“In a move to strengthen state oversight of the troubled East Ramapo school district, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski planned to introduce a bill Thursday that would give state-appointed monitors broad powers to reign in misguided school board decisions and ensure that the needs of children in the district’s public schools are represented.
Among those powers: the ability for monitors to override certain board decisions; scrap school board proposals and introduce their own resolutions for a board vote; and weigh in on decisions about hiring a new superintendent.
The monitor would also review the district’s budget and have the power to amend the spending plan to align with long-term academic and fiscal goals.
Zebrowski was involved in the original monitor legislation that failed to pass during its first attempt and then was watered down in an effort to get it through the then-GOP-controlled state Senate.
“Six years later, I am more confident than ever that the first Assembly bill was the right way to go,” Zebrowski said. “In the past six years, and in the six years before that, we have continued to see a district that fails to perform its most basic task: running a public school system in the best interest of the students.”
State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick said he plans to introduce the bill in the state Senate.
The bill’s introduction comes the same week the district began dozens of mid-year faculty and staff layoffs and on the heels of the first school board vote under a court-mandated ward system that is designed to ensure minority voters’ voices.
“The recent announcement of mid-year layoffs adds insult to so many mounting injuries,” Zebrowski said.
Monitors in some form have been present in East Ramapo for much of the last eight years, and via state legislation for six. However, current oversight and guidance is limited under the existing regulations.
Currently, monitors do not have authority to override the decisions of the board or district.
While the New York State Education Department has backed monitors in East Ramapo and other troubled school districts in the past, the legislation’s veto power appears unprecedented.
The bill was vetted, Zebrowski said, with the collaboration of the state Education Department.
“There is no doubt that this bill, like the last bill, will be controversial,” Zebrowski said. “But doing nothing, in the face of discrimination of black and brown students, is not an option. This bill will provide the oversight the students and parents in this district deserve, and have deserved for years.”
The state education commissioner, now Betty Rosa, would appoint the monitors.”
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