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January 03, 2013

Updated: State Says Sale Of East Ramapo School To Haredi Yeshiva Can Go Through

East Ramapo School Board partialEighteen months after being asked to rule that the East Ramapo Board of Education’s sale of the Colton Elementary School for $6.6 million to the Congregation Bais Malka/Hebrew Academy for Special Children null and void because the the board allegedly did not make a good-faith effort to get the best price possible, New York State’s Education Commissioner John King has dismissed the challenge to the sale, causing critics of East Ramapo’s scandal-ridden school board to cry foul.

East Ramapo School Board partial

State Says Sale Of East Ramapo School To Haredi Yeshiva Can Go Through
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com

Eighteen months after being asked to rule that the East Ramapo Board of Education’s sale of the Colton Elementary School for $6.6 million to the Congregation Bais Malka/Hebrew Academy for Special Children null and void because the the board allegedly did not make a good-faith effort to get the best price possible, New York State’s Education Commissioner John King has dismissed the challenge to the sale, the Journal News reports, causing critics of East Ramapo’s scandal-ridden school board to cry foul.

The challenge was filed in 2011 by Carole Anderson, a retired New York City public school teacher and administrator who lives in nearby Wesley Hills.

In decision dated Dec. 24 but only made public Wednesday, King asserts Anderson did not “meet her burden of proof.”

“… I am unable to find the Board’s sale of Colton for $6.6 million was for less than fair market value or was otherwise improper and, consequently, am unable to overturn it,” King wrote in a 14-page decision.

King also denied Anderson’s request to remove six haredi board members who supported the sale.

Anderson can appeal King’s decision by filing an Article 78 appeal in state Supreme Court.

According to LawNY.org, her appeal would have to meet one of the following criteria.

1. King didn't follow his own agency’s rules when it made the decision.
2. The decision was "arbitrary and capricious” – meaning the decision is not reasonably related to the facts of the case.
3. King’s decision was not supported by "substantial evidence” – evidence that a reasonable person would accept as enough to support the agency's decision.

“New York courts very often decide in favor of the agency if the agency has written down some reason for its decision, even if many people would think the decision was wrong,” LawNY.org’s website notes.

Anderson now sends her 8-year-old grandson to a Catholic school because of the problems with Ramapo’s once excellent public schools.

“That’s because I feel very strongly that I believe in quality education and I don’t feel that the children at this point are receiving a quality education,” she reportedly said.

The timing of King’s decision is suspicious because East Ramapo had until Wednesday to provide the state with details of how it intended to get out of its more than $8 million. It apparently did not do it.

Peggy Hatton, an area resident and anti-current-school-board activist whose son attends high school in the district, points out that the Colton sale will bring East Ramapo’s Board of Education only $2,627,038. The rest of the $6.6 million sale already went to inducements to the haredi buyer – including counting its rent as mortgage payments, so the haredi school essentially gets three years of free use of Colton Elementary if the sale goes through.

Still, just over $2.6 million will go a long way toward eliminating the board’s deficit, which is why the timing is so suspicious – especially because of who the board’s major creditor is.

“I find the timing to be suspicious since the district was given until Jan. 2 to submit a plan to fix the insolvency brought on by poor management of the district,” Hatton told the Journal News in an email. “Was this decision made now only because East Ramapo owes BOCES [Boards of Cooperative Educational Services in New York State] millions of dollars? The public school students are the ones who suffer.”

Parents strongly objected to the closing of Colton in 2009. But the haredi-dominated school board insisted it was necessary due to dropping enrollment. Parents questioned their data. Parents lost.

Since then the student population in East Ramapo has increased, not decreased. Class sizes had to be increased to handle the increased load.

COMPARABLE SCHOOL SALES THIS FALL (Compiled By Peggy Hatton):

1. 360 New Hempstead Rd: Sold for $6,925,000. 9/5/2012, 6.7 acres. (former Rueben Gittlemen)

2. 70 Highview Rd: Sold for $7,000,000. 8/30/2012, 5.43 acres. (converted residence on a double lot)

3. COLTON ELEMENTARY: Sold for $6,6000,000, 21+ acres. (Less $36,000 electrical, less $100,000 repaving, less $250,00 asbestos removal, less $881,437 EXCEL refund to NYSED, less $2,705,525 rent credit = only $2,627,038 net to ERCSD!)

Update 9:32 am CST According to Preserve Ramapo, the appraised value of Colton Elementary at the time of the sale was $11,966,758.

The "rent credit" Hatton referenced above appears to be a combination of overdue rent HASC and the yeshiva did not pay plus loss of revenue to the school board from breaking the lease. The total of that is $2,705,525.

Here is a synopsis of Anderson's petition to King that details much of this taken from the Preserve Ramapo website:

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was made after the school was sold. The RFP seeks higher bids, which will be opened on July 27, 2011.

Board President Aron Wieder has a child in Bais Malka. Wieder recused himself from the vote on the sale, but he then signed the "flawed and preferential contract with Bais Malka."

"Town of Ramapo Real Property Assessment has a market value of the Colton School Property being sold at $11,966,758 as of July 1, 2010."

"The District has at least two appraisals for this property on file and has not released these appraisals through FOIL request. The value of the appraisals was not properly and publicly taken into consideration by the board members."

There are still three years remaining on the lease of the school to Bais Malka and HASC. During that time, prompt payment of $58,515 monthly would produce almost the same amount as the adjusted sale price of the school to the same parties. "The district would lose revenue from this lease in the amount of $2,705,525 without any additional compensation for termination of the lease."

It’s apparent that "preferential treatment has been provided to Bais Malka and HASC, to wit, the provisions of the current lease agreement were not enforced in regards to late and/or missing lease payments."

The Board has not made a good faith attempt to obtain the best price for the school by the limited exposure in the market place (limited posting of the RFP).

"The property was not listed with any broker; it was sold and then put on the market in the form of a Request for Proposal only."

"Excel funding may need to be paid back to New York State. The board has not considered this impact on the actual amount the district would net from the sale of the school."

"Yehuda Weissmandel has improperly served on the board and voted upon the sale of the Colton School. Weissmandel has neither been appointed by the board nor elected to any seat in the current school year. He was elected to succeed Nathan Rothschild (the indicted board president) in his seat which expires on June 30th. Weissmandel’s term for which he was elected starts on July 1, 2011."

"Board members Moses Friedman, Moshe Hopstein, Morris Kohn, Eliyahu Solomon, and Yehuda Weissmandel have ignored directions about selling school district property from prior decisions from the Commissioner (Appeals #16239 White and #16153 Hatton). These board members have abused their fiduciary responsibilities by approving the sale to Bais Malka and HASC prior to the issuance of the RFP." A member of a board of education may be removed from office pursuant to Education Law §306 when it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the board member has engaged in a willful violation or neglect of duty under the education law or has willfully disobeyed a decision.

Anderson's entire petition as a PDF file.

Update 1:08 pm CST – Here is King's decision as a PDF file:

Download Colton Elementary Sale NYS King Decision

Comments

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This is a completely one sided article. how fair. how honest. You really are starting to resemble Gossip Girl.

The falste statement "Peggy Hatton, an area resident and anti-current-school-board activist" Really? the Grandview short cut saga was also organized by her. Be honest - call her what she really is - another f****** anti-Semite.

And here she is "worried" that the jews got a "free rent" for 3 years. costing is excess of 2 million dollars. If 2 million dollars would have bothered her, why did she file a lawsuit against the board that ended costing the board "more than 2 million dollars"

You and her are made of the same scum - and have the motives.

causing critics of East Ramapo’s scandal-ridden school board to cry foul.

In other words what did the critics do ... Whine Again

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2013/01/caught-breaking-the-law-haredim-whine-again.html

Your comps are not good comps because you never saw the properties. Just because it's a school in the same county does not mean they are equal value.

The demographics of Ramapo should be taken into effect. If there are few goyim available to attend the public school, what's the point of keeping the school open?

The demographics of Ramapo should be taken into effect. If there are few goyim available to attend the public school, what's the point of keeping the school open?

Posted by: Sk | January 03, 2013 at 07:36 AM

Do you read?

Try going back and re-reading the article. Do it slowly. You'll notice enrollment is up, not down, and the entire pretext for selling the school to begin with seems to have been bogus.

She's lying as se always does! And ur quoting the lyers as u always do. The school is no way getting $2.7m in rent credit.

The sale was supposed to go thru 18 months ago. U had a seller and u had a buyer. Then came the anti Semites and requested a stay. Preventing the buyer from completing the sale when the buyer did nothing wrong. The commissioner ruled: any rent provided AS OF THE DAY THE BUYER WAS READY TO CLOSE, shall go towards rent. And that can not be $2.7m since the buyer is not one lease rate of such astronomical figures.
Let me see u revise the article now that u've been made aware of the truth.

As far as I'm concerned, the numbers don't really matter because there will always be a hundred ways to spin it. The problem doesn't arise from the price, the problem arises from the board of education being run by people who have no stake in the success of the public education system - they seem to benefit more from its failure. In corporate law, when a controlling majority wants the corporation to make a deal that benefits the majority, they need to create a process that is fair to the minority, regardless of where the price ends up. Here, the board should have hired a completely independent entity to evaluate the school, and to seek buyers for the property (if that happened, there's not much to complain about). As long as that doesn't happen, public school parents will have a right to complain regardless of the price that was paid for the school.

omg
my heart goes out to all the non jewish students.
the hasidim DO NOT CARE ABOUT THEM.
omg
end result....an entire building that housed these non jewish students
is being sold.
omg

It's something to consider: up here in Canada almost every public official is appointed. That means if you get some idiot with an agenda you're stuck with him no matter how crappy he makes things.
On the other hand you guys vote for every position imaginable. In theory that should produce more accountability but instead you get special interest groups hijacking things like school boards.
What's worse?

less $2,705,525 rent credit

this needs to investigated or explained in more detail


and why these

(Less $36,000 electrical, less $100,000 repaving, less $250,00 asbestos removal, less $881,437 EXCEL refund to NYSED


Posted by: seymour | January 03, 2013 at 09:27 AM

on the surface it seems a bogus way to inflate the price to make it look good

Garnel - That's why we have Courts reviewing so much. I wonder what it would take to get a Federal lawsuit in this case.

This is very good news for the children. There is not enough yeshivas to handle the number of yeshiva students forcing some to go to makeshift ones. Hopefully the new school can be fully operational for the next school year.

The Yeshiva has defaulted on rent for the past year, so don't be so sure the board will now want to sell it to them, since a new school will have to be purchased for all the additional public school kids.

The two other schools sold in the fall did not have any of the special deals that are built into the sale of the Colton School. Those schools were much smaller and on much smaller property. This is not a good deal for the taxpayers of ER.

Here's a video of Hatton speaking to Klein at the last BOE meeting. Hatton read the cuts that were part of the Appeal and Klein did not contradict her. By the way, the Board left because they didn't like what a parent said, leaving no quorum. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_P3sMuHgYA

"...You'll notice enrollment is up, not down, and the entire pretext for selling the school to begin with seems to have been bogus."

Would like to see the actual figures on this enrollment...it may be up now, somewhat, but still way below what it had been - which is what necessitated closing buildings and selling off assets. Do you have real figures on that?
As for the value of the building, it is only worth what the market will pay - a shame the acreage is not usable for development.

To all readers...
I live in East Ramapo and have for over 30 years the enrollment is down, no matter what the comps say... anyone can walk into into any of the schools in East Ramapo and see that the buildings are empty....
The principals of the schools know how to manipulate the figures, counting students who have long left and still keep them on the enrollment. Not only the "frum" know how to steal, our "brown" brothers also know how to manipulate the system...
The building as anybody in real estate knows is only as worth as the guy buying it...
Its time for the Yeshivas to get the buildings even at below market price, G-D knows how much property taxes we have being paying for these empty buildings.,
Again, as I have said many times before, if people of the district don't like the way its being handled, vote them out. We live in a democracy and everyone can vote.... vote them out!
But as long as they are in, they should do whats good for the majority of the students living in East Ramapo; the majority are the yeshiva students..
Thats they way the ball bounces.

Rare, as I said before, the buildings are not half empty. You already used that argument. You said that there were 15 kids in a classroom...I pointed out that those were self contained special ed classes and those numbers are mandated by NYS. Please, make an appointment with someone to take you on a tour of Hempstead or RHS to see how crowded it is there...I think you said you live in that area.

The Board is not supposed to be looking out for the 'good for the majority of the students...", they have sworn to do what is best for ALL of the students! and therein is the problem. Couldn't have said it better myself. By the way, you might have the majority of the students, but not the majority of the taxes paid. The average, non Hasidic/Orthodox home has 2 children. What would you say the average Hasidic/Orthodox number of children is...maybe 7-8? How many of the homes in ER are partially or fully tax exempt? The district did a study that showed that the private school crowd got millions more in services than it paid in taxes. The study was done in 2007...I think it is still on the poweroften.us website.http://poweroften.us/the-truth/taxes-and-the-non-public-schools/

Check it out...these numbers were used by the District to try to get the formula changed so that the District would get credit for the expenses we are mandated to give to the private school students.

By the way, I have no problem with giving the students what they are supposed to get. Nor do I have a problem with having closed one school. It is the manner in which these sales were made and the manner in which the schools were chosen that I have a problem with.

Now, the Board better be very careful not to sell both buildings, they are supposed to bring back all those special education students from KJ,RISE, etc. They will be needing classrooms to accomplish that and this Board is not too good at planning as you can tell by the deficit.

You complain that many chareidi homes are tax exempt....but you fail to mention that about HALF of the kids in ER public schools are from families on welfare.....how much are THOSE kids\familes contributing to the budget?

The court ruled already. Sorry shamarya, you lose again.

Hey...Two Sides...are you kidding? How many families in New Square and Kaser are on the dole for social welfare programs? Actually, probably many less public school students are on welfare because many of the parents are illegal aliens.

However, 'THOSE kids/families' are contributing to the taxes for schools through the rent that they pay to the land lords or slum lords every month.

Here is something else to consider, probably 80% of the kids going to the public schools are American Citizens because they were born here.

The 'court' is not a court, it is a decision from the Commissioner of Education.

"but you fail to mention that about HALF of the kids in ER public schools are from families on welfare.....how much are THOSE kids\familes contributing to the budget?"

They pay rent to the chasidic slumlords. The slumlords collect cash only but they are still supposed to be paying tax on their properties. How many on the board are slumlords for this last board?

I don't really care about the other issues, but the school was for the Congregation Bais Malka/Hebrew Academy for "Special Children". People who live in this area are not all wealthy, despite it being a very nice area, and there is a special need for facilities for disabled children or special children. I vote to write off the extra cost and to give the school at the lesser price, as long as it is used for the benefit of the special children.

This is pennies to NYS, but a lifetime for the children.

Ynot...would you also vote to restore all of the things that were cut from the special education and ESL students? Or just for the Orthodox community.

I think all kids are special and all deserve an education. Life is not a dress rehearsal for the public school kids either. The Board had no problem taking away services for special education students in the public schools. Is that what you believe is right?

Pearl - I don't live in the district, but I've been reading all your comments on this post and others and just wanted to say that I admire your defending what is right and just and pointing out those statements which have it all wrong, and explaining why. You're doing a great job. I hope you win the good fight for what is right and just.

I concur with Abracadabra. Pearl, have you ever read Diane Ravitch's Blog? Has she written a story about this? As she is a staunch defender of public schools, I think contacting her would be a great idea.

The truth is continuing to surface, and the masks are taken off your faces!
*** SHAME ON YOU! ***
SHAME on PEGGY HATTON, SHAME on CAROLE ANDERSON , SHAME on STEVE & EMILIA WHITE, SHAME on TONY LUCIANO, AND SHAME on all those that accompanied you on all those frivolous lawsuits that you continue to bring on this district. YOU have caused the district to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend them on all such lawsuits that continue to show that ALL board members acted and continue to act within the law and their fiduciary responsibility! It’s about time you start caring about the education of the kids of east Ramapo and stop causing all lawyers in the area to benefit of said funds.

***YOU ARE HURTING THE KIDS, WITH THESE FRIVILOUS LAWSUITS! STOP IT!***

It's about time you realize that all the investigations, all the accusations, all the lawsuits are turning to be clean, with no board member or administration acting illegally, or "diverting funds" to private schools or anything like that.
I ASK AND PLEAD TO YOU, let the board members and the administration go back and spend their time on the better EDUCATION of the kids, let them focus on whats good for our kids instead how to defend themselves against the next lawsuit, accusation, allegation or investigation. The only winners are the lawyers, and the only losers are the kids of this district... and all have YOU to thank for it! YOU, CAROLE, PEGGY & TONY, EMILIA & STEVE! You are continuing to destroy the education of our kids!

this district has SUFFERED ENOUGH from and yours alike, take your mess and bitterness elsewhere, we are fully stocked up over here.

IN HOPE that in light of all these dismissals of your arguments you will finally learn to back off and stopp costing the district sooo sooo much money!

And Peggy, in your next radio show, feel free to name the FIVE OF YOU as the ZERO'S of the month! you deserve it! and lets hope the HERO's will be the kids who will finally benefit of this lawsuit going away and improve their education as a result of the funds being appropriated to THEM instead of the never ending legal fees.

Shayala, how many lawsuits have there been? And how can this be costing money for lawyers fees? Weren't they smart enough to get insurance or self-insure? Don't they have to be? DB?

Pearl, I would not take away the services from special education children in public or Hebrew schools. I believe in education, something deprived to so many in this world, and that all children should receive the best education we can provide for them. Both groups of special education children, those in public school and those in Bais Malka/Hebrew Academy, should be given the best care and education we are able to provide.

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