Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Full Day Kindergarten Begins
2. Board’s Actions Cost District Millions
3. Yeshiva pays $9 million for Temple Beth El
1) Full Day Kindergarten Begins
It was only three years ago that the district announced they were doing away with Kindergarten entirely. Now, because of constant pressure from parents and civil rights groups, ALL East Ramapo Kindergarten classes will be full-day!
The Journal News: Full-day K begins Oct. 6
Also, some of our favorite Art and Music teachers are coming back this year! We know the children will appreciate that!
Special thanks are owed to Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee for her tireless work in securing the funds to make this happen. November 8 she is up for re-election, please make sure you get out to vote!
2) Board’s Actions Cost District Millions
Several actions of the school board have resulted in millions of dollars lost to the children’s education. Not only have these actions harmed the children, they have resulted in expense to taxpayers all over New York State who are now paying for services to East Ramapo. Strong East Ramapo reports:
“In 2011, the School District entered into an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, Inc. to install numerous energy efficient controls and devices throughout the School District’s buildings. It seems that no actual contract was signed and approved by both parties. The School District was unable to secure financing for the project and was unaware that work had commenced. Johnson Controls claims to have done close to $1.9 million of work. The School District believed it should not be required to pay Johnson Controls the required amount as funding was not secured prior to Johnson commencing work done. This matter proceeded to mediation. The mediation session took place on Monday, September 12, 2016. There is now a Board approved agreement between the School District and Johnson Controls to pay $1 million over a five-year period starting in fiscal year 2017-18. The School District’s 2017-18 proposed budget will include the first payment of $200,000.”
In 2015, the East Ramapo School Board sued its insurer, New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (NYSIR), to cover $2.23 million in legal fees the district owed its defense teams, the New York State Supreme Court ruled last year that the district was overcharged by $2 million, saying “a reasonable fee for the legal services provided is $187,500.”
“In April 2016 New York State Insurance Reciprocal (NYSIR) made a decision to drop coverage for East Ramapo Central School District. This decision negatively impacted the School District as it had to seek new insurance coverage in a very short time notice. There was no single insurer that offered to commit in insuring our School District. The insurance costs increased by over $900,000 on annual basis. The School District will continue working to identify efficiencies to accommodate this additional cost for the fiscal year 2017-18 and beyond.”
This negligence is inexcusable: $2 million in overcharged legal fees, $1 million per year in extra insurance costs, $1 million dollars in unauthorized spending for “energy performance” work that no one seemed to know was happening. That’s $4 million alone that could have been spent on children’s needs. Students, families, taxpayers deserve much, much better.
3) Yeshiva pays $9 million for Temple Beth El
The Journal News: Auctioned Reform temple to become Satmar school
Temple Beth El was sold at auction. More than 100 buyers expressed interest, and four made bids over $8 million. The property included a 32,000 square-foot building on a 5.6 acre lot. The price is attributed to ongoing high demand for space by nonpublic schools.
Compare this to Colton Elementary, a 62,000 square-foot building on 15 acres, which the East Ramapo board sold for $6.6 million (minus rental credits), or Hillcrest Elementary, a 62,000 square-foot building on 11 acres, which was sold for $4.8 million. The value of these schools was estimated as over $10 million each. Even that amount now seems low in comparison.
- Temple Beth El: 32,000 sq ft. on 5.6 acres: $9 million
- Two East Ramapo Schools: 120,000 sq ft. on 27 acres: $11 million
Both East Ramapo schools were sold to yeshivas by a school board that was found to favor the interests of yeshivas by a state monitor. The sales were closed while the monitor was doing his investigation. Attorney General Schneiderman was aware of fraud by an appraiser hired by the district, but has not acted regarding the school board or the yeshivas (yet).
While Dr. Wortham and Commissioner Elia and the teachers and parents and advocates are all working so hard and so diligently to improve the educational experiences of the children, we must assume that the school board is continuing its agenda to hand over more district real estate to their friends at bargain prices. There needs to be some fundamental change in the governance of the district to restore trust.