Checking in on the East Ramapo schools

The Forward is weighing in on the ongoing Orthodox/non-Orthodox tensions in the East Ramapo school district.

The article focuses on the recent resignation of school board President Nathan Rothschild, who was subsequently charged with felony mail fraud, and an investigation of the district by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

Here is the Forward’s “nut graph” or a brief introduction to a very strange place:

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Just 40 minutes from Manhattan, East Ramapo is an ethnically diverse school district in the heart of Rockland County. The district encompasses two centers of the county’s burgeoning Orthodox population: the Hasidic enclave of New Square and the Orthodox hamlet of Monsey. Though members of the Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities in the district largely send their children to private religious schools, they held five of nine seats on the East Ramapo Board of Education until the board president’s recent resignation. Four of the five are Hasidic.

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The article doesn’t even mention that the board recently removed long-time Superintendent Ira Oustatcher or that the district is in terrible financial straits.

The board recently approved a budget proposal that would cut 89 jobs and still raise taxes by 7.53 percent, one of the largest increases in the region.

Yikes.

The photo is of a recent protest, outside the district offices, of the slipping quality of education.

Catching up with the news

Back from a week with the kids. A good time was had by all (you know, most of the time).

There’s a lot of news to catch up with. A papal encyclical is coming tomorrow on how Catholic ideas about social justice apply to the economy.

I see my colleague Randi Weiner is reporting that the East Ramapo Board of Education wants to reschedule next year’s budget/school board elections because it would conflict with the first night of Shavuot. Observant Jews would not be able to vote after sundown.

Apparently, all school districts in NYS hold their votes on the third Tuesday of May but can seek a change if there is a conflict with a religious holiday.

East Ramapo is a unique place because many residents of the district are Hasidic or otherwise Orthodox Jews, none of whom send their children to the public schools.

Nathan Rothschild, president of the school board, told Weiner that some 10,000 voters in last year’s elections were Orthodox Jews, including Hasidim.