East Ramapo School District Board: The Harsh Reality

Let’s define the role of the local school board as described by The Center For Public Education:

“The local school board is a critical public link to public schools. Whether elected or appointed, school board members serve their communities in several important ways.

  • First and foremost school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school board’s agenda—it is the only item.
  • When making decisions about school programs, school boards incorporate their community’s view of what students should know and be able to do.
  • School boards are accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools.
  • School boards are the education watchdog for their communities, ensuring that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent.”      The Center For Public Education: What is the purpose of the local school board

Has the East Ramapo School District Board Looked Out For the Students?

The East Ramapo School District board’s “first and foremost purpose” is to look out for the students.  They are supposed to be their advocates, protectors and stalwart defenders to ensure they receive every penny of tax dollar necessary to ensure they get a quality education.  Education is supposed to be the only item of importance and not a line item to be cut, diluted, or compromised.

The East Ramapo School District has without debate looked out for the students of the private school community and arguably abandoned the students of the public school community.  Not only money but resources have allegedly been “mis-managed” from the $200 million dollar budget and re-allocated to fund the private schools of East Ramapo.

For instance, it has been alleged that new textbooks of other than the English language are resourced to the private school students to reinforce the preservation of a language other than English.  Whereas, the allegations continue that the ERSD Board have cut resources for public school students learning English as a second language.

In summation, the private school students were given the resources intended to teach limited English speaking students the English language; so the private school students can preserve and maintain their non-English language skills.

A Snapshot View of ERSD Students

80% of the East Ramapo public school elementary students are Latino and half of them require English as a second language to prosper in their education.   These same students have been passed on to the East Ramapo Public High Schools.   48% of the High School students who do not graduate or drop-out are Latinos.  The reason why is abundantly clear.  They were denied access to the resources intended to teach them English in order to prepare them for High School work and college.

Imagine the frustration of being a child eager to learn and demands being placed on them to pass test, but they are deaf.  They cannot hear a word you are saying.  Your lips are moving but they cannot grasp your message.   Then they are given a test and expected to pass.

100% of the private school students are taught two languages, tested in two languages and are provided with every conceivable resource to ensure they preserve their non-English language.   The decision reallocating these resources that created this situation was made by the East Ramapo School District Board.

“Hasidic parents say they want their Yiddish-speaking children in settings where they feel comfortable, and the district has fought—and lost—several court battles to defend its practice of heeding such requests. The report found the district spent 26% of its budget on special-needs students last school year, higher than the state average of 21%.”  [Lesley Brody – NYT]

A School Board is Accountable and Accessible

The East Ramapo School District Board close their meetings to the public.  Friction and contention between parents advocating for the needs of their children demand accountability from the board.  The Board in turn hired a law firm that charges 20 times more in legal fees than the neighboring School Board.

Here is perspective.  You take your two kids for lunch at a McDonalds for a Big Mac and Fries.  The East Ramapo McDonalds serves your kids a single patty burger and small fries because they are represented by this law firm that charges 20 times more than the other McDonalds next town over, who serves their kids Angus beef burgers.

Here is a video that demonstrates the quality of a ERSD Board:  CNN REPORTS EAST RAMAPO LAWYER PROFANE TIRADE AT PARENT   To date, this law firm is still retained by the East Ramapo School District board.

The Truth of the Matter is Racist Induced Child Abuse

The truth of the matter is not found in  the calculated diversion of anti-semitism propaganda videos or even a normal struggle over equitable distribution of resources between private and public school students.   What is happening to the children in question amounts to child abuse that is induced by an unspoken strain of racism.   The public school kids are comprised to a high percentage of Latino and Haitian’s, most of whom with parents that cannot vote.  They do not have the political clout of the parents from the private schools.   These kids are the most vulnerable, the most defense-less, the least prepared and are being denied academic enrichment.

There are generational links to language, linguistics, and literacy in American society.  Every wave of immigrant had to assimilate and their kids were taught English in public school.  Here in Rockland County, East Ramapo School District students are intentionally being denied this basic principle of education by their own school board members.   The specific victims of this child abuse happen to be children of Latino heritage.

This specificity of a group, singled out by ethnicity and suppressed to enrich another group by ethnicity is the text book definition of racism in action.  It is imposed by the power of the government over the weakest in our community.   When such usurpations of the fundamental principles of fair play and mean spirited disregard for the the law takes place, in full view of the apathetic blind eye of our own local law – makers; then it is righteous to remove those abusing their authority in a manner prescribed by law and by any such deed necessary to carry it out.

Why a Proposed State Monitor Is Pointless

Recently awakened politicians and opportune driven elected officials have rallied together, drawn by the savoring aroma of free press because some media outlets have begun to give this issue attention.  There are potential voters out there, so they have to appear as if they are doing something about it now, after ignoring it for years.  Hence comes the support for appointing a State Monitor, which is a step away from a full take over by the State.

The history of State takeovers in New York, like those that happened on Long Island, prove a track record of pointlessness and ineffectiveness.  The cure is worse than the disease.   The logic of a School Board composed of members from the community they wish to serve presupposes they are doing it because they sincerely care about the kids they are advocating for.

The voters and parents trust these board members to do what is right.  As we see in this case of East Ramapo School District Board members, they seem to advocate for one segment of the community at the expense of the other.  Despite coming from the same community, they appear to only care about their own immediate ethnic neighbors and cause some to feel that they harbor utter contempt for the rest.

As a matter of course the State Monitor cares for no one and is not guided by what is best for all concerned, but only for satisfying the requirements of the State, without sacrificing the political future of the political incumbents who sent them.   The resistance to the Monitor also will end up wasting precious time because by the time such a thing ever comes to pass the irreparable harm has been done.  Any firefighter will tell you they do not hold a debate and vote about when to go into the burning building and rescue the occupants.   Albany School Takeover Failed the Students

The report by the State Monitor Henry M. Greenberg issued a scathing rebuke of fiscal mismanagement, teetering on “disaster”, and stated they had “ripped the heart out of the academic program” for the public schools, while the private schools were wholesome.  Greenberg report: Monitor says ERSD Mismanaged

It is the conclusion of research and analysis that his report is not a reason for appointing a State Monitor whatsoever.  If these were the findings of an in depth District Attorney investigation, they would panel a Grand Jury, get indictments, and issue arrest warrants.  Why else would the East Ramapo School District board members pay these outlandish rates to this profanity versed  law firm just to intimidate parents and run interference for them, if they knew all they were doing was routine and legal?

If School Boards are the Watchdogs, What are you?

Where the entire Rockland County community should be up in arms about surpasses local political loyalties, party divisions, religious flavor, personalities, or individual animus toward any particular ethnic group.  Acknowledge that the root of the apathy why this abuse could take place against so many for so long, is the attitude of as long as it is not in my school district, against my kids.

What any fair minded reader and observer should be up in arms about is the holocaust of untapped human potential, the crushing of emerging human spirit, the abuse of defenseless kids, perpetrated upon by those impaneled to protect them and trusted to care for them.   A sense of simple decency should fuel an indignant rage boiling from the realization that this betrayal is equal to discovering that a pedophile ring was running a child day care center and your kid could have been a victim too.

About Anthony Mele

Tony Melé, MA, Diplomacy, International Conflict Management, BS, International Relations and Counterterrorism, is a Federal Firearms Licensee, New York Gun Dealer, and is a Defense Trade Broker licensed by the US Department of State, Office for Political-Military Affairs for International Traffic and Arms Regulations. He is U.S. Army Veteran. Mr. Melé is a Knight Templar, The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem - Priory of St. Patrick. **DISCLAIMER: The Opinions published on the ROCKLAND VOICE are that of each author and in no way represent the the views or perspectives of the SMOTJ / OSMTH**

About the Author
Tony Melé, MA, Diplomacy, International Conflict Management, BS, International Relations and Counterterrorism, is a Federal Firearms Licensee, New York Gun Dealer, and is a Defense Trade Broker licensed by the US Department of State, Office for Political-Military Affairs for International Traffic and Arms Regulations. He is U.S. Army Veteran. Mr. Melé is a Knight Templar, The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem - Priory of St. Patrick. **DISCLAIMER: The Opinions published on the ROCKLAND VOICE are that of each author and in no way represent the the views or perspectives of the SMOTJ / OSMTH**
  • Robert

    I am new to Rockland County after living in Manhattan for 20 years. What can be done by individuals to change the school board and support the students of East Ramapo?

    • AK

      Unfortunately, not much. There is a bloc vote influence within the district, which dilutes the political will of the rest of the district. Much like the Town of Ramapo, a ward-style system would be a good start to address the unbalanced representation.

    • Pisher Buck

      Robert,

      I see that you are new to Rockland, and therefore you dont realize that pretty much the whole drivel here is nonsense. Starts out his monologue with 2 allegations, and sums it up as fact. The rest is mass hysteria style oratory. Pay no mind.

      • Anthony Melé

        Pisher Buck: It is the habit of “pay no mind” that permitted this abuse to continue for so long. Pretending there is no problem does not make it magically disappear.

      • wlipman

        Pisher Buck…”Pisher” is Yiddish for, literally, someone who urinates. The vernacular is a “small boy”. Pisher Buck is, obviously, part of the problem, not the solution. This issue is not drivel, nor is it nonsense. If you have children, Robert, you are condemned at this point to educate them in private or parochial schools if you live in the town of Ramapo. If I were you, I’d move.

        • Anthony Melé

          Thank you.

        • Robert

          I don’t live in Ramapo. I am just shocked and concerned that this is happening to the students of a neighboring community. I think all of Rockland County should be up in arms, it’s outrageous.

      • Robert

        I am new to Rockland and it is hard to figure out what is going on up here. I can’t make heads or tales of which politicians, if any, have any sort of integrity and are concerned with representing ALL of the residents of the county. But what is plain as day is that there is blatant injustice and discrimination happening in the East Ramapo school system. I am shocked that this is happening in 2015 just 35 miles from New York City. This deserves national attention.

        • Phisher Buck

          Robert,

          I am sure you are intelligent enough to know that there is another side to this story. This rambling article was written by an intellectual lightweight. He has a MA in conflict management? I think he is mixing up his MA with his BS.
          Wait a minute,! he is a gun dealer!, now we know what his brand of conflict resolution looks like.

          • Robert

            I am not interested in the merits of this article. I am more interested in the students of East Ramapo and how their education is in the hands of a board who actively works against them. Please fill me in on the other side of the story, I am all ears.

          • Maggie

            Robert, I am also originally from NYC and moved to Orange County where there is similar trouble beginning to brew in Monroe. What we have is a huge population of bloc voters made up of Satmar men. Because they vote as a bloc, and ordinary citizens are complacent and don’t vote as they should, the voting bloc voted out the school board and voted themselves in. They then proceeded to gut the public school system, lay off teachers, sell off buildings at cut rate prices, and divert money into the private yeshivas. they have also bought politicians left and right and probably a few journalists, and the result is that we are surrounded by a mafia-like mentality in the region. it is a civil rights catastrophe. but people are starting to take notice, finally. thanks to social media, different communities are comparing notes, asking questions (and then being called anti-semitic for raising questions). that, in a nutshell is what is happening here.

  • aumrichin

    The only thing I would disagree with in this article is the requirement to teach in anything other than English. Bi-lingual education is not the way to insure that students can prosper in the US. If the native language is to be preserved the responsibility is the parents’ not the school’s

    • Anthony Melé

      The article does not advocate teaching “native” languages. It points out ESL is required to be taught to limited English speaking students. The “native” language resources are allocated by the school board to the private schools at the expense of the public school according to the NYT article cited in the story. [editor]

  • Peggy Hatton

    Tony, thanks for this very passionate piece. I agree that the Hispanic students are victims of this BOE and administration. They care not a fig what happens to these kids…they never ask what can be done to help. On the other hand, the Yiddish speaking students WERE BORN HERE and they are provided with Title lll funds from K-12 for English remediation. The public school kids are expected ‘to gain mastery level English in 3 years’!

    NYSED has always had to power to correct the ERCSD issues. All that is necessary is for the Commissioner to make a direct order to the board. When they disobey that order, he can remove them. But that takes courage…..something in very short supply in Albany! Meanwhile, our kids are held hostage in an inadequate education and poverty that follows the uneducated souls for the rest of their lives. ERCSD kids will remain a cheap labor force for their masters.

    • Anthony Melé

      Peggy: Some should take heed of your learned counsel. I wonder aloud if it is by design not unintended outcome that these kids are destined to be cheap slave labor.

  • aumrichin

    Bi-lingual programs are probably the biggest single reason many hispanics don’t get a mastery of English. They should be immersed into English with an addition of an English class daily.

    • Anthony Melé

      Agreed with you on this. Peggy explains it well.

  • Leeba Weisberg

    So Tony, if not a state monitor then what? What solution is there? If there’s a way to get these a-holes arrested, let’s go for it. But I don’t see that happening.

    • Anthony Melé

      The next installment will address the issue of options. 50% of the solution is identifying the problem. We welcome letters to the editor from all perspectives.

  • bf

    Could any of the board’s actions be considered criminal?

    • Anthony Melé

      “mis-management” of tax dollars in the millions? Selling school buildings less than appraised value by the millions? A string of anomalies that would attract or red flag the attention of any public trust investigator. Perhaps an investigation is warranted?

      • bf

        Like the Hillcrest appraisal bribe; Clarkstown gave a sweet deal to the appraiser but there has never been any further action on or even naming who paid the bribe. Zugibe and Schneiderman won’t touch it. Only hope is Preet. Waiting every day for CSL indictment.

    • Robert Ward Kurkela

      I believe this may turn out to reveal criminality. I notarized petitioner Steve White’s signature for this petition. I also served 2 ERCSD trustees and the ERCSD itself with this petition. Let’s see if justice wins in the end:

      http://www.lohud.com/story/news/education/2015/01/14/east-ramapo-parents-challenge-second-hillcrest-sale-yeshiva/21754505/

      • bf

        Is this within Zugibe’s domain?

  • Michael Sheib

    Couldn’t you make the argument that the East Ramapo School District is acting in the exact manner consistent with its statutory obligation to the voters? Since it has the largest percentage of private school students of any school district in the country, and since NY, unlike many other states elects school boards on a town and not county basis, it has been doing it’s everything possible to steer government dollars to their constituents. Since the school board represents a community which considers secular education not only unnecessary, but also an abomination, it has done everything consistent with the voters’ desire. BTW, have you seen the quality of secular education in Chassidic schools? Dalton, it’s not!!! Since the Chassidic community is insular and really wants public schools to disappear, the board has been acting in a manner consistent with its’ constituents’ wishes. Since the Chassidic communiity represents an overwhelming majority of the voters, 75+% of the children and closer to 90% of the economic activity in the school district, this isn’t going to change. Since the community votes in a block and has communities in other parts of the state, good luck seeing any change ever.

    FWIW, this is not a civil rights issue. There is not an issue of separate but equal. The Chassidic community rejects all outsiders, including most other types of Jews and would like to live in their own world, completely separated from everyone else. In their Nirvana, they would have their own town, (like New Square and Kiryat Joel) pay for their own services within the confines of their own community and that would be that. They reject the idea of breaking bread with other communities, period. Their feeling is, we don’t want to live near anyone else, so we want to make it as inconvenient for any other group to live here so they can move. Defunding schools is a good way of doing this. Since NYS law provides for certain services for private school services, they are going to take advantage of that wherever possible.