How Public Money Goes to Support a Hasidic Villages Private Schools …

Posted By on February 25, 2023

On a Thursday in October, a Times reporter attending a district school board meeting watched as both men voted to spend about $5 million in federal stimulus money to replace the heating and cooling system at an early childhood education centerowned by the U.T.A.-affiliated company, which Mr. Kepecs and Mr. Polatsek co-founded. Both men still sit on its board, records show.

After The Times inquired about the board members ties to the education center, Mr. Kepecs and Mr. Polatsek publicly disclosed their roles at the nonprofit, acknowledging a potential conflict of interest and pledging to abstain from future votes related to leases or contracts with the organization. In January, they recused themselves from a new vote related to the heating and cooling repairs.

The district has also been generous with employee salaries and benefits. Among the workers on its payroll is Aron Polatsek, the board presidents son, who earns $178,000 a year as a teacher aide/E.M.T., records show. Mr. Petlin said the salary was justified because Aron Polatsek performs additional duties as a parent liaison and had worked at the district for more than 20 years.

The school system has also awarded a $4.6 million contract to a village bus company, Focus in Chinuch, managed by another son of Mr. Polatsek, Joel. That company, in turn, has donated about $300,000 a year to the U.T.A. over a recent four-year period to promote religious education, tax documents show.

Records show Mr. Polatsek abstained from the vote on the bus contract renewal in 2020. A representative of the bus company said Joel Polatsek worked as an operations manager at the firm and had no independent decision-making authority.

Mr. Petlin, the superintendent, said any questions about board members relatives were misguided.

Our leases and contracts are based upon our needs for space and for the services that we are mandated to provide, Mr. Petlin said. Hiring and promotions at the Kiryas Joel School District are based upon merit, not by someones last name.

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How Public Money Goes to Support a Hasidic Villages Private Schools ...

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