“The East Ramapo school community is mourning the death of Patricia Simmons, the longtime principal of Fleetwood Elementary School in Chestnut Ridge. Simmons, 63, died Dec. 27 of cancer. She had been principal at Fleetwood Elementary since 2001, earning a reputation as a forceful advocate of students and teachers during a period of widespread cuts and turmoil in the troubled district.Speaking on Sunday, daughter Dara Simmons said her mother had a strong belief that the American public education system should be a “stepping stone.” At Fleetwood, that meant celebrating diversity and pushing academic achievement among its 500 or so students, many from immigrant families.” Complete Journal News story here.
“Mayor Jeffrey Oppenheim plans to resign in early January from the post he has held for nine years and move out of the village. Deputy Mayor Lance Millman will become acting mayor until the Board of Trustees holds its next meeting on Jan. 20. [Read more…]
Community View–The Journal News by Bruce Levine December 30, 2015
Fix state aid, find more revenue for education, respect freedom of religion issues. But East Ramapo school board still needs a monitor, with veto power
Dennis Walcott, who led an East Ramapo monitor team appointed by the state education commissioner, recently issued a report that, like a previous report by fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg, called for passage of state legislation that would create a strong state monitor for the troubled school district. [Read more…]
“Senate Majority leader, Flanagan is blocking legislation that passed the NY State Assembly, and that Governor Cuomo has said he would sign. This legislation is a compromise bill, which instead of removing the board and taking over the district would simply speed up the process of oversight by the State Education Department. Senator Flanagan thinks the history of failure to hold the East Ramapo school board accountable is proof that they don’t need more oversight. I think he is wrong, and I hope he will change his mind.
Here is a proof that more oversight is needed:
The East Ramapo school board tried to use the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) as an excuse to use public funds to pay tuition in private religious schools. The NY State Dept. of Education (NYSED) found this was a violation of federal and New York state laws and regulations. The NYSED findings were upheld by the New York State Supreme Court and the NY Court of Appeals. Since the excuse of following the IDEA was invalid, transferring taxpayer funds to private religious schools was a violation of the fiduciary responsibility of the board. [Read more…]
“A state Supreme Court judge has rejected neighbors’ request to stop Ramapo from selling what they believe is a portion of Manny Weldler town park to a developer. But the residents aren’t giving up the fight yet. Justice Victor Alfieri ruled in favor of Ramapo this week, apparently agreeing that the 5.64 acres at 24 Grosser Lane has never been part of Weldler park, even though paved walkways on the property are connected to the park.” Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Public safety codes are routinely ignored inside Rockland County’s non-public schools and little is being done to curb the problem, a **News 12** investigation has found. Rockland’s fire coordinator Gordon Wren says local religious schools have failed to meet fire codes, which he calls “ticking time bombs.” “Most of these codes have dead bodies behind them,” Wren told News 12. He says the fire codes are ignored by dozens of private schools. News 12 spent the past four months investigating the safety of Rockland’s private schools. Many fire safety records were outdated, incomplete or missing and some school officials refuse to comply with the law. News 12 investigative reporter Tara Rosenblum confronts the code violators and finds out who should be enforcing the rules. You can read the reports and access the video coverage played over two days in December here.
Would a ward system where school-board members are elected from specific neighborhoods benefit the East Ramapo district? Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, suggested Thursday that he may consider legislation that would switch the school board’s elections from a town-wide vote to a district-by-district vote. Doing so would better ensure that the various communities within the large district are represented on the board, he said. “Perhaps we should go to a district or a ward-type system, where you give all the communities in that school district the ability to elect a representative,” Zebrowski said on The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio show. That’s another way we could go. Read the complete Journal News story here.
Global Credit Research – 21 Dec 2015 New York, December 21, 2015 — Summary Rating Rationale
Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed the Baa2 rating of East Ramapo Central School District, NY’s $10.9 million in outstanding general obligation debt secured by an unlimited tax pledge. The outlook remains negative.
The Baa2 rating reflects ongoing weakness in the district’s financial position, despite recent improvement. Given its limited liquidity, the district is a regular issuer of cash flow notes to fund operations. The rating also incorporates the district’s substantial tax base, average wealth levels, and minimal debt burden with rapid amortization of principal. [Read more…]
By Yochonon Donn on Hamodia.com
Efforts to impose a state override on an Orthodox- majority school district has anti-Semitic overtones and we’re not doing it, the leader of the New York State Senate told an Agudath Israel of America gathering.
John Flanagan, the upper chamber’s majority leader, said at the Lawrence event Thursday night that installing a veto-empowered monitor at the East Ramapo school board was both unconstitutional and unprecedented in the state. [Read more…]
Robert I. Rhodes Community View in The Journal News
Re “‘Opportunity Deferred’: 19 reforms for E. Ramapo,” Dec. 14 article:
The East Ramapo school board needs a monitor with veto power to protect it from its own constituency. For years, the school board did everything possible to hold down taxes and provide its own Hasidic community with universal busing and appropriate education for its special education students while it told its constituents that any complaints coming from the public school community were unfair and motivated by anti-Semitism.
This message had no real costs for the religious community until national media got involved, clergy organized and went to Albany to complain and the lawsuit of public school parents against the school board progressed to the point where it has become a real threat.
Finally there was also the realization that the deferred maintenance on school buildings could no longer be ignored but a $40 million bond for school maintenance proposed by the board could not survive withering criticism.
Until now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sat on his hands knowing that while the monitor bill might pass in the Democratic New York Assembly his Republican allies in the Senate would kill the bill.
It will be interesting to see if New York State’s large and growing Hasidic community will allow a real monitor bill to pass in the Senate. In the meantime let us hope that our East Ramapo school board will work to get us out of the hole it created. We must all work together to save our schools.
The writer is chairman of Preserve Ramapo.