THE FOLLOWING IS A NY TIMES ARTICLE:
SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — In the East Ramapo Central School District here, the children of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants have filled the classrooms in recent years. About 85 percent of the students are black or Hispanic, and only 7 percent are white.
Daniel Schwartz, the board president, says a petition reflects the views of chronic complainers.
“They seem to care less and less about what anyone thinks,” Steve White said of the board.
But on the school board, seven of the nine seats are held by Orthodox Jews.
Now, after years of increasingly bitter discord between parents and the board, the parents are trying to force the state to intervene.
A public-interest law firm, acting on behalf of 14 residents, filed a petition last week with the State Education Department, seeking the removal of five of the Orthodox Jewish board members and the appointment of a special monitor to oversee the district. The parents say that the five Orthodox Jewish board members have improperly aided private schools, which are mostly Orthodox yeshivas.
“For the healing process within the East Ramapo school district to occur, the irresponsible board members must be removed,” said Hiram Rivera, president of Padres Unidos, a parent organization. “It is imperative that we, as a school district, focus on all of the children of our district, and not on a single group to the detriment of others.”
Under state law, the education commissioner can remove local school officials for willful misconduct or neglect of duty. Officials note that has happened very infrequently. (The two Orthodox Jewish members not cited in the complaint are new to the board.)
The East Ramapo district, in Rockland County, is one of only three in the state where more students attend private schools than public ones. The district has about 8,000 students in the public schools and 19,000 in private ones. The immigrant and minority population has swelled in some parts of the district, even as the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish population has mushroomed in densely populated Orthodox Jewish centers like Kaser, Monsey and New Square.
Because of their success in turning out voters en masse, the Orthodox Jews have a political influence that exceeds their numbers.
Very few of the Orthodox Jews send their children to public schools. But Orthodox Jewish residents say they are affected by school policies because of the taxes they pay and the services provided by the district to private school students, including special education.
The school board president, Daniel Schwartz, said in an interview that the petition, filed byAdvocates for Justice, represented the views of chronic complainers. He said any insinuation that Orthodox Jewish board members could not focus on the needs of non-Jewish children was offensive and anti-Semitic.
At a school board meeting in May, long before this action was filed, he stunned audience members with remarks that, he acknowledged, have come to be known as “Schwartz’s Rant.”
“We are headed on a crisis, a horrible, horrible crisis,” Mr. Schwartz began. He referred to Auschwitz and Treblinka, and to statements against the board and Jews that he said had been made by district students.
“If you don’t like it, find yourself another place to live,” he said.
In the interview, Mr. Schwartz said it was insulting to contend that Orthodox Jews did not have an interest in excellent public schools.
“What they are suggesting is that Orthodox Jews as a whole are an entire subgroup that doesn’t give a damn about anyone else,” he said.
Whatever the arguments, the district is troubled.
The petition claims that the district has laid off about 25 percent of its teachers over the past few years. Joel Klein, the superintendent, said 300 positions had been eliminated in the last few years. The district now has 1,600 employees.
Dr. Klein said the district faced continuing fiscal issues because it was not adequately reimbursed for the majority of children in the district who go to private schools but often are entitled to use district resources for transportation, books or special education.
In their petition, the residents noted that the State Education Department had determined that the district has had a practice of placing students with disabilities in private schools without first documenting that there was not an appropriate service for the students in a public school.