Letter to Editor
December 5, 2014
The State’s fiscal monitor, Hank Greenberg, had delivered his report on the deplorable conditions in the East Ramapo School District laying much of the blame right at the door of the Board of Education (the door was closed—they were in Executive Session). What followed was a curious response sent to Governor Cuomo, purportedly written by the Board President Yehuda Weissmandl. In the letter, Weissmandl tap-danced between a “Who me?” defensive stance, an almost conciliatory “Special Monitor? We’ll think about it,” all the while humming a refrain from the Everly Brothers “Don’t Blame Me.”
At the very opening of the letter, Weissmandl begins with this declaration:
Affirmative Aspects of the Report – With regard to the affirmative elements of the report, the following points are significant: The report found no illegality by the board. This is a critical finding. There was a perception that the Board of Education had acted illegally or unethically. There were all kinds of allegations of impropriety by the board, but the monitor found no such conduct.
Turn on the projector and this slide from Greenberg’s presentation kind of jumps out at you:
“Systematic violation of State Law” … hmmm. “Legally indefensible” …. really! Perhaps the only explanation, other than the disturbing possibility of a conscious attempt to be less than truthful, is that Yehuda is clueless and has no idea of what the Department of State of New York requires for public board meetings, and he and his cohorts on the board require training and annual updates.
And then there’s also this in Greenberg’s report:
Aspects of the District’s Special Education Program are noncompliant with state and federal law.
So the Board is also currently in violation of federal as well as New York State law, and an “enforcement action” has been put in place. Weissmandl continues in the letter:
The monitor went further to say that he found no evidence that board members had acted with anything but the best intentions.
Well, if the board and Weissmandl have nothing but the best intentions for the public, how do you explain the following?
And when their lawyers threaten parents and students, and curse at and denigrate parents, as in this incident (click here for the Kirby’s Parking Lot legal sidebar), and the State Senator and Assembly reps demand the removal of the law firm, their response is to do the following:
Or perhaps we are all missing the point. Maybe the Board and Weissmandl are acting with the best intentions, it’s just that we have neglected to consider for whom they are acting:
There is an abundance of criticism of Weissmandl and his Board regarding fiscal mismanagement. Greenberg lays it out in very simple terms:
Look at the third bullet on this slide. The District was offered $3.5 million from the state, and they rejected the money because it comes with oversight attached. How do you justify actions like this?
As to who or what Weissmandl blames for the financial crisis in the District, he offers the following in his letter to the governor:
When faced with a budget deficit, the board has only two choices: Raise taxes or cut spending. As the monitor noted, the district’s voters repeatedly defeated school budgets containing substantial tax increases. This left the board with no choice but to cut spending.
It’s the voter’s fault, don’t look at us. But who are these voters turning down budget after budget? Here’s Greenberg’s take on the situation:
How is this different from the defense strategy of the young man who killed both parents and then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan?
Who Penned this Letter to the Governor? Here’s a clue. Read these lines:
This foregoing commentary, which we hope people will regard as measured and reflective, leads to a difficult matter—the matter of oversight for the district. We’re thankful that the monitor concluded that a state takeover is not warranted. We’re troubled, though, by the notion that the district needs a mechanism to supersede the authority of the elected members of the board.
OK, now here’s the question. Which of the following most likely wrote this letter:
- A lawyer (like the one they said they would fire),
- A Public Relations person (like the one the board recently hired), or
- Yehuda Weissmandl.
Send your answers to: Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo Executive Chamber Albany, New York
[For further information on Castelluccio’s activism in Rockland County see this article from 2007 entitled Culture Clash]