US Court of Appeals Rules East Ramapo Students Have no Standing In Suit

In a 2:1 decision, the US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit ruled that the student plaintiffs must be dismissed from the lawsuit, and that only taxpayer plaintiffs can sue the school board. The Court decided the injuries to students were not “direct” enough to fit within the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The dissent, written by Chief Judge Reiss of the Vermont District Court, argued persuasively to the contrary. Next steps will include A4J consulting with constitutional scholars and supreme court litigators for their experienced and informed advice on next steps in the lawsuit. Our Plaintiffs are meeting soon to decide on a plan of action going forward. Where our children are concerned we must be steadfast and faithful to their NYS constitutional right to receive a sound basic education, and we must protect that right in every way possible.

Read the court decision and dissent here:

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New York Law Journal 9/12/16: Federal Appeals Court Rules East Ramapo Students Have No Standing in Lawsuit

Pupil Plaintiffs Tossed From Suit Over Hasidic Private-School Placements

Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal September 12, 2016    | 4 Comments

East Ramapo School District

Public-school students in East Ramapo lack standing to sue over the alleged siphoning off of public money to benefit private Hasidic schools, a federal appeals court held Monday.

A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed students from a lawsuit charging violations of the establishment clause through property deals, textbook purchases and the placement of children in private Hasidic schools using taxpayer money.

Read more…

Journal News 9/8/16: State Aid for ER Could be Used for Full-Day Kindergarten

East Ramapo: District details how it will spend $3M state aid

East Ramapo plans to use the money to restore full-day kindergarten, along with programs in elementary schools.

Recap of East Ramapo School Board Meeting 9/7/16

Strong East Ramapo sent out the following note regarding the Sept. 7 ER school board meeting:

Here’s a recap of tonight’s public hearing, in case you couldn’t make it:
1. RASP LEASE APPROVED — After discussing the Rockland After School Program (RASP) in executive session, the East Ramapo School Board approved the RASP lease agreement tonight — at a much more reasonable rate than in the past. Executive Director Triny Hertzberg now faces the challenge of communicating with families and bringing back staff she had let go after a summer with no news. Need to speak with RASP? You can call (845) 577-6141 during school hours.

2. $3M PLAN — Monitor Chuck Szuberla said tonight he would “move heaven and earth” to bring full-day kindergarten for all students, plus restored arts programs, back to East Ramapo by September 26. Perhaps to put a fine point on it, he and Commissioner Elia are holding a public meeting on September 28 at RCC, which they likely would not announce unless they were confident they’d be hearing from happier parents.

He and Superintendent Wortham received many questions, including the future of full-day K and the arts after 2016-17. Szuberla, who noted his years of experience securing funds for the troubled Roosevelt School District on Long Island, said that, if East Ramapo followed procedures regarding the $3 million in state aid closely and provided strong financial modeling of the continued need, the Legislature would be inclined to re-authorize funding next year and beyond.

It was great to see a new crop of parents at the meeting. Different speakers raised a number of concerns about confusion during today’s first day of school, citing lack of schedules, lack of information about where students were attending to school, and bus routes that were an hour late in bringing children home. Szuberla earned points from the crowd after summarizing one parent’s concerns and affirming them.

Indeed, tonight represented a notable shift from board meetings of two years ago, when we heard our former superintendent shrug his shoulders and say that we did not have certain programs because they were not mandated by the state — and assert that aspiring for the same outcomes as neighboring districts was inappropriate because our students are from low-income backgrounds. Tonight, the monitor and the superintendent said that they want district students to be college and career ready and to rival high-performing schools. While it remains to be seen whether Szuberla and Wortham can secure what’s necessary to restore the former glory of East Ramapo, the sentiment itself is a welcome change in my book.

Sept. 13 Primary Vote for Two Key NYS Assembly Candidates

On Sept. 5, Power of Ten posted a notice regarding to the Sept. 13/16 primary vote in two important NYS Assembly races in which East Ramapo is an important election issue.  That note stated:

Ellen Jaffee has been a leader in the effort to get NY State to intervene in East Ramapo. She represents the 97th NY Assembly District, parts of which are in East Ramapo. She is being challenged in the Sept. 13 Primary Election,  She is very well respected by her colleagues, which has kept East Ramapo high on the agenda in Albany. As we continue to pressure Albany to intervene, her skills and reputation will be indispensable.

Krystal Serrano is running in the September 13 Primary for the 98th Assembly District. Like Ellen Jaffee, she believes that NY State must do more to protect public education in East Ramapo. Her opponent is the former East Ramapo School Board member whose tenure was marked by the closure and sale of public schools, massive escalation of legal bills, and schemes to use public dollars to pay for private tuition.

 

Journal News 8/26/16: NNYCLU Files Petition Challenging Charles-Pierre Removal From ER School Board

NYCLU fights East Ramapo over trustee
Steve Lieberman, slieberm@lohud.com 9:24 a.m. EDT August 26, 2016

Sabrina Charles-Pierre’s lost two-year term when district missed her deadline to take the oath of office by three days.

An influential civil rights legal organization has entered the battle to ensure a black elected trustee gets to serve her full two-year term on the East Ramapo Board of Education.

Sabrina Charles-Pierre saw her term cut in half in July when district officials realized she hadn’t taken the oath of office within the legal time frame. Charles-Pierre was elected in May to a two-year unexpired seat on the board, but wasn’t sworn in within 30 days of the election being certified, as required. She was sworn in three days after the July 11 deadline.

The Board of Education eventually appointed her to a one-year term and voted to appeal to the state after facing massive protests from residents at a July meeting.

On behalf of NAACP activist Oscar Cohen and the district’s large black and Hispanic constituencies, the New York City Liberties Union appealed to the state Department of Education.

In court papers just filed, the NYCLU argues that by removing Charles-Pierre from her properly elected seat, the board overturned the election results and rendered Cohen’s vote for her meaningless. The organization said in a news release the school board unfairly favored the needs of Orthodox Jewish children attending private schools over the public school students. The district has denied those allegations

“Black and Latino children make up over 90 percent of public school students in East Ramapo, but the school board, dominated by the supporters of the Orthodox Jewish community, consistently shortchanges them in favor of white students who attend religious and other private schools,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

She said “the  board has now ignored the will of the voters and truncated the term of the only woman elected to the board – a black educator who campaigned on a platform to represent the interests of the public school community. The dysfunction, disempowerment and discrimination in East Ramapo schools has to end.”

Board President Yehuda Weissmandl has called the oversight in giving the oath to Charles-Pierre on time a mistake. The other board members who won election met the oath deadline.

Weissmandl said the board appointed Charles-Pierre to a year’s term at the direction of the school district’s attorney and in consultation with the Department of Education. A department spokesman confirmed that East Ramapo officials contacted the state office after they learned of the issue with Charles-Pierre’s seat and said they were directed to the Public Officers Law for guidance, as well as for information on the appeals process.

Cohen argued the state must act for the public school families.

“The only woman of color on the board was denied her elected seat because the board misread the law and shirked its administrative responsibilities,” Cohen said. “It is essential that the commissioner of education correct this perversion of justice and restore Sabrina Charles Pierre’s duly elected seat.”

Charles-Pierre, 29, the mother district children, was initially appointed to the board in October to fill a vacancy after Juan Pablo Ramirez resigned. During the May school board election, she ran unopposed to serve the remainder of the term, which is due to expire in June 2018.

East Ramapo has about 9,000 public school students in East Ramapo, while about 24,000 children attend local yeshivas.

Since 2005, the board, which is controlled by Orthodox Jewish men, cut 445 public school jobs, reduced kindergarten to a half-day and eliminated many extracurricular programs from the public schools, according to an Education Department report. At the same time, the board has increased spending on out-of-district special-education classes and busing to private schools while also spending the district’s precious resources to aggressively fight lawsuits.

As a result of these longstanding issues, a series of independent monitors have been appointed by the State Education Commissioner to oversee the district.

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