The Lies, The Budget, The Teens, Oh My!

Commissioner White asked Jerome Underwood the cost of restructuring K-6 schools into K-8 schools, his answer was approximately $250K per building. To convert K-6 buildings into K-8 buildings requires major renovations. Science labs must be added, band rooms, lockers, SmartBoards, parking space, sports fields, etc. To expect this community to believe that any contractor would be able to complete this extensive amount of renovation for $250K is insulting. The truth is it will cost tens of millions of dollars. Parents, students, and administrators don’t want their K-6 schools to become K-8 schools. It’s being forced on them under the guise of “real reform.” That money can be spent upgrading the technology of every school in this district and providing safe, educationally inviting space for our Pre-K students.

The community was never told that the majority of school administrators did not want to adopt ESF, but were forced into it. Parents and community members don’t want it because it doesn’t work. Truth be told, even the President of the School Board told me he doesn’t believe it will work. Why is it being considered? This budget increases class size, cuts librarians, Art, Music, and Phys Ed teachers while doling out millions to Central Office personnel and offices that have no contact with or direct impact on student achievement.

City Councilman Adam McFadden spoke to the School Board at Thursday’s business meeting, concerned about the number of teens congregating at Liberty Pole Way. By his estimation, hundreds of teens are gathering downtown, carrying weapons, harassing the elderly, and just wandering. Community member Wallace Smith confirmed Councilman McFadden’s observations and added that he contacted the State Board of Education and was told that these student’s were the responsibility of the district until they reached home. Elementary students should be able to walk to their neighborhood school and teens should be bused to their homes. That is sensible school reform.

Every aspect of “reform” proposed in Superintendent Brizard’s plan equates to the failure of our students and our district. We cannot allow the Board to continue pushing through Brizard’s plan as “reform.”

The man is gone, now it’s time to Stop the Plan!

The Devil’s in the Details

During a recent budget meeting, district cabinet members were asked to explain the salary increase information presented at the public budget hearing on April 12th. Deputy Superintendent Scanlan said that the information was misleading and that for one year the total salary earned was not reported which made the next year’s salary report appear larger than it actually was. Commissioner White said that some of the increases were due to time buy backs. When Superintendent Brizard was asked about the same information at his “exit interview” he said that these weren’t salary increases but position changes.

After obtaining the salary information for every person listed in the phone directory for Central Office, the details showed:
. more than 65% of the C O staff received a salary increase
. 182 people received over $2M was spent on those increases and,
. increases averaged to 33.49% 2009-2010 school year.
. Teachers and other school staff received less than 4% for that
same year
Budget details also show:
. the Office of Accountability will receive $6,392,763 for Professional Technical Services
. Administration Services will receive $2,248,971 for the same line item.
. The Northstar Program will receive $20,000 per student funding for their program which has an attendance rate of 75% and a return to school rate of only 50%.
. The Office of Teaching and Learning, receives $11,187,291 to teach teachers how to teach.

The School Board is trying to “rob Peter to pay Paul” in order to come up with $8M to save teacher jobs. The details clearly show that Brizard’s proposed budget is robbing children of teachers to pay for a plan that has little to do with their educational success.
The man is gone now it’s time to Stop the Plan!

We The People

“Not if I have anything to do with it.” That’s a quote from Commissioner Van White , referring to this community’s rejection of Superintendent Brizard’s reform proposals.

Has Commissioner White forgotten that he is a public servant? We have heard the same type of arrogance from other Board members as well. President Evans exhibited his indifference to the public voice when he mentioned the communities vote of no confidence for Mr. Brizard as teacher prompted when, in actuality, it was the other way around. For some reason it does not seem to be clear to our elected officials that they are to be OUR collective voice. Their personal opinions and desires are irrelevant if they do not mirror ours. We the people have everything to do with it because we are the government. What we want was made evident at the April 12th board meeting .

Now it is up to our elected officials to listen to the public or be voted out by the public.

It’s All Clear Now

Another budget meeting was held last night and even thought Brizard was in the building, he chose not to attend, leaving his “highly qualified” staff to take the heat. Questions were raised about why no one has contacted an independent auditor to review the budget and no clear answer was offered. No surprises yet! Commissioner Powell brought her questions and ideas about saving money to the Board with some support by Commissioner White, disagreement from board President Evans, and no comment from Commissioner Cruz. By the way, they were the only ones there. So here’s the thing. Even though Brizard is leaving the Board is going ahead with his “reforms” to change our schools and change the way we budget for our schools, ESF and ASB, making no effort to change district funding to the children first and Central Office last.
At last, it all became clear in an “Aha” moment. The Board of Education does not want to take responsibility for any decision except hiring a Superintendent to make the “tough” decisions. This keeps them as far away from the failure of students as possible, they think. The reality is, they are totally responsible for our children’s failure because they continue to hire superintendent’s that push reforms whose main objective is to spend our money, not educate our children. The Board of Education is responsible for not listening to the public voice that has continuously offered solutions to the obvious problems that plague our district. And, they are responsible for not doing their due diligence in making sure that the majority of the money spent in our district is actually spent on the education of our children not on SEG’s and CO staff. The Board of Education is responsible for the educational failure of our children, and until this community elects a school board that cares more about children and less about their political careers and shifting blame, our children will continue to fail and superintendent’s will continue to bail when the fire of our objection gets too hot.

Brizard is Gone, Now What?

It’s official, Brizard has taken the job in Chicago.  We wish him well.  Unfortunately, he left behind a legacy in Rochester that still looms large over the heads of the Board and the citizens of Rochester.  The man is gone but what about his plan for our schools?  Earlier this year citizens joined with teachers to openly state that they had no confidence in the decision making ability of Superintendent Brizard.  At his last press conference Brizard stated that his cabinet was totally capable of carrying out his plans. The School Board, previously enamored of Mr. Brizard and now feeling a little hurt by his leaving, has some serious questions to answer.  Who will be interim superintendent?  Will the Board direct Brizard’s cabinet to carry out his plan to increase class size, remove phys ed from elementary schools, restructure buildings from K-6 to K-8, and decrease art, music, and library at all levels?  And what about ESF and autonomous school budgeting?

The fight to save our children’s educational future is far from over.  The movement to bring about widespread systemic change to our system of education must not stop but become more intense.  We had and still have no confidence in the assumption that the changes proposed by Mr. Brizard had anything to do with the educational success of children.   We do believe however, that they had everything to do with the financial success of the Broad and Gates foundations, and others, that are moving across the country siphoning tax dollars away from public education at an alarming rate.  With the election of Tom Richards, mayoral control of our school district is back on the table and with more zeal in light of the School Board’s inability to see the writing on the wall, in the budget, on the streets, or in the media.  Brizard gave them every opportunity to make fools of themselves and they took full advantage making it easy to point out the ineptitude and inefficiency of the elected school board.  On April 15th, the Board, pointed out that they had no idea what was happening with Brizard.  A mere five days later Brizard held his own press conference, saying just the opposite.  First the Board asked for the Superintendent’s approval of an independent budget audit, now, in light of Brizard’s leaving, they are demanding one.

Gear up citizens, a heavy battle is on the horizon.  Stand ready to defend our children’s educational future against the scourge of privatization and NCLB’s failure funding stream.  Arm yourself with knowledge and then speak out, with force, to our elected officials.  Let them know that they are there to SERVE their public not serve our children up to big business.  It will not be easy but it will certainly be worth it.  Every child is in danger of becoming a casualty of capitalism, they start with the poor and disenfranchised and then move up.

To Skype or Not to Skype, Is That the Question?

The Policy Committee met last week with a full agenda regarding technology issues.  According to policy changes, Board members will now be added to the list of district “users” with their internet usage being subject to the same regulations as all other district employees and students.   As well, the issue of who, when, and why as it pertains to remote attendance at Board meetings was a subject of interest since the only acceptable reason for a Board member to be relieved of their seat is due to poor attendance.

Is remote presence really the question?  Or is the real question, “Why is there policy allowing our elected officials to summarily dismiss our concerns by not responding to our questions, by not responding to our concerns, by not even acknowledging our presence before them?”  Do we really care if they ignore us remotely or in person?  Updating policy to reflect new technology is important yes, but updating policy to reflect real, interpersonal interaction between Board members and the community is essential.  We want answers, we want comments, we want our efforts to be acknowledged by more than, “Your time is up, please conclude your remarks!”