Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pine Bush board to explore zoning district over concerns of bloc vote 

Could a bloc vote of new Hasidic voters in Bloomingburg take over the Pine Bush Board of Education?

Because many residents of this district that encompasses Bloomingburg fear that could happen, the Pine Bush school board has asked Superintendent Joan Carbone to explore how board members could be elected to represent particular zones in the district, not the district as a whole — a move that apparently would mean changing state law.

This way, each zone would elect a representative, and no zone would have more power than another.

"It's about the Village of Bloomingburg, but it's also about limiting the power of one segment of the population over the power of another segment," said Kahrs, one of many residents who spoke out for the move at Tuesday's packed Pine Bush school board meeting.

He points to the East Ramapo Central School District in Rockland County, a public district with a school board of ultra-Orthodox members.

"We can take that as a learning tool and be proactive," said board member Roseanne Sullivan, who is also an Orange County legislator. She said board members will collect opinions on the possible move from the public.

But Kahrs also said such a move would make particular sense in Pine Bush, which draws students from seven towns over three counties — although the effort might be complicated by a lawsuit claiming the district tolerated anti-Semitism — allegations that Pine Bush is vigorously fighting.

"When you have a unique district like Pine Bush, where everyone in those towns pays different taxes, why can't each municipality have a different representative?" Kahrs asks.

The problem is, state law doesn't allow a district to do that, said Carbone. "It's impossible to do it without changing the law."

Carbone and board Vice President Judith Pulver also stress that regardless of district geography, the board represents the entire community.

"And we look out for the best interests of all of our students," said Pulver.

Still, Kahrs plans on targeting state legislators with a letter-writing and lobbying campaign — even though he admits the chances of success are "slim."

"We need to protect the public education system," he said.


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