Power of Ten 8/8/17: ER Bus Depot, “War on Children”

Steve White of Power of Ten wrote the following:

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Battle of the Bus Depot Today
2. Declaration of War
3. A Global War on Children’s Education

1) Battle of the Bus Depot Today

Today, August 8, 2017, The East Ramapo school board will meet at 7:30 PM at their headquarters at 105 S. Madison Ave in Spring Valley, with the purpose of laying off bus drivers and selling buses. This is part of their plan to transfer real estate, 45 acres, from public ownership to private hands.

As we have seen with the Hillcrest and Colton school buildings, these “sales” are really land grabs. The school board will be selling, but they themselves are selected by those who will be the buyers. The conditions that create an excuse for the sale are manufactured.

The bus drivers are innocent bystanders. They are just in the way. The same way the children were in the way when schools were taken.

The NY State Education Department is complicit. Both school sales occurred during the tenure of the first “Fiscal Monitor”. The recommendations of the second monitor were ignored with no consequence. The current monitors endorsed a plan to use public dollars to provide extended courtesy busing for yeshivas while public school teachers are still spending money out of their own pockets for school supplies.

As the LifeLock commercial says: “Why monitor a problem if you don’t fix it?

2) Declaration of War

Today’s battle of the bus depot is part of a longer war on our public educational institutions. This became obvious when Aron Wieder appointed Al D’Agostino as the lawyer for the district. Joe Farmer, the Assistant Superintendent at the time, said “This is a declaration of war“.

He went on: “Here is the most unique community in the state of New York … It’s not fair to destroy the potential of this community … and this community is being taken apart … and just from raw power, selfishness, to take control is not why we are in this business, and these students deserve more, they deserve better.”

3) A Global War on Children’s Education

It’s not only public educational institutions which are under attack in this war. Posters have gone up warning of “crossbreeding Yeshivas” in Israel that teach secular studies including about “other religions like Catholicism and Islam, God forbid.” “The ultra-Orthodox community in the United States will not let that happen under any circumstances.” “The sages already led a war against it.”

Who leads a “war” against Social Studies, Science and Math? Is it dangerous to know what a molecule is? Will learning the meaning of PEMDAS or SOHCAHTOA harm children? Would they be damaged from learning what happened at Harper’s Ferry?

There is such a thing as right and wrong in the world. It is wrong to deny education to anyone, and it is illegal in NY to deny it to children. Those who would oppose education for their own families, or allow it to happen to their neighbors should not be entrusted with overseeing education of the general public. That applies to the East Ramapo school board and superintendent, and it applies to the NY State Department of Education – Commissioner, Monitors, Regents and all.

Coming to a school board meeting to stand up against laying off school bus drivers may not seem like a big step, but its a lot better than doing nothing. You don’t have to be Malala to make a difference, you just have to do what is there for you each day. Come to a meeting, write a letter, vote, make a donation to YAFFED, even just talking about the problem with your neighbor or co-worker makes a difference. But seriously … see you tonight!!!


Power of Ten 8/1/17: ER Community Meeting, School Board Meeting & Bus Depot

Steve White of Power of Ten provided the following report:

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Community Meeting Saturday
2. Bus Depot Land Grab
3. Comparative Accountability

1) Community Meeting Saturday

A Community Meeting has been called for Saturday, August 5 at 12 noon at the Martin Luther King Center, 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley.

This message from school board member Sabrina Charles Pierre: The youth in our CommUNITY needs us now more than ever. Who is down for change? Who would like to make a difference? Let’s work together. We can only fail our children if we don’t try.

2) Bus Depot Land Grab

The Board of Education will be meeting on Tuesday August 8 at 7:30, at 105 S. Madison Ave in Spring Valley.

There is a rumor that they will be laying off bus drivers.

If this is true, it would be one more step in their plan to sell off the bus depot for pennies on the dollar, the same way they have sold off elementary schools.The previous steps have included deliberate neglect of the bus fleet as a precursor to closing the depot. The drivers are innocent bystanders.

Even Superintendent Oustacher, who cooperated with the closing of the schools (to a point), was opposed to outsourcing all of the busing and closing the depot. He felt there was an advantage to having a mixture of some district owned and some outsourced busing.

However, this school board does not consider what is best for public education or what the stated mission of the district is, except as an afterthought. The primary focus of this board is advancing the cause of the yeshivas and the real estate investors. That is their unstated primary mission.

You are encouraged to come on August 8 to see for yourself if this rumor is true and to bear witness to the un-rehabilitated school board. Our goal is for the public mission of the school district to be the actual measure against which all district actions are measured.

3) Comparative Accountability

Compare these two scenarios:

  1. A lawyer curses at and threatens a student; a school board spends public dollars on private tuition; public schools are sold at below market value. – No one is held accountable.
  2. Students are subject to a zero-tolerance policy. – There are consequences when students violate the rules.

It seems that the more powerful one is, the less likely they are to be held accountable.

Consider this report from a student who was disciplined: “The Assistant Principal stated that if he did not (suspend me) it would seem as if he wasn’t doing his job.”

The state of New York has whitewashed the actions of the East Ramapo school board. Multiple “monitors” have done nothing while these illegal actions have gone on. Yes, it seems as if they are not doing their job.

Why the double standard? It seems that the more powerful one is, the less likely they are to be held accountable. Is this the model that we desire for our society? Is this will you want to teach our children? Persecuting the weak and protecting the strong is moral cowardice.

East Ramapo does not have a zero-tolerance policy for lawyers or board members or superintendents. It has a zero-tolerance policy for students. But students are immature and prone to make mistakes. Parents, guardians, and educators understand their role is to escort these young people through this mistake prone time of life, but too often our institutions’ single-minded focus on “zero tolerance” leads to them becoming part of the “school to prison pipeline”.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I was a volunteer with the PASS (Positive Alternatives to School Suspension) program. This was one of the many programs which fell victim to the cutbacks of the last several years. Suspended students reported to the Spring Valley RCC extension (now a yeshiva) and received tutoring in STEM, English and Social Studies, and even the Arts (I was teaching percussion instruments). It was an unforgettable experience for teachers, students, and volunteers. These were kids with similar stories to the report that I published here. Many did have a POSITIVE experience.

What are we willing, as a society, to invest in these kinds of endeavors? Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

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:


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.