Since before taking office as County Executive, one of my most heartfelt priorities has been to secure much-needed help for the children of the troubled East Ramapo Central School District.
While county government does not have oversight of public school districts, I believe county leadership must advocate and act from the most prominent bully pulpit.
As County Executive, I have engaged regularly with our state delegation on the need for oversight in East Ramapo; I have attended meetings with Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, a group seeking transparency and fairness for the entire community; I have talked extensively with concerned East Ramapo faculty, students and parents.
I am pleased that we are finally seeing results.
Governor Cuomo last year appointed Hank Greenburg, a former federal prosecutor, to assess the East Ramapo school board’s conduct and fiscal management. He found that board members had shown favoritism to the Orthodox Jewish students who attend private schools in the district and recommended legislative action to give an appointee veto power over the board’s “bad decisions.” His findings didn’t reveal school board members acting “out of base or venal motives,” but rather “so influenced by the community from which they’ve come that it has blinded them to the needs of the entire community.”
While Greenburg stopped short of recommending a state takeover of the district, he uncovered deeply disturbing practices and an “inexcusable” lack of transparency by the board, resulting in fractured public and private school communities.
It’s clear that certain members of the board have not acted in the best interests of all children in the community.
Two weeks ago, Rockland County’s elected representatives in Albany unveiled a proposal to appoint a full-time state monitor to oversee the school district. Senator David Carlucci and Assemblymembers Ellen Jaffee and Ken Zebrowski based their measure largely on the Greenburg’s district assessment.
As a father, a PTA Life Award winner and longtime youth coach, I am keenly aware that our children are our greatest resource. I applaud our state legislators for their action and for joining in the fight to do what is right for all the children of East Ramapo.
Today, I call on my colleagues in the Rockland County Legislature to join in the fight and pass a resolution to fully support this critical legislation.
All county lawmakers must stand together for the families of East Ramapo. Empowering a state-appointed monitor will go a long way toward rebuilding trust between the public school community and school board.
We all must stand together for the families of East Ramapo.
In the months ahead, my administration will continue to push for reformed governance and sound fiscal management of the wounded school district. A stronger community in East Ramapo will undoubtedly build a stronger Rockland County. Divided we will fall.