BY CAROL MCILMURRAY
NEW CITY-County Legislature Aron Wieder(D-Spring Valley) resigned as majority leader to dedicate himself to fighting NYS-appointed E. Ramapo monitor Dennis Walcott and his three-person team’s recent 19 recommendations to overhaul East Ramapo school district oversight on Thursday, Dec 17.
Wieder, former E. Ramapo school board president and a leader in the close-knit ultra-orthodox Jewish
community, says he is against
the proposed changes in the E. Ramapo School District, claiming they override the constitutional autonomy the board should enjoy. Most notably Walcott suggested a monitor with veto-power over board decisions should be appointed.
Walcott, former NYC chancellor between 2011 and 13, was tapped in August by Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to monitor the controversy-plagued district.
Wieder held a press conference inside the Allison-Parris county office building with Brooklyn state assemblyman Dov Hikind (D), also a known leader in the ultra-orthdodox Jewish community, to speak against Walcott’s plan to revamp the ailing ER school district. Hikind bewailed, “We were on our way, Dennis! What happened?…Why did you stab us in the back?”
Wieder and Hikind continuously questioned how and why Walcott made his decision to ask for a veto-empowered monitor and said it was “an insult” to their religious community.
The 19 recommendations for East Ramapo schools include; installation of the state monitor with veto power, installment of an independent election monitor, full day of kindergarten, reinstatement of art and music programs, and new comprehensive and community inclusive bond issue for needed capital improvements. E. Ramapo school district has over 32,000 students ranging grades k-12, comprised of mostly minority students.
Rockland and Clarkstown Democratic parties are both in favor of Walcott’s recommendations, putting them at odds with former majority leader Wieder. Rockland Democratic said in a statement, “The Rockland Democratic Party believes that all children have the right to a free and sound education…Mr. Walcott’s report came after months spent studying the district and sought to balance the needs of the entire district.”
Twenty to 25 members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community came to the press conference to hear leaders speak out against the proposal. Lazar Grossman, Spring Valley, was in the crowd and expressed concern that the overhaul was designed to “basically to abolish the Jews, the Jewish kids.”
Hikind said after the press conference the leaders in the community plan to continue the battle to Albany.
In the Rockland Legislature, Toney L. Earle (D-Spring Valley), deputy majority leader, is to step up and fill Wieder’s majority leader position.