“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.
Under the new bill, East Ramapo’s monitors would also be empowered to:
- Participate in budget reviews with the state education commissioner, who would have to approve the district’s spending plan before it faces voters.
- Work with the district on developing the academic improvement plan, financial plan, district goals, implementation of district priorities and budgetary recommendations.
- Call a school board meeting to have the board address a resolution that the monitor can put forth.
- Participate in resolving conflicts between the board and administration or among board members.
- Mandate the board adopt a new conflict-of-interest policy and ensure its enforcement.
- Receive board meeting agendas and copies of any resolutions prior to meetings, which implies they have not had access to such information in the past. The bill would empower the monitors to remove any such items.
- Direct the board, superintendent or staff to undergo training. Past monitor reports have urged the school board to undertake diversity training, or as the last monitor’s report stated, participate in training “related to adopting a mindset that all children can learn.”
Read the complete Journal News story here.