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State Schools Chief, Monitor To Answer Questions On East Ramapo Plans

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is to appear at a public meeting Wednesday on the East Ramapo School District's plan to spending $3 million in supplemental state funding. The meeting will be held at Rockland Community College.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is to appear at a public meeting Wednesday on the East Ramapo School District's plan to spending $3 million in supplemental state funding. The meeting will be held at Rockland Community College. Photo Credit: nysed.gov

RAMAPO, N.Y. -- The state Education Department has approved plans put forth by the East Ramapo school district that include full-day kindergarten for all students and the restoration of arts programs, according to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

Parents and other members of the public will get the chance to ask questions about the plan and the state’s recent actions with regards to the troubled school district.

The meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Rockland Community College’s Cultural Arts Theater, 145 College Road, Suffern.

According to the commissioner, the initiatives in the plans will:

  • Create full-day kindergarten classrooms.
  • Hire both monolingual and bilingual kindergarten teachers.
  • Restore art, music, dance and theater programming in grades K-six.
  • Set clear performance objectives for students.
  • Increase professional development.

Elia and East Ramapo’s newly appointed state monitor Chuck Szuberla will update the community on the Education Department’s “efforts to ensure that all students have access to appropriate programs and services and that the district is on a path to fiscal and programmatic stability.”

Earlier this month, Schools Superintendent Deborah L. Wortham announced that the district would be holding a lottery for its full-day kindergarten program.

She made the announcement on a Wednesday, less than a week before classes started.  The lottery was held the following evening.

There were 156 spots in the program's four new full-day kindergarten classes.

State Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland/Westchester, was recently interviewed by FiOS1 reporter Andrew Whitman about several subjects, including the East Ramapo school district.

Whitman asked the senator for his opinion on the state of the district and what he would like to see in the future.

Carlucci answered that while the district appears to have turned a corner, it still has a long way to go.

He credited recent changes to having the state monitor being “on the ground,” and the $3 million in state funding for non-mandated programs such as full-day kindergarten, art and music that are essential, but often the first get cut in struggling districts.

While the monitor doesn’t have veto power, a kind of veto power is exercised over the supplemental funding because Elia has the final say, Carlucci told Whitman.

Carlucci also told FiOS1 that he hoped that public attention on the district’s problems wouldn’t peter out and that scrutiny would be maintained.

According to Carlucci's communication and legislative director, Esteban Maccera, Carlucci felt that the lottery was only a “half measure” and that full-day kindergarten should be offered to all students.

The state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided $3 million in supplemental funding for dedicated programs in East Ramapo, Elia said Monday.

By law, the district was required to develop a strategic plan, as well as a comprehensive expenditure plan after consulting with Szuberla, the commissioner said.

Elia said that Szuberla and John Sipple, a Cornell University professor who is a member of the monitoring team, worked closely with Wortham, school board president Yehuda Weissmandl, other district officials and members of the community to develop a “fiscally responsible” plan.

She called the plan “thorough and thoughtful.”

“These plans represent the district’s path forward to ensure progress continues and to ensure the educational rights of every East Ramapo student are met,” Elia said.

“It continues the work already done to repair the trust of the East Ramapo community, while recognizing there is still work to do,” she added.

After Elia and Szuberla’s presentation Wednesday, the public will have the chance to submit questions written on cards.

Similar or repeated questions may be summarized and/or combined to ensure that the commissioner and monitor can answer as many as possible, Elia’s office said.

In an effort to ensure all parents and community stakeholders are aware of developments in the district, the state  providing written materials in English, Spanish and Haitian-Creole. Translators will be at the public meeting.

The state has created an electronic mailing list to provide for East Ramapo stakeholders with updates and to share information.

To receive these e-mail updates, send an e-mail to LISTSERV@LISTSERV.NYSED.GOV (link sends e-mail). The body of the message should read: SUBSCRIBE EAST-RAMAPO Your Name (Example: SUBSCRIBE EAST-RAMAPO Jane Smith).

To see FiOS1's interview with Carlucci, who also addressed topic which included a proposed supermarket in New City, railroad crossings and blockbusting, click here.

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