By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
The three-member panel working to restore stability to the troubled East Ramapo Central School District set a course this week for sweeping reform. The board offered 19 recommendations designed to end years of fiscal mismanagement and favoritism toward certain communities. I’m pleased that all of the recommendations were immediately approved by the New York State Board of Regents.
Among its recommendations, the panel urged Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature to install a state monitor with power to veto the school board’s decisions. This level of oversight is the only way to bring full transparency and accountability to the East Ramapo school board. I applaud Dennis Walcott and his fellow panel members for putting forth common sense reforms that place the children of East Ramapo ahead of special interests.
I fully support all 19 recommendations, some of which I have personally fought for over many years. The time for thumb-twiddling is over. The time for decision-making in favor of the children has come.
New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has warned against having an independent monitor in the district, saying the move could “usurp” the powers of the elected school board. He has endorsed additional oversight by the New York State Comptroller and the state Department of Education. With all due respect to Senator Flanagan, the reality is the Comptroller will offer direction, but not strict oversight. As for the state Education Department, it still can’t figure out how to ensure all children get the proper curriculum. (think Common Core)
Challenging times demand extraordinary action. Twice we have had the same conclusion from respected professionals who actually had eyes on East Ramapo and all agree: a monitor with veto authority over school board decisions is essential or nothing will change.
While county government does not have oversight of public school districts, I believe county leadership must advocate and act from the most prominent bully pulpit.
As County Executive, I have engaged regularly with our state delegation on the need for oversight in East Ramapo; I have attended meetings with Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, a group seeking transparency and fairness for the entire community; I have talked extensively with concerned East Ramapo faculty, students and parents.
I, again, urge all state and local lawmakers to stand together for the families of East Ramapo. Supporting the appointment of a state-appointed monitor is the only way to rebuild trust between the public school community and school board.