Veto power recommended for East Ramapo school monitor

The state-appointed monitors for the East Ramapo School District presented their first report to the New York Board of Regents Monday morning.

After a 17-week study, the three monitors submitted a list of 19 recommendations on what needs to be done to improve conditions in the district.

The 19-point plan includes instituting an independent monitor to build trust with voters, a state law requiring at least one member of the board to have a child in public school, full-day kindergarten and to bring back sports, art and music programs. The monitors' top priority is to continue state monitoring with veto power. 

"We're very serious about working with the board, the SED and pursuing the legislation that's required to make this plan whole, again this is not an isolation, this is part of a package and we think as a result of this package, the district will be a lot healthier," says Dennis Walcott, East Ramapo school monitor.

Many parents in the district have complained for years that the board, controlled by Orthodox Jews, directs resources to private Jewish schools or yeshivas at the expense of the public schools.

School board critics have long sought state intervention to block actions they say help private, religious schools at the expense of public education.

The proposal to have a monitor with veto power is one of the more controversial aspects of the report. The president of the school board says it is a bad idea.

"We had begun the process of reconciliation in East Ramapo. We had begun to work together. We were building a consensus for action on underlying problems," says Yehuda Weissmandl.

Interim Superintendent Deborah Wortham has been on the job for less than a month, and she says she wants to read the report in detail, but at first glance she sees some positive aspects.

"I believe that any time you do things that are right for kids, then you are moving in the right direction," says Wortham.

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