Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Call for Candidates
2. Monitoring the Monitors
1) Call for Candidates – March 14 Forum.
The school board and budget vote will take place on May 21. Strong East Ramapo will be working hard to get the vote out to pass the budget. Power of Ten will work to identify and assist candidates for the school board positions.
There are certainly many people in East Ramapo who are qualified to serve on the board.
The Center for Public Education says an effective school board member should:
- inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in the local public schools
- enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community
- have the commitment to do what is right for all children, even in the face of opposition
Does this sound like someone you know? Or maybe you might be interested yourself?
Those interested in being a candidate should fill in this google form.
We will hold a forum at 7:00 PM on Thursday, March 14 at the MLK Center, 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley for the public to hear from all those who are interested in being candidates.
2) Monitoring the Monitors
We as a community expect a lot from our schools. A job this big requires a plan, and East Ramapo has a plan.
East Ramapo also has a monitor, because the school board has had its own agenda which was not the official plan. The monitors produce reports about the district. The latest report is titled “Continuing Progress“.
Any plan should have goals, and those goals should be measurable. The monitors report describes a plan with four “pillars”. Each pillar has multiple bullet points. The report does not include a checklist as to how well each item has been implemented. Some we already know – for example, full day kindergarten exists. But for the rest there is no “report” in the report. Has the curriculum been “aligned”? Are instructional practices culturally responsive? How many students are and are not participating in the integrated arts?
The report does include a number of accomplishments which have benefited the students over the past three years. These include enhanced services for English language learners, restoration of some special education programs, repairs and improvements to buildings and grounds and restoration of the fund balance. These are areas in which the district had been in violation and has now made improvements to comply with laws and regulations.
While there is no doubt that added and improved programs are improving the lived experiences of the students, there’s still a need for objective measurements of academic achievement to ensure accountability of the district to the community. The monitors note that it’s difficult to assess progress over time due to changes in assessment methods, tests, and graduation requirements. Power of Ten has produced a short video reviewing the assessment measures which goes beyond the methods used by the monitors.
The monitors also reviewed “restorations” of positions which had been eliminated in past years. It is encouraging to know that there has been some increase in essential staff. According to the report, 185.5 out of 506.5 positions that were cut have been restored. There is some fuzzy math, as Music and Art positions are not listed in the cuts, but are counted as restored. The restorations are made possible by increases in state aid. As reported by Power of Ten, state aid increased by $14 million from 2014-2016.
There continues to be inadequate attention by the district and the monitors to the three most vulnerable groups of children. Students with interrupted formal education need wraparound services. There continues to be racial disparity in Pre-Kindergarten enrollment. The biggest non-public schools in the district continue to provide appallingly substandard education. There is no mention in the monitors report of the new state guidelines for non-public schools, how they will be implemented or paid for.
The final section of the report is mildly labelled “concerns”. These include failed budgets, impending financial collapse and massive cuts to essential programs. The monitors plan to address this catastrophe is for the Board and the Superintendent to “reach out to the community to explain how strong public schools can benefit everyone in the community.” This report is titled “Continuing Progress”, but the takeaway for those who read carefully is “Impending Catastrophe”.
There is no mention of the State of New York’s constitutional responsibility to the children. The monitor is the official representative of the State, which is the body that has a legal responsibility. The school board and superintendent’s responsibilities are derivative; their authority and responsibility are delegated to them from the state. Given that the current arrangement is providing so little protection for this vital community resource, it is absolutely necessary for our representatives in Albany to do something NOW, before the next budget fails and the “concerns” of the monitor become reality.