Generational poverty shouldn’t define people. And I am a true believer that having access to high quality public education, as well as access to social capital experiences can help level the playing field for students experiencing the type of poverty I overcame. My own story is a testament to this.
25 years ago I arrived in Rochester to attend the University of Rochester. I was immediately struck by the level of poverty and the pronounced divide between the urban center of Rochester and suburban communities. Since my arrival I have always been a city resident. Living anywhere else was not an option due to my prior circumstances, but is now a privileged choice. As a poor student during my university years, I struggled to balance attending classes and support myself working 30-40 hours per week at various jobs. I graduated in 1999 with a degree in Political Science and French. In 2001, I earned my Masters in Teaching from the Warner School.
Great teachers transform lives. The only school educator on the Board of Education is stepping down. With four seats available this election, it is crucial we have a current educator’s voice in the arena. I hope you will consider my independent voice. A board must be professional, collegial, and one that recognizes that it cannot interfere in the day-to-day operations of schools by micro-management of school policy. This public perception of dysfunction, highlighted by the State Report, is detrimental to our students and families. It hurts us all. Many people believe one of the biggest reasons we’ve had such a turnover of our top administration is the near constant in-fighting that appears to be taking place between the Board and past superintendents, as well as very public animosity between board members. This has led to more finger-pointing, the results of which are hurting families.
I began my social studies teaching career at East High School, followed by Churchville-Chili. I am now in my 20th year of teaching, currently in the Brighton Central School District. I also help advise several student clubs, including the Christian Student Union, and my school’s BSU. I am devoted to diversification efforts within schools to help better connect our teachers with the many cultural backgrounds of students and families, and I have been a supporter of anti-racist efforts. Advocating on behalf of my students, and encouraging them to speak truth to power on key social issues has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience.
As a mother to four children in RCSD, whose kids have attended many schools within the system, I empathize with many of the frustrations in our community about the day-to-day accessibility of district resources. Navigating the system can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially in terms of getting special education services, or dealing with placement issues. We must create a welcoming and easily navigable school set-up for our families. We also must be fiscally vigilant, with a looming debt of nearly 85 million dollars.
I see a system with thousands of professionals dedicated to educating our youth who are frustrated by constant turnover of administrators and school programs. I see initiatives that only seem to last a year or two, only to be replaced by bandwagon pedagogy. Innovation is essential in any school, but can’t survive long if the essential supports aren’t put into place. And none of these innovations matter if students can’t read or write. Not all students will end up in college, but they should be career and life ready. And the programs we make available to them should be rigorous, interesting, and applicable in the real-world. If students choose university, they should have the essential skills for success in higher education.
I see neighborhoods unraveling as local schools close, and kids are bused miles from home, don’t have the neighborhood opportunities to develop friendships and lasting community ties. I see the very fabric of our community being torn, and a resulting magnification of generational poverty and the negative effects of systemic racism. Our communities have never been more segregated. We can change this.