None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the work of hundreds of activists. Students, parents, clergy, education professionals all worked to demand action from Albany. They formed groups such as the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, Save Our Schools, Padres Unidos, and Strong East Ramapo. They’re the ones who caused monitors to be appointed, they’re the ones who caused a new superintendent to be hired, they’re the ones who caused the state to increase aid.
The school board fought these changes tooth and nail, just as they fought the NYS Education Department’s oversight of illegal special education placements and the NY Attorney General’s criminal investigation into fraud in the sale of the Hillcrest elementary school.
Increased State Aid
Increasing educational programming costs money, and the accomplishments that the monitors report could not have been realized without increased state aid. The following table illustrates changes to district revenue from the 2014-15 school year (before the monitor law) to the 2016-17 school year (the latest data available from the state website)
One of the objectives the monitors set for themselves in 2016 was to “set clear performance objectives for students”. It does not seem unreasonable that an organization with a budget of a quarter billion dollars per year, and whose mission is so vital to the community, should be able to demonstrate quantitatively and qualitatively that it’s fulfilling its mission. However, after this one mention in September of 2016, the word “performance” does not appear again in the monitor’s blog.
The statistics available on the state education department web site present a mixed picture:
Scores on state tests have been improving overall, with the exception of math scores of Latino students, which have remained flat compared to the state average since 2014.
Even after modest improvements, only about one quarter of our students are deemed “proficient” by the state, as compared to about half of students statewide.
Graduation rates are not yet available for the school year ending in 2018; they dropped overall between 2014 and 2017:
African American students in East Ramapo graduated at about the same rate as others in New York State.
The graduation rate for Latino students has fallen further behind, down to 37 percent in 2017!
Factors which are known to be associated with lower educational outcomes:
Elementary class size in East Ramapo is higher than the average in New York State.
Children with special needs are less likely to be placed in a regular classroom in East Ramapo than the state average.
Children in East Ramapo often lead separate lives from their peers of other races (de facto segregation).
The Most Vulnerable
A public education system cannot be measured only by the achievements and opportunities available to those who excel. It can’t offer math only to those who excel at math or art to those who display talent or gym to those who are physically fit.
There are laws in place which force educational institutions to provide education for all, because there is a long sordid history of educational institutions neglecting students with disabilities, those in need of remedial services, female students and students of color.
There are three groups of students who are the most vulnerable to educational neglect in East Ramapo today. These are: preschool children, students with interrupted formal education, and students in some yeshivas (Jewish private schools).
Many preschool children in East Ramapo are not exposed to a modern early childhood development environment. The main barrier is economic. Parents do not earn enough to pay for quality, licensed childcare or for transportation to pre-K programs. The children don’t understand that this is not their fault. The result is that the district will spend years trying to undo the damage to the child’s self-esteem. Knowing the tremendous impact that lack of preschool education is having, the district (and the monitors) should be addressing this issue, starting by stating publicly that it is a problem and proposing plans to address it.
Every year, families move into East Ramapo with school age children. Some of these children have experienced difficulty and hardship, including missing school, sometimes for years. The technical term is “students with interrupted formal education”. The district has just as much responsibility to these children as to any other child in the district. The failure of the district to adequately address the special needs of this group is a major factor in the higher dropout rate over the past two years. Many of the dropouts are going to work in the same underground economy as the parents who can’t afford early childhood education, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty in our district.
Years ago, the administration of the East Ramapo school district made a deal with the operators of some of the yeshivas. The school district would not enforce the state truancy law which requires that all children receive an education regardless of placement, and the yeshiva parents would stay home on school budget day and not vote the public school budget down. This secret arrangement was covered up for decades until some of the children who had attended yeshivas began to realize they had been cheated out of an education. They found themselves unprepared for the job market and unable to provide for their families.
Reading Between the Lines
What do you see between the lines when you read reports from the NYSED monitors? What are they not saying about the most vulnerable? What are they not saying about the governance of a public school system where most children attend private school?
The monitors will either serve the children or they will serve those who profit from the status quo. They do not have veto power over the school board, but you, dear reader, have veto power over the monitors through your elected representatives in Albany.
COMMISSIONER ELIA APPOINTS DR. DENISE LOWE AS SECOND MONITOR FOR THE EAST RAMAPO CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Appointment Continues Cooperation Among State, District and Community to Advance Progress Already Made by Monitor Team
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today appointed Dr. Denise Lowe as a State Monitor for the East Ramapo Central School District. Dr. Lowe will coordinate efforts with Mr. Charles Szuberla, a State Monitor in the District since August 2016, to propose actions for improvement to ensure students have access to high-quality instruction, programs and services and oversee District operations.
“Through the efforts of our State Monitors, the school district and the school board, we are starting to see needed improvements in East Ramapo’s academic and fiscal affairs,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “We know our work is not done and the Board of Regents remains committed to ensuring all children of East Ramapo receive the education they deserve to help prepare them for success in life. Dr. Lowe’s expertise in high-need schools and curriculum-driven budgeting will be invaluable to a district that faces so many challenges.”
“With over two decades of experience as a school leader and nearly five years helping struggling schools and districts, Dr. Lowe has demonstrated an ability to effectively lead, develop staff, implement programs and policies, and adapt supports to meet school and community needs,” said Commissioner Elia. “Dr. Lowe’s background in special education and experience providing technical assistance to Priority and Focus schools will enable her to provide the support and oversight needed in East Ramapo to build on the progress we’ve seen over the past several years.”
“East Ramapo continues to focus on instructional initiatives that offer promising progress for putting students on the path to success,” said Regent Judith Johnson. “Facility repairs and renovations are underway at many schools, kindergarten and arts programming are being restored and, there is new leadership to help ensure English Language Learners and students with disabilities get the supports they need to learn. I look forward to working with Dr. Lowe and to continuing to support the administration’s efforts to set East Ramapo in the direction that gives all students the comprehensive educational resources they need to become successful students.”
Dr. Lowe has extensive experience in top leadership positions and has served as Superintendent at the Asbury Park School District in New Jersey and Assistant Superintendent in Central Islip Central School District in New York State. Dr. Lowe’s 34 years in education also includes roles as an associate at the State Education Department to help schools in needs of assistance, a special education teacher and an adjunct professor. She holds a BA in psychology from Northeastern University, an MA in special education from C.W. Post College, a P.D. in educational administration from C.W. Post College and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Columbia University.
Dr. Lowe will report directly to Commissioner Elia and will be a regular presence in the East Ramapo School District. Her responsibilities will include to:
monitor district operations in the areas of curriculum and instruction, budgeting, and planning;
provide guidance and technical assistance related to educational policies, practice, programs, and decisions of the district, its Board of Education, and superintendent;
consult with the district to develop a long-term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan;
provide an annual report to the Commissioner and the Comptroller on contracts that the districts entered throughout the year; and
provide regular feedback, progress reports, and updates to the district, SED, and to the Board of Regents upon request.
Monitors Szuberla and Lowe will continue to build on the progress that East Ramapo CSD has made over the past several years and will continue to work with the district, the school board and the community to help address academic and fiscal challenges. Dr. Lowe will replace Dr. John W. Sipple, who has been a State Monitor since 2015.
“Dr. Sipple was instrumental in working with the district to develop a long-range fiscal improvement plan that balanced the budget and funded improved learning opportunities for students,” Commissioner Elia said. “We thank Dr. Sipple for his fiscal expertise and extraordinary efforts to get the district’s finances back on track.”
Working cooperatively with the State Monitors and the School Board, the district has taken actions to improve its financial stability; academic opportunities and outcomes for all students; success for students with disabilities and English language learners; and compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
Notable accomplishments by the district in recent years includes that it:
ended the 2017-18 school year with a $245,000 surplus and started 2018-19 with a fund balance equal to 3.6 percent of the general fund. (State law allows 4 percent). Further, the district received an unqualified opinion from its external auditor, an improvement from previous years. Also, the State Comptroller upgraded the district’s stress category to undesignated from moderate, also an improvement from previous years.
started $58 million in capital improvement projects at 11 schools and is on a path to complete the projects by 2020;
strengthened its financial management practices, implemented an improved accounting policy and vigorously monitors expenditures;
restored full-day kindergarten for all students and elementary arts programming using the $3 million grant from New York State; and
hired new directors of Special Education and English Language Learners while implementing new systems to identify students needing these services.
East Ramapo students, parents, teachers, community members and other interested stakeholders can sign up for the Department’s email distribution list to receive updates on district-related information.
Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday caved to pressure brought on by 9/11 survivor advocates and the Daily News and promised to secure unlimited sick time to all city employees who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts in Ground Zero — and are now paying for it with their lives.
Hizzoner approved the special sick leave for one of the city’s largest unions on Tuesday as a rally was held on the City Hall steps demanding he put all city employees who responded to 9/11 on the same footing as first responders police officers and firefighters.
Help ’em out! Officials pressuring mayor to approve unlimited sick leave for all city employees with 9/11 illnesses
By Thomas Tracy
|New York Daily News|
Oct 20, 2018 | 12:05 PM
City officials are joining a growing chorus demanding Mayor de Blasio approve unlimited sick time for all city employees who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero — and are now paying for it with their lives.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer penned a letter to the mayor Friday, demanding he “implement a city-wide policy to allow sick leave for employees in all city job classifications who are sick from 9/11-certified conditions and need time off to see doctors and recover from their illnesses.”
While police, firefighters, correction officers and sanitation workers have been granted unlimited sick leave if they come down with an illness linked to their time at Ground Zero, some 4,000 other city employees — paramedics, emergency medical technicians, traffic agents and tow truck operators among them — do not have that option.
Statement from 911 Health Watch on “Notice of Inquiry” Regarding the Potential of Cuts to Compensation for those Injured by 9/11 Due to Lack of Funding
911 Health Watch wants to thank the Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), Rupa Bhattacharyya, the Department of Justice and Attorney General Sessions for today’s publication in the Federal Register of the VCF’s “Notice of Inquiry” regarding the potential shortfall of funds for the VCF and asking for comment on possible responses to that potential shortfall.
The Special Masters Message can be found below this statement.
Under current law, the Justice Department has the responsibility and must manage any funding shortfall. In publishing this notice and requesting comments, the Justice Department continuing its diligent and proper management of the VCF. We commend the Department for taking this action and for their continued work on behalf of 9/11 injured and ill responders and survivors.
The underlying problem that this “Inquiry” calls attention to, the potential lack of resources that are needed to continue to fully pay compensation claims to injured and ill 9/11 responders, survivors and their families, is Congress’s problem to solve. It is Congress’s responsibility to provide the VCF with all the funding needed to see that 9/11 responders and survivors get the help they need and deserve.
It is not surprising that the number of people coming forward with illnesses and cancers related to their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero grows every single day. Every other day another 9/11 responder or survivor reportedly dies from a 9/11 related cancer. The magnitude of the 9/11 cancer problem, though obvious today, was not entirely known in 2015 when the VCF reauthorization was funded.
These are the facts today:
The more than 42,000 people who are in the World Trade Center Health program are suffering from at least one certified 9/11 condition caused by the toxins at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville crash site, while a large percentage have multiple conditions.
The chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancer that continue to plague those who were exposed to the many toxins and carcinogens on 9/11 and in the weeks and months after.
Over 9,300 of those enrolled in the Health Program have been certified with a 9/11 related cancer, with more that are being diagnosed every day. Thousands more who have been diagnosed with cancer are only now joining the health program, so these numbers will increase dramatically.
9/11 responders and survivors in the Health Program are in all 50 States and in 434 out of 435 Congressional Districts.
It has taken years of effort to get a handle on the size and scope of the health crisis facing so many caused by the terror attacks. The statistics and information we have now, were not available in 2010 when the legislation was first passed and in 2015 during the reauthorization.
Now that these facts have become known, and we have a better understanding of the number of people that are sick and dying from their 9/11 exposures, it is up to Congress to act.
Congress must provide the funds needed by VCF so that these potential cuts will not happen—cuts that would impact the lives of those injured and still suffering, as well as the families of those that have died.
Remember it was the Federal Government that said the air was safe to breathe.
It was also the Federal Government that refused for years to take responsibility, to do the research and respond to the health crisis that is facing so many.
We know that the sponsors of the James Zadroga, 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, and Representatives Maloney, Nadler and King-along with colleagues from both parties will be working to get Washington to respond.
Recently, on the 17th Anniversary of the terror attacks, we again vowed as a nation that we would not forget that day and its aftermath. It is our hope that the promise to never forget 9/11 will extend to those who are now sick and dying from it and their families. Given the information, we now have on the scope of the health crisis, and the potential funding shortfall the VCF faces, it is our hope that Congress will in fact remember 9/11 and provide the needed funds so that the choices outlined in today’s Notice will not have to be made.
Below is the message from the Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya:
October 2, 2018
When Congress reauthorized the VCF in 2015, it extended the time for individuals to submit new claims – as well as amendments on existing claims – until December 18, 2020. The Reauthorization Act also directed me, as the Special Master, to periodically reassess the VCF’s policies and procedures to make sure that we prioritize claims for individuals who suffer from the most debilitating physical conditions, and that we do not exceed the $7.375 billion in funds appropriated to the VCF.
The VCF’s most recent periodic assessment, published in February 2018, shows us remaining within that appropriated limit. But, as I am required to do, I am monitoring our expenditures very closely, keeping an eye on the volume of incoming new claims and amendments on existing claims, and continuing to use forecasts from the World Trade Center Health Program and VCF historical data to project whether the current available funding will be sufficient. The VCF expended just over $2.5 billion in the two-and-a-half years since our 2015 reauthorization, and we have more than $3 billion in funding remaining with just under two-and-a-half years left to go. There is no immediate funding crisis. As some of you may have read in the press reporting that surrounded this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, however, there is concern among some groups that the VCF may run short of funding. An updated projections analysis, run using data as of August 31, 2018, suggests the possibility that, following current policies and procedures, the VCF may exceed its available funding prior to the currently designated program end on December 18, 2020, although I have not made any formal determination that funding may be insufficient. Accordingly, in both an abundance of caution and a steadfast commitment to fulfilling my statutory responsibilities, I am seeking public input on how the remaining funds might be allocated in a fair and equitable manner to claims and amendments that have not yet been decided, with priority given, as the Reauthorization Act requires, to those claimants with the most debilitating conditions. The Notice of Inquiry published to the Federal Register on October 3, 2018, is the official vehicle for gathering that input.
It is important to note that this is an effort to solicit information only. It is both prudent and consistent with my statutory responsibilities to begin the process of collecting your comments and suggestions for our careful and systematic consideration. As the Notice of Inquiry makes clear, should any changes to VCF policies or procedures be deemed necessary solely because there are insufficient funds to continue making awards under the same policies as are in effect today, any such changes would apply only to claims submitted or amended for compensation review after an established effective date. No compensation claim currently submitted for review would be affected.
Our website at www.vcf.gov and our toll-free helpline at 1-855-885-1555 are both excellent sources of information about the VCF’s policies and procedures, and we encourage anyone with questions to take advantage of those resources. The VCF continues to accept new claims – as well as amendments on existing claims for claimants who have suffered new injuries or incurred new losses – and we will continue to do so until December 18, 2020, under the current statutory framework.
The Notice of Inquiry provides an opportunity for all interested members of the 9/11 community to have a voice in how the VCF operates going forward. You are the individuals and organizations who have an interest in how we do our jobs and in the equitable awarding of VCF funds, and I am always grateful and appreciative of your comments and suggestions. Please take some time to review the Notice and the questions on which we are seeking feedback and provide your comments as instructed in the Notice. In doing so, you can help ensure that the VCF remains financially stable, and that we continue to do the best job we can to make sure compensation is awarded to those who deserve it in the fairest, most efficient, and most transparent way possible. Thank you in advance for participating in this effort.
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
Thousands of state and local government employees in New York who were exposed to the toxic dust from the attacks on the World Trade Center are not getting the paid sick leave owed them.CreditCreditÁngel Franco/The New York Times
Government officials can face difficult decisions. Here’s one that isn’t: choosing to give unlimited paid sick leave to public workers made ill by their service after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Yet thousands of state and local government employees in New York who were exposed to the toxic dust from the attacks are not getting that benefit, even after the state passed a law last year meant to guarantee it to many of them.
Lower Manhattan clinic opens to ease backlog of 9/11-related illness cases
By Michael Scotto New York City3:00 PM ET Sep. 20, 2018
In the weeks after the September 11th attack, construction worker Tim Gleason was across the street from the World Trade Center trying to get the World Financial Center up and running.
The 53-year-old says he was once a smoker, but believes the toxic air he breathed is responsible for the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with three years ago and the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease he suffers today.
“What happened was it progressed from every now and then you would get sick,” said Gleason. “And then the doctor tells me it’s chronic bronchitis. You get a name and you think it’s nothing. Then the next thing you know, five years go by and it’s telling you have full-blown COPD.”
On Wednesday, he was at the World Trade Center Health Program’s new clinic in Lower Manhattan, going through a nearly two-hour health exam to determine if his illnesses were likely caused by the attack.