The Aquino Report from the state cites numerous failures within our district, which can lead to state or political takeover. People are leaving the city in droves looking for better opportunities for their children, with enrollment decreasing from nearly 31,000 to just over 25,000 in a 10-year period (much of this due to charter school draw). This all compounds the effects of concentrated urban poverty and segregation. How do we make the City of Rochester a place people WANT to chose for their families? How do we begin to fix this broken system?
- I will fight to reinvigorate & rebuild our neighborhood schools. What does this mean? We must make the schoolhouse the center of our communities, and provide high quality engagement for our older students via ties to community programs and recreational centers. Close to 25 years ago, RCSD began changing student placement services as a way to address socioeconomic and racial segregation. The intention was well-meaning, but we remain more segregated today than ever before. And this isn’t just in Rochester where we see the effects of leaving placement to chance (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/san-francisco-school-segregation.html ). Under the current lottery program, white middle-class families have clear advantages over other students. Additionally, the placement of students across the city has resulted in the further weakening of local elementary schools. This has resulted in massive transportation costs, and the slow unraveling of any sense of community-feel within many neighborhoods. Parents and community members have banded together and organized to prevent these closures. Let us not allow less organized or less cohesive neighborhoods to experience closures or lack of opportunity. Additionally, busing students across the city is no longer environmentally sustainable, and solutions such as county-wide schooling (the only proven way to desegregate communities) is not currently a viable option without suburban buy-in or state legislation.
- I will encourage less focus on standardized testing, and advocate for better state assessments. Kids learn when their most basic needs are being met, when they feel safe, and when they are challenged by inquiry-based learning opportunities, especially those that connect them to real-world experiences and community organizations. Assessment should be the part of the teaching and learning process. But it should be periphery to building meaningful relationships with students, and helping them develop a lifelong love for learning. Older students must have real-world apprenticeship opportunities for developing trade and business skills. High school internships should become the norm. We can create this through project-based teaching & learning, that can’t necessarily be measured by a state exam.
- I will continue to support building community schools in any receivership area and strong ties with our many community partners . These schools provide essential social services in-house for students and families, and have concrete and data-driven positive results. There is less absenteeism, and more parent involvement. Community schools that are neighborhood-based can lead to more neighborhood stability, and more investment by local business. Additionally, most students who attend school closer to home that are walker-friendly help to strengthen those community relationships with churches and recreational opportunities. Modeling district high schools after our successes, like the East High/U of R partnership, School 58, and SOTA, will result in more equitable educational opportunities city-wide. Furthermore, when considering partnerships within the community, we must consider creating access to real-world learning experiences through internships and quality mentor programs, using the professionals and role models from within our community.
- I will make sure all stakeholders are at the table to discuss solutions. Organizations like Roc the Future, the Coalition for Education, our labor unions, our suburban partners, our mayor, our City Council, and most importantly our TEACHERS, PARA-PROFESSONIALS, and SUPPORT STAFF PROFESSIONALS, all have a stake in wanting to see a successful school system created. And this must be a sustained effort by us all. We must continue to invest in high quality social justice-oriented professional development for our teachers. Creating a diverse group of teachers and school professionals greatly enhances our community. I will collaborate with my board peers in a professional manner to ensure students have access to a culturally appropriate curriculum across our schools. Shouting louder only serves to further alienate us from one-another. Let’s create a school system we can all be proud of, resulting in a community that people want to invest in and be a part of. Collaboration and mutual respect for one another will be essential in this process.