Justice is Coming to East Ramapo, One Step at a Time

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

1. D’Agostino is Gone!
2. Klein Must Resign!
3. A Brief History of East Ramapo

1) D’Agostino is Gone!

In Nov, 2009, Aron Wieder brought Al D’Agostino to East Ramapo. This action has cost East Ramapo millions of dollars over the past five plus years. The damage to the students is beyond measure.  Mr. Wieder undertook this action against the advice of senior board members and the Superintendent. Many of the problems of East Ramapo can be traced back to this moment. Be sure to watch this video, to know who Mr. Wieder is and what he did to East Ramapo.

Now, thanks to a unparalleled community organizing campaign, Al D’Agostino is gone. The credit belongs to all of you who got involved. Antonio Luciano and Peggy Hatton of East Ramapo Underground, Andrew Mandel with Strong East Ramapo, Willie Trotman and Oscar Cohen of the NAACP, The Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, and the Padres Unidos of East Ramapo deserve the credit for their leadership.

The district now has a reputable and experienced law firm. It is one step, but a very important one in returning quality education for all of our children in East Ramapo.

2) Klein Must Resign!

In June of 2011, the school board majority, led by Aron Wieder (again!) chose Dr. Joel Klein instead of Pedro Santana for Superintendent of schools.  This action has also caused irreparable harm to the students of East Ramapo. The failure of Dr. Klein to provide competent leadership has been documented by the state education department. The most obvious deficiency was the insensitivity of Dr. Klein to the Latino families. This led to massive protests at every school board meeting and even at Dr. Klein’s house. Given that Chancellor Tisch of the Board of Regents has also called for him to be removed, it would seem only a matter of time before he will also be exiting our district. It can’t be too soon.

3) A Brief History of East Ramapo

A Community View in the Journal News has inspired me to take a look back at what has happened to East Ramapo. Titled “Remembering East Ramapo’s Glory Days“, it recalls the long service of school board member Georgine Hyde, a Holocaust survivor who believed that providing a quality public education to all children was the best way to ensure “never again”. The effect of having quality leadership on the board was documented by students and staff in 2004.

However, in 2005 Ms. Hyde was voted off the board and a new, majority Orthodox board was formed. Collaboration with the non-Orthodox community was ended (also voted off the board that year was Dr. Danielle Bright, the only Haitian American on the board) and quality public education started to take a back seat to maximizing funding to Orthodox yeshivas.

Then, in 2008, despite objections from parents, staff, students, and the state education department, Mr Wieder proceeded to implement a series of steps which brought the district to its knees. He brought D’Agostino and Klein soon followed. Two schools were closed and sold. Each of these moves has turned out to be a disaster. Legal costs have skyrocketed. State reports indicate the Klein Administration is incompetent and students are suffering because of it. The Attorney General is still investigating the sale of the schools, while enrollment goes up and overcrowding worsens.

This year, a series of community organizing actions have brought the problems caused by conflicted governance into sharp focus. Elected officials including Governor Cuomo, Assembly Members Zebrowski and Jaffee, and Senator Carlucci have called for change. A bill to give more power to the State Education Department to oversee East Ramapo passed in the NY State Assembly. The federal civil rights lawsuit, first brought in 2012 by Advocates for Justice is wending its way through the court system.

How can you be involved? Come to the protests at the school board meetings. Write letters to the newspaper. Call the radio. Email elected officials. Donate to Advocates for Justice.

Justice is Coming, and YOU can Make it Happen!