East Ramapo Central School District
Central School District
|105 South Madison Avenue,
Spring Valley, New York 10977
|Grades||Pre-K to 12|
|Established||March 5, 1952|
|Students and staff|
|Students||8,118 (2011-2010 school year)|
The school district serves areas of eastern Town of Ramapo, and portions of the towns of Clarkstown and Haverstraw, including Chestnut Ridge, New Hempstead, New Square, Spring Valley which spans Ramapo and Clarkstown, and portions of Airmont and New City. The district also serves the hamlets of Hillcrest and Monsey, as well as the Village of Pomona which straddles the borders of Town of Ramapo and Town of Haverstraw.
On March 4, 1952, seven school districts merged together to form Ramapo Central School District No.2, due to centralization. On August 22, 1973, this district was renamed the East Ramapo Central School District.
The school district has seen major demographic changes since the late 1990s. In 1997, of the 18,000 children transported by the district, 10,500 were students of yeshiva private schools. Joseph Berger of The New York Times said in an article written during that year that this involved "a proportion of public school money to bus private school students that few American towns can match."
During that year 9,500 of the children within the district were private school students from the Village of New Square, Village of Kaser, and the community of Monsey. A 1997 The New York Times article stated that some East Ramapo school district parents said that the high proportion of private school parents to public school parents could threaten the district. Harvey Katz, an Orthodox Jew who served as a school board member, said that "Just because my children are not in the public schools doesn't mean I don't care about all the children. Children are our future, wherever they may be." The district was one of five districts in New York State where more students were enrolled in private school than in public school due to religious reasons.
In 2005 the Orthodox Jewish population of the district gained majority control of the school board. This new board began reducing the budget and lowering taxes. The communities using the public schools have opposed these actions.
In a 2007 magazine article Dr. Mitchell Schwartz, the superintendent of the district, said that growing Hasidic yeshivas resulted in private school enrollment within the district increasing by a 3 to 4 percent increment per year.
By 2010, due to reduced budgets and lowered taxes, the district's finances had decreased and services were reduced at the schools, forcing students to take five- and six-year graduation plans instead of four-year plans.
In July 2010 the School Board of the East Ramapo Central School District voted to sell its Hillcrest Elementary School—closed due to budget cuts—to Yeshiva Avir Yakov of New Square. In an official response to an investigation of the sale, New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner stated the East Ramapo board “abused its discretion by hastily approving the sale.” The 12 acre campus, assessed at $10.2 million (market value) by the Assessor’s Office of Clarkstown was given only a $3.2 million appraisal by the school board's own attorney, Albert D’Agostino. On June 8, 2011 the commissioner of the NY State Education Department halted the sale of the building stating the board failed its fiduciary responsibility to the district when it approved the $3.2 million deal.
In July, the new state Education Commissioner John King put a hold on the district's sale of Colton Elementary to Congregation Bais Malka/Hebrew Academy for Special Children with similar questions over the appraisal and bidding process as dogged the blocked sale of the Hillcrest school.
On August 31, 2011, New York State Office of the Comptroller released an audit of the Board, for the period July 1, 2008 to April 13, 2010. The report criticizes the district for a number of serious lapses including failing to put $2.4 million in professional services contracts out to bid, allowing three senior school board members to receive health care through the school district's insurance pool after they failed to make $15,672 in payments, and failing to maintain proper inventory controls over $2.4 million in textbooks purchased for students not attending public schools, as required under state law. Most unsettling, the audit found that District officials inaccurately projected a June 30, 2010 fund balance of $13 million when preparing District's 2010-11 austerity budget that was presented to the electorate and on which cutbacks and layoffs were based. In fact, the District's audited financial statement showed a June 30, 2010 fund balance of $17,793,047, substantially higher than public estimates. The report states: "The board, along with district officials, failed to fulfill its stewardship, oversight and leadership responsibilities when it failed to establish a proper control environment, implement its own adopted policy and establish policies and procedures required by sound business practices." The report concludes. "The deficiencies exposed district funds and assets to abuse, waste and/or loss." The local paper headline was "East Ramapo bungled millions," and in a scathing editorial, the paper called for a thorough investigation of the board. During the year 2011, an article titled "Regions Aging Schools Crumble as Finances Falter" by Cathey O'Donnell and Gary Stern, was featured in a local newspaper, The Journal News, which is well known throughout the Lower Hudson Valley of Westchester County, New York. The article was about several old school buildings within the region that were in a current state of disrepair, how much it would cost to fix them and which if any might need to be demolished. One of the school districts mentioned was East Ramapo.
In March 2013 the Associated Press reported that there is much tension in that school district, because the local school board is accused of favoring private schools at the expense of public schools.
In April 2014, the group Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, which includes clerics from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups, asked Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the district.
In September 2014 the radio show This American Life aired an hour long show on the school board in episode 534 entitled "A Not-So-Simple Majority". In November 2014 a state-appointed monitor charged with investigating the district delivered a sharply critical assessment. The monitor, Hank Greenberg, said the board showed favoritism to Jewish students who attend private Orthodox schools in the district, and cut services to the 9,000 district students, mostly black and Hispanic, who attend the district's public schools. Greenberg accused the board of fiscal mismanagement and a lack of transparency in its dealings. In violation of state laws, it held most of its meetings behind closed doors, only let residents speak at the end of meetings, typically late at night, and inappropriately called critics anti-Semites. Greenberg recommended that the state provide resources that would be delivered more fairly, but stopped short of calling for a state take-over of the district. On June 11, 2015, New York state Assembly members passed a bill that would create a state monitor to oversee the school district.
As of 2014 over 75% of the students are on free lunch or reduced lunch programs. Students from immigrant families make up much of the student body. Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York wrote that "There are now only a handful of white students" attending district schools. The Orthodox Jewish children living in the district boundary almost all go to private yeshiva schools instead.
Board of Trustees
- Yehuda Weissmandl (President)
- Harry Grossman (Vice President)
- Yonah Rothman
- Jacob J. Lefkowitz
- Moshe Hopstein
- Yakov Engel
- Pierre C. Germain
- Sabrina Charles-Pierre
- Bernard L. Charles, Jr
All of the schools are in the Town of Ramapo. Some schools are also located within other municipalities.
(Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten)
- Early Childhood Center (Spring Valley)
- Fleetwood Elementary School (Chestnut Ridge)
- Grandview Elementary School (Monsey)
- Margetts Elementary School (Chestnut Ridge)
- Summit Park Elementary School (New City)
- Eldorado Elementary School (Chestnut Ridge)
- Elmwood Elementary School (Monsey)
- Lime Kiln Elementary School (Wesley Hills)
- Hempstead Elementary School (New Hempstead)
- Kakiat STEAM Academy (Spring Valley) (4-8)
- Merrill L. Colton Elementary School (New Hempstead)
- Hillcrest Elementary School (New City)
- Monsey School
- South Madison School
- Kakiat Junior High School
- Ramapo Freshman Center
Sale of Hillcrest Elementary School
In July 2010 the School Board of the East Ramapo Central School District voted to sell Hillcrest Elementary School—closed due to budget cuts—to the Hasidic Jewish Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov of New Square. The sale was initially blocked by the state due to a dispute of the school's appraisal. According to reporting by This American Life, the school was initially appraised at $6 million and the district board accepted a bid of $3 million. The sale was blocked by the New York State government and a subsequent bid for $4.9 million was approved for sale.
- "SENTER.jpg." East Ramapo Central School District. Retrieved on April 7, 2011.
- "A Brief History". East Ramapo Central School District. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- Berger, Joseph. "Growing Pains for a Rural Hasidic Enclave." The New York Times. January 13, 1997.
- Weinstock, Cheryl Platzman. "Easy City Access In a Ramapos Setting." [sic] The New York Times. March 2, 1997. 2.
- Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. "Them and Them." New York magazine. April 21, 2013. p. 1-2. Retrieved on April 23, 2014. "Meria Petit-Bois registered for classes at Ramapo High School in April 2010,[...]"(Page 1)"It had been five years since the Orthodox majority had won control of the school board."(Page 2)
- Zeliger, Robert. "Culture clash." Rockland Magazine. August 31, 2007.
- Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. "Them and Them." New York magazine. April 21, 2013. p. 2. Retrieved on April 23, 2014. "There are now only a handful of white students in the public schools, and more than half the children there receive reduced-fee lunches. “A lot of them are from immigrant families, and they’re looking for that better life,” says Fields. “And I don’t know if it’s going to happen.” Many of the refugees are lingering on five- and six-year paths to graduation."
- http://www.lohud.com/article/20100729/NEWS03/7290394/District-OKs-sale-of-Hillcrest-Elementary July 29, 2010.
- Taylor, Alex (June 8, 2011). "State blocks East Ramapo's sale of Hillcrest school". The Journal News.
- Report accessed online, available as a downloadable *pdf.
- Audit-East-Ramapo-bungled-millions "LoHud". Sept 2, 2011
- Keep-scrutiny-East-Ramapo "LoHud". Sept 2, 2011
- "Region's aging schools crumble as finances falter." The Journal News. November 13, 2011. Retrieved on April 23, 2014. "In East Ramapo, it's not clear how officials can pay for $34 million in repairs outlined by inspectors. The district, operating on a contingency budget, has cut almost 400 employees since 2008 despite growing enrollment." (p. 3)
- see "NYSED Letter of Non-Compliance" (Archive). February 13, 2013 - article on the District's website (eram.k12.ny.us) - ERCSD Response (Archive)
- Fitzgerald, Jim. "Barbs of racism, anti-Semitism in NY school clash." Associated Press. March 21, 2013. Retrieved on April 23, 2014.
- Nicosia, Mareesa. "New clergy group asks Cuomo to fix East Ramapo schools." The Journal News. August 8, 2014. Retrieved on April 23, 2014.
- "Kate Taylor:East Ramapo School Board Is Criticized by New York State Monitor"http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/nyregion/east-ramapo-school-board-is-criticized-by-new-york-city-monitor.html
- "New York state monitor’s report slams majority Orthodox school board"http://www.jta.org/2014/11/18/news-opinion/united-states/new-york-state-monitors-report-slams-majority-orthodox-school-board
- "Leslie Brody: N.Y. Lawmakers Approve Monitor for East Ramapo School District"http://www.wsj.com/articles/n-y-lawmakers-approve-monitor-for-east-ramapo-school-district-1434050307
- Lohud.com. Accessed July 29, 2010.
- "A Not So Simple Majority." This American Life. Accessed September 21, 2014.
- East Ramapo Central School District
- East Ramapo Central School District (Old website)
- Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. "Them and Them." New York magazine. April 21, 2013.
- "Two Worlds, One District" - The Journal News