Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Election Results
2. A Fifteen Million Dollar Question
3. East Ramapo is Insolvent
1) Election Results
We are very happy to report that our candidates in wards 1,2 and 3 have all won their races and will be sworn in at the next school board meeting on March 2.
- Ward 1 – Ashley Leveille
- Ward 2 – Sabrina Charles-Pierre
- Ward 3 – Sherry McGill
These are the three wards which were drawn up to provide equal representation for voters of color in East Ramapo. Thanks to the NAACP-NYCLU, there are now three members of the school board who will be held accountable by people who use the public schools for their children.
There were also two well-qualified candidates who ran in other districts, Carole Anderson in ward 9 and Linda Valentine in ward 4. They deserve our thanks and respect for all their hard work.
2) A Fifteen Million Dollar Question
Last year, the federal government passed the CARES Act, a COVID relief bill which included billions of dollars for schools. The money is distributed through the states, and then on to the schools. When NY State passed its budget on April 1, 2020, it reduced state aid in an equal amount. For any other district, this would have been an even trade, but of course not for East Ramapo. The federal CARES Act funds are targeted to include private schools, but the state funds that it replaced were mostly for public schools. The net result is a movement of $15 million from the public schools to private schools. This apparently was not understood by the district, and Interim Superintendent Giamartino has now issued a statement that “internal reviews” have “discovered a series of long-standing underfunded budget codes” “in conjunction with state aid losses”.
The board, which seemed not to take notice that public schools had just lost $15 million, did however notice that $15 million was now going to be available for private schools, and issued a notice seeking bids. The board awarded a $15 million contract to the Community Outreach Center (COC). The CEO of the COC is Rabbi Hersh Horowitz, whose name came up in the Voting Rights trial as one of the key players in the slating process that selects the board members. Also revealed in the trial, Rabbi Horowitz told school board president Grossman “We are focusing mostly on English … So when superintendent comes to visit she will be able to communicate with the students”. So, while actually educating the students in these private schools does not seem to be a high priority in getting a multi-million dollar contract, being one of the guys that’s coordinating political support for board members seems to be quite helpful.
An appeal has been filed with the commissioner to void the contract. All of the details are available in this Journal News Exclusive: NYCLU wants state Education Department to void $15M East Ramapo schools contract
3) East Ramapo is Insolvent
It has now become clear that the school board has failed to perform their fiduciary duties, including:
- Not making the proper budgetary adjustments for the contingent budget
- Not budgeting adequately to include the legal costs associated with their ill-conceived attempt to preserve a racist voting system
- Not recognizing that the public school budget was shorted by $15 million in state aid
As a result the district is now insolvent. It has run out of money in the middle of the school year, and is taking drastic measures that are hurting students, parents, and teachers.
Dr. Giamartino has already cut 4 assistant superintendent positions, cancelled 2.3 million in contracts, and is now proceeding to lay off 32 teachers. This will mean disruptions to children’s lives – not just their educational experience in the middle of the school year but also their emotional support network in the middle of the pandemic. In any district, this would be a challenge, but in East Ramapo, which has already seen hundreds of staff cuts, it is catastrophic.
The children should not have to pay for the board’s failures!
Many people and organizations are writing to the state education department and their elected officials. They are asking that something be done, so that teacher layoffs will not happen.
Power of Ten has created an online letter you can send with one click, asking the Commissioner of Education to stop the cuts, and hold the board accountable for failing their fiduciary duty.