only victims of the misconduct of the East Ramapo school board. There are also many children in East Ramapo’s yeshiva system of religious schools who have not been getting the education which is their civil right under the NY State Constitution. Just as the public school children will not get the education that they deserve until NY State finally intervenes, many in the yeshiva system will not get adequate secular education until NY State addresses it. Thanks to the education advocacy organization Yaffed (Young Advocates for Fair Education), the state is currently in the process of implementing new guidelines to replace those that have been ignored by the school board.

You can support the work of Yaffed by attending their virtual gala



Election Day is Here!

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: Election Day is Here

Many people have already cast their ballot by mail or voted early. If you have not yet voted, the last chance will be Tuesday, Nov 3, at your regular polling location.

Elections can have an impact on the quality of education in our schools. Please be aware of the records of these candidates as you cast your ballot:

Ellen Jaffee has done more for oversight of the East Ramapo public schools than any other elected official. With your help, she will continue to take our fight to Albany.

Elijah Reichlin-Melnick stood up for more oversight of the East Ramapo school board, and publicly opposed the political machine that asked him to pledge to vote against oversight. He will be our next State Senator with your help.

Mondaire Jones graduated from East Ramapo went on to to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He will bring our fight to Washington!


Early Voting Starts Saturday Oct 24

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Early Voting Starts Saturday Oct 24
2. Portraits of the Healers

1) Early Voting Starts Saturday Oct 24

Elections can have an impact on the quality of education in our schools.

Mondaire Jones graduated from East Ramapo went on to to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He will be our next Congressman with your help. 

Elijah Reichlin-Melnick stood up for more oversight of the East Ramapo school board, and publicly opposed the political machine that asked him to pledge to vote against oversight. He will be our next State Senator with your help.

Ellen Jaffee has done more for oversight of the East Ramapo public schools than any other elected official. With your help, she will continue to take our fight to Albany.

This year, people have many options to cast their vote. They can vote in person on election day. They can vote early at a voting center. They can vote by mail.

All information on how to vote is available on the board of elections webpage:

2) Portraits of the Healers

Every once in a while, a news report, a podcast, some kind of media information outlet will make you stop in your tracks. Make you sit down and think. Make you pull your car off to the side of the road and cry.

Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt has released a powerful collection of stories from Orthodox doctors and nurses, telling us in their own words how they “struggle to balance emotion and expertise” in their life and death battle with the COVID virus, and their frustration when facing misinformation, mistrust and skepticism when they return home to Orthodox communities.

Portraits of the healers: Orthodox doctors and nurses in their own words

Orthodox Non-compliance Leads to Public School Closures

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Orthodox Non-compliance Leads to Public School Closures
2. MLK Center Gala
3. One Community

1) Orthodox Non-compliance Leads to Public School Closures

East Ramapo schools have been closed for at least an additional two weeks due to the new COVID clusters in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

According to Governor Cuomo, other “schools are closed because they happen to be in that cluster, but the issue is with that ultra-orthodox community,”

The Governor also said “They have never been following the regulations with any rigor… now you see the result.”

This comes as no surprise to East Ramapo residents, who have been seeing school buses non-stop since the pandemic began. Documents obtained by FOIL reveal that yeshivas evaded fines for illegal operation by relabeling themselves as “childcare centers”.

Amazingly, while East Ramapo public schools are now closed, yeshivas continue to be open, whether as “childcare” or otherwise.

The response to Governor Cuomo’s new restrictions has been fierce. In NYC, angry mobs attacked a Jewish reporter, calling him a “moser” (yiddish for snitch). Some are trying to manipulate the tests results to make the positive rate appear lower than it actually is. According to reports in The Forward: In Orthodox WhatsApp groups, a message is being shared: “DO NOT test your child for covid … The city has released new guidelines that mandate CLOSURE of an ENTIRE SCHOOL if there are two positive tests in the school.” In Rockland County, one yeshiva sent out a letter to parents warning them that if a child is tested and receives a positive result, “potentially many other kids will be prevented from attending Yeshiva.”

The animosity of many in the ultra-Orthodox community to basic science and health principles is a result of lack of basic science and health education in their yeshiva system. As revealed in a previous edition of Power of Ten, the CEO of the Yeshiva Association said they are “not focused now on historyscience … We are focusing mostly on English … So when superintendent comes to visit she will be able to communicate with the students”. Just as with the response to COVID, the CEO (along with the East Ramapo school board president!) are more interested in gaming the system than in the education, safety and health of the children.

2) MLK Center Gala

On Sunday, October 18 at 7 pm, the Martin Luther King Multipurpose Center (the Center) will host a virtual party to celebrate its students and to raise needed funds. The evening will feature streamed performances on Facebook; hosts will update viewers about the Center’s progress including a land acquisition for an outdoor space where Center children can safely play.
Gala performers include jazz vocalist Shirley Crabbe; R&B band Cee Songbird and the Sound Travelers; saxophonist and performer Herve Alexandre; award-winning urban folk singer-writer KJ Denhert; the Eddie Vazquez Band and more. The Center children will present a selection from The Lion King, choreographed by TaShawn Pettiford.

Though the pandemic didn’t interrupt the Center’s 56 year record of serving the community, it did force the cancellation of its two annual fund-raising events. As a result, the Center urgently needs money to cover the shortfall in order to continue offering essential services such as:
• A food pantry that feeds hundreds of families a month. As Rockland’s County’s third largest food bank, the Center is on track to distribute 400,000 pounds of food;
• Health services such as last spring’s COVID testing site, on-going Red Cross blood drives and a range of free medical services for the community;
• Modified summer and after school academic and cultural programs for children.

The Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center serves families in the heart of Rockland’s most diverse and culturally vibrant community, where the pandemic struck hardest. The community experienced the highest rates of illness, death, food insecurity and academic slide due to school closures. As students all over Rockland remain isolated in homes with the latest technology, too many of the Center’s children lack access to laptops, tablets and adequate internet service.

The Center gratefully acknowledges its sponsors Devon and Jason McCourty, Rockland’s own Boston Patriot football heroes, and the M&T Bank Foundation.

Eventbrite link:
Facebook link:

3) One Community

In East Ramapo, we are often told that we are “One Community”. The global pandemic has brought this point home with ferocity. The virus does not discriminate. However, it does illuminate the discrimination that already exists in our society. Here in East Ramapo, the racial divide is a chasm. The district is diverse, but there are all-white neighborhoods. The majority of students in the district are white and attend private school. 62% of the public school students are Latino, but there is not a single Latino on the school board. Many of the public school mothers work in the homes of the white students, doing their laundry, washing their dishes, scrubbing their floors etc. Most or all of the housing in the white-only areas is built by the public school fathers, but owned by the white people who live there or by other white people. Much of the housing in the poorest sections where people of color are the majority is owned by white landlords who maximize their profits by illegally overcrowding and neglecting maintenance. Public school students lack the basics to participate in remote learning because of the economic violence perpetrated on them by the white bosses and owners. Before COVID, this deprivation was measured in the graduation rate and test scores. Now the only meaningful measure we have is access to remote learning devices. Every other district in Rockland reports 100% of students have a Chromebook or equivalent. In East Ramapo, it’s only 41%. One community, breathing the same air, and while economic and political power concentrates to some, the COVID virus flows freely to all. 


Remembering Coach Kevin Feeney

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Remembering Coach Kevin Feeney
2. Voting Information Event
3. How Do We Feel Right Now?

1) Remembering Coach Kevin Feeney

Coach Feeney was killed in a tragic accident on October 3. He was with the district for 24 years and will be missed by all of those whose lives he touched.

2) Voting Information Event

Please join JAMCCAR on October 9, 2020, at 7:00 p.m., at a special ZOOM meeting  “YOUR VOTE, YOUR VOICE, YOUR POWER” with guest speaker, Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky, Commissioner of the Rockland Board of Elections.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 848 0941 4212
Passcode: 584886

3) How Do We Feel Right Now?

The Spring Valley HS Thespians are taking on feelings of anger and fear in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in a new play that will be recorded and broadcast in December.

“How Do We Feel Right Now? A Collection of Raw Thoughts in the Aftermath of Senseless Tragedy.”


November 2020 Voting Info

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: November 2020 Voting Info

This year, people have many options to cast their vote. They can vote in person on election day. They can vote early at a voting center. They can vote by mail.

All information on how to vote is available on the board of elections webpage:

As reported many times in The Power of Ten, elections can have an impact on the quality of education in our schools.

This election, we can also report that the quality of our schools has impacted the election. East Ramapo graduate Mondaire Jones went on to to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He will be our next Congressman with your help. 

You will also recall that Elijah Reichlin-Melnick stood up for more oversight of the East Ramapo school board, and publicly opposed the political machine that asked him to pledge to vote against oversight. He will be our next State Senator with your help.

And of course, no elected official has done more for oversight of the East Ramapo public schools and no one has been attacked more ferociously by the private school lobby than Ellen Jaffee. With our help, she will continue to take our fight to Albany.

So there you have it. With so many ways to vote, even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, everyone can cast a ballot. When East Ramapo was one of the top districts in the state, it was because people like you cared and worked hard for it. Now everyone can see what has happened when people with other priorities get control. In order for us to change the trajectory of our schools, we will need competent, trustworthy people representing us in Albany (and Washington!) Mondaire, Elijah, and Ellen have committed to increased support for our schools, but most importantly, they are saying that support must include increased oversight. This is what public education advocates have been asking for, and this will be our work to accomplish together in 2021.

Special Edition: COVID Concerns

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: COVID Concerns

As reported in The Forward, concerns have been raised about the lack of safety precautions in many non-public schools.

Public records obtained by Power of Ten revealed that many non-public schools in East Ramapo never actually closed, they simply rebranded themselves as childcare centers.

According to the Journal News, rates of infection are rising in areas where there are many non-public students, including East Ramapo, and officials have “acknowledged links between Rockland’s uptick in cases and COVID-19 clusters found in areas of Brooklyn and Queens that are home to large Orthodox Jewish communities.”

Especially concerning, it is being reported that some yeshivas are discouraging COVID-19 testing to try to avoid closures!!!

It’s important not to blame the whole Jewish community for these actions. The community is not monolithic. There are many, especially health care providers, who are trying to advocate for safe practices, and they deserve our support. The ultra-Orthodox community is often incorrectly labeled as “insular”. In fact, there is very extensive contact with East Ramapo public school families, many of whom work in homes, schools and stores in New Square and Monsey.

The lack of education provided in yeshivas seems to have left too many citizens unable to utilize vital health information. A review by The Power of Ten reveals that of non-public school students in 9-12 grade in East Ramapo, only one in four is enrolled in a program that can lead to a HS diploma.

Again, it’s important not to blame the whole Jewish community for the lack of education. As reported in The City, a Jewish parent who tries to improve the education for her child is facing a Mayor who uses her child’s education for “horse-trading”, a Dept. of Education that delays endlessly, and even a judge who ordered that her child remain in a yeshiva where no secular education was provided!!!

The only way forward, for us as a society, is to hold our institutions accountable. As the Board President of Yaffed writes in The Forward, “How can we expect them to be informed citizens who will vote, sit on juries, and be active participants in civic society, if the institutions tasked with preparing them for adulthood have abdicated this responsibility?.”

My Name is Pedro

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. My Name is Pedro
2. Development in Ramapo Forcing Out Minorities
3. Moshe’s Story

1) My Name is Pedro

Pedro Santana came into our district for only a brief time, and yet his influence is still felt today in the hearts and minds of the many people who knew and loved him, more than six years after his death. Pedro was on a mission to make the world a better place. Pedro’s story has been immortalized in “My Name is Pedro“, a documentary that explores what public education meant to him – a ‘special ed’ child from the Bronx – and what he, in turn, meant to public education. 

The film is now available for streaming online, and there will be a panel discussion online on September 24th at 8:30 pm

Details available at: My Name is Pedro

2) Development in Ramapo Forcing Out Minorities

A new blockbuster investigative report by The Journal News details how actions of the school board majority have contributed to an increasing pattern of housing segregation. Many school board members have been developers and speculators. Have their actions on the board enhanced the profitability of their businesses?

Black families leave struggling East Ramapo school district in search of better education

3) Moshe’s Story

In an opinion piece for USA Today, Monsey resident Moshe Lobel describes his struggle to overcome the educational neglect he experienced in his childhood.

We must end educational neglect in ultra-Orthodox schools. Here’s why:


We Are Not Fooled

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Upcoming Events
2. Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program
3. We Are Not Fooled

1) Upcoming Events

Wednesday, September 16th from 12 PM – 1 PM

Conozca Sus Derechos Abogacia Y Educacion Especial Infantil

Know Your Rights! Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will be holding a Spanish virtual presentation on Child Advocacy and Special Education , “Conozca Sus Derechos Abogacia Y Educacion Especial Infantil”.

Click here to register.

Thursday, September 17, 2020 from 12 PM – 1 PM

UnEducated Part 2: Barriers to Self-Sufficiency

Please join Yaffed for another informative panel on the incredible challenges Yeshiva graduates face after being denied a basic education in many ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Yeshivas.
We will hear from Yeshiva graduates and experts as they discuss the difficulties graduates face in seeking employment and achieving self-sufficiency.

Moderator: Ezra Cappell – Professor of Jewish Studies and English – Director of the Perlmutter Fellows Program at the College of Charleston.

Luzer Twersky – Yeshiva Graduate and Parent
Yomaly Suero – Economic Empowerment Program Manager, Footsteps
Naftuli Moster – Executive Director, Yaffed

Register on Zoom:

Link to view Part 1:

2) Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program

The Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program has created a GoFundMe to help award as many scholarships as possible to the students that successfully complete the mentorship program.

With over a dozen applicants with great financial needs for funding college, 100% of the money donated will go toward helping them reach their academic goals. Scholarship money will be awarded in the summer before matriculating to the institution of their choice to support financial costs associated with college enrollment.

Full info:

3) We Are Not Fooled

New documents have been made public that appear to indicate attempts to mislead state and local authorities.

The first document (PX088) is a text conversation between Hersh Horowitz, the CEO of the Yeshiva Association of Rockland County and Harry Grossman, the President of the East Ramapo School Board. Rabbi Horowitz and Mr. Grossman appear to be conspiring to deceive the Superintendent regarding the lack of education in chasidish boys yeshivas.

Hersh Horowitz: …we are … advancing the secular studies in the chasidish boys schools so at least they learn the basics and they can communicate properly However Im not focused now on historyscience … We are focusing mostly on English … So when superintendent comes to visit she will be able to communicate with the students
Harry Grossman: … math is very pareve and easy to bring in as well as the next step … What do you think about getting to the point where all (yeshivas) can give Regent diploma
Hersh Horowitz: Long way to go
Harry Grossman: That would be … Good pr (Public Relations) Always subject to change
Harry Grossman: The ou (Orthodox Union) just got Albany to give $15 mil for STEM education…
Hersh Horowitz: Funding was very complicated and too many strings attached

School Board President Grossman has sworn an oath to execute the duties of a school board member, duties which include ensuring that students enrolled in non-public schools receive an education which is at least “substantially equivalent” to the education in public schools. This record of his interaction with Rabbi Horowitz reveals that he was aware that many students were not receiving even enough education to communicate in English with the East Ramapo Superintendent, and that he approved a plan to prevent the Superintendent from becoming fully aware of the situation by providing just enough English to prevent discovery that children were receiving essentially no instruction in History, Science etc:

The second document (CRCI_case47947_15ElyonRd-CongKhalTorath-redacted) is a response to health code violations by lawyers representing a yeshiva. These violations were the result of complaints that the school was open when schools were ordered closed due to the pandemic. The writer (Mr. Mahon) claims to speak on behalf of dozens of religious schools.

Mr. Mahon explains that although the same students were in the same buildings with the same staff, they were operating as a childcare service and not as a school. On pages 2 and 3 of his letter he claims that he informed the schools that the Governor’s Executive Order forbids the operation of schools, and that “required instructional programs” and “regular classroom learning” cannot take place. On page 7 of the same letter he states that “private religious instruction” is permitted.

This contradicts what yeshiva lobbyists have claimed, that religious education includes “critical thinking skills” that must be counted towards fulfilling ‘regular’ educational requirements. 

It appears that when lawyers need to get around the COVID school closures, religious instruction is represented as NOT “regular” learning, but when lobbyists want to get around substantial equivalency regulations, it IS represented as some kind of “regular” learning.

The truth is that all children deserve a quality education and they are entitled to it by law. Getting an education does not interfere with religious instruction – there are many schools which are very successful at both. COVID does not care whether a building or a bus is labelled “yeshiva” or “childcare”. Hours spent poring over religious texts is not “substantially equivalent” to STEM education. 

The lobbyists, the lawyers, the yeshiva association and the school board president can fool some of the people some of the time, but they cannot fool all the people all the time. The human desire for knowledge and equality has a long history of overcoming fools.



Blowin’ in the Wind

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Ward System Update
2. Comptroller: East Ramapo Fails to Control Expenses for Private School Books
3. Announcing the Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program

1) Ward System Update

The historic civil rights victory for East Ramapo voters means that there will be some public school board members who will be held accountable by the communities of color whose children attend those public schools. The exact locations of the wards and the timing of the elections are still being negotiated in court.

The school board was violating the law, denying people of color their right to have their vote counted. They spent millions of dollars from the children’s education funds in their misguided effort to prevent the parents of those children from having voting rights. It did not matter to them that these resources were being squandered, because their children were attending all-white private schools and their services are not affected.

Because the board was so reckless in their actions, the district may end up paying for both sides’ legal fees. The costs are high because the school board refused to negotiate a settlement. They are still rising because they have filed an appeal, even though the appeals court has said it is unlikely to succeed. Why should they care, it is not their kid’s education that is on the line! The only time they even pretend to care is when they try to use the threat of legal costs to bully people into letting them violate their civil rights.

East Ramapo is proof that a system is doomed to failure when public institutions are controlled by private interests. We have been calling for a change in the governance system of East Ramapo for a dozen years. Children who entered Kindergarten when we first wrote to the Commissioner of Education about a system that violated the democratic principle of “governance with the consent of the governed” are now getting ready to graduate (sadly, many will not!).

How many times do we have to write to Governor Cuomo, before he will understand? 

2) Comptroller: East Ramapo Fails to Control Expenses for Private School Books

As reported in the Journal News: Audit slams East Ramapo for ‘sloppy’ record keeping when buying private-school textbooks

This follows the Comptroller’s report that East Ramapo has been paying yeshivas to bus students without documentation that they attend school or even exist.

For those with long memories, this is déjà vu all over again. In 2011, the Journal News reported on millions of dollars of textbooks that were unaccounted for: Audit: East Ramapo bungled millions

Resources for the public school students are constantly being scoured for savings and cuts. But for private schools, they don’t even bother to keep track of millions of public dollars.

Over the years, there have been hundreds of complaints from parents and students, reports of mismanagement and corruption from administrators, board members, state agencies, major media, and appointed monitors. Every single complaint has come down to essentially the same issue, that when a public school board and budget that serves children of color is controlled by all-white private school interests, that’s an unacceptable conflict of interest and it’s hurting children. 

How many times do we have to write to Governor Cuomo, before he will understand?

When Bob Dylan wrote Blowin’ in the Wind, it was released with comments, including this: “But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know … and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong.”

3) Announcing the Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program

Ellen Sue Cola is a Ramapo High School graduate of 2016 and recent Brown University graduate. Her capstone paper won the Best Capstone Paper award from the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs. Ms. Cola has started the Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program to help other East Ramapo students achieve their dreams of higher education. This is her fourth article for The Power of Ten.

I was educated in the East Ramapo public schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. This school district has been plagued by major budget cuts, political turmoil, and community unrest for many years. The cause of the conflict is that the white majority that uses private religious schools for their children has essentially exercised tyranny over the minority population which uses the public schools.

In November 2017, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the East Ramapo Central School District for denying Black and Latino residents an equal opportunity to elect school board candidates of their choice. I wrote my Public Policy Capstone on this case. It is entitled A Seat at the Table: Voting Rights, a Ward System, and a Case Against the East Ramapo Central School District. It won the “Best Capstone Paper” award within the Public Policy department.

Not many students from East Ramapo matriculate to college, let alone Ivy League institutions. When I graduated in 2016, I was the only student in the district that was headed to the Ivy League. Most of my peers at Brown came from privileged backgrounds. These students have advantages of economic class, racial privilege, social capital (i.e. legacy students whose parent, grandparent, and/or sibling went to Brown), private-school educated (or educated at a better school than that in their home community), non-first generation (meaning their parents went to college), and so much more.

Applying to college can be a daunting process that many students feels overwhelmed and intimidated by. For many low-income and first-generation college students of color, their road to higher educational institutions can be difficult. As a low-income, first generation college student of color, I understand their struggle.

That is why I have started the Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program (named after my father’s last name and my mother’s maiden name). This scholarship and mentorship program is targeted toward rising senior students within East Ramapo and will provide them with financial support, SAT/ACT prep, college essay critiques, and college interview tips. This initiative triples as both a college readiness program, college scholarship sourcing program, and a scholarship, in and of itself.

The mission of the Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program is to demystify the college application process for promising East Ramapo students who may not have attended college without the support of the scholarship. The vision is to help increase the college matriculation rate within East Ramapo, one student at a time.

Students apply in the summer before their senior year of high school and after joining the program, they are immediately given 1-on-1 mentorship and guidance with the college application process. At the beginning of the program, I will virtually meet with each student in an effort to better understand that students’ college goals and aspirations. I will then guide each student through the entire college application process by providing them with help creating a list of safety, target, and reach colleges to apply to, SAT/ACT prep, college essay critiques and feedback, assistance with filling out the FAFSA, and resume reviews, and college interview prep. I will set guidelines and deadlines for the student to adhere to, in hopes that the student will feel more confident and reassured throughout the application process. Throughout the year, I will also source scholarships to these students and encourage them to apply for monies from local organizations that I have created partnerships with.

The Cola-Faroul Mentorship and Scholarship Program will also award a scholarship to one exceptional student that successfully completed the mentorship program. This scholarship will be awarded to one student in the summer before matriculating to the institution of their choice to support financial costs associated with college enrollment.

The application link is and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Students are encouraged to apply sooner, rather than later, to secure their spot within the program.

COVID Takes Another East Ramapo Education Justice Activist

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. COVID Takes Another East Ramapo Education Justice Activist
2. East Ramapo School Board – When Will New York State Finally Step In?
3. Another Victory for Education Justice Supporters at the Polls!

1) COVID Takes Another East Ramapo Education Justice Activist

Washington Sanchez was always ready to work for justice in East Ramapo. He attended board meetings and protest rallies, and he organized people for bus trips to Albany to lobby our representatives. He made informational videos and shared them on the internet through “Canal Internacional” with his best friend and fellow East Ramapo activist Luis Nivelo. He inspired us with wonderful singing and guitar playing. When the time came to put his name on a document challenging the corrupt school board, he did not hesitate. 

This great man and great friend is now gone too soon due to the horrible pandemic. Our great sympathy goes out to his family, his father, Luis, his wife, Leticia, his children Anderson, Arely and Bruli, and his siblings Wilson, Armando, Martha, Margarita, Damián and Eliezer.

2) East Ramapo School Board – When Will New York State Finally Step In?

Historian and Professor of Education Alan Singer writes in his latest blog post that the decision by the East Ramapo school board to lease buildings for private summer camps is only the latest example of their unequal treatment of children in the district. He asks When Will New York State Finally Step In?

3) Another Victory for Education Justice Supporters at the Polls!

As previously reported in The Power of Ten, East Ramapo was the top Issue in the NY Senate 38th district election. Voters overwhelmingly supported Elijah Reichlin Melnick, who rejected an ultimatum from Hasidic leadership that he oppose a monitor with veto power for East Ramapo. 

There are other signs that the notorious “bloc vote”may be losing its political clout. The Jewish Daily Forward writes Williamsburg primary upset might indicate slipping power for Hasidic leaders. There, Community Organizer Emily Gallagher beat a long-time Assembly Member, of whom the Hasidic leaders wrote “if we, God forbid, fail to reelect him we shall suffer bitterly”. Some attributed the upset to greater turnout from progressives, others to dissent among Hasidic youth. Hasidic parents want their children to be happy and healthy just as much as any other parents. Despite severe censorship of books, newspapers, radio, television and the internet, they have eyes that see and hearts that feel. According to an Orthodox rabbi quoted in the article “the younger generation are fed up being directed to vote for those who keep the ancien regime functioning and alive.”

The work of Educational Justice requires confronting powerful people who think universal education threatens their power. It involves confronting political leadership that is often willing to turn a blind eye or trade away children’s human rights for political favors. East Ramapo has unfortunately become an example of what happens when these self-centered forces take power. It is up to those of us who believe in every child’s right to an education to stay informed, to spread the word, and to stay active socially and politically. We’ve had some big victories recently, and we can stop to celebrate for a minute before we move on the the next step in our work.

It’s Mondaire!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Election Results
2. Ward System on the Way
3. Your Help Needed

1) Election Results

Mondaire Jones, our own East Ramapo alumnus, has won the Democratic primary election and will likely be our next representative in the U.S. Congress!!! This is why we fight for every child in East Ramapo to have a great education, so they can go on and do great things! 

2) Ward System on the Way

The Appeals Court has rejected the school board’s request to stop the ward system from being implemented until the appeal is decided. This means there will be a school board election using the ward system this year. Exactly when is not known yet. In rejecting the board’s request for a stay, the Appeals Court said that the board had failed to show “likelihood of success on the merits” of the case.

3) Your Help Needed

The NY State Education Department wants to update regulations that ensure students in non-public schools get an education which is at least equivalent to public school. This is especially relevant to East Ramapo where the majority of children attend non-public schools, many of which provide very little education. Graduates of these schools have made complaints which have been ignored by the district. The updated regulations would clarify the responsibilities of the state and the district.

You can help to support the updated regulations by filling out this form


Yes, It’s Racism!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Yes, It’s Racism!
2. Budget Fails
3. Vote TODAY!

1) Yes, It’s Racism!

In his closing arguments against the ward system for East Ramapo, the school board’s lawyer claimed that the Orthodox school board members and their supporters are colorblind: “Do you really think that the District’s Orthodox voters would vote differently if the majority of public school students were white?” 

Like all ‘colorblind’ arguments, the school board’s plea is in reality only blind to the nature of race discrimination. In fact, indifference to the plight of people of color is one of the major characteristics of organizational racism.

Another hallmark of racist mindset would be to claim that you know what people of color really need better than they do. Again and again, the board makes the assertion that “race is not what is driving the elections, it’s something else”. They assert that Black and Latino members of the community and the organizations representing their interests are untrustworthy. They systematically exclude the board members of color from conversations about how the board should deal with a complaint from the NAACP. The white board majority did not seek guidance from the black board members even after a judge had ruled that the facts supported the NAACP. 

Today, all around the country, people are reexamining unspoken assumptions and long established policies that sanction white privilege and facilitate oppression of black and brown people. The white men who make up the majority of the East Ramapo school board would have you believe that they (and their supporters) are all immune from racism, and they make this claim, astonishingly and boldly, in the same breath that they condemn people of color as untrustworthy and unqualified to know and express their own interests!!!

In perhaps the most perverse twist of all, the white board members are now using their power to take money away from an educational system that serves the children of color in another ill-fated attempt to perpetuate their racist system. They are literally robbing education from children of color to pay for a lawsuit to prove they are not racist. Could they possibly make it any clearer? Yes, It’s racism!

2) Budget Fails

East Ramapo has had more failed budgets than any other district in New York State. This is because those who designed the system of funding and governing public schools never anticipated a situation where the private schools were the majority. When the same people who use the schools are the ones who pay the taxes and make decisions about raising and spending money, the system functions as intended. When the majority uses private schools, the checks and balances inherent in the system are removed.

The private school system usually tries to use a failed budget as a way to blackmail the district into shifting more funds from public programs to private services. Like any other kind of blackmail, paying once only guarantees a higher price next time. 

Public school advocates have been sounding the alarm to the state for decades. What is really needed are changes to the governance and funding systems. We are waiting on Albany to correct these. The fate of East Ramapo is in the hands of Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Senator Stewart Cousins.

Detailed information on this year’s failed budget is available from The Journal News.

3) Vote TODAY!

Today, June 23, is the Democratic Primary Election. If you have not already voted by absentee or early voting, this is your last chance! Absentee ballots must be postmarked today, or you may vote in person, but be aware that they have changed some polling places.

East Ramapo is a hot topic once again. As previously reported in The Power of Ten, Mondaire Jones is an East Ramapo graduate making a historic run for congress, and oversight of East Ramapo is a major topic in the NY Senate race, with explosive allegations by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick that opposition to a monitor with veto power has become THE DECIDING FACTOR for the “leadership of the Hasidic community”.


East Ramapo is Top Issue in NY Senate Race

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: East Ramapo is Top Issue in NY Senate Race

East Ramapo has often been a top issue in local and state elections. But in this year’s Democratic Primary for NY State Senator, one brave candidate has drawn back the curtain on how opposition to a monitor with veto power has become THE DECIDING FACTOR for the “leadership of the Hasidic community”!!!

The candidate who stood up for more oversight, better education and JUSTICE for East Ramapo was Elijah Reichlin-Melnick.

Here is his Facebook post:


School Board Loses in Court AGAIN!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. School Board Loses in Court AGAIN!
2. Updated Voting Info
3. COVID Testing Site in Spring Valley

1) School Board Loses in Court AGAIN!

In perhaps the most unsurprising legal decision in history, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has denied the school board’s request for a ‘stay’ of the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel’s ruling ordering a ward system for school board elections. The Court of Appeals found that the “district has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of the appeal”.

This is just the latest in a long series of legal misadventures that our rogue school board has embarked on since they abruptly switched from their competent and long-serving local law firm of Greenberg Wanderman & Fromson. The Nanuet based firm was charging a very reasonable $120/hr, and had an impeccable record for the district. Giving no reason, other than his own uninhibited power to do whatever he pleased, school board member Aron Wieder and his bloc vote on the board removed this competent and respectable law firm and replaced them with the very expensive and controversial firm of Miranda and D’Agostino. During their tenure in East Ramapo, they would add “infamous” to that CV, as they repeatedly and aggressively accosted school children and parents, without a single word of reprimand from the board until one lawyer was caught on camera and it went VIRAL.(warning: video of school board lawyer contains language some may deem unsuitable for children).

At that time, the legal shenanigans were focused on abusing the interpretation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) in order to funnel more public dollars into the private religious schools favored by the board members. The board wanted a lawyer who would settle the cases that Fromson had been winning. Another counsel which had been approached by the board to do this work responded that “…it is our opinion that a board of education’s directive to place a child in a setting contrary to that proposed by a district’s CSE (Committee on Special Education) … may rise to the level of an inappropriate gift of public monies.”

The board went ahead with their plan anyway, and received several strong warnings from the NY State Education Dept. (NYSED). The board then sued NYSED (and lost) and appealed (and lost). All of the costs of these legal actions came at the expense of programs and services for the children in public schools. Do these actions give the appearance that the members of the public school board are putting the interests of private religious schools first? You don’t have to take my word for it, according to their own lawyer they “have never denied” that they “emphasize” services for the private schools.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and record that the massive increase in legal costs were the direct result of the school board’s own reckless disregard for the public funds they are entrusted with, they continue to blame everything on the public school parents who have tried to hold them accountable. The truth is they have even sued their own insurance company. In that case, the judge found that the district had been overcharged millions of dollars by their high priced lawyers. 

In the most recent case, once again, serious questions were raised, even by the judge, about whether the school board was being reckless with the children’s education funds in pursuit of the fleeting phantoms of their own imaginary righteousness. In short, they unreasonably denied the repeated requests by civil liberties and civil rights groups to address the longstanding and exhaustively documented inequities in their election process. At every step, they were offered a less expensive way to solve the problem. At every step, and quite ironically, they excluded board members of color in forming their answer that ‘no, we don’t exclude people of color’. Given that the next steps will again involve raiding the funds for programs for children in public school, with no impact on the services for the private schools that most board members “emphasize”, and given that the appeals court itself has questioned the likelihood of success, the question must be asked: “Has the East Ramapo school board now stepped over a line, where they have so far abandoned their duty to the public good that they should be removed from office?”

2) Updated Voting Info

Many people have never gotten a ballot. If you have not received one, please contact the district clerk. If you have not yet mailed your ballot, the district is now putting out boxes for ballots. Since ballots received by mail after 5 PM on June 9 will not be counted, it may be wise to use the box rather than take a chance on sending by mail.

Please visit the district clerk’s web page for details (I am purposely NOT giving details here because they change faster than I can keep up).

3) COVID Testing Site in Spring Valley

The Martin Luther King Center is hosting a free COVID testing program. From June 1 through June 12, Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM at the center, 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley. Call 833-422-7369 to make an appointment.


Ballot Bewilderment

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: Ballot Bewilderment

Ballots have begun to arrive in people’s mailboxes. They include the candidates for school board, even though the court has enjoined (prohibited) the district from holding another at-large (discriminatory) election. This is because, according to the district clerk, the ballots were already printed. The clerk says you should “not vote for the school board candidates”. However, she does not say that it will affect anything else if you do. 

The school budget and library trustee vote are STILL HAPPENING. 

If you got your ballot, you should fill it out and mail it back immediately. Please mark YES for the budget and for Library Trustee Alexandre.

Be aware that ballots can only be returned by mail, and that ballots received back at the district after the June 9 deadline will not be counted.

If you have not received a ballot, you may want to contact the district for further instructions. The contact information is on the district website.




Judge Rules in NAACP v. East Ramapo

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: NAACP Prevails!

For years, voters in the East Ramapo have been complaining that their voices aren’t represented on the school board. It had gotten so bad that many people gave up voting entirely. They felt that their vote didn’t matter, and it was hard to argue that they were wrong.

When the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) took a look at the situation they immediately recognized the problem was voter dilution. This is when the votes of a minority group are mixed in with the majority’s votes so that the minority’s choice can never win. It is commonly found in areas where there is racial segregation. It is a tool to disenfranchise minority voters. It is also illegal.

The NYCLU wrote to the East Ramapo school board informing them of their observations and advising them how they can change their policies to conform with the law. The school board rejected their communication, and the ignored the plight of the minority voters. Anyone familiar with the East Ramapo school board will not be surprised by this action.

Fortunately, the Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP and several concerned citizens engaged the NYCLU to hold the school board accountable for the way it was discriminating against minority voters. A lawsuit was filed in the Federal courthouse in White Plains. The NYCLU also obtained pro Bono assistance from the law firm of Latham and Watkins, one of the largest firms in the world.

The school board, used to getting its way by raiding millions of dollars of education funds to pay for high priced lawyers, was finally fighting someone their own size. Thanks to the courage of concerned citizens, and the Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP, and the endless dogged persistence of the NYCLU lawyers, and the amazing generosity of Latham and Watkins and their stellar pro Bono legal team, JUSTICE has come today for voters in East Ramapo!

Judge Seibel’s ruling:

DECISION AND ORDER: 87. Balancing all of the relevant factors, I find that Plaintiffs have convincingly proven their case of vote dilution … The at-large system of electing the Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District affords black and Latino residents “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice … in that it “thwarts a distinctive minority vote by submerging it in larger white voting population,” … the challenged practice “has operated to invidiously exclude blacks [and Latinos] from effective participation in political life in violation of Section 2 … Plaintiffs have proven that the at-large method of electing Board members in the District violates Section 2 of the VRA and that they are thus entitled to full relief. This Court enjoins the District from holding any further elections under its at-large system, including the elections currently scheduled for June 9, 2020. … The District shall propose a remedial plan that fully complies with the VRA within thirty days of the date of this Order. … Such a remedial plan shall divide the District into nine voting wards – one for each Board seat – and require that only those residents living in a voting ward may vote for that ward’s seat.

It is very important that we share this news with our neighbors and our children, especially important that children should know that they have a right to an educational experience that prepares them for college and for the job market; an experience that is rewarding and fulfilling; an experience where they are respected and where they are expected to excel; and that they have the right to live and learn in an environment free of racism, segregation or unequal treatment. They should know there are adults working to preserve these rights, and that all the rights and privileges we enjoy exist only because someone was willing to stand up for them.

There will certainly be more news on this topic in the coming days and weeks. Please share this news and invite your contacts to sign up to receive the Power of Ten Newsletter (form is on the website) so they can get the news directly.


Essential Candidate and Budget Voting Information

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Virtual Town Hall
2. Budget Hearing
3. Mail Your Ballot ASAP

1) Virtual Town Hall

May 26th at 6:15 PM.

Please Join the Civic Engagement Committee of the Spring Valley NAACP as they introduce the candidates for school board and library trustee. Candidates will share information with you as to why they feel they qualify to represent the community and will fight for justice and equality for the youth in the East Ramapo School District.

Use this link to connect via ZOOM


Meeting ID:  839 5179 2214

Password:  179263

DIAL IN:  1-929-205-6099

2) Budget Hearing

Please Note: Immediately following the NAACP event the district will have a virtual budget hearing. Details on the district website

3) Mail Your Ballot ASAP

School Board and Budget Elections are by Mail-in ballot only this year!!! The district will be sending out the ballots this week. Due to the pandemic, it is possible that mail delivery will be slow.

Ballots received by the district after June 9 will not be counted! Therefore, it is very important to WATCH your mailbox and return your ballot as soon as possible.

Here is a guide to fill out your ballot to support our children’s education and vote for our public education advocates:


Election Update

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: Election Update
1. Mail-in Ballots Only!
2. Meet Our Candidates
3. Library Vote

1) Mail-in Ballots Only!

The Governor has cancelled all in-person voting for school board elections. School districts have been ordered to conduct the election by mail-in ballot only. There will be a very short window of time from when you receive your ballot until you must mail it to be received on time. The ballots must be received by June 9, but there is a potential for slow mail delivery due to the pandemic.


2) Meet Our Candidates

Power of Ten is pleased to announce that Carole Anderson has decided to run for election to the seat she was appointed to recently.

For ALL the information on the candidates this year, please visit While you are there, please consider donating to the campaign.

3) Library Vote

The Finklestein Library would normally be holding its vote in June; it has been combined with the school vote this year.

Denet Alexandre, the Library Board President, is up for re-election. He has been a constant supporter of quality education in East Ramapo, and deserves our support, please when you vote for school board, also mark your ballot for Denet Alexandre for Library Trustee.


East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19
2. Carole Anderson Appointed to School Board
3. Student Essay: A Proud Product of the East Ramapo Central School District

1) East Ramapo Activist Succumbs to COVID-19

Jose Vitelio Gregorio passed away on April 30 due to COVID-19. He was a loving, hardworking father and provider for his three children, Natalia (12), Kevin (9), and Michele (23). Jose was immensely proud of his family and his community. He was also a strong advocate for quality public education for the children of East Ramapo. Jose was one of the courageous plaintiffs who stood shoulder to shoulder with the NAACP to fight for the rights of people of color in the Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the school district. His loss is felt deeply and could not come at a worse time for his family. 

Jose was the keynote speaker at the Noche Latina celebration at Ramapo High School on April 9, 2011. You can view his speech here:

Jose, who worked in construction, was the primary earner for the household. His wife, Diomara, and his daughter, Michele, have lost their jobs during the pandemic. With resources depleted during Jose’s nearly month-long illness and no current sources of income, Jose’s family is dire need of financial support to provide for essentials until they can get back on their feet.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family. Your donation will go directly to Jose’s wife to assist them in this time of hardship.

2) Carole Anderson Appointed to School Board

Carole Anderson, public education activist and longtime supporter and friend of The Power of Ten, has been appointed an interim member of the school board.

Here is her biographical statement from when she ran for school board in 2011: As a former educator with 28 years in New York City schools and two Master’s degrees in Education and Administration, Carole is aware of the problems that our schools are facing. As a mother, she knows that the quality of EDUCATION in our public schools affects both our children and our community. She will work to restore the dedication to services, student performance, and excellence that once made East Ramapo one of the top districts in the state. The renewed reputation for excellence and success will raise property values and rally community spirit for all residents.

Carole will hold this seat until the next election, which has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Her time on the board may be short, but she will surely have a positive impact while she is there! Carole knows what an effective board looks like, she was active when our board was the envy of NY State, when Georgine Hyde, Dr. Danielle Bright, Dr. Susan Gordon, and many other luminaries led our district to the top position in the state. We now have three strong women of color on our board, and we hope to add to that in the next election with candidates Sherry McGill, Ana Maeda Gonzalez, and Kerry Victor, as well as Hiram Rivera.

3) Student Essay: A Proud Product of the East Ramapo Central School District

Ellen Sue Cola graduated from Ramapo High School in June 2016, and matriculated to Brown University, an Ivy League school located in Providence, RI. She triple-majored in Economics, Public Policy, and Africana Studies, a feat that only 2% of Brown undergraduates accomplish. This is her second essay for The Power of Ten, the first can be found here.

After graduating from Ramapo, I felt prepared to succeed in college due to the rigorous coursework that my educators provided me. During my first semester at Brown, I took an Introduction to Africana Studies course where students were responsible for completing the assigned readings and writing a weekly 2-page response paper. I remember my peers felt overwhelmed by this weekly task. I did not share that same sentiment because when I was in my 11th grade AP U.S. History course, I, too, had to write weekly response papers. Furthermore, the grading rubric that my high school history teacher used was more rigorous than that of my Brown University professor. All in all, going into college, I was academically confident in my writing because I knew East Ramapo gifted me with the tools necessary to authentically and persuasively communicate my thoughts on paper. As a matter of fact, in my first year at Brown, I conducted graduate level research and was one of the first students to present that research at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

My educational experience in East Ramapo was also shaped by the amazing faculty and staff. They truly put their students first and utilized the limited resources that they had to provide their students with the best possible educational experience. Educators would often stay after school to help students, going the extra mile to assist them however they saw fit. For example, my psychology teacher at Ramapo stayed after school with me on multiple occasions to help me write my college essay. This task had nothing to do with the Psychology material or homework assignments for class. Rather, he really wanted to help make my dream of going to college come true—and he did. Those are the types of educators that are present in the district—those that want to see their students succeed, believe in their students’ abilities, and will work with students to make their dreams become realities.

Obtaining an ERCSD education made me competitive in the college application process; it showed my resilience through times of challenge and difficulty. In a sense, the institutional difficulties that I experienced in East Ramapo forced me to be resourceful and ingenious. I came to realize that in life, you may not always have access to what you need, and it is vital to make the best out of the situation presented before you.

East Ramapo Central School District produces high achievers, risk takers, hard workers, and the like. Granted, there are some institutional and academic issues that need to be addressed and by no means am I claiming that they do not exist. However, there are powerful leaders and world changers that are bred within this district and that is something to be proud of and remember. Being a product of East Ramapo Central School District was an invaluable experience that I would not change for the world. I am a proud Ramapo Gryphon.


Special Edition: The Story of The Sale of Hillcrest Elementary

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: The Story of The Sale of Hillcrest Elementary

The Story of The Sale of Hillcrest Elementary was reported in bits and pieces as it unfolded. It’s a story that deserves to be told as a whole, in one concise article.

This story begins in 2008 when the superintendent of the East Ramapo school district announced he would be looking into the possibility of closing a school and using the savings to fund more full day kindergarten classes. They superintendent formed a study committee which met secretly.

Rumors began to circulate among staff and parents about which school would be closed. There were rallies held to save Hempstead elementary school and many parents came to board meetings to speak against the closure of their child’s school.

In 2009 the superintendent recommended, and the board voted to close Colton elementary school, a school which had been specially fitted to serve students with disabilities. The school was rented out to a private religious school that served children with disabilities.

In 2010 the school board voted to close Hillcrest elementary school as well. This was done over the objections of the superintendent and the president of the school board. Over 1000 people turned out to the board meeting to oppose, more than would fit in the gymnasium. Those voting to close the school were Wieder, Hopstein, Solomon, and Kohn. 

The board then proceeded to sell the school through a bidding process, with a high bid of $3.1 million coming from Yeshiva Avir Yakov of New Square.
An appeal was filed with the New York State Education Department which forced the school board to release the appraisals it had used to justify the sale price. The first appraisal, for $5.9 million was done in May of 2010. The bids came in in July with a high bid of $3.1 million, and within two weeks the board obtained a second appraisal for – wait for It – $3.2 million.

The NY State Commissioner of Education annulled the sale based on the short turnaround between getting a second appraisal and accepting the bid. There was literally no time for the board to analyze why the two appraisals were so different. The district went on to rent the school to Yeshiva Avir Yakov, again for less than its value, another decision which was overturned later by the State Education Department.

Meanwhile, a parent who was also a real estate appraiser got a copy of that extremely low second appraisal. He took the time to double-check the work and found what he considered to be fraud. The appraisal was done using a process of “comparable sales”, in other words looking for similar properties that have been sold and comparing the sale prices. What this parent found, in the archives in the basement of town hall, was that what the appraiser had presented as a “comparable sale” of a school in Monsey was in fact the sale of vacant property, a parking lot!

At this point, we collected all the relevant documents and sent them off to the Public Integrity Unit of the New York State Atty. General’s office. That was November of 2011. In July of 2013 the appraiser who filed the false instrument was arrested. The Public Integrity Unit alleged a scheme in which “an individual” had introduced the appraiser, a Mr. Avi Vardi, to representatives of Yeshiva Avir Yakov and they paid him for a rush appraisal. Then a “board member” sent Mr. Vardi’s contact information to the board attorney who hired him on behalf of the school district to produce this appraisal. According to the Public Integrity Unit, the appraisal was “manipulated” to provide a figure in line with the bid which had already been made by the yeshiva.

The Public Integrity Unit’s investigation was hampered by a lawsuit filed by the East Ramapo school board to prevent the investigation from accessing internal school board documents. Because the school board member had used a school district attorney to obtain the fraudulent appraisal, the district argued it should be covered by attorney client privilege. Let that sink in for a minute. Law enforcement was trying to uncover whether a school board member had colluded to steal school property – an elementary school (!!!) – and the school board, rather than cooperate and assist law enforcement, voted to obstruct the investigation and to protect the thief!

The district also sued the State Education Department for its decision to annul the lease of Hillcrest to the yeshiva. While this lawsuit was going on, the district entered into a series of arrangements with a shell corporation formed in Delaware which led to the sale of the school again to the yeshiva, this time for $4.8 million.

The only person ever punished for the fraud associated with the sale of the school was the appraiser. He was fined $1000, had to pay back what he charged for the appraisal, and gave up his license for three years. There was no explanation from the Atty. General’s office as to why they did not charge the other persons involved in the alleged “scheme”. It is worth noting that Atty. General Schneiderman had received significant support from the same bloc vote that installed the school board, as reported by FBI undercover informant Moses Stern, who testified that he was involved in Schneiderman’s campaign, running a shadow campaign, helping him gain support in the Orthodox community.

Over the next several years, enrollment in the East Ramapo public schools increased dramatically. Class size at the elementary level has increased by 25% and there is simply too little classroom space to accommodate the needs of public-school students. Replacing Hillcrest elementary school could easily cost the district $12 million.

From East Ramapo to U.S. Congress

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. From East Ramapo to U.S. Congress
2. School Board and Budget Vote Delayed

1) From East Ramapo to U.S. Congress

As an East Ramapo student, Mondaire Jones dreamed big. Mondaire’s grandfather was a janitor at Pomona Middle School. His grandmother served lunch in East Ramapo public schools. They taught Mondaire the value of a good education. He took advantage of all East Ramapo had to offer and went on to get his Law Degree from Harvard. Like so many other young people who participated in the struggle for justice in East Ramapo, Mondaire has carried on into his adult life the knowledge that we cannot take any of the rights that were won by our forebears for granted. You can learn all about the fantastic work he has done on his website:

Now Mondaire Jones is running for U.S. Congress. I strongly encourage everyone to learn about his campaign, and to realize that everything he stands for is a direct result of the struggle for justice we have all been part of here in our district. Realize that this is only part of a wider struggle that has been going on all over the country – it is the struggle for a government that serves the people with integrity and transparency and does not pander to powerful special interests.

The Democratic Primary election is scheduled for June 23. Because of the pandemic emergency, campaigning may be even more expensive than usual. Please consider donating to Mondaire’s campaign at

2) School Board and Budget Vote Delayed

Due to the ongoing Pandemic, the May 19 School Board and Budget Vote has been delayed until “at least” June 1. Our candidates still need to get petition signatures. Thanks to all who have printed and sent their sheets by USPS. If you have not yet done so, please follow the directions, HERE.



Closing Arguments Tuesday; How to Listen Live!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Closing Arguments Tuesday
2. Outrageous Actions by School Board President Could Prove Expensive for District
3. Local Covid-19 Relief Efforts

1) Closing Arguments Tuesday

Closing arguments of the NAACP-East Ramapo Voting Rights Act case will take place Tuesday, March 24th at 2:00 PM.

The proceedings will take place by Zoom Meeting Information: 

By phone: 877-853-5247 Meeting ID: 462 927 6583

2) Outrageous Actions by School Board President Could Prove Expensive for District

According to The Journal News, East Ramapo schools board rejected settlement offer that could saved millions, NYCLU says

What appears to have happened, from testimony and documents revealed in the trial, is that the judge ordered the two parties to attempt to reach a settlement before trial, and that school board President Grossman excluded the only two minority members of the board from meaningful participation in the settlement talks.

This is not the first time that a school board president and the special counsel have been accused of excluding other board members from important decisions. In 2013, two board members resigned largely over this practice, including board member Young-Mercer, who was the only person on color on the board at the time. In her letter explaining her reasons for resigning, she wrote: “In the past few weeks I have become aware important decisions that were made by the Superintendent without my knowledge. I feel that these decisions jeopardized the educational progression of East Ramapo students as well and the students of neighboring Rockland County School districts.” Board member Price wrote: “As far as I can determine, the letter from David Butler to the James DeLorenzo dated January 14, 2013 was never authorized by the Board of Education.” and “I feel that I have been wrongfully denied access to District information that I reasonably require to perform my duties.”

Read the letters of resignation here

3) Local Covid-19 Relief Efforts

Many of our neighbors are having a hard time keeping food on the table due to the closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MLK Center operates one of the largest food pantries in the county; they are seeing increased need now. Learn how you can help the MLK Center here

Proyecto Faro is an organization with expertise engaging new immigrants, many of whom are especially vulnerable to economic downturns.  Find out how to help Proyecto Faro here

Urgent Notice!

Power of Ten Urgent Notice:

Due to concerns about spreading the COVID-19 virus, gathering petition signatures for candidates is more difficult this year.

Please download the petitions, print and sign (all four pages please), and return via USPS to: East Ramapo Campaign, 10 Garden Pl, Spring Valley NY 10977.

Due to social isolation guidelines, the candidates will be unable to hold a traditional fundraiser.

Please donate online today!

Thank you!

Update: Event Cancelled

Power of Ten Update 

NOTICE- The Event announced for Friday March 13 in the last issue IS CANCELLED.
Thanks to all for understanding.
Stay up to date on how to keep safe by visiting the Rockland County Website
The challenges of facing a public health crisis reinforce the importance of public education. When every person in our community has a good education, is able to understand healthy behavior and consequences, has the means to support themselves and prepare for emergencies, and has health care, we are all safer. When high quality education is only for some children, we all suffer. You may remember your chemistry teacher saying “You are only as safe as the least safe person in the laboratory.”
Many East Ramapo families may be experiencing hardships due to the measures we must all take for public health. Now is the time for us each to do what we can to stay calm and stay safe, and to help our neighbors do the same.
Due to concerns about spreading the COVID-19 virus, gathering petition signatures for candidates may be more difficult this year. If you prefer, you can download the petitions here, print at home, sign (all four pages please), and return via USPS to: East Ramapo Campaign, 10 Garden Pl, Spring Valley NY 10977

Our 2020 Candidates

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

1. Announcing Our 2020 Candidates

2. Women’s History Month Event UPDATE: THIS EVENT IS CANCELLED

3. MLK Center Gala
1) Announcing Our 2020 Candidates

Thanks to all who attended the 2020 forum on February 29! Six very qualified people expressed interest in volunteering to serve on the school board. They all presented exactly the wide variety of skills and backgrounds that the Center for Public Education says are necessary for a well functioning school board. We received a lot of good questions and feedback from the audience and the audience feedback was used to put together this year’s team. We originally expected only three seats would be available, but due to the resignation of a board member, there will be four seats up for election this year.

Our candidates this year are Sherry McGill, Ana Maeda-Gonzalez, Kerry Victor and Hiram Rivera.

Please visit to learn all about them, and please sign up to Volunteer and Donate to the campaign if you can!

2) Women’s History Month Event THIS FRIDAY CANCELLED

Jamaican Civic & Cultural Association of Rockland, Inc. (JAMCCAR) Celebrates Women’s History Month with a group of dynamic women!

Panelists: Michelle Brown, Emmy Award Nominated Reporter; Lorna Hawthorne, Chairperson of the Board of Lowell F. Hawthorne Foundation; Andrea Isaacs, MD FCCP; Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assembly Member; Dr. Elizabeth A Johnson, DPT; Sophia D. Thomas, Chief Financial Officer Rockland Employees Federal Credit Union

NOTICE: THIS EVENT IS CANCELLED: Friday, March 13 at 7:30 PM at the Louis Kurtz Center, 9 North Main Street, Spring Valley

3) MLK Center Gala

The MLK Center Awards Benefit Gala will take place Sunday, April 19 at The Paramount Country Club

All the details:

Candidate Forum Saturday

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Candidate Search Deadline
2. Candidate Forum Feb 29
3. Judge Accuses Board President of Lying on the Stand

1) Candidate Search Deadline

You probably know someone who would make a great school board member. Someone who cares about education, and has a couple of free evenings each month. Why not give it a try?

The deadline to submit for this year is coming up! Please fill out this questionnaire by February 28.

2) Candidate Forum Feb 29

Every year, at our forum, the public has an opportunity to hear from (and rate) those interested in becoming the newest members of the East Ramapo school board.

Please make every effort to attend this important event!

The details:

Saturday Feb 29 from 12-2 PM at the Hillcrest Firehouse, 374 N Main St, Spring Valley

Please indicate you can attend the events on Facebook:

3) Judge Accuses Board President of Lying on the Stand

The NAACP Voting Rights Lawsuit continues this week.

The trial has begun to have all the excitement of a TV courtroom drama.

According to The Forward, Judge Seibel has accused School Board President Grossman of Lying on the Stand!

If you want to catch some of the action, you can attend the trial yourself.

The address is:
US District Courthouse
Hon. Charles L. Brieant Jr.
Federal Building and Courthouse
300 Quarropas St, White Plains, NY 10601

Courtroom info:

Yeshiva Vendors Guilty of Fraud

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Yeshiva Vendors Guilty of Fraud
2. Candidate Search Deadline
3. Candidate Forum Feb 29

1) Yeshiva Vendors Guilty of Fraud

According to the Journal News, this week 7 people pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining $14 million through a federally subsidized program to provide electronic equipment to East Ramapo yeshivas.

The E-Rate program is a federal program to provide computer and internet services to schools and libraries in poor communities, so that children will not be left out of the Information Revolution simply because of their family’s financial status. It was established by congress so that America will not “have a two-class society in this country, those who know and those who do not.”

For this reason, The New York Jewish Week magazine asked in 2013 “How does a community that rails against the Web pull in $30 million in one year for its schools from the E-rate program?”

Another investigative article by The Forward found there was also a question of funds supposed to go to libraries. According to the Forward “Federal law … holds NYSED responsible for determining a library’s E-Rate eligibility” but NYSED told the Forward that E-Rate eligibility “is handled at the local and regional level”. However, one local agency said it’s “out of our jurisdiction to make those kinds of judgments,” This circular finger-pointing sounds very familiar to those following the issue of educational equivalency for yeshivas. 

The NYS Comptroller has released a report that finds that East Ramapo has been paying yeshivas to bus students without documentation that they attend school or even exist.

This is concerning because direct payments to yeshivas aren’t only for busing  East Ramapo’s direct payments to religious organizations may have been as high as $33 million last year.

2) Candidate Search Deadline

You probably know someone who would make a great school board member. Someone who cares about education, and has a couple of free evenings each month. Why not give it a try?

The deadline to submit for this year is coming up! Please fill out this questionnaire by February 28.

3) Candidate Forum Feb 29

Every year, at our forum, the public has an opportunity to hear from (and rate) those interested in becoming the newest members of the East Ramapo school board.

The details:

Saturday Feb 29 from 12-2 PM at the Hillcrest Firehouse, 374 N Main St, Spring Valley

Please indicate you can attend the events on Facebook:


NAACP v. ERCSD Trial Begins!

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. NAACP v. ERCSD Trial Begins!
2. School Board Member Guilty of Larceny
3. February 23 Forum Cancelled

1) NAACP v. ERCSD Trial Begins!

The Journal News: Judge sets up trial about East Ramapo voting that could alter how school board is elected

The trial is open to the public. 

Tuesday, February 11 through Friday, February 21 
from 9:30 am – about 2:30 pm 

The address is:
US District Courthouse
Hon. Charles L. Brieant Jr.
Federal Building and Courthouse  
300 Quarropas St, White Plains, NY 10601

The judge is Cathy Seibel.  Courtroom info:

2) School Board Member Guilty of Larceny

The Journal News: East Ramapo trustee Bernard Charles pleads guilty in fake town rental case, will quit school board

3) February 23 Forum Cancelled

Due to an unforeseen conflict, the forum that had been scheduled for Sunday, Feb 23 must be cancelled.

The Forum for Saturday, February 29 is still on.

The details:

Saturday Feb 29 from 12-2 PM at the Hillcrest Firehouse, 374 N Main St, Spring Valley

Please indicate you can attend the events on Facebook:

If you or someone you know is interested in being a candidate, please fill out this questionnaire:

Assessment is not a four-letter word

Power of Ten Update
Assessment is not a four-letter word:

Little children need lots of positive feedback. “You’re a good helper” goes a long way to improve socialization and build self-esteem, even when the “help” is more figurative than functional. Pre-adolescents tire quickly of “phony” praise. They are big enough to care that they are truly useful and feel proud when they’ve mastered a skill. Teenagers and young adults go a step further, they start assessing their assessors. They notice that letter and number grades don’t accurately reflect the full scope of knowledge and achievements they and their peers are making. They often reject hierarchical and competitive grading systems and respond better to a more holistic assessment strategy.

The New York State Education Department is currently undertaking an assessment of the systems used by schools for graduation requirements. They are seeking input from the public.

Information on how to participate is available here:

Letter and number grades and test scores are not only used for assessing individual students but also the schools that they attend. Just as an individual student’s grades reflect on the relationship between the school and the student, the average of all the students’ grades and the rate at which they graduate reflects on the relationship between the school and the community it serves.

The New York State Education Department has recently released graduation rates for East Ramapo which can be seen here:

I encourage you to take a few minutes to rummage around the education department’s web site. You will find not only this year’s data, but also previous years. You will find not only our district, and a comparison to the state as a whole, but also data for other Rockland County districts and the county as a whole. The TLDR is that there have been small improvements this year for our district and for the state as a whole, and very little change for most other Rockland districts which were already graduating over 90% of their students. If you have any reflections on the data that you would like to share with the school board, you can send them a message at You may want to also copy the Commissioner of Education at

It’s important to note, that just as a number or a letter does not represent a student’s entire achievement or potential, it also cannot completely describe the achievements or health of the school or a school system. It does not accurately encapsulate the many joys and accomplishments of our young people and the dedicated staff that serve them.

That being said, producing graduates has traditionally been viewed as one of the basic functions of the school system. Hundreds of millions of dollars are appropriated towards this goal. A graduation rate of below 90% is cause for concern. The school system must provide the community a study of the causes of the low graduation rate, and especially the very low rates of some subgroups. The school system must be transparent about the actual experiences of students and how this relates to the high dropout rate. The school system must have a plan and communicate that plan effectively to all stakeholders so that adequate community resources can be directed to support young people.

All the powers and duties of the school system are delegated by the state. It is the state which has the constitutional responsibility to the educational civil rights of all children. Year after year, the state education department has reported that graduation rates are unacceptably low, that students are dropping out, that funds are misspent, and that school governance is dysfunctional. Yet the state government has failed to intervene in any meaningful way, resulting in thousands of children not getting the education which is their civil right. Our assessment of the performance of New York State government is that it has failed in its most basic duty.

What difference could state intervention make? In East Ramapo, a tiny slice of the budget, three million dollars per year, is specifically earmarked to fund all-day kindergarten and music and art programming. Just look at what a fantastic success this has been! It begs the question “what would happen if New York State made sure that all funding in East Ramapo was dedicated to specific educational programming?”

We, as a community must also do the difficult job of self-assessment. Many of us deserve credit for being involved. Some attend board meetings, others attend school events or participate in community organizations that support education, such as the Martin Luther King Center in Spring Valley. Staff in the schools often go above and beyond their job description because they love their students. Administration has brought in some new curriculum which students respond well to. There are many more people and organizations doing good work than there is space to list here.

However, there has been a lack of critical analysis and feedback from the community. Parents of students who are failing or dropping out are not bringing their complaints to board meetings. Teachers whose classrooms lack support services, especially for students with emotional difficulties, family issues, and language barriers are not addressing the board with their problems and concerns. Administrators who are facing issues of truancy, overcrowding and under-staffing are not coming forward. The level of cynicism and apathy is not unexpected, because so often our complaints fall on deaf ears. We can fight this by staying focused on the things that we can do, and remembering the difficulties faced by civil rights activists in the past.

Right now, what we can do is help find qualified people to volunteer to serve on the school board. It might be you, or someone you know. Please check out the questionnaire and attend one or both of our upcoming forums.

Thanks for staying with me on this long essay, and for being a Power of Ten reader.

Save the Dates: Two Candidates Forums Scheduled in February

Power of Ten Update
TWO Forums!!!

Due to popular demand, the public will have two opportunities in 2020 to hear from (and rate) those interested in becoming the newest members of the East Ramapo school board.

The Details: Sunday Feb 23 from 4-6 PM at the MLK Center, 110 Bethune Blvd, Spring Valley AND Saturday Feb 29 from 12-2 PM at the Hillcrest Firehouse, 374 N Main St, Spring Valley

Please indicate you can attend the events on Facebook.

Feb 23 link:

Feb 29 link:

Those interested in being candidates are asked to attend and present themselves, and fill out the on-line questionnaire at:

Serving on your local school board is a great way to make a difference in children’s lives. According to the National School Board Association “Board members are more than policy-makers and administrators; they are advocates for students and their parents and entrusted to engineer a better future.” 

School board members come from many backgrounds. It is important that there be a diversity of skills on the board. People with experience in Medicine and Allied Health, Accounting, Law, First Responders, Education, The Arts, Community Activism, Journalism, and Business, have all been valuable members of school boards. It is a volunteer position, requiring attendance at two board meetings per month and occasional school events such as graduation ceremonies.

If you would like to put your skills to use helping children to get an excellent education, if you can help represent the diversity of our community on the school board, please consider being a candidate, or recommending someone to run.

Call for Candidates

Power of Ten Update
Call for Candidates

For the May 2020 school board election.

Did you know that you (or someone you know) can make a difference in children’s lives by serving on your local school board!

If you can attend two board meetings per month, and occasional school events such as graduation ceremonies; if you would like to put your skills to use helping children to get an excellent education; if you can help represent the diversity of our community on the school board, please consider being a candidate, or recommending someone to run.

School board members come from many backgrounds. It is important that there be a diversity of skills on the board. People with experience in Medicine and Allied Health, Accounting, The Legal profession, Education, The Arts, Community Activism, Journalism, and Business, have all been valuable members of school boards. 

If you are interested in being a candidate, fill out this questionnaire:

Deadline to submit is February 23

Those interested in being candidates are asked to attend and present themselves at a public forum that will be held in the end of February (Time and Location TBA). The audience will be provided with a copy of candidates responses and will indicate their choices. Those who are not chosen as candidates are alternates. All are expected to work on the campaign. The best preparation to be next year’s choice is to work for this year’s slate, just as those who have worked on previous year’s campaigns are already working to help this year’s candidates.The election campaign will require 2-4 hours per week attending events, meetings, gathering petitions signatures, etc. for about 10 weeks from March through mid-May. Once elected, you will need to attend school board meetings twice a month and are encouraged to attend at least a few school functions throughout the school year.