Mary Fox-Alter

East Ramapo monitor Mary Fox-Alter leaving district

“Mary Fox-Alter, a well-known education leader in the Lower Hudson Valley, takes over as interim superintendent in Ossining on July 1. She will leave her current job as a state-appointed academic monitor in the East Ramapo school district.

Fox-Alter said Tuesday her final day as monitor was being worked out.

The state Department of Education, which appoints monitors to East Ramapo, did not return a request for comment.

Fox-Alter’s departure in East Ramapo comes just after voters in that cash-strapped district once again rejected a budget plan.We’re all sad about Mary leaving,” East Ramapo school board President Shimon Rose said Tuesday. “Mary has been a great help to the district. She’s a real educator and we wish her well.”

Fox-Alter joined fiscal monitor Bruce Singer in East Ramapo in April 2022.

Key role in East Ramapo

The state Legislature voted in 2016 to install monitors in East Ramapo, and in 2021 heightened their powers, amid concerns of deteriorating fiscal and educational conditions in a district. Limited resources and competing needs have caused rising tensions in East Ramapo, where most of the 10,500 public school students are children of color and many English language learners. Meanwhile, some 35,000 children who live within East Ramapo’s boundaries attend private schools, mostly yeshivas that serve children in the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish community. The district is mandated to provide certain services to all students, including transportation.

The district’s budget is weighed down by growing transportation costs that now account for more than 20% of total spending. Repeated rejections by voters of tax levy hikes exacerbate the district’s fragile condition.

Singer and Fox-Alter in March wrote to the state Commissioner of Education warning that if school budgets kept failing at the polls, the district would face a $44 million deficit in five years.

Fox-Alter has become instrumental in discussing the need for local property taxpayers to invest in the district. She has repeatedly explained at school board meetings the importance of passing budgets and ensuring residents help fund the schools. She has likened education funding to a three-legged stool, with federal funding providing one leg of support, state funding another and local residents’ taxes the third. Without all three on solid ground, Fox-Alter’s analogy goes, the whole thing topples.

On May 16, East Ramapo’s 2023-2024 budget plan, which included a 1.99% tax levy hike, failed to pass by 45 votes, according to unofficial results.

The school board will announce at its June 6 meeting whether it will try again to win voter approval with the same or an altered budget plan. “We wish Ms. Fox-Alter all the best and thank her for her dedication and support to our East Ramapo students, staff and families,” East Ramapo schools Superintendent Clarence Ellis said Tuesday.”

Read the complete Journal News story here.