3/9/18: Strong East Ramapo Announces Slate of Candidates for ER School Board Elections

Strong East Ramapo announced a slate of school board candidates on March 9th and held a meeting for ER residents to meet the candidates:

Introducing your 2018 East Ramapo School Board Candidates;
Sabrina Charles-Pierre, Reverend Jose Cintron & Miriam Moster
 
Thank you to those who joined in on last night’s Virtual Meeting, it was great hearing from all of you.  For those who missed it, don’t worry!  There is still time to let us know how you can help out!
Tomorrow Saturday, March 10th at 1:30 PM please meet us at the Martin Luther King Center, in Spring Valley, NY to say hello to the team and pick up some materials.  I will also have Calendars to give to you all so you can let us know where you would be able to help us.  We will have tabling events, door knocking weekends and we still need help getting petitions signed.
Thank you to all who have supported Strong East Ramapo & our Candidates!
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Strong East Ramapo Reports Positive News on 2017 Graduation Rates

Andrew Mandel of Strong East Ramapo reported that 2017 high school graduation rates for ER district schools improved significantly over those in recent years:

Dear Strong East Ramapo,

New York State released district graduation rates this month (data.nysed.gov), and there’s good news — and urgent news. 75% of African-American/Black students graduated from East Ramapo in 2017, which is up from last year and comes close the overall state average of 80% for all students, regardless of background. While we need to keep growing this number, as well as the percentage of students receiving Advanced Regents diplomas(12 percent now), the continued climb is encouraging.

This growth stands in stark contrast to a dire situation with our Latino/Hispanic students, where graduation rates fell from 52 to 37 percent this year (with 7 percent earning a Regents diploma with advanced distinction). We know all children are capable of achieving at high levels! In other districts with large Latino/Hispanic and low-income populations, the numbers are very different: just across the river, 62 percent of Latino students in Ossining — and 81 percent of Latino students in Port Chester (with 22 percent earning an Advanced Regents diploma) – graduated last June. We must therefore understand what is causing our decline, and we ought to determine what programs, services and trainings are happening in places like Port Chester, so that we can learn how we can concentrate our financial and instructional resources differently. Our 2018-19 budget must reflect these needs.

Strong East Ramapo
website: www.strongeastramapo.org
facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/strongeastramapo
twitter: StrongERamapo

News on East Ramapo School Board Candidates, Polling Sites & NYCLU/ Latham Lawsuit

Steve White had the following to report about potential ER school board candidates, proposed new polling sites and the NYCLU/ Latham lawsuit seeking to replace the at-large voting structure with a ward system:

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Call for Candidates
2. Potential Polling Place Changes
3. Ward System Update

1) Call for Candidates

The school board and budget vote will take place on May 15. Strong East Ramapo will be working hard to get the vote out to pass the budget. Power of Ten will work to identify and assist candidates for the school board positions.

There are certainly many people in East Ramapo who are qualified to serve on the board.

The Center for Public Education says an effective school board member should:

    • inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in the local public schools
    • enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community
    • have the commitment to do what is right for all children, even in the face of opposition

Does this sound like someone you know? Or maybe you might be interested yourself?

Those interested in being a candidate please contact steve@poweroften.us

A public forum will be held in the first week of February for the public to meet the potential candidates.

2) Potential Polling Place Changes

Three years ago, Monitor Walcott recommended that an independent election monitor oversee the election process, including designating new polling places. This did not happen. Last year, two new polling places were proposed by the District Clerk, both of which were located in areas where most children are sent to yeshivas.This was not received well by advocates for more resources for public education. Over the past 3 months, a committee led by the District Clerk has been discussing possible changes. The committee included some poll workers, the NYSED monitor, some opponents of increased resources for public education, and some education advocates, including myself.

Location of polling places can influence voter turnout. Factors which affect turnout include confusion when the school polling place is different from the November polling place, distance to the poll, and finding parking. These may be reasons that voters in the Clarkstown and Haverstraw sections of the district have the lowest turnout.

I provided the committee with a plan to balance the polls from the very first meeting.

This plan added polls in Haverstraw and Clarkstown, and moved the main location for Spring Valley voters (who support more resources for public education at a higher rate than any other voters in Rockland) to St. Josephs, which is where they vote in November elections, and also the Hillcrest Firehouse, which is where most Hillcrest voters (also strong public school advocates) vote in the November elections.

Both the Haverstraw and the St. Joseph’s locations were left out of the plans which were sent to the board. St. Joseph’s was not included in any of the three final options because a concern was raised about Orthodox Jews who may have a religious objection. However, NY State Election Law Section 11-300 allows for voting at an alternative location when “It is against my religious scruples to vote at a polling place located in a premises used for religious purposes.” This option would only apply to a very few people, if any, based on the areas which would be assigned to the St. Joseph’s poll.

The final decision is with the board. They could include none, some, or all of the polls which are most likely to be used by supporters of public education. It has been shown that they will listen to public opinion, sometimes.

The next board meeting is Tuesday. Please come and express your preference.

When: Tuesday, January 23 at 7:30 PM

Where: 105 South Madison Avenue, Spring Valley

3) Ward System Update

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) with Latham & Watkins LLP, on behalf of the Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP and other plaintiffs, has filed a law suit in federal court challenging the at-large method of electing members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education. The suit claims the at-large system unlawfully denies black and Latino citizens in the District an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

Under this system, board members are elected by all the voters of the school district rather than voters from individual geographic areas. This allows the majority community-which is white, lives close together, and tends to vote as a political bloc favoring private school education-to control eight of the board’s nine seats. Communities of color, who tend to vote as a bloc for candidates favoring investment in public schools, have not seen their candidates of choice win a contested seat since 2007.

Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York is presiding. NYCLU-Latham has requested a preliminary injunction to postpone the scheduled May 2018 board election until after the Court rules on the law suit. The District is opposing the preliminary injunction motion. The Court has scheduled the preliminary injunction hearing (which is similar to a trial) to begin on April 12th. Thus, we expect to know if the Judge intends to halt the election and implement a new voting system in the District before the May 15th elections take place.

Lawsuit filed by NYCLU, Latham & Watkins Seeks Injunction of May ER School Board Election

The new lawsuit filed in November by the NYCLU and Latham & Watkins LLC seeks to replace the at-large school board voting process with a ward system, allowing for better representation of the different populations in the district.  They are requesting that the judge enjoin the May 2018 school elections until she has ruled on the lawsuit.  Oscar Cohen, a long time resident, educator and activist in East Ramapo, stated the following:

Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) with Latham & Watkins LLP has filed a law suit in federal court challenging the at-large method of electing members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education.  The suit claims the at-large system unlawfully denies black and Latino citizens in the District an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

Under this system, board members are elected by all the voters of the school district rather than voters from individual geographic areas. This allows the majority community—which is white, lives close together, and tends to vote as a political bloc favoring private school education—to control eight of the board’s nine seats. Communities of color, who tend to vote as a bloc for candidates favoring investment in public schools, have not seen their candidates of choice win a contested seat since 2007.

Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York is presiding. NYCLU-Latham has requested a preliminary injunction to postpone the scheduled May 2018 board election until after the Court rules on the law suit. The District is opposing the preliminary injunction motion. The Court has scheduled the preliminary injunction hearing (which is similar to a trial) to begin on April 12th.  Thus, we expect to know if the Judge intends to halt the election and implement a new voting system in the District before the May 15th elections take place.

12/8/17: NYCLU Files Motion to Enjoin ER School Board Election Until Lawsuit Addressed

On December 8, the NY Civil Liberties Union and the law firm, Latham & Watkins, filed a federal court motion seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting the ER School Board from holding its May 2018 annual election until adjudication of the Complaint filed in November 2017 for East Ramapo to move from an at-large system to a ward system od electing board members.

A copy of Motion materials is attached below.

NYCLU Ward Election System ER Notice of Motion Prelim Injunction 12-8-17

NYCLU Ward Election Case ER Memo of Law Prelim Injunction 12-8-17

Journal News 11/16/17: ER Lawsuit Stating Election System Stacked vs. Minorities

East Ramapo parents’ lawsuit: Election system stacked vs. minorities

A group of parents from East Ramapo have sued the school district, saying that the at-large voting system used to elect members to the school board has led to a lack of representation by minorities.

Filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the suit demands no further school board elections be held until a ward system made up of nine single-member districts is in place.

Read more…

The Atlantic 11/17/17: Another Blow to Controversial ER School Board

A Heavy Blow to One of America’s Most Controversial School Boards

A new lawsuit focuses on a district whose governing board is dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jews who send their kids to private schools.

Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign that reads "Save our schools!"
Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany, N.Y. Shannon DeCelle / AP
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Updated on November 17, 2017.

As is the case in districts across the country, the racial composition of a school board in the New York City suburb of Ramapo doesn’t look anything like that of the predominantly nonwhite student population it serves. The news Thursday of a lawsuit challenging the district’s school-board election proceedings in attempt to change that might just seem like another effort to challenge the status quo.

But this case is a little different. It’s not just an equity-minded attempt to reform a seemingly flawed policy—it’s also an explosive development of a chaotic tale of cultural collisions and political dissonance that has been simmering for at least a decade.

Read more…