Legislation would allow Rockland school districts to create wards in boards of ed

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ALBANY – State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski have introduced legislation to allow any school district in Rockland County to create wards for the purposes of school board elections, subject to voter approval.

The legislation would allow districts to create ward systems of between three and nine wards, ensuring that all or a majority of members of a school board are not elected from the same neighborhood of a district. 

Under the terms of the bill, the creation of a ward system by a school district would require voter approval in a referendum. A nearly identical bill allowing school districts in Orange County to create ward systems was passed by the Senate in 2020. 

The East Ramapo Central School District in Rockland County is preparing to conduct its first election under a new court-ordered ward system, following litigation by the NAACP.

“Ensuring that all communities are fairly represented is a cornerstone of democracy,” said Reichlin-Melnick. “This legislation would give school districts in Rockland County the authority to determine for themselves if a ward system is right for the children and families they serve.”

“Every Rockland school district should have the ability to determine their own election system. If wards/districts will increase voter participation, accountability, and diversity on the board, they should not have to ask a Judge for an order. Every student in Rockland deserves an excellent education and that starts with parents being heard and represented by the school board,” said  Zebrowski.