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 https://www.ercsd.org/

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 www.eastramapotogether.wordpress.com. 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: https://youtu.be/KrfHtIhjtWU

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.