Former NYC chancellor to monitor school district

The East Ramapo Central School District will face extra scrutiny going forward.

State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced Thursday at Rockland Community College that Dennis Walcott has been appointed as monitor for the district. In a statement, Elia says Walcott, the former chancellor of New York City schools, will "oversee an expert team that will monitor district operations and provide recommendations to ensure that students have access to appropriate programs and services, and that the district is on a path to fiscal and programmatic stability."

For years, many students, parents and teachers of the district have been pleading with Albany lawmakers to examine the dealings of the Orthodox Jewish-run school board. Protesters say the district has a board dominated by Orthodox Jews who don't use the public schools, which are made up mostly of black and Hispanic students. They accuse the board of shortchanging the public schools while supporting Jewish yeshivas or private schools.

After investigating, the state Education Department concluded that the board did indeed favor Jewish schools and called for a state monitor to oversee the board who could veto its actions. However, Albany lawmakers failed to pass a bill to allow it.

While Walcott and his team do not have veto power over school board decisions, he says they can improve education throughout the district. "This effort will be both cooperative and collaborative; we will work directly with the East Ramapo school board, but we will not shy away from keeping the district accountable to the community when we identify areas of improvement," says Walcott.

Yehuda Weissmandl, the presidents of East Ramapo's school board, says he looks forward to working with the new team. "The board and I are eager to begin our work with Mr. Walcott and the monitoring team to identify and implement improvements in the district's educational programs and services," Weissmandl says.

The team of monitors is expected to start this fall.

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