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Rockland Clergy Group Asks State to Take Over East Ramapo Schools

Rockland Clergy Group Asks State to Take Over East Ramapo Schools
The newly formed Rockland Clergy for Social Justice is asking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take control of the East Ramapo school district. 

According to press reports, the group held a press conference in Spring Valley April 8 with the Spring Valley NAACP—with speakers including Rabbi Adam Baldachin of the Montebello Jewish Center; Rabbi Ari Hart of Uri L'Tzedek (Orthodox Social Justice); Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV, PhD of the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley; Pastor Joel Michel of the French Speaking Baptist Church in Spring Valley, Azeem Farooki of the Islamic Center of Rockland and Dr. Oscar Cohen.

Michel recounted the school experience of one of his parishioners and said it was out of a sense of urgency that he stood with other local clergy.

Uri L'Tzedek has started an online  petition, "As concerned Jewish citizens, we appeal to you to respond to the brewing crisis in Rockland County. Efforts to improve the situation from local politicians have not been successful, and now the children of East Ramapo are suffering with school closures, class cancellations, activity cancellations, high teacher to student ratios, and much more with no relief in sight. That is why we are calling for your direct and immediate involvement. We are encouraged that you recently took similar action in the troubled Yonkers school system. We hope that you will do the same here."

East Ramapo school officials told The Journal News they would continue to defend their actions. 

According to The Jewish Week, "Located 30 miles north of New York City, the  East Ramapo Central School District includes the haredi enclaves of Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square. The nine-member board has seven fervently Orthodox members overseeing a district of about 9,000 public school students, about 90 percent of whom are black or Latino and two-thirds of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. The district also has roughly 20,000 yeshiva students.

"The school board is under investigation for fiscal irregularities, including diverting public funds to private yeshivas. In 2010, the board’s sale of a public school building to a yeshiva was annulled by the state for being millions of dollars under market value and the appraiser was indicted."

East Ramapo schools Superintendent Joel M. Klein told The Jewish Week that the program cuts were necessary because state and federal funding had been cut by nearly $11 million. He denied that district funds have been diverted to yeshivas.

“No matter who was on the board, they would have made the same decisions,” he said to thejewishweek.com.



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