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Rockland County, NY - Dennis Walcott Sheds Light On E. Ramapo Report In Journal News Interview

Published on: January 6, 2016 10:28 AM
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FILE - Dennis Walcott. APFILE - Dennis Walcott. AP

Rockland County, NY - East Ramapo monitor Dennis Walcott spoke at length Tuesday with Gary Stern of The Journal News’ editorial board about his controversial 19 point report issued late last month. 

As previously reported on VIN News, while the report acknowledged that the district was seriously underfunded by New York State, it also recommended that a monitor with veto power be put in place to potentially overturn decisions made by the predominantly Jewish school board. The report also recommended that future school board elections be supervised by monitors and cast doubt on whether gender segregated busses would continue to be provided to the private school community.

Walcott blamed the district’s problems on poor decision making over many years by the East Ramapo school board, which didn’t properly provide for the district’s public school students.

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“Unfortunately this board and these students are really suffering as a result of some of those decisions,” said Walcott.

Walcott said that reliance on state funding, which had never been guaranteed for the long term, is another factor that has caused East Ramapo to lapse into its current state of crisis.

Drawing an unequivocal line in the sand, Walcott noted that the state will not allocate any additional funding to East Ramapo unless a monitor with veto power is appointed to the district, an ultimatum that will likely place the lead monitor directly at odds with the current school board.  Walcott pointed to controversial attempts by the school board to sell off unused public school buildings several years ago to yeshivas at below market prices as prime examples of situations when a monitor could have stepped in and intervened for the benefit of the school district.

Walcott criticized the board, saying that his recommendations were drafted to prevent future injustices.

“The board has been somewhat disconnected from the community and sometimes been not proper in their relationships with the community and I think we have to make sure that that does not repeat itself in the future and that is part of what we are looking at and how we put those systems in place,” said Walcott.

Yet Walcott also praised current school board president Yehuda Weissmandl, noting that he has been diligent in his efforts to work with the district’s unique demographics.

“I want to be very clear that under Yehuda’s leadership the board has taken some steps,” observed Walcott.  “ I am always impressed with his balancing act and how he has to deal with the leadership of being the board president and representing a variety of different constituency groups, trying to bring those constituency groups together on behalf of all the students in the district because as you well know this is a very unique district.”

Despite strides taken by Weissmandl, Walcott said his decisions were based on the future of the district, suggesting that Weissmandl could be voted out in the next school board election.

Walcott shrugged off allegations of anti-Semitism that were hurled once his report was made public.  Calling on his own experience working with a failed school district in central Harlem some 20 years ago, Walcott said that people were upset that a decision was made to have the school board taken over by a group of trustees and suggested that the move had been racially motivated, a situation that he compared to the troubles in East Ramapo.

“It doesn’t involve the issue of religion or race when people feel that someone is not doing their job properly and that had been the case before up here in East Ramapo,” remarked Walcott. 

Given the district’s unique demographics, religious issues cannot be ignored, explained Walcott.

“I think where religion comes in is that you have a population that is growing that is entitled to their services and we have to make sure that all the services and dollars that they are entitled to they receive and receive appropriately,” said Walcott.

But Walcott said that the main problem in East Ramapo has nothing to do with the district’s unique demographics.

“I think that part of the challenge of this district is that you do have the intersection of religion and race and ethnic identity that are all part of the discussion but sometimes it just deals with the fiduciary responsibility of an institution more than the religion,” observed Walcott.


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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 06, 2016 at 10:47 AM OhevYisroel Says:

Solution: have a separate school district where all our school tax dollars will work for the benefit of that district. There's more than enough tax dollars coming in from all the new housing projects to support a separate district. period!

2

 Jan 06, 2016 at 11:24 AM kenyaninwhitehouse Says:

I dont understand why the school district cant just avoid conflict and add music and art or whatever.

3

 Jan 06, 2016 at 11:58 AM MonseyMan Says:

This is a man made issue. We should get out of the business of running other peoples education. There was no major issue before the takeover, and taxes are still going up.. They may have saved us a few bucks, but money isn't everything... I'm sure that they mean well-- but it has gone too far

4

 Jan 06, 2016 at 12:45 PM wow-wee Says:

I am talking as a tax paying resident of East Ramapo.
just try to compare us to the central school district where school taxes went up in the last 10 years by about 100% and people pay there double the amount than what we pay in east Ramapo, this is what would happen if not of the hard work by the legitimately elected school district, voted in by the actual tax payers, the problem is that the PS students are all renters, and they couldn't care less if the taxes rise, so they want to always increase taxes .
and I thought we live in a majority rules, democracy

5

 Jan 06, 2016 at 01:28 PM kenyaninwhitehouse Says:

Reply to #4  
wow-wee Says:

I am talking as a tax paying resident of East Ramapo.
just try to compare us to the central school district where school taxes went up in the last 10 years by about 100% and people pay there double the amount than what we pay in east Ramapo, this is what would happen if not of the hard work by the legitimately elected school district, voted in by the actual tax payers, the problem is that the PS students are all renters, and they couldn't care less if the taxes rise, so they want to always increase taxes .
and I thought we live in a majority rules, democracy

but that other district isnt in the news all the time is it?

6

 Jan 06, 2016 at 01:47 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
MonseyMan Says:

This is a man made issue. We should get out of the business of running other peoples education. There was no major issue before the takeover, and taxes are still going up.. They may have saved us a few bucks, but money isn't everything... I'm sure that they mean well-- but it has gone too far

Do you have kids in school? Do you want tp shell out more taxes on transportation? How about special needs kids? Who should cover the 50k a year tuition? There really is no simple answer.

7

 Jan 06, 2016 at 02:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
wow-wee Says:

I am talking as a tax paying resident of East Ramapo.
just try to compare us to the central school district where school taxes went up in the last 10 years by about 100% and people pay there double the amount than what we pay in east Ramapo, this is what would happen if not of the hard work by the legitimately elected school district, voted in by the actual tax payers, the problem is that the PS students are all renters, and they couldn't care less if the taxes rise, so they want to always increase taxes .
and I thought we live in a majority rules, democracy

Agree 100%

8

 Jan 06, 2016 at 02:48 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
wow-wee Says:

I am talking as a tax paying resident of East Ramapo.
just try to compare us to the central school district where school taxes went up in the last 10 years by about 100% and people pay there double the amount than what we pay in east Ramapo, this is what would happen if not of the hard work by the legitimately elected school district, voted in by the actual tax payers, the problem is that the PS students are all renters, and they couldn't care less if the taxes rise, so they want to always increase taxes .
and I thought we live in a majority rules, democracy

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

9

 Jan 06, 2016 at 04:24 PM OhevYisroel Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

forensic accountant? you lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's? why did school tax go up every year, its one of the highest in the country even before "these" board members were voted in?! where did the money go?! where is our school tax dollars going? housing is up big in the last 15 years and so is the school tax collection, where is the money? where is the tax dollars spent? forensic accountant!!!

10

 Jan 06, 2016 at 04:26 PM OhevYisroel Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote!! I think there is a picture out there of you driving one of these bus loads!

11

 Jan 06, 2016 at 05:01 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

It is amazing how many lies and how much you can contain in one paragraph.

" You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%."

demonstrably false.

"High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote"

lie and hate mongering

" Why do you think Preet is investigating them? "

Lie, he is not investigating. (Not that him investigating is proof of anything)

"when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn"

This has been proven to be a vicious lie..

Every single line in your comment is lie after lie.

12

 Jan 06, 2016 at 05:18 PM Part #1 reply to ANON 8 Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

Part #1 will pertain to some of your allegations, part #2 will pertail to your misstatements about special ed.

#1, I highly doubt your statements about underage voters brought in by busloads. I also have trouble understanding why any board would buy books and send them elsewhere.
You must aso understand that an investigation by Preet Biharara does not prove guilt. Charges proferred and a guilty verdict or a guilty plea prove guilt.

13

 Jan 06, 2016 at 05:48 PM Part #2 reply to ANON 8 Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

Federal law requires the district to provide a free and appropriate education to every child, even special. Funds also come from NYS and some Federal funds.
In rare cases students are sent out of State, when the care needed can not be provided. Every NYS special School must refuse to accept these students, probably because they represent a danger to themselves and others.
This type of care is very individualized and will, by definition, be more costly than a student walking into a lecture hall at Harvard without assistance. There are college students that are severely disabled, the costs of full time aide, transportation and equipmeny are also costly.
I highly doubt kids placed in a residential special school ever get married, to think otherwise is absurd or great emunah.
The decision of spending money on "them" or anybody is embodied in law, not your opinion.
It really sounds like you are overcome with jealousy, do you really want to have a special child and get your wish?

14

 Jan 06, 2016 at 05:55 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I've lived in East Ramapo since the early 70's. You are 100% wrong about taxes increasing 100%. Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote and there are many pictures of these buses. High school girls were also bused in....girls under age to vote. This board has been unscrupulous from the onset. Why do you think Preet is investigating them? There should have been a forensic accountant involved originally, but Cuomo was opposed to that, so they sent in Wolcott and his group who did a thorough audit, but could not go back to a few years ago when millions of dollars were spent on books shipped to Brooklyn. Why should my tax dollars in Rockland pay for books shipped to Brooklyn? Why should 2 special ed kids be sent to Vermont at 97 thousand dollars each so they can go to the Vermont school? This board needs to be accountable for every dime spent. The special ed payments for private schools are more costly than a Harvard education per student!!! And the worst part is that the girls are encouraged to marry at 18 and start a family, so why spend 97k on them if they are unable to work?

." Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote"
Sounds like Trump "thousands of arabs took to the streets of jersey city to celebrate 9/11.

15

 Jan 06, 2016 at 08:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
OhevYisroel Says:

Bus loads of voters from Brooklyn were brought in to vote!! I think there is a picture out there of you driving one of these bus loads!

"I think there is a picture out there of you driving one of these bus loads!"

Google the Brooklyn buses and you will see the drivers. IDs are not checked so anyone from any area can vote. When the bus of high school girls was questioned, the girls ran away quickly back to the bus. They do what they are "told" to do by the powers that be.

16

 Jan 06, 2016 at 09:15 PM NYC says Says:

As long as there was no financial hanky panky STAND TOUGH. The law is very clear, registered voters vote for the Board. This issue arose because of racism and the pandering to the non white community is clearly illegal. The thought that any position must be filled by a parent of a child in the school system is clearly illegal. I assume, life has created some parents of special ed kids that makes their parents qualify.
In advance of some wrong headed comments, there is nothing wrong with parents of a special child partaking of the education their child is entitled to while using non public schools for othe kids.

17

 Jan 07, 2016 at 02:26 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
Part #1 reply to ANON 8 Says:

Part #1 will pertain to some of your allegations, part #2 will pertail to your misstatements about special ed.

#1, I highly doubt your statements about underage voters brought in by busloads. I also have trouble understanding why any board would buy books and send them elsewhere.
You must aso understand that an investigation by Preet Biharara does not prove guilt. Charges proferred and a guilty verdict or a guilty plea prove guilt.

"I also have trouble understanding why any board would buy books and send them elsewhere. "

Please google this and learn the facts. Yiddish books were purchased in Spring Valley and shipped to a yeshiva in Brooklyn. There is a check written and cashed. Wolcott did not investigate this because he did not want to go back as far as 3 years. Parents are working with the FBI about a lot of questionable checks written by this school board. Preet has his hands full of documents.

This is why oversight is needed as Wolcott and all other monitors are demanding. Wouldn't you rather have a veto over illicit spending than have the board jailed after the fact? This protects the board from themselves.

18

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