Senator Carlucci, Assemblymembers Jaffee and Zebrowski Announce Bill to Appoint a State Monitor to East Ramapo School District

JOINT LEGISLATIVE PRESS RELEASE

Senator David Carlucci, and Assemblymembers Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) and Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) announced today that they have introduced legislation (A.5355/S.3821) to appoint a State Monitor to the troubled East Ramapo Central School District. This legislation follows the recommendations made by Fiscal Monitor, Hank Greenberg, to impose strong oversight in the school district.

The State Monitor would be appointed to oversee the district’s financial and operational management to ensure that the school district moves toward fiscal stability and academic excellence. The Monitor will attend all Board meetings, including executive sessions, in order to assist the operations of the District. Furthermore, the legislation will require the adoption of a strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan that will be developed by the Monitor, the Commissioner of Education, the School Board, the Superintendent, and with input from the Community.

The strategic plan will establish fiscal and academic goals for the school district and include benchmarks to measure the district’s progress.

The legislation comes as a direct response to Hank Greenberg’s reportEast Ramapo: A School District in Crisis, which was issued in November 2014. The report called for an oversight mechanism that can “override, in real time, unreasonable decisions by the Board” in order to restore the trust of the school district’s parents.    

The State Monitor will have the power to override actions of the Board and the Superintendent if the Monitor determines it is necessary for the educational welfare of the students or to implement the strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan. The Monitor will also have the power to propose a course of action or resolution to the Board if the Monitor determines this action is needed.

Furthermore, The Board may petition the Commissioner of Education to appeal a State Monitor’s decision if the Board believes that the decision is in conflict with education law, the rules of the Board of Regents, State education regulations, or the terms of the strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan. All appeals will be heard by the State Education Department through an impartial hearing, and the State Monitor’s decisions will remain in effect unless and until modified or reversed.

The Commissioner of Education would appoint the State Monitor to serve for five-years. After the initial five-year period, the Commissioner in consultation with the Board of Regents would have the authority to extend the appointment, if necessary, for up to ten years.

Additionally, the proposed legislation also requires the State Monitor to issue an annual report on the progress made in achieving the strategic improvement plan’s goals, the District’s financial position and any other District matters the Monitor deems appropriate.  At the conclusion of the Monitor’s appointment, a final report will be issued that will provide long-term recommendations to improve the District.

Greenberg’s report also called for additional funding, to be linked to oversight for the District, which the Rockland County Delegation is committed to securing, citing the deep cuts that have occurred over the past several years.

The bill will be referred to the Education Committee in the Senate and Assembly.

Assemblymember Jaffee said, “After years of meeting with previous SED commissioners, the State Regents Chancellor, the former Education Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, to address the unstable situation and the serious concerns raised by parents, teachers, students and government agencies, we are sponsoring this strong piece of oversight legislation, which directly addresses what Hank Greenberg aptly called a “governance problem” at the very heart of the crisis in the District. By providing the State Monitor with the powers to act in the best interest of the public school students and to ensure the fiscal stability of the District, my colleagues and I have taken a major first step toward resolving this crisis. This legislation has the potential to bring together the East Ramapo community by working towards a long term-solution that will address the unique needs within the school district. We will work diligently with the Community to pass the bill in both houses, and ask the Governor to sign it as quickly as possible.”

Senator Carlucci said, “This bill provides important oversight for the district, while bringing together the entire East Ramapo community to work towards a solution that is in the best interest of all the children. This plan is a blueprint for East Ramapo to receive further funding based on the unique needs of the district and its students”

Assemblyman Zebrowski said, “This oversight bill will begin to restore trust in this troubled district. The State Monitor will be on the ground, in the district, and will provide another set of eyes to ensure the educational opportunities of the East Ramapo school children. The monitor will be appointed for at least five years and will also be charged with developing long-term recommendations for the district.”