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…

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President of Spring Valley NCAAP Speaks of Lawsuit at Nov. 16 NYCLU Press Conference

Willie Trotman, Spring Valley NAACP president, spoke at the NYCLU Press Conference on Nov. 16th announcing a new federal lawsuit against the East Ramapo Central School District. The lawsuit claims East Ramapo school elections violate voting rights and asks for the current system of electing board members to the East Ramapo School Board to be replaced with a ward election system that would give minorities “an equal opportunity” to elect their favored candidates.

New City Patch 11/21/17: NYCLU Suit Seeks Ward System for School Board Elections

Suit Seeks Ward System For East Ramapo School Board Elections

Acting on behalf of the Spring Valley NAACP and several school district residents, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the at-large method of electing members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education. They argue that the system unlawfully denies black and Latino citizens in the district an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

Read more…

NY Times 11/16/17: NYCLU Brings Action vs. ER District; School Board Elections Violate Voting Rights

East Ramapo School Elections Violate Voting Rights, Suit Claims

An at-large voting system for electing members to the East Ramapo school board — long dominated by Orthodox Jews whose children attend private yeshivas — has prevented public school parents who are largely black and Latino from electing candidates of their choice, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“What we have in East Ramapo is a common case of disenfranchisement of minority voters in the extreme,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York A.C.L.U. “The system allowed for the white community that does not send its children to public school to hijack the school board.”

Read more…

11/16/17: Press Conference to Announce NYCLU Action vs. ER School District

CONTACT:   NYCLU Press Office, 212.607.3372

THURSDAY: NYCLU Announces Action Against East Ramapo School District

NEW YORK CITY – On Thursday November 16 at 11 a.m. the New York Civil Liberties Union will hold a press conference to announce a new action regarding the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education.

The East Ramapo School District has been a site of contention for the last 10 years, as school board members have systematically reduced public school resources in order to lower property taxes and shift millions of dollars to private schools. The drastic cuts have led to a precipitous decline in school quality.

What:

Press conference to announce new legal action against the East Ramapo School District Board of Education.

When:

Thursday, November 16 at 11 a.m.

Where:

Offices of the NYCLU at 125 Broad Street, Floor 19, New York City 10004.

Who:

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman

NYCLU Legal Director Art Eisenberg

NYCLU Attorney Perry Grossman

Spring Valley NAACP President Willie Trotman

Affected residents of East Ramapo Central School District

Ultra-Orthodox Newspaper publishes an Oped Criticizing Organizers of YAFFED

On Nov. 13/17 the daily Ultra-orthodox newspaper published an oped article implicitly inciting violence against the organizers of YAFFED, the organization focused on improving the quality of secular education in Yeshivas.  The article equated providing secular education to stabbing a baby, using the term “Rodef” in his analogy, which is an ancient Jewish legal term that justifies killing as a defense.

There are many organizations advocating for better education.  YAFFED is one of these organizations, claiming in part that NY State has “turned a blind eye” to children in some yeshivas who are not learning “general studies”  – subjects most people know as English, Math, Science, and History.  Please visit www.yaffed.org  to learn about its work, sign their petition, contribute to their cause, like their Facebook page, or just send a message of encouragement.

Read the Oped in Hamodia…

 

 

 

Monitor Issues Update on ER Fiscal & Academic Progress 10/11/17

STATE EAST RAMAPO MONITORS PROVIDE UPDATE ON DISTRICT’S CONTINUED ACADEMIC & FISCAL PROGRESS

State Monitors of the East Ramapo Central School District today released a report that found the district is taking 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.

“Commissioner Elia worked with the State Monitors, the East Ramapo Central School District and the community to restore full-day kindergarten and elementary arts programs last year and a host of academic programs for this school year,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “The work must continue to improve the district’s fiscal and academic health.”

“With the help and guidance of our State Monitors, the East Ramapo Central School District continues to make great strides in improving academics and its financial position,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “With increased education opportunities, improved learning environments and better fiscal oversight, the district is addressing long-standing problems to help all students succeed.”

State Monitor Charles A. Szuberla, Jr. said, “Over the past year, John and I have had dozens of meetings with teachers, parents, administrators and community members. We’ve taken the feedback from these meetings to help the district craft and implement academic and financial changes to address the needs of the school district and community. We will continue to work with the district, the school board and the community to make improvements to provide students with the education they deserve and need to excel in life.”

In the report on the district’s progress, Monitors Charles A. Szuberla, Jr. and Dr. John W. Sipple noted the district collaborated with them and community stakeholders to develop and implement strategic and academic improvement plans. The fiscal improvement plan aligned fiscal resources with strategic academic plan, noted risks and liabilities, identified internal control improvement opportunities and examined long-term fiscal sustainability.

As a result of the work of the district that is included in the plan, the district:

Increased its General Fund unassigned fund balance by $4.3 million as of June 30, 2017 from the previous year;

Restored full-day kindergarten for all students and elementary arts programming using a $3 million grant from New York State;

Provided additional academic opportunities in the 2017-18 budget including:
– offering summer academies in music, computer science, health science, extended school year for K-8 students and interrupted instruction for grades 9 & 10;
– expanding English as a New Language and bilingual instruction;
– adding a STEAM program;
– strengthening special education instruction; and
– increasing teacher supports;

Embarked on a $58 million capital improvement plan to address the district’s most critical infrastructure needs; and

Strengthened its financial management practices, implemented an improved accounting policy and vigorously monitors expenditures.

Both the State Comptroller and Moody’s Investor Services, Inc. recognized the district’s improving fiscal condition. The Comptroller rates and groups districts into one of four fiscal risk categories: Significant Fiscal Stress, Moderate Fiscal Stress, Susceptible Fiscal Stress and No Designation. The Comptroller upgraded the categorization of East Ramapo from significant stress in the prior two years to moderate fiscal stress in January 2017. Moody’s Investor Service upgraded the outlook for the District from negative to stable for general obligation bonds in July 2017. The District’s Baa2 bond rating remains and reflects ongoing weakness in the District’s financial position, despite recent balanced budgets.

In addition to continued focus on improving instruction, the monitors recommended that the district improve transparency and communication with the community regarding the District’s fiscal matters by creating a Budget Advisory Committee and developing regular methods of communicating with the community on the actions the district is taking to improve academically and fiscally. Further, the monitors recommend the district review its nonpublic student textbook loan program and that the board convene a work group to examine nonpublic school transportation. Finally, the monitors recommend the Board of Education work with the monitors to convene community meetings this fall to gather input from the entire community to help inform whether any changes to polling site locations are needed.

Commissioner Elia appointed Mr. Szuberla and reappointed Dr. Sipple as State Monitors in August 2016. Pursuant to legislation enacted in June, Szuberla and Sipple have monitored District operations, including fiscal and operational management and educational programming. They also have provided guidance, recommendations and proposed actions to the District and State Education Department for improvements to ensure that students have access to appropriate programs and services and that the District is on a path to fiscal and programmatic stability.