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.

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