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.