New York’s education commissioner on Monday appointed a new monitor over the East Ramapo school district, with a mandate to invest the $3 million a year of state money in the public school system and oversee the entire school board’s budget.
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that Charles Szuberla will be her eyes and ears in the Orthodox-led school board, which in recent years has struggled with low state funding and mounting costs for its private school community. He is the third monitor for the district in as many years, despite Democrats’ push to have a stricter veto-empowered overseer.
Yehuda Weissmandl, president of the school board, told Hamodia on Monday that he welcomed the new monitor and looked forward to working with him.
“Over the last 18 months, [state] monitors have been invaluable in helping the district meet difficult challenges and make significant improvements,” Weissmandl said in a statement sent to Hamodia. “We are committed to this process and confident that by working closely with [the monitors], we will continue and expand our progress.”
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, has known Szuberla for many years. Rabbi Zwiebel is a member and former chairman of the state Commissioner of Education’s Advisory Council for Nonpublic Schools. Szuberla, as the department’s longtime second-in-command, often sat in on the council’s meetings.
“I think it’s very good to have someone I can get on the telephone with in this position,” said Rabbi Zwiebel, who has been intimately involved in the East Ramapo school board saga for years.
Szuberla, who recently retired after a 29-year career as deputy commissioner, is widely known in New York education circles. He will be assisted by John W. Sipple, a Cornell University professor who continues in his role as monitor, specializing in budgeting and fiscal matters.
Szuberla will report directly to Elia, the commissioner said, and he “will be a regular presence in the East Ramapo School District.” He will have authority to spend the $3 million a year specially allocated by the state for the district’s dwindling public school system. He will review the board’s approximately $225 million annual budget and make suggestions.
In the coming weeks, Szuberla and Elia will meet with local officials and residents. They plan to hold a public meeting in mid- to late September.
Additionally, the education department has created an electronic mailing list for East Ramapo students, parents, teachers, community members and other stakeholders. To receive email updates, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “subscribe East Ramapo” and the applicant’s name.