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Hudson Valley News

Rockland County Exec Meets With NYS Senators About East Ramapo Legislation

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Courtesy of the Rockland County executive's office
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The Rockland County executive headed to Albany this week for a meeting with the New York state Senate majority leader and two other senators. His trip was to voice support for proposed legislation to provide state oversight of the troubled East Ramapo Central School District.

Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day Monday met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos; Chair of the Senate Education Committee John Flanagan; and Hudson Valley Senator Bill Larkin, all Republicans, to express support for proposed legislation to authorize the education commissioner to appoint a state monitor to oversee the East Ramapo Central School District.

“The concern that was expressed by the senators was that they could not accept a proposal that would usurp the decision-making authority from a Democratically-elected school board,” says Day. “And I agree to that but with the very clear understanding that this would not usurp the authority of a Democratically-elected school board. It would provide insurance that a school board acts in a Democratic manner. And that really is what the key is.”

The proposed legislation says the monitor would have the power to override actions of the school board and superintendent. David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat, is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, and Larkin is one of three co-sponsors. Democrat Ellen Jaffee is the bill’s Assembly sponsor. The legislation introduced in February was prompted by a November report from a state-appointed fiscal monitor who noted that some 24,000 of the 33,000 school-age children in the district attend private Yeshivas, while 91 percent of the remaining 9,000 are African American and Latino.

Day made the trip with a few other Rockland residents in tow, including new state Board of Regents member Judith Johnson and Rabbi Adam Baldachin, who is with Rockland Clergy for Social Justice. Again, Day.

“We believe that it comes to two things. It’ll hopefully put the finances on an even keel, which is not what’s happening now, and it will also provide for a situation, we could have somebody come in and bridge the divide that clearly is there. That’s the key issue right now,” says Day. “The shouting has gotten so loud that I believe strongly a mediator of some sort is really called for because with shouting, people don’t hear. And I think someone with the authority to make people sit at a table and hear each other, I think that would be a good thing for all the families and all the children.”

School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl has previously said he was disappointed with the proposed legislation because it did not focus on the underlying problem of inadequate funding. He said the legislation speaks to a continuing misconception in the community that the school board acted improperly in the past. Assemblywoman Jaffee, in a statement, says the state Education Department has relayed to her that it was “not aware of any provision in the state constitution that would be violated by the proposed oversight legislation.” A state Education Department spokeswoman says the legislation is consistent with the recommendations contained in the fiscal monitor’s report, which were fully supported by the Board of Regents.

Patrick Schraa is Senator Larkin’s policy director. He says Larkin is amenable to rewording some of the bill’s language.

“Yes, Senator Larkin is open to looking at the legislation,” says Schraa. “We’re open to working with Senator Carlucci’s office to come up with language that works for everybody involved.”

He says he and Larkin have heard concerns from both Rockland residents and state lawmakers.

“We’ve met with different individuals from Rockland County who were, had concerns for the legislation, and including the meeting with Ed Day where the senate majority leader and the education [committee] chairman issued concerns with some of the wording in the legislation as well,” says Schraa.

Day says in response to concern about wording surrounding a state-appointed monitor’s power to override actions of the school board and superintendent, he and others in the county have been further researching the matter -- looking into past related actions by the state education department, for example.

“And again this is just natural follow up to cross a couple of t’s and dot a couple of i’s and we will be responding back to the senators in short order,” Day says.

He believes any concerns about the proposed legislation are surmountable. Requests for comment from Skelos and Flanagan, and the East Ramapo Board of Education were not returned in time for this broadcast.

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