"A monitor who can advise a board that has historically refused to listen is not a solution. In some ways, it may feel like we're marching in place, given that Hank Greenberg [a special short-term monitor appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last year to asses the state of the school district] also studied the district, made recommendations, and concluded, 'at a minimum, there must be a vehicle to override, in real time, unreasonable decisions by the Board and Superintendent.'"
Andrew Mandel of the Strong East Ramapo activist group wrote a letter to Strong East Ramapo members last night about the pending appointment by the State of New York of a monitor for the scandal-plagued haredi-controlled East Ramapo school district. Mandel notes that this type of monitor won't have any real power:
Many of you may have seen the news coverage previewing the announcement at Rockland Community College today (Thursday, August 13) at 1:30 p.m. We do not know exactly what Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner Elia will share, but reports say they will announce a new monitor for East Ramapo who will be able to hold community hearings, provide advice to the board, and document the board's responses to that advice, but will not be able to reverse the board's bad decisions.
If this indeed happens, a monitor who can advise a board that has historically refused to listen is not a solution. In some ways, it may feel like we're marching in place, given that Hank Greenberg [a special short-term monitor appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last year to asses the state of the school district] also studied the district, made recommendations, and concluded, "at a minimum, there must be a vehicle to override, in real time, unreasonable decisions by the Board and Superintendent." We all know that the Senate did not vote on the bill in June that would have granted such authority. So, while we might justifiably criticize the State Education Department for not having removed school board members up until now, we can't criticize the Chancellor and Commissioner for not giving a new monitor veto power today. They needed the legislation to have that authority.
So, how will we move forward? First, I think we should take enormous pride in knowing we have been instrumental in making sure this issue has not died. All the letters, phone calls, protests, advocacy days and press that we garnered has mattered. All the work parents have been doing for years and years has finally brought statewide attention to the crisis. It's hard to imagine the State Education Department deciding to trek to Rockland County and deal with the drama around this issue without community activism. And as much as we shouldn't need to have another Hank Greenberg, a new round of active monitoring helps us keep the issue alive for the next several months. If the board refuses to follow the monitor's recommendations, that will be additional, credible evidence that the board refuses to take steps that improve public education. It would build the case more strongly that the board is willfully neglectful of its duty. It would build the case even more strongly for veto power.
This should not be necessary, and this does not solve anything on its own. But we will build upon this announcement and make sure the monitor gets all of the information necessary to see what we already know to be true. Moreover, we will prepare for January and the new legislative session by mobilizing a whole slew of potential new allies and building power across New York State (save the date: September 8, for our first big action of the season). We will make it clear that we are not even close to done.
Hope to see you tomorrow where we will learn the details. Please wear your "East Ramapo Oversight Now" button if you have one, and arrive at 1 p.m. to get a good seat.
[Strong East Ramapo]