The following are information gathered through years of activism and advocacy. All information is to the best of our knowledge accurate, and sourced when possible.
1. Harm to Public Education:
Fact: East Ramapo was once one of the most respected and successful districts in NY State. It was especially attractive to parents looking for diversity as an asset to their children’s education. Today, the district has the lowest graduation rates and the lowest scores on NY State English Language Arts and Math tests of all Rockland County school districts. During the 2011-2012 school year nine of fourteen public schools in the district were deemed as ‘Schools in Need of Improvement’ by the New York State Department of Education.
Fact: The East Ramapo School Board has made many arbitrary cuts denying public school students a sound basic education. Hundreds of staffing cuts during the past 4 years have resulted in higher class sizes and diminished the process of teaching and learning. The following cuts have been especially harmful to public education in the East Ramapo Public Schools:
Full Day Kindergarten; Art, Music, and Sports programs; Collaborative Classes for Special Education; Family and Consumer Science; Summer School, Gifted and Talented Program; Program for Students with Interrupted Formal Education; Social workers, Kindergarten Teaching Assistants, Deans and Assistant Principals; Reduced number of sections for Honors and Advanced Placement classes; Michael E. Smith, whose leadership as Director of the East Ramapo Marching Band was legendary throughout the region and Pedro Santana, Assistant Superintendent who was praised by students, parents, and staff as a uniquely effective administrator.
2. Closing and Selling Schools:
Fact: The East Ramapo Board of Education hastily approved the sale of the Hillcrest School, and used fraudulent appraisals in an attempt to sell the building to religious schools at below market value. The sale of the Hillcrest School was annulled by the Commissioner of Education, and the sale of the Colton Elementary School is currently suspended, while he decides if the board acted improperly.
Fact: In 2010, the East Ramapo Board of Education, closed and sold the Hillcrest Elementary School. The Board of Education chose to sell Hillcrest utilizing an auction process that was only advertised for less than one month in the legal section of the local paper. The value of the school was estimated by the Clarkstown Assessor at $11 million. An appraiser hired by the district valued it at $5.9 million. However, when the highest bid came in at $3.1 million a second appraisal was ordered. It claimed a value of $3.24 million, based on “comparable sales” of other schools. One of these was said to be ‘a three story school building’. However, records from the Town of Ramapo indicated it was actually just a parking lot! The district is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General for allegations of appraisal fraud.
Fact: District enrollment has increased significantly during the past three years. Current district wide enrollment is 14% above projections made when schools were closed. Ramapo High School is at 157% of functional capacity. Overcrowding is a major problem according to the public school staff and students.
3. Special Education Facts:
Fact: In 2010 the New York State Department of Education, audited East Ramapo and warned the Board of Education that it had inadequate documentation to support private school placement of eligible students. The New York State Department of Education determined that the district engaged in the “practice of placing students with disabilities in private schools when appropriate placements were available in public facilities.”
Fact: In February 2012, a follow up report from the NYSED indicated that the district had failed to implement the State recommended practices to place students with disabilities in public facilities as required. As a result, NYSED withheld the state’s share of aid, and East Ramapo is using millions of dollars of local taxpayer money for tuition at private schools.
Fact: The East Ramapo Board of Education has engaged in a pattern of settling special education cases as a means of placing students in religious schools outside of the district, at exorbitant costs, when more appropriate and less costly placements exist in public schools. These settlements not only included district payment of tuition, as well as, often paying the parents’ attorney’s legal fees.
Fact: When East Ramapo settled with parents prior to an impartial hearing, no state reimbursement was available and the funds were taken entirely from the district’s funds (local taxpayer dollars).
4. Citizen Action and Voter Turn Out:
Fact: Despite the high percentage of parents who are unable to vote because they are not citizens, the East Ramapo public school community votes at a much higher rate than surrounding school districts (30% as compared to 7% in neighboring Ramapo where almost all parents are eligible to vote).
Fact: A class action law suit has been filed on behalf of parents in the Southern District Court in White Plains, N.Y., by “Advocates for Justice,” a not-for-profit public interest law firm on behalf of the residents of the East Ramapo School District. The law suit seeks millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs for irreparable harm caused by actions of some school board members, administrators, and contractors.
Fact: There have been multiple attempts at mediation by the NAACP, and the Rockland County Human Rights Commission. There have been rallies, letter writing campaigns, accelerated voter registration, community meetings, and petitions.
Fact: The East Ramapo School District has either been cited or investigated by: NYS Office of Comptroller; NYS Education Department; NYS Attorney General Public Integrity Unit; US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General