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Panel Wants Tighter Oversight of Orthodox New York School Board

A New York State panel recommended tighter control over an Orthodox-majority public school board in Rockland County whose budget cuts have provoked ire among public-school parents.

The state-appointed monitors of the East Ramapo Central School District recommended in a report released Monday that the state authorize a monitor of the school board empowered veto board decisions. The report also recommended that one board seat per election cycle be reserved for a public school parent and that an independent election monitor oversee the integrity of the school board election process.

Six of the board’s nine members are Orthodox and do not send their children to public schools. Critics have charged that they have used their board positions to benefit their yeshiva community at the expense of the public schools. Of the 32,000 school-aged children in the district, approximately 8,500 attend public schools and 24,000 attend private schools, mostly Orthodox yeshivas, according to the report, “Opportunity Deferred: A report on the East Ramapo Central School District.”

The report was the work of a team of monitors appointed this summer by the state education commission to review the district’s actions. Its members included former New York City schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, education expert Monica George-Fields and school finance expert John Sipple.

“As illuminated by the Monitors’ work since August 2015, as reported in Henry M. Greenberg’s November 2014 report to the Regents, as documented in the press, and as experienced and voiced by public school families, educators, and community members, the East Ramapo Board of Education has persistently failed to act in the best interests of public school students,” the report said.

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox organization, panned the report for undermining “the integrity of the democratic process” and expressed dismay that it “rekindles the highly charged atmosphere that pits groups against each other in East Ramapo on the basis of religion and race.”

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