Power of Ten Update

In this edition:

  1. Budget passes by 3-1 margin
  2. Superintendent Klein lays off legendary marching band director, Nyack snaps him up
  3. NY State looks to roll back the clock on school desegregation 
  4. Spring Valley Senior Class President produces documentary video
  5. message from the editor
1) Budget passes by 3-1 margin
The  budget vote count on June 19 was 3562 YES and 1217 NO.  The budget which was passed included massive layoffs and cuts to programs.  A summary of layoffs can be found at: http://poweroften.us/highlights/2012-layoffs/ (note: because this is a pdf file, it may not be viewable from some smartphones)
2) Superintendent Klein lays off Legendary Band Director Michael Smith
For 27 years, Mr. Smith has led the World Famous East Ramapo Marching Band to Championships, Film and Television appearances, and over 600 local events.
What kind of school leadership would let go an individual responsible for so much success?
By letting Mr. Smith go, the Superintendent has betrayed the stated vision, values and mission of the district.   The board and the Superintendent have once again turned a deaf ear to the students and parents, who have come to many board meetings to emphasize that the Marching Band and Mr. Smith are achieving excellence.
The Nyack school District has benefited from our loss; they hired Mr. Smith immediately upon hearing he had been let go from East Ramapo.  They are looking forward to him bringing the magic to Nyack students that he has brought to East Ramapo for 27 years.
3) New law would legalize “family background” as criteria for placement
In a previous update, it was reported that NYSED found the East Ramapo district to be in violation of regulations pertaining to placement of special education students.  These violations occur when the district makes placements based on race, religion, or ethnicity rather than educational assessment.
A new law has been proposed which would allow the district to make these placements at taxpayer expense.  Only governor Cuomo can stop this bill from becoming law.  The following letter has been created as a template for you to write and express your view regarding this bill:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

The recently passed bill (NY State Assembly A10722 and Senate S7722) “Relates to determinations of appropriate educational programs for certain students” is a very dangerous bill. This bill is discriminatory in nature and was devised to circumvent Brown vs. the Board of Education!

This legislation would allow factors such as race, religion, or ethnicity to be taken into account for placement of special education students. This bill would make a mockery of Brown versus the Board of Education and encourage parents who desire segregated education at public expense to reframe a racist agenda as a multicultural one.  Allowing a consideration of “differences between the school environment and the child’s home environment and family background” in special education placement is clearly code for an agenda to school segregation supported by our tax dollars.

Please do not allow this bill to become law. It would be setback to decades of anti-discrimination and desegregation efforts, with NY State leading the way.

Thanks, (your name)

Please send your letter using the Governor’s contact form at: http://www.governor.ny.gov/ContacttheGovernor

4) Student Documentary Video by Hernz Laguerre

Spring Valley Student Body President Hernz Laguerre has created a video documenting the importance of extra-curricular activities in education.  Don’t miss this important video!

5) Message from the editor

Please take some time to look over the content on the power of ten website.  The story of our struggle is told there in documents such as the Comptroller’s report, the NYSED violation notice, and the Commissioner’s Hillcrest sale decision. It is documented in the videos of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members pleading with the board not to destroy our educational system.

This is a system which has been built up with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and countless hours of labor.  This is a system which has produced thousands of proud graduates who are contributing to society today.  This is a system which was once considered one of the top systems in the state.  According to Former Assistant Superintendent Joe Farmer, what is happening now is the systematic dismantling of this system, which amounts to a power grab that will destroy the potential of this community. In his words, “This is War!”

For years, those who have been at the helm have cited financial reasons for their actions.  But how does this explain that they created a paid position (treasurer) for a close friend, Israel Bier? This job had previously been performed by a district employee at no extra cost.  How does this explain that they replaced our long time attorney for one that cost about four times as much per hour? Or trying to sell two schools for a fraction of the appraised value? How about losing track of millions of dollars worth of textbooks loaned to their friends who run non-public schools, or violating regulations of the state to place students in non-public schools at public expense?  Is any of this sound financial policy for the district?

And then they fired Pedro Santana, the most effective and beloved administrator the district has ever seen.  And now they have let the LEGENDARY band leader Michael E. Smith go.

These were the two most prominent district wide employees who were inspiring pride and hope in the staff and the students.  

There is a documented statement by a lawyer for a non-public school that asserts a direct connection between failing public schools and opportunities for non-public schools: In a letter to the town of Ramapo in 2008, Mark Kurzman, a Pearl River attorney representing Bobover, said “there has been a serious, growing areawide need for yeshiva classroom space on all grade levels.”  He said yeshiva builders were competing with residential builders for land, adding that “the pressure is intensified by the fact that it has been well over 10 years since the (East Ramapo) school district has sold any of its sites as surplus.”

Were the board members whose close family and professional ties to the non-public school users sincerely trying to protect the public interest, or was this a ‘power grab’ to ‘dismantle’ public education in response to ‘intense pressure’ ?  The record shows that they have been cited time and again for failure to protect the taxpayer’s interest. The record shows that they have taken actions which hurt the reputation and morale of the district even when there is no financial reason for doing so.  This message is to the school board and the Superintendent: you are what your record says that you are.

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