Thursday, June 23, 2011

East Ramapo taps interim superintendent Joel Klein to lead district 

The East Ramapo Board of Education voted 5-2 Wednesday night to appoint interim Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein to lead the district.

Klein was hired with a three-year contract and a salary of $242,000. The board also voted to promote Assistant Superintendent Pedro Santana to a new K-12 education position that merges his current job with the assistant superintendent for curriculum.

"I want you to know we are all here for the children," Klein told the crowd of parents, students and residents that packed into the district's central administration building. "That's our priority. We are trying to make something better. We have to work together."

Klein is relatively new to East Ramapo, having been hired at the start of the school year as a director of special student services. He was appointed a temporary replacement for former Superintendent Ira Oustatcher on March 31.

The school board began an in-house search to fill the position in April, contacting all central administrators and principals in the district. Klein and Santana were the only two candidates to submit applications.

The board's approach came under heavy criticism Wednesday night, as about a dozen speakers criticized the superintendent search as hasty and too narrow.

"It has baffled me why the board hasn't interviewed more candidates," said Carlos Ortiz, 18, a student at Ramapo High School.

That criticism was repeated by board members Suzanne Young-Mercer and JoAnne Thompson, who did not vote for Klein's appointment. Members Moses Friedman, Moshe Hopstein, Morris Kohn, Eliyahu Solomon and board President Aron Wieder voted in favor. Wednesday's vote to appoint Klein deeply divided the room.

Members of the public school community held up "We Want Pedro" signs and booed the board's decision. Several said they wanted to see more diversity on the board, which is controlled by a six-member majority bloc of Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish members.

"I do not see diversity on this board," said PTA parent Carolyn Watson, 47, of Chestnut Ridge.


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