Sunday, March 27, 2016

East Ramapo: Advocates seek statewide monitor support 

Advocates for East Ramapo public school students are asking for — and receiving — support from school systems and municipalities statewide for a monitor to oversee the troubled Rockland district.

But that support does not extend to the district's own backyard.

The Spring Valley Board of Trustees declined this week to pass a largely symbolic measure supporting the call for the state Legislature to appoint a monitor for East Ramapo.

"It's shameful," said longtime community activist Betty Carmand, who asked the board to consider the resolution. "It's the children of Spring Valley who are suffering."

Mayor Demeza Delhomme voted in favor of passing the resolution, as did Trustee Emilia White, the deputy mayor.

But three other trustees, the majority of the board, declined to vote on the measure. Trustees Asher Grossman, Vilair Fonvil and Sherry McGill abstained, each claiming the issue was not part of the board's responsibilities.

“It’s about children,” Delhomme said after the vote. “Let’s show that we stand with the children. I am shocked they did not vote for it.”

He sent a letter the following day to state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, stating his support for the measure.

Supporters hope the wide show of support will add power to the argument that the state Legislature should appoint a monitor to East Ramapo. Two reports by experts appointed by the state have also recommended a monitor with the power to veto decisions made by the school board, which both reports criticized for mismanagement.

The Board of Education is dominated by Hasidic and Orthodox men who send their children to private schools. The reports confirmed the claims by public school advocates that the board has favored the needs of private school students over public school students.

The board is against a monitor, maintaining that members were elected by the voters of the district to represent them.

A proposal before the last session of the state Legislature to appoint a monitor with veto power passed the state Assembly but stalled in the Senate.

At least six school districts on Long Island have passed resolutions in support of a monitor.

Long Island is being targeted because that is where Flanagan lives, said Andrew Mandel, a leader of Strong East Ramapo, a volunteer advocacy group.

"We wanted to demonstrate to him that even districts in his own backyard saw East Ramapo as an extraordinary situation that threatened public education and deserved the serious state attention proposed by two separate studies," he said.

One of the districts that has supported the East Ramapo measure is the Three Village Central School District, which is part of Flanagan's district.

Rockland legislators in both parties voted to support the measure.

All 13 members of the Rockland Legislature voted in favor of the resolution at the board's last meeting. Four Ramapo Democrats  —  Aron Wieder, Ilan Schoenberger, Philip Soskin and Alden H. Wolfe  — did not attend. Wolfe later said he supported the measure but was too ill to attend the meeting.


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