A Study in Contrasts
I'm sure many of you recall the rancorous battle leading up to the School Board elections in my district. I blogged about it here, here, here, here, here, and here. I was reading today about the similar dispute in the East Ramapo Central School District, and I was struck by the difference in the tone of comments made by the admistrators in that district as compared to the rhetoric that we had to endure from the administration and board members here. From the article:
“They know how to work the system,” Schuchman said of the Orthodox. “They vote as one bloc and they’ll do the same thing here that they did in East Ramapo.”These reasoned, logical comments couldn't be further from the kind of heated arguments we received from those representing the public schools in my community. Just after the proposed budget was voted down for the second time, I actually attended a public School Board meeting where one of the outgoing trustees stood up and engaged in the most hateful diatribe against the Orthodox. It was truly distressing. Even more distressing was the standing ovation he received from the public school teachers and parents present, and the lack of rebuke by the school superintendent who was sitting at the table. What the above comments from St. Lawrence and Sampson show me is that there is room for rational debate when both parties come to the table ready to make a good-faith effort to understand each other's needs. I hope that eventually, we can come to that place here in District #15.
He said the people who send their children to private schools should be barred from serving on the school board.
St. Lawrence, the Ramapo town supervisor, said he finds such rhetoric “really distasteful.”
Orthodox Jews, like any other Ramapo taxpayer whose money funds the public schools, should be able to serve on the school board, he said.
“This is America, people can run for election,” St. Lawrence said. “What’s wrong with having Orthodox people on the school board?
“I’m Catholic, but I can tell you that a lot of lashon hara goes on in this town,” he said, using the Yiddish term for “hurtful speech.”
Of the approximately 26,500 school-aged children living in the East Ramapo Central School District, only about 8,000 attend public schools. Most of the others attend Jewish schools.
“What if all the Orthodox and chasidic people put their kids in the public schools tomorrow?” St. Lawrence wondered. “Property taxes would go through the roof.”
Christian Sampson, the East Ramapo Central School District Board president, said the Orthodox community has legitimate concerns about competing financial obligations: multiple yeshiva tuitions and rising property taxes that are used to fund public schools.
“[Orthodox board members] have asserted that they will strive to find ways to save money without compromising the quality of public education,” said Sampson, who is not Jewish.