Power of Ten 7/13/17: David Lipman, War Hero & “Living Landmark” of ER Dies at 95

Steve White of Power of Ten posted the following note about East Ramapo resident and Spring Valley HS graduate David Lipman:

Power of Ten

Special Edition:

David Lipman, Spring Valley HS class of 1939, passed away Wednesday at the age of 95.

He was honored in 2016 by the Rockland County Historical Society as a “Living Landmark”. David served as a Corporal in WWII, earning a Bronze Star while doing dangerous missions and being tortured by the Nazis. His story was featured in the local Newspaper “Our Town” by writer Mark Judelson.

David came to a meeting of the East Ramapo school board in September 2015. He delivered the following speech, here reproduced in full, in honor of his memory.

My name is David Lipman, Spring Valley High School, Class of 1939, from the original location on South Main St. Like many of my classmates, I went on to college; I became a professional engineer. Others became doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, artists, musicians. One became an actor, with an engineering degree to fall back on. Why? Because we were well EDUCATED. We were given solid foundations in all subjects.

During WWII, we set aside our studies and our lives to go and fight for the freedom of other people. I came home with a Bronze Star and permanently damaged shoulders from the tender care of the Gestapo. One of my brothers, Walter, sacrificed himself in the Pacific Theater to save his air crew. There’s a local Jewish War Veteran’s post named after him, you can look him up. As part of my service I was present at Concentration Camp Dora. There, I saw horrible, unimaginable things; things that do not belong in this room with children.

Then I came home, finished college, raised my family and sent my children to SVHS. My son, Walter is Class of 1972, and my daughter Ruth, 1976. Again, the Lipman family was well served by their excellent public school education. Both my children are professionals, and have a love of learning and reading, with inquisitive minds. Many of their classmates are likewise.

Now, I see what has become of this once fine school system, and I am appalled. I see that the perpetrators of this are largely my own people; people who were the subject of those unspeakable horrors at Dora and places like Dora. Is this how you repay the community to which you came? Is this why the people of this community fought and died- so that 70 years later, you could grind under your heel their grandchildren, as well as the next group of downtrodden immigrants?

I seem to recall two principles from my religious education; one, that we are enjoined to make THE world a better place, not just OUR world; and two, that we were strangers once, enslaved in Egypt. The Torah tells us that we have an OBLIGATION to the stranger- the Gentile- at least three times: Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34 and Deuteronomy 10:19. And yet, this is not what I see. Instead of honey, we have poured bitter herbs on the books of these children, if they have books at all! This defames the memory of both the people of this community who died fighting against the enslavement and horrors of the Holocaust, and those who were its victims. You who are its survivors have a great obligation which you are failing to uphold.

It will take far more than 11 days of repentance to expiate this sin.

This American Life 7/17: Updated Version of Not So Simple Majority Re-broadcasted

The original of Not So Simple Majority about the East Ramapo public schools broadcast on the public radio show This American Life a couple of years ago.  That broadcast was listened to by many, many people across the US.   An updated version of that show was rebroadcasted recently.  It can be listened to online here:

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/534/a-not-so-simple-majority

Medium 6/27/17: A Mother’s Plea to Mayor de Blasio re Yeshivas

A Mother’s Plea to Mayor de Blasio:

My Son Deserves An Education!

Dear Mr. de Blasio,

I am writing to you as a desperate mother, urging you to address a serious human rights violation happening under your watch. We live in a wonderful city, one of the most progressive and diverse in the world, with a fantastic education system for many. And yet, here I am, a mother of a boy attending middle school, and I am worried sick about the poor quality education he is receiving. I am begging you to do something to ensure that he receives an education in English, math, science, and social studies, as mandated by law.

My son is eleven years old. He attends a Hasidic boys’ yeshiva from 9 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening. You would think, with all the hours he spends in school, he would have enough time to receive both an adequate religious and secular education. This could not be farther from the truth.

His yeshiva teaches almost exclusively Judaic studies. Only 90 minutes are dedicated to secular studies, and only four days a week, and only in the subjects English and math. In his school, my son never learns about other cultures and religions or even about the history of slavery here in America. He is offered no lessons in basic science or in other core subjects. Furthermore, because secular studies take place at the end of a long and tiring school day, many of the boys, including my son, have difficulty paying attention.

Read more…

Power of Ten 7/3/17: ER Yeshivas are Next Big Issue; Rebroadcast of This American Life

Steve White reports in the recent Power of Ten issue:

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

1. East Ramapo is a 2017 Campaign Issue
2. A Mother’s Plea
3. A Father’s Demand for Accountability
4. This American Life Revisits East Ramapo

1) East Ramapo is a 2017 Campaign Issue

County Exec Candidate Maureen Porette has weighed in on the lack of education in East Ramapo’s yeshivas, and she is not pulling any punches. Power of Ten congratulates her on her strong stand in favor of educating all children.

She made her position crystal clear in an interview on a local radio show. Candidate Porette stated:

Under New York State education law (non-public schools) need to be teaching Math English and Social Studies … but if they’re not teaching these subjects to these children then they are not entitled to any state money … we are talking about 24,000 children in private schools that are not being educated … How can (Dr. Wortham) possibly oversee that … 24,000 private school students (are) being properly educated? If you’re not going to oversee … that they’re being properly educated then all the money should be going to the public schools.

You can learn more about Ms. Porette on her website: https://poretteforcountyexec.com/

2) A Mother’s Plea

East Ramapo parents will understand this mother’s feelings:

“Can you imagine how helpless I feel to not be able to give my child basic educational nourishment? There is nothing more frustrating than seeing my son’s future and potential being robbed from him because of these terrible decisions.”

Read her story at: https://medium.com/@hasidicmom/a-mothers-plea-to-mayor-de-blasio-c342e52cc319

This mother lives in NYC, but there are many like her here in East Ramapo. In NYC Mayor DeBlasio controls the schools, but in East Ramapo it is Dr. Wortham who is responsible to see that education is provided to every child, whether they are in home school, public school, or a non-public school. As Ms. Porette points out, Dr. Wortham should have support and guidance from NY State Education Dept. on this. Where is Commissioner Elia? Our “Monitors”???

3) A Father’s Demand for Accountability

At a recent East Ramapo school board meeting, a father, Yoel Falkowitz, talks about the lack of education in the Hasidic boys yeshivas. There is almost NO (secular) education given beyond the 3rd or 4th grades. Yoel knows this first hand because as a child he went to these Hasidic yeshivas.

He says: “The children hardly get anything in these schools. The children deserve better and the parents want education for their children, but the schools won’t provide it.”

Mr Falkowitz is only asking that Dr. Wortham follow NY State law:

“It is up to the superintendent to see that children get a proper education as mandated by NYS Law. The law demands that equivalent education is provided to all children.”

He demands accountability from the board: “My question is, if the law demands it, the child deserves it, we all know better and I see you work very hard to see that public school students get a proper education and the parents want it. So the questions almost asks itself, who are you working for if not for the children? Why are those children being left out completely? Why is the question left unanswered so many times? Anybody in power or anybody on the board that is not doing anything about it, should be held accountable.”

You can see his speech to the board on Antonio Luciano’s YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/RHw1ogUAHfI

4) This American Life Revisits East Ramapo

When the original version of “A Not So Simple Majority” aired on the public radio show This American Life, people all over America were listening. Ben Calhoun told our story with such clarity that even people who were already very familiar with the facts were overcome with emotion.

One person told me she was listening in the car and had to pull over because she was crying so hard.

The show was updated and rebroadcast this week. You can still listen online at: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/534/a-not-so-simple-majority

 

Strong East Ramapo 6/21/17: ER Schools Budget Passes Vote!

Andrew Mandel wrote the following about the June 20th East Ramapo schools budget revote:

​Dear Strong East Ramapo,

In a vote of 2121 to 1809, the revised East Ramapo budget has passed! This is really significant both because it means new programs and services for public school students – and because, to me, it reflects good faith on the part of enough non-public school families who could have voted the budget down because they would have preferred non-mandated busing to be included. Further, it shows that every vote truly does count!

The results also mean we have a ton of work to do. First of all, voter turnout mirrors the current level of apathy, cynicism and disengagement that many in the community feel. We need to find ways to energize the public about critical votes like this. Second of all, we must try to begin a new chapter of sitting down and discussing differences across the various communities of the district. These budget votes shouldn’t be nail-biters. They should reflect a shared understanding of what matters most and how to get it done.

In the short term, THANK YOU to everyone who voted and helped to make this budget a reality. In the long term, we’ll be back at it soon.

Onward,
Andrew


Power of Ten 6/18/17: ER Budget Vote, Monitor Status & the IDC

Steve White wrote:

Power of Ten Update

In This Issue:

1. Budget Revote Tuesday
2. Monitor Performance Review
2. IDC is Bad for East Ramapo

1) Budget Revote Tuesday

The school budget vote is Tuesday, June 20. This budget contains some really important improvements for the students. It does not contain the deceit and extortion that were in the previous budget proposals.

The Power of Ten recommends a “YES” vote on June 20.

You can look up your polling place with the Power of Ten Poll Lookup Tool

2) Monitor Performance Review

We are now entering our fourth year of state ordered monitors for East Ramapo. How has this system been working for our students and our community?

Before any monitor was appointed, local education advocates and community members were calling for a new system of governance for East Ramapo. Over 6,000 people signed a petition in favor of NY State intervention in the district. The appraiser in Hillcrest Elementary sale scandal was arrested for grand larceny and filing a false instrument. Governor Cuomo was under pressure to do something.

The first person to get the title of “Monitor” for East Ramapo was Hank Greenberg. His term began in June of 2014. Commissioner King said “The goal of a fiscal monitor is to look at how East Ramapo is using its resources, to make sure its use of resources is consistent with federal law, state law and is in the best interests of students.”

During Mr. Greenberg’s tenure, two schools were sold at below market value. Did he “make sure” East Ramapo was using its resources “in the best interests of students”?

Mr. Greenberg made a PowerPoint presentation in November 2014. It repeated many of the violations which had already been reported by the state education department and local public education advocates. There was no evidence of original investigation, just a re-framing of the issue as a conflict between communities. This was a sharp departure from the previous stance of the education department which treated violations by a school official as infractions to be corrected. One member of the board or regents said “it’s a mistake to call it a mistake.”

Mr. Greenberg recommended a monitor with veto power, which left in place a school board whose performance he had characterized as “abysmal”. This recommendation required passage of a new law by the NY State Legislature. The bill did not pass.

Did Mr. Greenberg achieve his mandate to “make sure” East Ramapo was using its resources “in the best interests of students”? Or did he make sure that Gov. Cuomo could say he did ‘something’ about East Ramapo without angering his ultra-Orthodox supporters?

The next monitor for East Ramapo was Dennis Walcott. He served from August of 2015 to January 2016. Mr. Walcott had some help, and they did some original research and filed reports that indicated the situation for students was even worse than previously thought. Mr. Walcott’s recommendations were largely ignored.

The third monitor, appointed after the second attempt to pass a bill implementing the first monitor’s recommendations, came with money. This money was specifically earmarked for programs that helped students, including all day Kindergarten and partial restoration of some Art and Music programs. These programs have been very warmly received by parents hungry for some good news. The dedicated professionals who provide these services are to be congratulated.

There has not been much evidence that any monitor has uncovered or prevented the kinds of abuse detailed by public education advocates. In fact, the current monitor failed to discover and alert the commissioner of the funding for courtesy busing which was snuck into the first budget proposal this year. The monitor also failed to stop the district awarding a contract to a bus company that had been blocked from receiving such contracts due to fraud.

It is unrealistic to expect a single person to be able to police a coordinated conspiracy of many individuals who are abusing their legal authority. It should come as no surprise that the district continues to face threats of further land grabs and budget cuts. The monitors recommendation for more monitors only addresses the problems of those who appoint them. East Ramapo needs a different system of governance than other school districts. It is time to refocus our attention on this goal, by any means necessary.

3) IDC is Bad for East Ramapo

The bill for a monitor with veto power passed the NY State Assembly, which is majority Democrat, but was blocked in the Senate. Senator Flanagan, the president of the Senate, a Republican from Long Island, would not even allow it to be debated. It is clear that as long as Senator Flanagan is president of the NY Senate, East Ramapo will not see any substantial relief from the NY State legislature.

The IDC is a group of Democrats that don’t support the Democratic choice for president of the Senate. Power of Ten joins with the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) in calling for the IDC to rejoin the other Democrats and oppose Senator Flanagan. Our own Senator Carlucci is a member of this group, we hope he will listen to your voice on this matter.

You can express your opinion using this easy online petition created by the AQE.

Journal News 6/15/17: East Ramapo School Budget Must Pass

East Ramapo budget must pass: Editorial

District residents must make choices about how to provide for all children in the district. They can start charting that path on June 20. Support the budget, and begin crafting future spending plans today. Video by Nancy Cutler/lohud Wochit

This new spending plan is rational and reasonable. Sadly, it took a lot of missteps to get here.

It’s June. East Ramapo’s 2017-2018 budget remains unsettled. That’s a scary place for the deeply divided district, which has already seen two controversial spending plans upended this budget season alone.

The district has one more chance to win approval for its spending plan on June 20. East Ramapo voters must approve the $231.6 million spending plan. The alternative — an automatic contingency budget — would freeze the district’s tax levy, even as expenses rise, precipitating yet more cuts in the struggling district. 

Read more…