Been There, Haven’t Done That

Bob Herbert said it best, “Present-day obsessions with firing teachers, attacking unions, and creating charter schools have done little to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students of color.” Add to that list renaming, reconfiguring, and remodeling schools and we still achieve nothing but failure.

Herbert and others suggest placing low income students in middle class school environments since studies show that these children outperform their counterparts. However, this change in environment makes a difference only because there is a change in the level of expectation within the environment.

Let’s try something different!

Significance, competence, power, and virtue, the four elements of self-confidence do not hold monetary value yet are priceless when added to the system of education for children.

Significance; when a child is passed from grade to grade, knowing they have not achieved mastery in the curriculum, education becomes insignificant and therefore, they are insignificant.

Competence; when a child is passed from grade to grade without achieving competence, lack of knowledge and understanding makes them feel incompetent.

Power; when a child is passed from grade to grade, having no control over their learning and therefore their world, they adopt a feeling of powerlessness.

Value; when a child is passed from grade to grade, knowing they do not know, education has no value and, being uneducated, they have no value.

Having high expectations for the educational success of children does not take millions of dollars, a suburban neighborhood, or middle income parents. Having high expectations requires the belief that all children deserve our best in showing them their best.

Year round school, lower class sizes, looping, teaching to mastery, and above all truly believing that every child can achieve, these are the reforms that will create educational success for all children regardless of their parents’ socio-economic status.

These concepts are without monetary value. They don’t need grant funding or tax dollars to initiate. They require loving, caring, knowledgeable, understanding, adults with a great deal of self-esteem to teach children that they are good, able to control their world competently, and that they are, valuable.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

We Can’t Leave It To Beaver

It is disturbing to witness the mistreatment and neglect of children. Toddlers playing outside with no relevant supervision, young children caregivers for younger siblings, some children are left alone and ignored. Look into the faces of these children and you see despair, loneliness, and even hate. There is no joy of childhood, no laughter, there is no life. The impact of this neglect is devastating.

How can we, as an intelligent society, allow this to occur without intervention. “Education begins in the home” has been echoed throughout the community. Yet, it is evident that the homes of these children lack the knowledge and understanding necessary to raise a happy, well rounded, inquisitive child. They perpetuate mental, physical, and spiritual failure. This is the education that too many children receive in the home.

The only way to combat this reality is early childhood education. Early childhood education gives children the foundation for learning necessary to become successful intelligent adults, thus breaking the cycle of neglect. Solving the problem of educational failure begins at the elementary level with strong, full day Pre-K programs, small class sizes, and veteran teachers that can be role models of love, caring, patience, and wisdom for our most vulnerable citizens.

The district’s plan to force veteran teachers into retirement, increase class size and reconfigure schools to K-8 will only exacerbate the problems of the disenfranchised children of our community. It is imperative that we stand together and stop their plan.

On Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 6:00PM the Parent Power Alliance will hold a “Parents Have Power Rally” at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church, 121 N. Fitzhugh Street, across from City Hall. This is another excellent opportunity for members of this community to work together, to save our children from educational failure.

We must all work together to change our society by fighting for the successful education of all children, not just our own. It is only through education that we can offer hope to children living in a hopeless situation. All children are worth our time, our hard work, and our love.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Same Game, Different Name

“It’s about our students. It’s about their future and therefore it’s about our future too.” Dr. Bolgen Vargas

According to School Board resolutions, in the last two years the Board approved twenty-eight Central Office positions totaling $2,598,847 or $92,816 per person, in educational dollars on non-teaching personnel. Since the average starting salary for a RCSD teacher is approximately $40,000, this translates into about sixty-five teaching positions.

It is understood that the problem is not that easily solved, however, teachers should be regarded as the first line of defense against the educational failure of our children. It should also be understood that educational dollars should be spent, first and foremost, on educating children.

Advocates for educational excellence have been calling for fewer Central Office personnel and more classroom teachers, smaller class sizes, a more culturally diverse teaching staff, and full funding of schools. We were excited to hear of three layoffs at Central Office. However, that stream of good news quickly dried up. And, even though teachers voted to accept the contract to save teacher positions, more than 400 teachers received pink slips from the district.

Once again, this community has been promised a voice without delivery on that promise. Dr. Vargas stated, “What I come to implement is Board policy, and contract negotiations. . .” The Board ordered the Interim-Superintendent to carry out the plan of Brizard. Vargas admitted to the community, “I don’t have the latitude to violate the contract or violate Board policy” and then suggested we contact the School Board to debate the issues.

Lest anyone be fooled, there has been little change in the condition of our district. Parents, students, and community members are being “met” with, not listened to. Concerns are being heard, not addressed. Suggestions are being taken, not implemented.

We must not become complacent, we have not won the battle or the war. ESF is still in effect, teachers are still losing their jobs, class sizes are increasing, schools are being forced to reconfigure, Central Office is growing, and children are still failing.

We must work harder than ever to effect change.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

It’s The Law

There are laws which govern nature.

The first law; Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed, explains why our current system of education is misguided. The RCSD is spending an enormous amount of money trying to “create a masterpiece” that already exists. Our educational leaders across the nation don’t recognize the power within our children and therefore have no respect for their energy. They want to control the energy of our greatest resource.

The second law, entropy, helps explain why changing education is imperative. Nature tends to take things from order to disorder as heat is added to a system. This disorder, known as chaos, energizes the system. Our educational leaders see this disorder as a negative and so the attempt is to restore order. However, in working to restore order, energy is lost and the system begins to die. Efforts to “standardize” children’s learning, medicate their activity, crowd their environment, conform their creativity, and disable their abilities are all measures of control that move our children toward absolute zero, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

It is the third law, absolute zero, that gives hope to those in the struggle to effect change. “It is impossible by any procedure, no matter how idealized, to reduce any system to the absolute zero. . .” As long as there is life change can occur. As long as there are those who will continue to move, energy can be brought into the system creating movement.

We must look to the fourth law, zeroth, to understand how to effect change. The loss of heat is natural, don’t be discouraged by it, simply add more heat and create more energy. Adding any and all types of fuel to the fire will increase the heat and permanently transform the dysfunctional state of our current system of education into one that will successfully educate our children.

It’s time to turn up the heat. It’s time to gather all of the energy within our community and add to the chaos that will create change.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

A Herculian Effort

Leadership, the ‚Äúprocess of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”

Integrity, firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility.

Respect, a positive feeling of esteem for a person or other entity.

Ignorance, the state of being uninformed.

During the Coefield dialogue the question was asked if soliciting the advice of others and not taking that advice was a waste of time? Overwhelmingly the answer was, yes.

When parents, students, and teachers are asked for their advice and/or opinions and are ignored time after time, leadership becomes dictatorship, integrity becomes corruption, and respect is not felt by those who follow. A divide is created between the two entities and those being disrespected begin, at some point, to look for a new leader.

This scenario played out recently when parents, students, and community members called for new leadership in the superintendency. Unfortunately, those who chose the previous leader also chose the new leader, not the people being disrespected.

As in the legend of the hydra, removing a head may seem to solve the problem. But, if it’s the wrong head, the problem will return two fold.

Like Hercules and Lolaus, parents and teachers must work together to end the terror of the legendary hydra in education. The superintendent is one head, the Board, seven more. The ninth head, the immortal head that must be slain to truly vanquish the evil that plagues our city and our nation, is ignorance.

Ignorance allows our leaders to believe that integrity is not a necessary requirement of leadership.
Ignorance causes our leaders to disrespect themselves by disrespecting those they lead.
Ignorance makes parents and teachers feel powerless.

Once we arm ourselves with knowledge and slay the hydra, we must choose our leaders wisely. Our leaders must have integrity and they must respect those they lead.

We must then properly educate our children, making them strong enough to be the rock that keeps the ninth head of the hydra buried forever.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Time After Time

It is confusing to witness, year after year, teacher support of the ridiculous notion that consistent district budget deficits are actually due to decreased enrollment and increased teacher salaries and benefits. Year after year the fiscal decisions of the district, supported by the Board, create a financial fiasco for which students and teachers are made the scapegoats. Year after year teachers are told that they must “bite the bullet” in order to decrease the number of layoffs of their colleagues. For whatever reason, teachers and school employees, under the urging of their unions, accept the consequences of the poor budgetary leadership of this district.

Ironically, since no one is holding the offending parties accountable for their monetary indiscretions their actions are reinforced and therefore continue, creating a cycle of fiscal failure that has resulted in a $70 million dollar deficit with an increase in that deficit for the coming years.

Vice-Chancellor Cofield made it very clear, the answer to this dilemma is not the Board of Regents, it is the Board of Elections. As citizens, we must simply vote out of office the electorates that have shown themselves to be incredulous and incompetent. We must stand up against their blatant misuse of educational dollars and, as a community, hold them accountable.

Cofield advised members of this community to involve the Federal government in the actions of our Title I district since that is where the majority of our funding comes. We were advised to write to the Commissioner of Education with our concerns about the fiscal mismanagement of our educational dollars. First and foremost however, we must not continue to reelect those individuals who consistently drive a wedge between educators and community members in order to detract attention from their illicit activities.

Teachers will vote to ratify the contract even though promises made by the district to cut Central Office personnel have not materialized. Things will return to “normal” until the next budget season when more layoffs are announced.

Hopefully, this year, the cycle will be broken by the election of a new Board.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

It’s Getting Kind of Heavy

The City budget was passed, the Rochester City School District budget was passed, the RTA contract was approved for vote . . . and the beat goes on.

Section 200.28 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations states, ” A schoolwide program must involve parents in the planning, review, and improvement of the schoolwide program plan. Interim Superintendent Vargas said that the decision to reconfigure school models from K-6 to K-8 was Board policy. This unilateral decision is contrary to Federal and State regulations. In fact, this type of decision making contradicts the district’s own Parental Involvement Policy, 1900.

The Board also defies its Policy 1200 when ignoring the community voice in the decision making process. Because Rochester is part of the “Big Five” which allows City Council to speak for the citizens when rejecting or adopting the RCSD budget, passing the budget in the midst of community disapproval puts them in violation of Federal, State, and Local education regulations.

As the City Council meeting was taking place, another meeting was taking place to lock down plans, strategies and next moves with regards to the “Parents Have Power” rally on Thursday, June 30, 2011 at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church, 121 N. Fitzhugh St.

The goal of “Parent Power Alliance” is to actively engage the Rochester community concerned with the system of education in Rochester and across the nation as a powerful, knowledge based, actively engaged, force that is committed to changing the face of education for our children.

Yes, this is another group that can be ignored by the electorate. However, before a picture is painted, the artist must choose the subject, education, then the medium within which to work, Rochester. Once this is done, the artist must then choose the colors, the various groups concerned about our children. Sometimes colors must be mixed, the Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change.

Each aspect, on its own, does not a painting make. But, working together, a masterpiece is created.

Let’s choose our color and then come together to create a masterpiece that will positively change the system of education for our children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!