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East Ramapo School Board ‘Blinded’ To Students’ Needs, State Monitor Says

East Ramapo School Board ‘Blinded’ To Students’ Needs, State Monitor Says

Report calls for state veto power over decisions made by Orthodox-majority school board.

The school board in Rockland County’s East Ramapo School District showed favoritism to students from the Orthodox community who attend private schools in the district, a state-appointed monitor reported Monday.

The monitor, Hank Greenberg, who was appointed in June, urged the Legislature to give the district additional funds and to appoint a fiscal monitor that can overrule decisions of the school board and the superintendent, The New York Times reported.

Families of public school students have accused the board of aiding the yeshiva students while making deep cuts to public schools. The school district is among a few in the state and in New Jersey where Orthodox Jews, whose student mostly attend private schools, control the school board.

The monitor’s report is the result of a petition that 14 residents filed with the state’s Education Department two years ago, demanding the removal of five of seven Orthodox Jewish board members. A related lawsuit over their claims is continuing.

Greenberg is a former federal prosecutor and senior legal adviser to then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

In briefing reporters this week, Greenberg said he did not believe that the school board acted “out of base or venal motives,” the Times reported.

“What I have found is that you have a board deeply influenced and informed by the community from which they’ve come — so concerned about the children of that community that it has blinded them to the needs of the entire community,” he said, accusing the board of “abysmal” fiscal management.

He accused the board of an “inexcusable” lack of transparency, unlawfully holding most of its meetings in closed session and not allowing the public to speak until the end of meetings.

School board president Yehuda Weissmandl said in a written statement that he was pleased that Mr. Greenberg had found that “no one at the board or district acted with improper motives,” the Times reported.

“While we are uncomfortable with some of the characterizations in Mr. Greenberg’s report, we are hopeful that it will lead to progress for the children of the district,” he said.

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