Hundreds of Missing Children in East Ramapo

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Stop Rationalizing Child Neglect
2. Hundreds of Missing Children
3. Spring Valley NAACP Supports Expanding Power of East Ramapo Monitors

1) Stop Rationalizing Child Neglect

“Every month or year that change is delayed, another student will finish school or move to the next grade level while missing the fundamentals of math, science, English and social studies.”

“Then why have elected officials, political candidates, community leaders and media outlets treated this as a policy issue that is worthy of debate from both sides — and not an issue of undeniable educational neglect to be remedied through forceful government action?”

These statements are from an op-ed written by a yeshiva parent in the NY Daily News. That they could apply equally to public and private school systems in East Ramapo illustrates how the fates of all our children are intertwined. 

The low graduation rates in both systems are the direct result of political pandering that gives undue influence to a system and leaders that cause harm to children through educational neglect.

Please join Yaffed in calling for No More Delays in oversight of children’s right to an education.

2) Hundreds of Missing Children

According to The Washington Post: “This year, students have disappeared from classes in unprecedented numbers, forcing districts to rethink their approach to those who stop showing up. Many districts, cognizant of the damage that lost school time can cause, have employed extraordinary efforts to track down students to ensure that they are safe and have devices to learn.”

A study by Bellweather Education “Missing in the Margins”, found that: “For approximately 3 million of the most educationally marginalized students in the country, March might have been the last time they experienced any formal education — virtual or in-person.

The response from school districts across the country has been varied. One thing that seems to work is physically going to the students homes to see what’s going on. This was the response last school year in Sacramento City CA, where 1600 students failed to check in in March of 2020. According to The Post “The district jumped into action, dispatching staff members to students’ homes”. By summer, just 845 students were missing. And by the start of the school year, only nine remained unreachable.

Here in East Ramapo, hundreds of children have not had any formal education for over a year. An attendance task force that was set up is doing some door to door outreach, but the effort was started almost a year late, and not near enough staff are doing the work.

In October, we learned that many students had not been provided with a laptop, and Superintendent Giamartino moved quickly to correct that, but according to the report from Bellweather: “the students we’re focusing on here need much more than a laptop.” They list a variety of issues including students needing to go to work, lack of options for English language learners and students with disabilities, homelessness, and most disturbingly, child abuse.

There needs to be immediate action to locate as many of these children as possible. Experience shows that outreach works. But most importantly, there needs to be accountability for those responsible. Where were the state monitors while this was happening? The issue of  missing children has been in the headlines for a year now. Did any representative of NYSED ever ask what East Ramapo was doing to address the issue? If a parent neglects their child, they face jail time, when a school board neglects hundreds, they should be held accountable in the same way.

3) Spring Valley NAACP Supports Expanding Power of East Ramapo Monitors

I am writing on behalf of the Spring Valley NAACP to endorse A 5683/S 6052, a bill to expand the powers and responsibilities of the oversight monitors assigned to the East Ramapo Central School District sponsored by Assemblyman Zebrowski and Senator Reichlin-Melnick. The bill has received the backing of NY State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa.

The NAACP is mindful the legislation does not address the long-term governance reform imperative for the District’s long-term survival. However, it does provide a sorely needed system of checks and balances, the absence of which has created a model of 21st Century Jim Crow (racist) education in East Ramapo.

The Bill will empower monitors to:

    • prevent the Board from implementing proposals not be in the interest of East Ramapo’s public-school students,
    • approve or disapprove the appointment of the superintendent,
    • review and amend the District’s budget to assure the District’s spending aligns with long-term academic and fiscal goals;
    • review Board resolutions and motions prior to presentation to the Board.

The legislation also requires the Board to a adopt conflict-of-interest policy. Had such a policy been in place already, it could have prevented the Board’s approving a $15 million contract (against the request by the current monitors who do not have oversight power) to an organization whose executive director have been covertly controlling the selection of East Ramapo Board members.

The legislation represents an interim but essential step — toward more substantive governance reform — in the struggle to end East Ramapo’s 21st Century Jim Crow education.

Willie J. Trotman, President, Spring Valley NAACP