State Education Dept. to Impose Monitor on Ramapo School Board

NEW YORK -

The New York state education commissioner will announce Thursday that a state observer will be imposed over an Orthodox-led school board, two months after foes of the board failed to get a veto-empowered monitor forced onto the district.

The monitor over the East Ramapo school board will not have veto power, a source familiar with the situation told Hamodia on Wednesday. And no information was released about who the observer will be and for how long the appointment will last.

Details will be laid out on Thursday at a 1:30 p.m. press conference by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. According to the source, board President Yehuda Weissmandl will attend the conference, at Rockland Community College.

Noting Tisch’s documented opposition to the board, there is a fear among activists that the monitor may be someone similarly antagonistic.

Elia, at an unrelated conference call with reporters Wednesday, offered no details but said the district would gain.

“The work that we have planned for East Ramapo we anticipate will be very helpful in addressing some of the concerns and the issues that have certainly come to our attention,” she said.

The school board has long been under fire as more parents send to yeshivos, skewing the traditional formula for state aid. Protests frequently crossed the line into anti-Semitism, many residents have charged. Recently, protesters have targeted the homes of board members on Sundays.

There are currently about 9,000 children in the district’s public school system, but more than 24,000 children in yeshivos and other private schools.

The state calculates districts’ school aid by counting how many residents pay property taxes and dividing that by public school students. Under this method, East Ramapo is a wealthy district, since most residents pay taxes but do not send to public school. They have therefore received less funding.

But according to the state Constitution, the board must also pay for busing, textbooks and security for private school students. They have consequently been compelled to reduce extracurricular services to public schools, such as dance and art classes, and prekindergarten.

Critics of the board have alleged that the board cut the services in order to cut taxes. However, a cross section of the district last year called on the state to change the formula, which would grant more aid to the schools.

Last year the state appointed a monitor to write a report on how to improve matters in the district, which comprises Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square. Hank Greenberg’s report offered the assurance that the board operated legally and reiterated the call for the formulaic change. But that was overshadowed by a stinging criticism of the board’s transparency. He called on the state to appoint a monitor able to veto decisions by the board.

A bill to do so was defeated in June when the Senate argued that it was wrong to override an elected board.

Now, the state will impose another monitor with just observer status.

“If it’s not done the right way,” the source warned, “it could blow up the whole district.”