East Ramapo Oversight

February 18, 2015

My colleagues Senator David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and I announced that we have introduced legislation (A.5355/S.3821) to appoint a State Monitor to the East Ramapo School District. The legislation comes in response to Fiscal Monitor Hank Greenberg’s recommendations that called for strong oversight in the school district. The State Monitor will be on the ground, in the district for the next five years, providing necessary oversight to get back on track.

Below are the highlights of the legislation, including the various responsibilities of the proposed State Monitor.

  • The State Monitor would oversee the district’s financial and operational management to ensure that the school district moves towards fiscal responsibility and academic excellence.
  • The monitor will attend all board meetings (including executive session) ensuring that the Board is operating in accordance with Open Meetings Law.
  • The legislation requires that the monitor develop a five year strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan within six months of being appointed. The Plan will set goals to improve district operations, financial stability, and academic opportunities including benchmarks to measure the district’s progress. The Monitor must set up at least one public hearing, considering comments from the public, before submitting a final plan. The final plan will then be presented to the Board along with input received from the public.
  • Hank Greenberg’s report also called for an oversight mechanism that would allow the Monitor to overturn unreasonable board or superintendent decisions. The legislation provides the Monitor with the ability to overturn Board or Superintendent decisions if they find it to be in the best interest of the students or to implement of the five year plan. The Monitor must issue a directive to override an action detailing its necessity. The Monitor’s decision is final and conclusive. They will also have the power to propose a course of action or resolution to the Board if deemed necessary.
  • The Board may appeal a State Monitor’s decision if they allege it to be in violation of education law, the rules of the Board of Regents, State education regulations or the terms of the five year improvement plan. Appeals will be held through an impartial hearing through the State Education Department.
  • The Monitor will also be required to publish an annual report on the progress of the district that will be made available to the public. The report shall include a progress report on achieving the strategic improvement plan’s goals, the current financial situation, and other important district matters.
  • At the end of the Monitor’s appointment, they will issue a final report that will provide long-term recommendations to improve the district. The appointment will last for an initial period of at least five years, and the Commissioner of Education can extend the period for up to ten years if necessary.
  • In addition, my colleagues and I are committed to providing additional funding, linked to oversight, to the school district either through a grant or State Aid formula change.

The goal of this legislation is to fix the crisis in the East Ramapo School District. The appointed State Monitor will be another set of eyes in the district, working in the best interest of the students and restoring parent’s trust in their children’s education. The Monitor will help the district get back on track, improving the financial situation while ensuring the educational opportunities for students. East Ramapo is the second most fiscally stressed school district in the State. This kind of oversight is necessary to change that.