Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) expressed his shock over the report and recommendations issued by the state-appointed monitors for the East Ramapo School District. “We had real hopes that Dennis Walcott would be fair. Everything looked and smelled right, but he really let us down,” Hikind said. “This report is an insult to the community and schools within the East Ramapo School District.”
“I and many others welcomed the appointment of Dennis Walcott in August. He was brought in to bridge the gap between the communities. Instead he utterly disappointed us. We had hoped that with his involvement, the animosity surrounding the East Ramapo issue would dissipate. Indeed, the monitors have worked closely with the board, staff, parents, and the community, and things have vastly improved over the past few months. Yet now we find ourselves in a worse position. After reading this report, it is clear to me that the unjustified vilification of the school board has been reinforced. This is not the Dennis I know—someone who is fair, open-minded, and not afraid.”
Hikind added, “Everyone acknowledges that there are serious problems in the district. Walcott was brought in because of his experience and to provide serious recommendations. Not only did this not happen, but this report will only add to the mistrust and animosity in the community. We expected better, we expected more. Dennis, you could have been the superstar.”
The report, titled, “Opportunity Deferred: A Report on the East Ramapo Central School District” was authored by Dennis M. Walcott, the former Chancellor of New York City schools, Dr. Monica George-Fields, and Dr. John W. Sipple, who were appointed to a three-member panel by the Board of Regents. The report recommends 19 proposals such as pursuing legislative action that would give the monitors increased authority, including veto power over the elected school board. “The idea of giving a state monitor the authority to usurp an elected school board, voted by the people, sets a terrible precedent,” said Hikind. “If you allow an appointed monitor to veto decisions of the duly elected East Ramapo School District, then other appointed monitors can do the same in other districts. Where will it end?”
Hikind has been actively involved in speaking out about the East Ramapo School District issue and keeping in contact with East Ramapo School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl and members of the Jewish community. “All along, the underlying issue has been the community’s lack of sufficient funding for its public schools. Instead of addressing those real concerns, certain people have unfairly targeted the religious Jewish community, castigating this into a racial issue,” Hikind said.
(YWN Desk – NYC)