Late Thursday into early Friday morning, the state Senate and Assembly adjourned without reaching a compromise on the East Ramapo oversight bill much to the disappointment of local officials and maligned community parents and students. Assemblymember Ken Zebrowski commented on the reason the Republican-led Senate stalled any passage by saying, “I think the state Senate leadership turned its back on East Ramapo’s children. We felt we had a sound and reasonable approach to the issue. However, recognizing the Senate’s opposition, we attempted to negotiate. But at the end of the day, the Senate refused to authorize a monitor that had authority over anything other than state or federal law.” Zebrowski along with Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee refused to accept the revised bill brought by the Senate which would limit the state appointed monitor’s power and and override the elected school board. Acknowledging the issues within the district, Republican Senate Majority leader John Flanagan believed that the involvement of the state education department and Comptroller’s office would not infringe on state and federal law but still provide assistance for the troubled district. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie both supported the state appointed monitor and looked to next year’s legislative session to seek out a meaningful solution. The Office of Senator David Carlucci released a statement late Thursday evening regarding the impasse and addressed the two reports from earlier this week which outlined the deficiencies of the East Ramapo education system and his next steps, “Although I am disappointed with the outcome of this year’s legislative session, the report released earlier this week by the State Education Department provides another course of action. I will be strongly urging SED to do what it is legally required to, and act on its own reports of failure within East Ramapo.”
The State Education Department has released three reports on the East Ramapo School District. The effectiveness reports released Monday expressed the need for oversight of the school board, stating that the district has failed when it comes to ESL programs, teacher training and spending. State officials wrote the report after visiting the schools back in December, during which they criticized the many problems in the English Language Learner Program, where students are unable to graduate on time because they spend most of their time completing uncredited ELL classes. The reports issued the district some of the lowest marks in the state for overall education and financial strategies. On Monday evening hundreds of parents met at Memorial Park in Spring Valley to listen to speakers before marching to East Ramapo district offices, in an attempt to get the senate to vote on the oversight bill. Assembly members Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski spoke to the crowd along with Judith Johnson who announced the release of the report and brought to light the inappropriate actions of the board. The Legislature remains in session and late last night they agreed on a deal extending rent regulations for four more years and approved $250 million for non-public schools funding, though no tax credit for private school donors. No information has been released as of yet regarding the passage of the oversight bill.
Hundreds of activists met in support of the controversial East Ramapo oversight bill on Monday evening. Starting at 7:00 at Memorial Park in Spring Valley, members of the community including County Executive Ed Day, State Assembly people Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski, and New York Regent Judith Johnson spoke to the crowd about the need for oversight. The Assembly has already voted to approve the bill that would allow monitor to veto decisions made by the board and would require the district to follow a five year improvement plan. However, according to Senator David Carlucci, who was one of the sponsors of the original bill, the senate recently stated they would not be voting on the legislation, leading him to present a new version that takes away veto power and lessens the oversight time to two years. In response Jaffee and Zebrowski revised their own version as a form of compromise. The rally was held in an attempt to get the Senate to hold a vote today, as they remain in session for the time being. A petition in support of the bill reached 6,000 signatures and the emotion behind the crowd on Monday night was strong as students, parents, and community leaders marched through the streets, ending at the East Ramapo District offices. The Legislature is set to end their session today.
Advocates for the East Ramapo School District will be hosting a rally tonight, while state officials continue debating whether or not to pass the oversight bill presented by Assembly members Kenneth Zebrowski and Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci that would give a state appointed monitor veto power over board decision. Recently the bill was passed by the Assembly, and was set to move on to a vote in the Senate, though according to Carlucci many members were unwilling to approve the legislation, expressing fears about taking power away from an elected body. In response Carlucci presented a new bill that took away the veto power and lessened the oversight time from five years to two years. Since Carlucci’s proposal many residents have spoken out against the Senate’s choice not to vote and the Assembly presented a revised version of the original law, seeking a compromise. Supporters are holding a rally at Memorial Park in Spring Valley at 7:00 PM where Jaffee and Zebrowski will be addressing the crowd in a final attempt to get the Senate to vote.
Law enforcement officials from the county and state met with the public at a forum on Thursday night, held at Rockland Community College to open discussion between police and minority groups in the county. Nearly a hundred residents filled the audience to express their concern and frustration that the black community has to fear police presence, rather than rely on them. The panel included speakers from the NAACP, the Rockland Commission on Human Rights, the Rockland District Attorney’s Office, and the Rockland Police Chiefs Association. It was set up in the wake of much national tension between police and minority communities such as the case of Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York City; and countless other incidents of use of violence or deadly force. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe spoke to the attendees about the need of communication and relationships between residents and police officers to help community feel safe. Also on the panel were NAACP Mid-Hudson and Westchester Regional Director Wilbur Aldridge and the Assistant Director of the FBI Field Office in New York City Diego Rodriguez, who both agreed with the need of communication and trust on both sides and that African American residents should not have to feel fearful of law enforcement.
Assembly members Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski released statements coming out against the newly proposed East Ramapo oversight bill that takes away the state appointed monitor’s ability to veto decisions made by the district’s school board. They also announced that they wrote a new bill to send to the the senate in hopes of negotiating, which would give the Comptroller a say in fiscal matters only and give veto power back to the monitor. On Sunday Senator David Carlucci introduced a new version of the bill, giving oversight to the state Comptroller’s office in order to compromise with Republican leaders of the senate who did not agree with the original bill. Both Assembly people stated that they do not believe the new legislation would do enough for the district, and involving the Comptroller’s office is unnecessary. They thanked Carlucci for negotiation on behalf of the students, but stated they will not be backing the proposal, which lessens the monitor’s power and changes the time limit of oversight from five years to two. The Assembly passed the original proposal last week 80-60, and with the session ending today supporters of the oversight bill are working to negotiate with the senate members, many of whom have expressed concerns about taking power from officials elected to the school board by the public.
The state Senate introduced a bill late Sunday, that calls for the State Comptrollers office to oversee the East Ramapo School District, rather than an independent monitor appointed by the Education Department. Local Democrats have opposed this idea in the past, brought forth by the school board. In the revised bill, the Board of Education for East Ramapo would be required to submit the proposed budget for the following year to the Comptrollers Office at least 30 days before the budget vote. The Comptroller would review the budget to make sure funds are being spent efficiently for the needs of the school district, including those students attending private schools as well as other needs within the district. There are only a few days left in the legislative session, and it is unclear as to whether or not representatives will reach a decision by sessions end.
According to state officials the New York State Assembly approved the controversial East Ramapo oversight bill on Thursday. In February following a report submitted by a temporary appointed fiscal monitor, Senator David Carlucci, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee wrote and presented the legislation that would allow a permanent state monitor to veto decisions made by the school board, especially in regards to fiscal matters and friction between residents and officials about public and private school funding. Many Republicans in the state Legislature, as well as the East Ramapo school board have expressed opposition to the bill and fear that it could lead to further restrictions on decision making for officials throughout New York, stating that it takes away power from elected board members. With the bill now approved by the Assembly it will have the chance to move on to Senate, if officials approve a vote. Those in support of the bill are attempting to work with opposition to move forward with the vote, many stating that it looks hopeful, and the oversight is needed to ensure that each student gets a fair education.
Four Rockland residents have been arrested following the county’s pressure on sports betting under the 10-month investigation called “Operation Rock Bottom.” The release by The Office of the District Attorney outlined the gambling operation which was carried out on a website where individuals would place bets online under a username and get paid out weekly based on wages placed on various sports events. The pool of money was collected and paid up to organized crime groups. Ronald Ayes, of South Nyack, Nicholas Farese, of Nanuet, Anthony Moschella of Valley Cottage, and John Reyes of Monsey were charged with promoting gambling in the first degree, possession of gambling records in the first degree, and a host of class “E” felonies. They were arraigned by Judge Scott Ugell at Clarkstown Justice Court and released, assigned a future court date. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe noted the participation of the Clarkstown, and Ramapo Police Departments as well as the South Nyack-Grandview Police Departments and New York State Special Investigative Unit, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
At a press conference outside the Capitol in Albany Wednesday afternoon, Rockland Officials met to announce that the bill to install a state monitor for the East Ramapo school district will pass in the Assembly today. The next hurdle to pass the proposal is approval from the Republican-held Senate as the legislative session ends June 17. Opposition to the bill claim that the duties of the state monitor take away from the powers of the democratically elected school administrators and is not the way to address the troubled district. Of the 33,000 school-aged children, only 9,000 attend public school whereas more than 24,000 belong to private schools, mostly yeshivas. The mostly Orthodox Jewish community has a hold of the school board leading to the much contested portioning of the East Ramapo budget. Assembly members Ellen Jaffee with Kenneth Zebrowski and Senator David Carlucci were in attendance in Albany as co-sponsors of the bill pushing for Senate approval before sessions end.