No Hillcrest Yeshiva

NYSED Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. annuls lease of Hillcrest Elementary School to Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov of New Square

New York State Education Commissioner King has upheld a petition filed by Robert Forrest in September of 2011 against the East Ramapo school district. Commissioner King annulled the lease of Hillcrest Elementary School to Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov of New Square, saying that “I cannot find, on this record, that the Board took reasonable steps to ensure that it was getting the best deal possible.”

The commissioner also ordered that “prior to disposing of school district property by either sale or lease, the Board take all steps necessary to ensure that it makes a reasonably informed decision, and obtains the best deal possible, including taking any and all reasonable steps to assess the property’s fair market value or fair market rental value.”

School board candidate Robert Forrest said, “The lease of Hillcrest Elementary was controversial from its beginning because the lease was negotiated by Albert Dagostino to Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov at 60 percent below its actual market rental value. The property was leased to Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov for approximately $252,000. In comparison, another school in East Ramapo was being leased by the District for approx. $760,000 per year.” He continued, “The Hillcrest lease equates to an economic loss in education dollars of $508,000 per year to the children of the East Ramapo Central School District.”

District parent Steven White said, “This ruling by commissioner King substantiates the primary complaint in our civil rights lawsuit: that the school board is illegally diverting resources from public education to support the yeshivas.”

In June of 2011, in response to a petition filed by Steven White, Commissioner King annulled the sale of Hillcrest Elementary to Yeshiva Avir Yakov, stating that “I am constrained to find that the board abused its discretion by hastily approving the sale of Hillcrest to the Congregation and that such sale must be set aside.  Further, prior to selling Hillcrest in the future, the board must take reasonable steps, consistent with this decision, to secure the best price obtainable for Hillcrest.”