Advocacy Newsbriefs – December 2016: Central Hudson Region Advocacy Report

Central Hudson Region PTA helped organize two meetings between Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, NYSED staff and PTA leadership in the East Ramapo Central School District.

At the August meeting, the Commissioner shared the news of allocating $3 million in State Aid to the district, before it was publicly announced, and introduced the newly appointed State Monitor, Mr. Charles Szuberla.

Following a number of public hearings, NYSED granted the District’s request to utilize most of the funds to support a full day kindergarten program in East Ramapo, which kicked off on October 6.

On November 28, Commissioner Elia met with PTA leaders and representatives from the NAACP, Mr. Szuberla, Regent Judith Johnson, District Superintendent, Dr. Deborah Wortham, and NYSED staff members in attendance. The purpose of this meeting was to review details regarding an upcoming Bond vote for capital projects in East Ramapo, which were to be voted on December 6.

Commissioner Elia explained the two propositions on the ballot and responded to a number of questions. The capital projects would provide desperately needed renovations and replacements reported to affect every building in East Ramapo, including roofs, boilers, windows, ventilation units, indoor gymnasium bleachers and athletic fields, among others.

All work done under Proposition 1 would be reimbursable through a 56.2% State Aid at an additional tax burden to the average homeowner of $0 – $15/year.

Proposition 2 would allow using EXCEL Funds for projects totaling $1,127,920 for renovations to schools with the entire amount State funded.

The hope was for both propositions to pass although voters had turned down a lower, $32 million Bond, in 2015.

PTA leadership made valuable suggestions to help get the vote out, including: encouraging eligible voter registration, especially among high school students, posting and sharing a “sample ballot”, sharing information in multiple languages including Spanish and Creole, facilitating absentee ballots (since most college students were still away from home) and providing more brief blurbs in addition to the detailed information which had been shared in a recent district newsletter and on the web site.

The district administration was very receptive to the requests PTA leaders made at the meeting, promptly constructing a web page dedicated to the Bond with ample easy-to-read information, including translations.

To assist the East Ramapo units in getting the word out regarding this Bond vote, CHR compiled an email to all officers in all 14 East Ramapo PTA units. The email included a link to the District’s Bond Vote page and requested each unit share with its members.

Another email reminder went out on the day of the Bond vote.

The community went to work posting on social media, sending texts, etc., and their efforts did pay off.

According to unofficial results released, 1,641 voters voted in favor of Proposition 1, while 375 voted against it. The second proposition on the ballot passed with 1,651 votes.

This was a great outcome especially given the history of poor public school voter turnout and several similar bonds failing in past years.

While the work can now begin to provide the East Ramapo students with a safe and healthy environment conducive to learning, a lot more is still needed.

Central Hudson Region PTA continues to keep close contact with the East Ramapo PTA Council and units, in support of their unwavering advocacy efforts. Find out more here.