Rockland Clergy for Social Justice Calls for Gov. Cuomo to Intervene in East Ramapo

Power of Ten Update

Special Issue:

Rockland Clergy for Social Justice will hold a press conference on Tuesday, April 8 at noon, at the First Baptist Church located at 3 Hoyt Street in Spring Valley, NY. More than 90 rabbis, ministers, pastors and imams from Rockland County will be calling for Gov. Cuomo to intervene in the governance of the East Ramapo School District.

Speakers will include Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV, PhD of the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley; Rabbi Adam Baldachin of the Montebello Jewish Center; Rabbi Ari Hart of Uri L’Tzedek (Orthodox Social Justice); Pastor Joel Michel of the French Speaking Baptist Church in Spring Valley, and Azeem Farooki of the Islamic Center of Rockland.

The East Ramapo Central School District board has reduced services to students, most of whom are African-American, Haitian American and Hispanic. According to Pastor Joel Michel of the French Speaking Baptist Church Spring Valley: “The lives of our children are in peril. East Ramapo public school governance is broken. We need Governor Cuomo to address this tragedy now.”

The school board is under investigation for diverting public funds to segregated religious schools. To Hazel N. Dukes, President, New York State Conference NAACP, it is a matter of equal treatment for all.  She says “It is time for Governor Cuomo to act on behalf of East Ramapo public school children ensuring their right to an appropriate New York State education comparable to their peers in other Rockland County school districts”

The East Ramapo board has ignored NY State Education Department directives concerning its improper practices in violation of NY State and Federal law. Rabbi Adam Baldachin of the Montebello Jewish Center framed the issue as a moral obligation: “We believe that all of our children have the right to an educational experience which sets them up for a successful future. It is upon us as clergy members to make sure that this moral right is granted. We cannot be silent while students in the East Ramapo School District are denied the right to thrive”.

The East Ramapo board members are often identified in the media by their Orthodox Jewish religion, but in fact they are mostly businessmen involved in real estate (as reported by the Journal News).  Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek, (Orthodox Social Justice) explains that in the Jewish religious tradition “We are deeply concerned about the well-being of all children, from all religious, races and cultures in Rockland County. That is why we are calling on Governor Cuomo to intervene and help make a better Rockland County school system for all.”

Abbreviated History of Actions to Save Our Schools

May 2008 –  Stakeholders candidate gets 2400 votes

Jan 2009 –  Hundreds Rally to Save Hempstead Elementary

March 2009 – Stakeholders write NYSED Commissioner Mills, advising of de-facto segregation and warning of impact of non-public school interests controlling the public school board.

March 2009 – Petition with over 1000 signatures made to board opposing the closing or sale of any school

April 2009 – First Appeal to Commissioner: Peggy Hatton Appeals Closing of Colton

May 2009 – Stakeholders Candidates file Lawsuit regarding election irregularities

May 2009 – Stakeholders candidates double 2008 turnout, receive 4500 votes

July 2009 – First NY Times Article “Rancor where private school parents make public school decisions”

April 2010 – NYSED Special Education Quality Assurance Compliance Office finds inappropriate placements of students in private schools and orders ERCSD to correct its practices

April 2010 – Over 1000 rally against closing Hillcrest Elementary

April 2010 – Mendel Hoffman writes board need to put yeshivas first, threatens to bring public schools “to their knees”.

May2010 – Stakeholders candidates double 2009 turnout, receive 8600 votes

August 2010 – Appeal of Sale of Hillcrest to Yeshiva Avir Yakov

August 2010 – NYSED spec education report directs ERCSD to stop making inappropriate placements

October 2010 – ERCSD public school enrollment is up dramatically, over 1000 more students than the district had predicted when it proposed closing schools

November 2010 – Complaint filed with NY Attorney General re: appraisal fraud in sale of Hillcrest

January 2011 – ERCSD attempts to ‘absorb’ RISE yeshiva

January 2011 – NAACP files complaint with USDOE OCR alleging civil rights violations. OCR begins investigation

February 2011 – NAACP writes to oppose RISE ‘absorption’

February 2011 – NAACP requests NYCLU support oppose RISE take over. School board backs off

August 2011 – NY Comptroller finds ERCSD failed to fulfill its stewardship, oversight and leadership responsibilities

February 2012 – NYSED Special Education Quality Assurance Compliance Office finds inappropriate placements of students in private schools continues and requires ERCSD to publicly post the finding of non-compliance and resulting loss of state funding

July 2012 – NY Attorney General states ERCSD is hampering its investigation into sale of Hillcrest School

July 2012 – Advocates for Justice appeal to Commissioner to remove board members and appoint a state monitor

August 2012 – Advocates for Justice files class action civil rights lawsuit seeking monetary damages, punitive damages, removal of ERCSD board members and appointment of State monitor

October 2012 – Carmand and White appeal to Commissioner to stop ERCSD from using district funds for legal fees of defendants in class action suit and appeals for their removal

January 2013 – Petition with 4,494 signers submitted to Gov Cuomo and Commissioner King to appoint oversight monitor for East Ramapo

January 2013 – Two non-orthodox board members resign citing lack of transparency and inappropriate board practices

March 2013 – Parent files ethics complaint against E. Ramapo attorney who abused her son at a board meeting

March 2013 – District sues NYSED over special education placement criticism

March 2013 – AP article about East Ramapo crisis appears in papers around the US

April 2013 – New York Magazine feature article on the destruction of the East Ramapo School System

May 2013 – Thousands turn out for school budget vote, turnout is double other Rockland districts and 75% in favor of budget, but budget is defeated by bloc vote 100% against budget.

May 2013 – Federal Judge dismisses ERCSD request to dismiss class action lawsuit, lawsuit goes forward

May 2013 – Olivia Castor and Peggy Hatton Explain the Crisis in East Ramapo Schools on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show

May 2013 – One thousand high school students walk out of school, march 3 miles to demand a quality education

June 2013 – Petition with 6,152 signatures sent to Gov. Cuomo asking him to pass NYSED intervention bill to “Save East Ramapo”

July 2013 – Abuse of public at ERCSD board meetings gets international attention as lawyer curses at parent in viral video

July 2013 – Hundreds rally to protest abuse of public by district lawyers, board president says law firm must go (note: as of this printing, 4 months later, firm is still there)

July 2013 – Commissioner King upheld a petition by an East Ramapo public school parent to nullify the current lease of the Hillcrest Elementary School building to a New Square yeshiva

July 2013 – Appraiser in Hillcrest Elementary sale scandal arrested for grand larceny and filing a false instrument

September 2013 – Federal Judge dismisses second ERSD request to dismiss class action lawsuit, lawsuit goes forward

October 2013 – Federal Judge dismissed East Ramapo lawsuit against NYSED, upholding NYSED findings of inappropriate special education placements

October 2013 – East Ramapo parent appeals to state over lack of music, art instruction

D’Agostino Still Here?; Peace Award Details

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

  1. D’Agostino is still here?
  2. Peace Award Details
  3. Message from The East Ramapo Underground

1) D’Agostino is still here?

Many people might think that after the school board said that they would “transition” from the law firm of D’Agostino that meant he was no longer working for the district. They would be wrong.  A letter was written to the JN (by Power of Ten editor Steven White): E. Ramapo board, in another failure, still employing tainted law firm

The County Exec elect wrote a letter to Commissioner King about the subject.  Article in Pearl River Patch: Rockland Exec Elect Asks State to Step in on East Ramapo Schools’ Lawyers

2) Peace Award Details

The Fellowship of Reconciliation will present the 2013 Nyack Area Peace Award to East Ramapo activists Steven and Emilia White on Sunday, Dec 22 during the Winter Solstice Celebration.

The Event will be at the FOR headquarters at 521 N. Broadway in Nyack from 1:00 – 7:00 PM and will include music and food (potluck).  There is a suggested donation.

The Award Ceremony will be at 2:30 PM

All the information is available at

The information about the award and this year’s recipients:

3) Message from The East Ramapo Underground

The East Ramapo school board meeting (Dec 16th) had two executive sessions that lasted a total of three hours. Here are the videos that show what happened during the other 25 minutes of the meeting. East Ramapo started Extended Learning Time for schools on December 16, 2013. Title I, II and III funds are used for this. Some of the time is before and after school. Do the parents know about this program? 

East Ramapo states that the amount of students that are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch now stands at 76%. One school is at 89%. Are these numbers accurate? Who checks these numbers?

East Ramapo which has been sited three times in the past for making improper settlements continues the practice. Listen as four more settlements are made. Special Ed costs have risen by over 45% in the last three years.

Watch all the East Ramapo Videos on

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