Betrayal of Trust

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Betrayal of Trust
2. Next Year’s Budget
3. Budget Vote May 11

1) Betrayal of Trust

This week, reports were released by the NYS Education Department and the NYS Comptroller regarding East Ramapo.

These reports document East Ramapo’s flagrant violation of NY law and the Education Department’s failure to act on those violations.

    • According to the Comptrollers report “the Fiscal Monitor was unable to obtain timely responses from District officials to his information requests and was not provided access to the computerized financial systems until October 2020.”
    • However, according to NYS Law “The East Ramapo central school district shall fully cooperate with any monitor or monitors appointed by the commissioner, including but not limited to providing such monitor or monitors with access to any necessary documents and records of the district including access to electronic information systems, databases and planning documents”.

For seven months, from March 2020 to October 2020, the district was violating the law, and NYSED did not hold anyone accountable. 

    • According to NYSED Monitor Singer “Dr. Giamartino has been more transparent and collegial than the prior administration and has made financial and other related information readily available.”
    • However, if “the prior administration” was violating the law for seven months, why was nothing done at that time?  The district has “failed to produce documentation” required by the state many times. That’s a big part of why we have a monitor in the first place!

Had the public been made aware of the denied request, we would have put pressure to help our children. It’s nice for the monitor to praise Dr. Giamartino’s transparency, but what about NYSED’s transparency? Shouldn’t the parents know, after all they have been through, if the district is breaking the law again? Should we have to wait a whole year to find out after the fact?

Since we first wrote to Commissioner Mills in 2009, an entire generation of school children has been through this school system. No one trusts the school board, everyone can see they have their own mission which they are accomplishing. However, the Education Department has a legal obligation to every child in NY State. It is the repeated failure of NYSED to act which constitutes a betrayal of our trust.

2) Next Year’s Budget

According to the Monitor’s report: “The State enacted budget for the 2021-22 school year significantly increases State Aid for ERCSD. General State Aid increases by $40 million from $54 million to $94 million. Additionally, the District is anticipating receiving $66,418,114 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds authorized under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act plus another $150,445,511 under the American Rescue Plan Act.”

What are the plans the district has made to use an extra $40 Million in State Aid? Will it restore all the positions that were cut a decade ago? Will class size return to levels equal to other Rockland schools? Will there be many new programs to deal with the complicated social issues that our families face? 

The Monitor’s report says the district will hire seven social workers, which is certainly welcome indeed! There will also be an extra $62,622 for Sports. It will also increase “options” for “extended” and “expanded” school year programs. This has been a common practice with the “prior administration”, touting options which are used by a few hundred students, while a large percentage of the student body of 9,000 is failing to acquire the needed skills to graduate. Offering extra options to students who don’t have basics is like buying dessert for a child who hasn’t had dinner. 

The rest of the $40 million is going where the school board always wants it to go: transportation to private schools, special education in private schools, and tax relief. 

In short, the Education Department, monitors and all, is ready to approve another plan that will provide a small piece of cake for our education hungry families, and hoping we won’t complain the school board has eaten the whole dinner. It seems that no matter how much is put on the table, and how many eyes are watching, the story will remain the same until they lose their seat at the table. 

3) Budget Vote May 11

If you are registered to vote in East Ramapo, you should have gotten a card with your new polling place for the budget vote today, May 11, 2021. Despite the fact that the budget does not include all we would want and what the students need, if the budget fails it will be even worse. Please take a few minutes to go to your assigned polling place and vote YES for the budget.