Is There A Doctor In The House?

“We need your help to have your child have the correct race and ethnicity so that it is reported to the state and federal governments with student performance.”

This is one sentence of a very poorly written document that was sent to parents by the Chief of Accountability for the district who earns $141,362. This Chief has a Doctorate Degree in Education that was most likely paid for by the district. A Doctor of Education at 690 St. Paul St. earns $119,268 for watching adults at the Alternative Work Location. The Chief of Staff, a position that didn’t exist ten years ago, is a Doctor of Education who earned $218,323 in the 2010-11 school year. These three positions take nearly $500,000 dollars away from the education of children. The average cost of earning a doctorate degree is approximately $250,000. That is another $750,000 dollars that our children never received for their education. These are three examples, there are more!

Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas recently saved this district $400,000 by letting go two Chiefs and the Deputy Superintendent. There is a great deal more work to be done. It appears that Dr. Vargas is willing to make the tough decisions necessary to create a healthier school district. He ordered the budget audit, and is meeting with stakeholders on June 6th to receive input on how best to improve education. However, this community must not forget the past.

When Dr. Cala came to the district as Interim Superintendent he made similar decisions to cut from within and work with the community. Instead of retaining Dr. Cala, the Board of Education decided to spend $100,000 in search of a better person for the position. They hired Brizard who increased the SEG more than two-fold and created a divide so wide between the district and the community and teachers that a vote of “No Confidence” was taken against him by both groups.

Spending educational dollars on a host of specialists who have yet to identify the problem hasn’t worked. Dr. Vargas can be the general practitioner this community needs to heal its educational woes. One Doctor of Education, one community of healthy educated children.

Waking Up To The American Dream

In 1931 the American Dream was described as, “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Unfortunately, education has turned the “American Dream” into a nightmare of disability and low achievement.

It is difficult to imagine an institution in which failure is not only accepted but rewarded yet that is how the institution of education is currently run. Children are given little incentive to achieve and every reason to fail. Learning or not, they are passed along from grade to grade until they are either classified as learning disabled, quit, or graduate with a degree that means little more than they had the consternation to make it through.

While scholars meet to discuss fixing the failing system of education, very few recognize that there is no real reason for children to succeed. Research has shown that neither retention nor social promotion works. However, research has also shown that mastery learning is very successful.

Mastery learning is a child centered style of learning that does not concentrate on the material being taught but on how the child learns. The RCSD has known about this type of learning for years yet it has not been implemented our schools. Instead, the BoE would rather increase class sizes: Mastery learning requires low teacher:student ratios – not profitable. They would rather stick to the eight week, summer break, school calendar which is known to cause a regression in student retention: Mastery learning requires a year round learning calendar – not favorable or profitable. The Board would rather increase graduation rates through standardized testing: Mastery learning concentrates on the individual child’s learning needs – time consuming, not favorable, not profitable.

Mastery learning provides each child the opportunity achieve according to their own ability; the “American Dream.” The nightmare is to make more money by committing our children to failure, hopelessness, and self-degradation.

It’s time to wake up and fight against the system that is mis-educating our children for profit and begin to educate our children to achieve the “American Dream.”

But Wait, There’s More!

On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the Early Childhood Learning Challenge would receive $500 million of the $700 million Race to the Top federal dollars won by the second round State winners which included New York. He also stated that Congress agreed to pay $200 million to complete the total funding of Race to the Top. This means that New York State will receive more funding and possibly disperse those funds to their districts. More importantly however, this means that the federal government recognizes the importance of properly educating children in the earliest years of their lives.

The question now becomes, will the Rochester City School District agree with the feds or will they continue with their plans to increase class size at the elementary level? Will they continue to insist on their reconfiguration plans, pushing 7th and 8th grades back into elementary schools defying current research? Will they move forward with their plans to remove physical education teachers at the elementary level? Will they continue to force failure into the elementary level in an effort to boost graduation rates?

The district added Pre-K to the elementary level which only makes sense. What would make more sense would be to keep teacher:student ratios low at the elementary level. What would make more sense would be to expand experiential learning in schools throughout the district and into 6th grade. What would make more sense would be for the district to push physical education at the elementary level, teaching young children how to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives. What makes more sense would be to be to initiate a young parents program that teaches our teens how to be successful parents who support the educational excellence of their children.

What would make the most sense would be for our district leaders to fully fund schools first and let Central Office manage the leftovers.

It would make sense for our district leaders to listen to the coalition of parents, teachers, students, and community members who have been telling them for years how best to educate our children.

The Perfect Storm

A perfect storm happens when all conditions come together in just the right way to create a disaster. A perfect storm is highly destructive in nature and its effects are generally devastating. Watching the storm and analyzing data, help forecasters predict its strength and level of destruction. However, the unpredictability of any force of nature can make the forecasts of even the most intelligent and qualified meteorologist wrong.

Currently, in education, a perfect storm is developing. Storm watchers predict that the revised ESEA guidelines will open the door to privatization creating a host of small Charter Schools that siphon off high achieving students from public schools creating more failure at the public school level. As the Federal conditions move to the State, predictors believe that Governor Cuomo’s recommendations on teacher evaluation will place pressure on teachers to teach to the test and deny teachers the flexibility needed to teach to the student. At the local level, former superintendent Brizard’s reconfiguration and ESF plans added to the data creating the blueprint for this perfect storm.

What predictors didn’t assess was the level of parent, teacher, student, and community preparation and planning, against the storm’s destructive power. At the national, state, and local levels partnerships were formed and all are beginning to work together to harness the storm’s power.

At the local level, push-back against the storm began at the School Board when stakeholders came to speak out against proposed plans. With little influence there, meetings were held and strategies planned. Coalitions and alliances were formed and numbers amassed. And, while the district was simply “boarding” up and sandbagging to ride out the storm, parents,teachers, students, and community members began preparing to diminish the storm’s destructive nature and turn its power into a positive, energy building dynamic that would ensure the educational success of our children.

The movement toward true, systemic educational reform provides a counter force to the storm that will embrace its energy and move the storm in the direction of a positive collaborative, healthy educational environment for our children. Whenever, wherever possible, become part of the movement to change the direction of the storm.

A Separation Between Home and School

Traditionally, parents shared their role of authority with teachers simply because there was a common purpose between the two in the education of the child. The same values that were taught in the home were taught in the schools so the child’s education and behavior were supported and reinforced at home and at school. Teachers acted in “loco parentis” and parents trusted that the school system had the best interests of their child at heart.

We have all been told of a time when, if the teacher called home, you were in trouble in school and at home. The reason wasn’t questioned, the teacher wasn’t questioned, you were punished and that was that. This attitude changed when a breakdown occurred in the relationship of trust between parents and teachers. When once they supported each other, they began to mistrust one another. Instead of collaborating with each other, teachers questioned parent’s treatment of their children and parents questioned teacher’s treatment of their students.

The chasm increased when, “technological and cultural changes paired with the professionalization of teaching after World War II resulted in less agreement between home and school.” This divide in the parent/teacher relationship provided the opportunity for capitalism to step in and, taking advantage of this lack of trust, begin to profit from the educational failure of our children.

Current research agrees that in order to reform our system of education, the parent/teacher relationship of trust must be restored. Parents and teachers must unite to fight off the common foe of mis-education. An alliance must be formed so that we may pool our greatest resources and vanquish the enemy of capitalistic control over education that is enslaving our children through ignorance and immorality.

The renewing of this relationship has never been more important than it is today in light of the current failure of our system of education across the nation. Parent-Teacher Associations, Parent-Teacher Organizations, Parent-Teacher-Student Organizations, School Based Planning Teams, District Parent Council members, and the newly formed Independent District-wide Parent Organization, must all work together with the common goal of successfully educating our children.

Happiness Is Not An Illusion!

Spirituality does not belong to religion. Being spiritual simply means describing the spirit, the intelligent, immaterial and immortal part of man; the soul.

Righteousness does not belong to religion. Being righteous simply means resembling or having the nature of what is good, proper, or just: right conduct.

Understanding this, ending racism, poverty, injustice, and hate is simple. We need only be accepting, giving, just, and loving. Each of us must first become, what we wish others to be. We must set the example for others to follow and then we can lead the world to peace, one step at a time.

This is what public education was intended to accomplish. It was the belief of some that “common schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty.” So, they fought for a free and public education for all children.

Because we have tied spirituality and righteousness to religion, we have removed these concepts from education and created the antithesis of its intent, a disjointed society, high crime, and extreme poverty. As adults, we fight and argue over issues of sexuality, money, ownership, and hate while refusing to role model, for our children, the very concepts we tell them they should possess, acceptance, sharing, truth, and love. We argue over the best way to mis-educate our children ignoring the true purpose of a free and public education, to create good citizens, a united society, and to eliminate crime and poverty.

Happiness is not an illusion but it has become illusive in the battle over the dollars education brings to the table. The new ESEA Reauthorization Reform adds more dollars to education but does not address the serious systemic problems that exist in education today. We are not educating our children to be powerful, mentally, physically, and especially spiritually so that they may grow up to become righteous adults who will, above all else, be happy.

The Gorilla, The Emperor, and the Red Herring

One day a gorilla, an emperor, and a red herring were arguing over who was most powerful. The gorilla said, “I am the most powerful, with one pull I can rip you both apart.” The emperor then said, “I am the most powerful, with one word I can assemble an army that will tie you up and you will not be able to pull me apart.” The red herring said, “I am the most powerful, with one tiny bone I can choke you both and you will die. The argument continued until a young child walked into the room. The child was weak, alone, and hungry. The child was begging for help but the gorilla, the emperor, and the red herring could not hear the child’s cries over their own voices and soon the child was dead. After many years of arguing the gorilla, the emperor and the red herring decided to go out into the world to ask for the opinions of others in order to settle the argument.

Outside of the room they had been in for so long was a desolate, dying world. They quickly realized that they were the only healthy creatures left. They forgot about their argument over who was the most powerful because it no longer mattered. The whole world was near extinction.

They decided they would work together to rebuild their world, the gorilla using his strength to pull the remaining resources together, the emperor using his words to assemble the strongest of the weak living creatures, and the red herring, using his bones to nourish the weak to make them stronger. Together, the gorilla, the emperor, and the red herring were able to rebuild the dying world.

The moral of the story: We all have different strengths, they can bring us together or tear us apart.

Our children are mentally, physically, and spiritually weak, alone, and hungry. They are dying, Let’s work together to save them before we all become extinct!