SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. – It’s obviously good to be an employee in New York’s East Ramapo school district – at least for those who haven’t been laid off.
But it’s clearly not so great to be a student at East Ramapo.
Hundreds of their teachers were laid off in recent years, according to media reports. Kindergarten was reduced to a half-day program, the number of high school elective classes and foreign language classes were reduced, and summer school programs were cut.
Many student extracurricular activities, including middle school athletics, were eliminated.
Student proficiency scores on state tests have lagged well behind the state average in most categories, and the graduation rate has been similarly dismal.
The January the East Ramapo district was named New York’s sixth most financially stressed school district, according to News 12 Westchester.
In August, 2015 the state appointed three monitors to oversee the district and its troubled financial situation, according to Lohud.com. Earlier this month the district needed to use $1 million in emergency state funds to repair a damaged and leaking high school roof.
One school principal, speaking anonymously to a reporter from the New York Times, said student needs are not being met as the district wallows in the red.
“We’re not even close to (meeting) state-mandated services,” the official was quoted as saying. “I feel like I’m watching a disaster descend on our children.”
Yet in a district that can’t provide minimal services for kids or afford to fix its own high school roof, employee salaries have gone through the roof.
In the 2014-15 school year, the East Ramapo district paid a total of 512 employees at least $100,000 in straight salary, for a staggering total of $62.9 million.
Again, that’s just straight salary. Imagine the total cost with insurance and other benefits added in.
Building principals made out extremely well. Of the 14 highest-paid employees in 2014-15, 10 were principals. The same was true of 14 of the highest paid 50 employees.
Those 14 principals hauled in a combined total of $2.2 million, with the highest salary at $179,239 and the lowest at $143,000.
Unlike many other districts with oversized payrolls, East Ramapo’s is not particularly top-heavy with overpaid administrators. Everyone seems to make great money, including the teachers who have remained employed.
Twelve of the 50 highest-paid employees in 2014-15 were teachers, with their salaries ranging between $156,225 and $141,145.
Despite those handsome salaries, the students don’t seem to be learning.
According to SocialChangeNYU.com, in 2013-14 “only fourteen percent of third to eighth grade students in East Ramapo are proficient in English Language Arts, less than half the state average and worse than the results achieved by every other district in the county.
“Moreover, while the state average for ELA proficiency was stable between the 2012–13 and 2013–14 school years, the proficiency rate for East Ramapo dropped by nearly twenty percent.
“The results for math tell a similar same story, as East Ramapo fell below half the state average during the 2013–14 school year and far below every other district in the county.
“The outlook for high school students in East Ramapo is similarly bleak. East Ramapo’s graduation rate of sixty percent is fourteen points below the state, has decreased by four points from last year, and is less than every other district in the county.
“According to any comparative or absolute measure of student achievement, East Ramapo is failing its students.”
Priorities are clearly out of whack in this troubled public school district. Hopefully state officials can fix the mess before many more kids are short-changed on their educational needs.
Alissa Mack contributed to this report.