Thousands of children are getting almost no education in many yeshivas in East Ramapo and other parts of NY. In response to the updated guidelines on equivalency of education in non-public schools issued by NY State, East Ramapo School Board President Aaron Wider has effectively “declared war” on the State Board of Education.
After years of hard work, and with the help of average people like you, New York State felt the pressure building and finally released updated guidelines pertaining to the requirement for nonpublic schools, including Yeshivas, to provide an education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.
The new guidelines mince no words, spelling out the subjects that need to be taught and the number of minutes each subject needs to be taught for.
This is far from done since it gives local districts plenty of time to go and inspect all schools before implementing actual changes.
And Yeshiva leaders have vowed to fight this, and have declared “war” against the state.
WE MUST KEEP UP THE PRESSURE TO ENSURE THAT THE NEW GUIDELINES DON’T GET WATERED DOWN IN FUTURE DISCUSSIONS AND THAT LOCAL DISTRICTS COMPLY WITH THEM AND ENFORCE THE STANDARDS IN ALL NON-PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
Outsider is a short documentary that explores how activists are fighting for better education for students of both public schools and private yeshivas, fire officials are fighting the widespread epidemic of illegal housing and over development, and long time residents are reflecting back on how exactly this sudden and drastic change occurred.
It is produced by award-winning New York and Boston based filmmaker Noah Graham, who grew up in Rockland County.
You can be a part of this project by supporting it on Kickstarter. Here is the link…
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.