Thursday, August 27, 2015
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Editorial Board will sit down with two members of the East Ramapo monitor team, recently appointed by the state Department of Education. We'll discuss the team's work with Dennis Walcott and Monica George-Fields, and want to include your questions.
Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor and deputy mayor who once led the New York Urban League, has been tapped by SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to lead the deep-dive investigation into the troubled Rockland County school district. George-Fields is considered an expert in turning around failing schools; she's a former New York City school principal who now leads REACH, a private consulting firm that aids schools. The third member of the monitor team is John Sipple, a Cornell University professor and New York Rural Schools Association member.
In the best of circumstances, East Ramapo school district would face educational challenges; many public-school children are English language learners, and most come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. But a deep cultural divide creates more challenges, and tension.
The school board, run by members of the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish community who use private yeshiva schools for their children, has slashed budgets and mismanaged severely limited resources. Public-school parents accuse the board of favoring the yeshivas at the cost of public schools. A 2014 report by a state-appointed fiscal monitor echoed such concerns, and called for increased oversight, along with more state aid. State legislation to appoint a monitor — with real-time veto power over school board decisions — failed to pass in Albany.
The monitor team has pledged to have a strong presence in the district; indeed, Walcott and his team have already spent several days in the district, and Walcott and George-Fields attended a recent school board meeting.
We'll be asking about what the team has seen so far, what they still need to find out.
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