Ramapo Student: We Cannot Cope!

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

1. News from Strong East Ramapo
2. School Board Meeting October 13

3. News from East Ramapo Underground
4. Introducing a New Power of Ten Section!

1) News from Strong East Ramapo

IMPORTANT DATES (Courtesy of Strong East Ramapo)
Thursday, October 1 at 7 p.m.
Monitors Dennis Walcott, Monica George-Fields and John Sipple will be hosting a community forum, so please come with your questions and comments about the East Ramapo crisis.  Some news sources have gotten it wrong, but the correct address is the Town of Ramapo Cultural Arts Center, 64 North Main Street, Spring Valley, as posted on the monitors’ new blog.
Saturday, October 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
CEJJES Institute presents an education summit: Educating Young Men of Color for Success. Featuring Dr. Robert Moses of The Algebra Project, Mr. David Banks of the Eagle Academy, and Dr. Edmund T. Gordon of The University of Texas, Austin. The event will be at RCC, 145 College Rd, Suffern, NY. More info please contact skyviewra@yahoo.com.
Tuesday, November 3: Election Day
Jacques Michel, a member of the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice who supported the East Ramapo oversight bill, is running to serve on the Rockland County Legislature against incumbent and former school board president Aron Wieder, who actively lobbied against oversight.

2) School Board Meeting October 13

Tuesday October 13 at 7:00 PM

The next school board meeting will be at the central administration building. 105 S. Madison Ave, Spring Valley. Please make every effort to attend!

3) News from East Ramapo Underground

East Ramapo Underground is sharing this article from the Asbury Park Press: Charges filed against Lakewood special-ed official which details how the Monitor (with veto power) in New Jersey’s Lakewood School District is pursuing charges against a district official who allegedly illegally used public education dollars to pay for yeshiva education. East Ramapo officials were found by the state education department to be doing exactly the same thing, but there were no consequences. This is why a monitor with veto power is needed in East Ramapo!  

4) New in Power of Ten: The Student Essay Section

East Ramapo=We Cannot Cope

by Ellen Sue Cola
Ramapo High School Class of 2016

It is no secret that there is work to be done in the East Ramapo Central School District. We are fully aware that parents, teachers, and various advocates are outraged over the circumstances at hand—but what about the students? How are the students coping with the challenges they face on a day to day basis? Well, they aren’t. Students cannot cope with the frustrations and limitations that the school board imposes on them.

Starting at the elementary level, students are creatively deprived. Art and music are expressive arts that allow a child (or anyone for that matter) to show individuality and personality without saying one word. Without such activities offered at a crucial creative time for a child, the child is taught that such art and creativity does not matter and is vain. The students who have a taste for the arts are unable to express him or herself and are forced to become someone they do not want to be.

Vincent Van Gogh, one of the greatest artists to ever live, once said, “I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.” How do we expect the children of the East Ramapo Central School District to paint their dreams when they do not have paint or paintbrushes? An anonymous musician once said, “Music is the voice of the soul.” Does that mean that the students’ voices of East Ramapo are silenced when they have no music?

One sad story that I heard about the disadvantages of the elementary children was from an older sibling of a 2nd grader at Hempstead Elementary School. On her mother’s birthday, she wanted to make a homemade birthday card with the help of her brother to give to their mother when she came home from work. After providing paper and crayons to her brother, she told him to draw a flower on the inside of the card. After a few minutes, she went to check on her brother to see how the flower came out; however, all that was on the paper was the stem (a straight green line). She asked her brother why he did not finish the drawing and he embarrassingly responded “I do not know how to draw a flower.” This same young boy wanted to become a saxophone player but with his family’s low income (which is unable to afford outside classes) and the district’s “inability” to provide such services, this young boy has to wait five years to even touch a saxophone. This young boy is unable to cope with his circumstances, just like many (if not all) of the other students in the elementary schools.

Moving on to the middle school, problems linger there as well. A Pomona Middle School 8th grader “hates 9th period.” For participating in a program, the school received funds to run a longer school day. With these funds, the school was able to provide sports and music to the students. Sounds like a good plan, right? However, with the longer school day, the school implemented a 9th period (one more than the usual 8 period day). In this period, students are to do homework; however, many students either do nothing in this period or simply skip this period because they resent it. Students rather do homework in the comfort of their home.

This 8th grader argues that the funds that the district uses elsewhere could be used for sports and music so that the 9th period would be no more. She continues to explain that ever since the longer day was implemented, she has not been able to see her mother as often as she would like to. Before, when she came from school she was able to spend about an hour with her mother before she went to work. Now, the student barely sees her mother because when she comes home from school, her mother is going to work. How could a young girl cope with such circumstances?

Lastly, the high schools in the East Ramapo Central School District face numerous challenges and obstacles. High school is that time in a student’s life when they find out what they enjoy best and later they pursue that enjoyment in college. However, the district makes it hard for a student to do so with the limited resources offered. Students who would love to be on a junior varsity girls tennis team are unable to. Boys that would love to play volleyball are told they can not. Aspiring fashion designers have no club to join. Parenting classes are not offered as they once were in the district. Aspiring businessmen and businesswoman are not offered any classes or activities to prepare them for such endeavors. Past rivalry between the two high schools in girls volleyball, tennis, and soccer cannot be enjoyed anymore due to the combination of school sports.

An 11th grader from Ramapo High School was unable to play the viola for an entire year because the orchestra class was not offered when she was available to take it. This young girl had to decide whether or not to take a class that would help her in her medical field career or take a class where she would play an instrument she loved. If the class was offered more times a day, then maybe she would not have to make such a hard decision. With only one music teacher (two including the chorus teacher) in the entire school of 4 different grade levels, the task seems nearly impossible.

In September 2015, the district monitor stated that 14% of East Ramapo students are college ready. This may be because students find no interest in school due to the lack of resources and activities that interest him or her. High school students should not be asked to cope with such dilemmas. Adults should ensure that students have adequate resources so they can focus on their future.

At the end of the day, pretending that students can just “cope” with adversity is not an option. Changes can be made if the adults are committed and willing to do whatever it takes for the future generation. So, yes, parents, teachers, advocates, AND students are all in this together— to repair East Ramapo and save our schools.