Power Of Ten Update 11/18/18: News on Appointed Monitor, Aid & ER Performance Measures

Power of Ten Special Update:

New East Ramapo Monitor Announced
With the announcement of a new monitor for the East Ramapo school board, it seems to be an appropriate time to review what has been happening in the district.
Notable Accomplishments
The announcement by the state education department about the new monitor contains a review of “notable accomplishments by the district”:
  • improved fund balance and improved reports from auditors and comptroller
  • capital improvement projects underway
  • full-day kindergarten for all students
  • elementary arts programming
The impact of these accomplishments on the lives of children in the district is admirable and should be applauded.
Information about the work of the monitors is available at: https://eastramapomonitorupdate.wordpress.com/
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)
(in millions)
2014
2016
% Change
State
85
99
16%
Local
145
140
– 4%
Federal
22
25
12%
Total Revenue
252
263
4%
Measuring Results
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.
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NYS Board of Regents 11/7/18: Press Release Re: Appointment of Second Monitor for ERCSD

NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   November 7, 2018
 Media Contact:
JP O’Hare or Jeanne Beattie
(518) 474-1201
www.nysed.gov

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.
Community members can contact the monitors directly by emailing EastRamapoMonitors@nysed.gov.

Preserve Ramapo 8/29/18: Julie Goldberg for NYS Senator in Rockland County

Julie Goldberg for State Senate–Sept 13 Primary

Hello Folks,

The September 13th primary is rapidly approaching and you can be sure that we will be making candidate endorsements across the political spectrum for all of the different parties holding electoral contests on that day.

For now, however, we want to draw your attention to the Democratic Primary for State Senate in the 38th district, which includes most of Rockland and a small piece of Westchester.

We strongly endorse Julie Goldberg for state senate in the 38th District. Her website is www.juliefornysenate.com Please check it out and join the energy and excitement of her campaign.

Julie Goldberg has the integrity, the intellect, and the resume so necessary to be our champion in Albany. As an educator, activist, and working mother of two sons, Julie’s life experience gives her the insight so critical to be an effective state senator fighting for the issues that really matter to us.

Preserve Ramapo has no intention of endorsing David Carlucci, in the general election.

Carlucci, is an effective campaigner, but cannot be trusted. He makes believe he is a progressive Democrat, but he has not been a reliable supporter of public education. Behind the scenes he supports the large developers who have done so much to destroy responsible housing in Ramapo.

Read more…

Lohud 9/5/18: Goldberg v. Carlucci in Rockland County NY Primary Contest

Carlucci-Goldberg primary: Candidates vying for Democratic mantle answer six questions

State Sen. David Carlucci, a well-financed New City incumbent, faces an aggressive grassroots challenge by educator Julie Goldberg of Chestnut Ridge for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 13 primary.

The county’s other Democratic Party primary is for the Spring Valley Board of Trustees between Zach Clerina and Yisroel Eisenbach.

In Suffern, Republicans Gina Bertolino, James Russo, and former Mayor James Giannettino are vying for two Board of Trustee seat in Novembers. For justice, Vincent Altieri and Justice Ernest Buonocore are seeking Democratic, Republican, Conservative and five other parties’ ballot spots.

The state moved the primary to Thursday, from its usual second Tuesday in September, because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

The Carlucci-Goldberg matchup tops the primary list in Rockland for District 38, which encompasses Rockland except for Stony Point and part of Haverstraw. and Ossining in Westchester County. Former Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef awaits as the Republican candidate in the Nov. 6 election.

Read more…

Power of Ten Report 9/10/18: Update on Cuomo’s Dealings with Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi, NYS Primary Vote & Rockland County District Candidates

Power of Ten reported the following on Sept. 10/18 about news affecting East Ramapo:

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Promises, Promises
2. Vote Thursday September 13
3. Local Election Information

1) Promises, Promises

According to reports in ultra-Orthodox media, Governor Cuomo promised the Satmar Rebbe in Brooklyn that he “would not interfere” in matters of education in the ultra-Orthodox sector, in return for the support of the Rebbe.

Power of Ten Readers will remember that earlier this year, Governor Cuomo did weaken educational standards at the request of the ultra-Orthodox.

However, his spokesperson would not confirm or deny whether Cuomo made the comments to the Grand Rebbe, and the Governor told Politico that he has no direct role in oversight and he is sure NY will fully enforce the education law for all schools.

The only logical conclusion is that either:

A) The ultra-Orthodox media is misrepresenting what Gov. Cuomo said,  Or

B) Gov. Cuomo is misrepresenting what Gov. Cuomo said.

All of this begs the question “Why would any elected official meet privately with a group that advocates for the educational neglect of children?”

2) Vote Thursday September 13

NY State Primary Election Day is Thursday September 13.

The issues in Albany that directly effect the educational experience of our children are: Funding and Oversight.

On both of these issues, the Democratic-led Assembly has delivered. They have passed bills which fully fund education and they passed the bill for a Monitor with Veto Power for East Ramapo. Assembly members Jaffee and Zebrowski were tireless in their advocacy for our issues.

On both issues, the Republican-led Senate has not delivered. Their funding bills have failed to meet the court ordered funding amounts and they failed to pass the bill for a Monitor with Veto Power for East Ramapo. Complicating matters in the Senate, Democratic Senator Felder and the “Independent Democratic Caucus” (IDC), which includes our own Senator Carlucci, have not supported the Democratic leadership’s version of the funding bills.

On both issues Governor Cuomo has not delivered. He has failed to fully fund and he has weakened educational standards.

Voting by itself is not enough, but it is an essential part of our struggle for Justice in East Ramapo. Power yields nothing without demand. Thursday’s trip to the voting booth is a chance for each of us to say “I am here, I matter, I will not be invisible.”

3) Local Election Information

The most hotly contested race is for NY Senate District 38, where Julie Goldberg is the challenger to incumbent David Carlucci.

There is a lot of good information on local elections from local media sources.

The Journal News: Carlucci-Goldberg primary: Candidates vying for Democratic mantle answer six questions

Preserve Ramapo: Julie Goldberg for State Senate-Sept 13 Primary

Williamsburg Patch 9/4/18: Cuomo Wins Endorsement of Grand Rebbe by Promising Not to Interfere with Schools

Gov Wins Endorsement By Promising To Leave Yeshivas Alone: Report

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo earned the endorsement of a powerful Hasidic community leader last week after he promised not to interfere with Yeshiva schools that are currently at the center of a controversial city investigation, according to multiple reports.

Gov. Cuomo assured Satmar grand rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum that “he would not interfere in Yeshiva education” when the pair met in Brooklyn on Thursday night, Yeshiva World and Hebrew-language blog BeChadrei Chareidim first reported.

The governor’s reported promise came about two weeks after the New York City schools chancellor said city investigators had failed to gain entry into 15 of 30 Orthodox schools to look into accusations, levied by the Young Advocates For A Fair Education, that secular subjects such as English and math were not being taught.

The meeting with Tietelbaum, leader of two large Hasidic congregations in Williamsburg and Queens, also came two weeks before the gubernatorial primary, in which Cuomo is slated to face off against challenger Cynthia Nixon.

Gothamist noted that the endorsement was a win for Cuomo, as Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities tend to vote as a bloc and wield strong political power in New York.

Read more…

NY Times 8/23/18: New York’s Yeshiva Students Deserve Better

New York’s Yeshiva Students Deserve Better

Elected officials should require Orthodox Jewish schools to meet legal standards.

By The Editorial Board

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.

CreditCreditCristóbal Schmal

In 2015, concerned parents, teachers and former students filed a complaint to New York City’s Department of Education charging that 39 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in the city failed to give children a basic education, violating state law that requires instruction to be “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools.

Three years later, virtually nothing has been done to hold the schools to legal standards, as politicians have ducked their responsibility rather than challenge leaders of one of the city’s most powerful voting blocs. In a city with low turnout in primary elections, candidates often covet the support of Orthodox communities, which tend to vote based on the guidance of religious leaders.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration says it has visited only 15 of those schools, called yeshivas, and been denied access to 15 others. It said nine others that were subjects of the complaint were either closed or didn’t offer K-12 education. A lawyer for a group representing the schools denies that investigators were barred and said the accusations were unfounded.

In the schools that investigators did manage to visit, they essentially confirmed the critics’ complaints. Many of these schools receive public funding.

Read more…