To Know Is To Vote Knowledgeably

Tonight’s School Board candidate forum will be held at the Stardust Ballroom on Backus Street at 6:30 PM.

The Beechwood forum questioned candidates on;
support of the budget – Campos and Evans supporting
neighborhood schools – all in favor
transparency – all in favor
condom distribution in schools – Evans, and Flagler against, the others in support with counseling and parent “opt out” caveats.
administrative evaluation – all agreed on a more stringent process
racial achievement gap – all agreed there is a problem
choice for new superintendent – Campos, Flagler, Adams, and Hodgins prefer a Rochester native.
Candidates Howard Eagle, Wallace Smith, and Glenny Williams did not attend this forum.

The Threshold forum, hosted by Rochester’s youth constituency concentrated on the health issues and problems of teens. Insight into candidate positions on those specific issues were more personal than political. Incumbents Campos and Evans did not attend this forum however, incumbents Powell and Allen Williams were in strong opposition with regards to the effectiveness and efficiency of the current sitting Board with Powell supporting Board decisions.

The issue of condom accessibility in schools was again addressed with Howard Eagle wanting more information on the issue, Smith favoring community support, and Glenny Williams being against. Collaboration with the community, another reoccurring issue, was supported by Eagle, Smith and Williams.

When deciding which candidates should receive your vote it is important to align their views with yours. However, it is more important to know and understand the views of all candidates so that regardless of who wins the election, they can be held accountable for their actions and decisions.

Four Board positions are “up for grabs” and four positions represent a majority vote. Incumbents Evans and Powell have consistently voted yes on the budget. Though Powell voted “No” on the 2011-12 budget it was because, as she stated, her vote “doesn’t matter” because it had already been approved. The district is $70 million dollars in debt.

Our process of government gives citizens the power to remove ineffective leaders and vote new leaders into office. We must begin to exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens if we truly want change.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Don’t Get By, Rise Above

Integrity is a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. Integrity is the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.

On September 2, 2011, Rochester’s children will begin another school year. The environment they enter will be the sole responsibility of the adults that have chosen to educate them. Regardless of their home life, the teachers to whom they are assigned will be one of their major role models. It is necessary that teachers provide a model of integrity for the student to imitate and emulate in order to insure the best possible outcomes of personal success for that child.

Respect denotes both a positive feeling of esteem for a person or other entity. Respect has great importance in everyday life.

We have been taught that in order to get respect we must give respect. The breakdown in this theory is the assumption that everyone has respect to give. Before you can give respect to others you must have respect for yourself.

Too many children come to school not having respect for themselves. As teachers it is imperative that students are given every opportunity to experience respect for themselves so that they can begin to give respect to others. We must point out and model the necessity to respect oneself first so that they may understand that everyone deserves respect.

It may seem that integrity and respect are inherent in humans but they are not. Both must be taught and modeled by adults if we have the expectation of these behaviors for children.

As teachers ready themselves for the coming school year it is important to remember that students are not responsible for the conditions under which they must learn. They did not create the policy that placed them in overcrowded classrooms or insufficient learning conditions. They did not draft the legislation that required persistent test prep or teacher evaluation.

Teach, role model integrity and respect. Rise above the mandated failure of education and teach to the child.

It is what children desire and deserve!

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Who Do You Trust?

This weekend, millions if not billions of dollars were spent, by those who would trust the “experts”, in preparing for a horrific hurricane. People boarded up, packed up, and bought up, their homes, belongings, and survival gear to prepare for what the experts said was going to be a monster of a storm.

Yes, better safe than sorry however, you don’t wait for “experts” to tell you to prepare for something that has been happening since the dawn of time; you should already be prepared. Effective and efficient plans should be in place before the reoccurring threat returns. This type of expertise comes from those who have lived through a storm, not those who simply watch storms.

At the monthly business meeting community members came before the Board, petitions in hand, to stop the $24 million dollar reconfiguration and renovation of School #28. The speakers provided relevant information as to the detrimental effects of the expansion plans on students and the neighborhood. Community members asked the Board to gather information from current “grow out” schools on how the plan is working before moving ahead.

Other community members spoke to the Board’s decision to hire a search firm to find the next superintendent. Speakers reminded Board members that the district is in a budget crunch and spending $100,000 to find a superintendent would be better used to save teaching positions. As well, the firms being considered were Broad Institute connected and would most likely produce candidates of the same conscience as our previous superintendent.

Community concerns and suggestions fell on deaf ears!

It’s time we stopped reacting to proposed legislation and policies and begin to proactively set successful solutions in place that address the needs of our children and our community. It’s time we elected leaders who understand the educational problems we face in our district instead of relying on “experts” who simply interpret data from across the nation, leaders who proactively seek the community voice in decision making instead of reacting to the threat of revenue loss from federal and state agencies.

It’s time for change!

Join the Movement to Save our Children!

Threshold Candidates Forum – Part IV

This is the final post for the this candidate’s forum report. Should any candidate feel that their position was mis-represented in this and any previous post, please feel free to comment on and/or correct any statement made. Again, due to time constraints, Threshold limited responses to only four candidates per question.

Question: Did you know that in 2008 New York was rated the highest among the fifty states in reports of aids cases, how do you suggest we go about [addressing] this, other than abstinence, in our youth?

Adams: Testing for HIV is known to reduce transmission . . . treatment is critically important

Eagle: We must work together . . . this cannot be an isolated discussion . . . the idea is to collaborate if we’re to come up with a solution that works

Hodgins: It’s important to know we’re missing one of the components of HIV Aids transmission and that is through intravenous drugs . . . it all starts with counseling [and] testing

A. Williams: There is no one method, we really need to try a lot of different things . . . we have to partner with the faith community, partner with parents, we have to partner with community organizations, Community Place, Safe Sex Inc., to make sure that we get the message out that really resonates

Question: How can you further educate teens about their health?

Powell: Applying peer pressure . . . on your peers to get tested, pressure on your classmates to be aware of the risks, not just to themselves but to the people they care about

Adams: One of the most important things in health education done early is the difference between knowledge and actually enacting healthy behavior . . . the behavioral component is essential . . . behavioral counseling

Question: How can you expect the methods and programs to work if you have the older kids influencing the young kids in school such as, middle schools being with high schools . . . setting the examples?

A. Williams: Right now, in the district, there is a movement to go from a K to 6 to a K through 8 model and in my opinion it’s not going to work and that’s really something we have to come to grips with . . . I’d rather have parents get behind this issue of not going to that K through 8 model and bringing pressure to bear on the Board

Eagle: It is this current Board that created that policy to move from the current grade [levels] to K through 8 . . . we need to ask that question right now whether this plan should go forward

Powell: There is something we have to do about establishing good role models on high school kids . . . we have to do a better job of that

Smith: I agree with Howard . . . it’s [K-8] a bad idea

Hodgins: I think that we need to look at this age break-down more clearly because again, it goes back to sexuality . . . we generally experience a sexual change around these age groups . . . in middle school and high school and that’s where we’re experiencing a lot of problems with peer pressure . . . I am in favor of K-8 . . . it will keep our 12 year olds away from 18, 19, 20 year olds who are left in our district

Question: Since HIV is becoming a rising issue in teens between the ages of 13 and 25, why don’t Rochester schools offer STD/STI testing instead of putting up GYT posters about it?

Hodgins: I think that might be a good policy for the Board to consider

Flagler: You can’t do it without parent permission, there are a lot of laws about testing a child in schools for HIV or Aids

G. Williams: We have health systems, private health centers, neighborhood health centers, schools are there to educate and inform and that’s what we need to do a better job of . . . don’t put everything on schools

Adams: The counselors in East High School [are] a credit to the trusting relationships that were established in those high schools . . . they[students] were tested before they got sick and they’re not spreading HIV to their peers

Unfortunately, the last two questions concerning class size and teacher evaluation were not recorded due to battery failure and candidate answers can not be posted.

The next candidate forum is Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at the Stardust Ballroom, 41 Backus St., from 6:30 – 8:00 PM.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Threshold School Board Candidate Forum-Part III

The last portion of the questioning came from the audience, candidates had 30 seconds to answer. Due to time constraints the last questions were limited to answers from only four candidates. This portion will be presented in Part IV.

Question: How would you reduce the rates of unplanned teen pregnancy and STI’s in the Rochester City School District?

Powell: STD’s and HIV, literally the key is to better education . . .

Smith: [Our children need guidance], they need the church to be involved, they need the parents to be involved, the need support throughout the community . . .

Adams: Abstinence and contraception . . . prevent pregnancy they also prevent HIV . . . Testing for HIV is critically important, treatment is critically important . . .

Eagle: I will go with what the expert (Mary Adams) says . . .[also] a movement . . . all of us working collectively, collaboratively . . . [on] this issue

A. Williams: It’s a combination of education, counseling, abstinence, and contraception . . .

Hodgins: I totally agree with abstinence, education, condoms, birth control pills, anything we can do, but we also need to educate you all on the realities of the consequences of having sex . . .

Flagler: All we can do is teach you what the consequences are, it’s up to you to keep yourself from getting pregnant . . .

G. Williams: I agree with what everybody says . . . we need to have real meaningful discussions between parents, community, ministers, yourselves . . .

Question: How are you going to engage and educate parents about what’s happening in the city school district?

Hodgins: By creating a committee of the board. . . helping parents and the board develop the policies that are going to affect you and your education, the school building, the school faculty and staff on a daily basis . . .

A. Williams: It is really a conundrum . . .

Eagle: The Community Education Task Force is in the process of developing an independent parent and community organization . . .

Adams: Going door to door throughout the neighborhoods, [having] thousands of conversations, that’s how you meet parents face to face . . . who have been shut out of the system . . . I would ask Parent Engagement staff to walk with me . . .

Smith: Establish a broad-based independent parent organization for the purpose of engaging and bringing parents into the decision-making process . . .

Powell: What we need to do is hold our principals accountable for our current parent involvement policy . . .

G. Williams: When parents come to a Board meeting they should be able to talk and ask questions . . . and be able to get answers . . . we need to have a public record of what happen(s) [in schools]

Flagler: We need to have an independent parent group that answers solely to the Board

Question: With the incidence of teen pregnancy, how do you reach out to these teens?

A. Williams: One of the things that is in place right now is the Young Mothers Program . . . [we try] to make it easy . . . to come back to school

Eagle: If you want to do something to help limit the stress you got to deal with the economics that prevent them [from] returning [to school] . . . counseling and economics

Adams: Child care, child care, child care . . . high quality, on-site child care

Smith: the school district has got to be responsible for seeing to it that their staff members [are] getting into the homes of those students

Powell: My solution is to move the Young Mothers Program to Freddie Thomas co-located with Montessori [school]

G. Williams: What I think we need to do is to make opportunities for our youth to talk to somebody who is going to listen, try to relate to them, try to work with the needs they have

Flagler: We have to make sure we instill in our children, “Just because this happened, you can still make it,” and build support mechanisms

Hodgins: It’s important for us to build mechanisms of support and counseling and child care and also, letting young parents know that, “You can finish school” and encouraging them to do so, and creating and maintaining, and increasing the number of alternative programs . . .

Threshold School Board Candidate Forum-Part II

Question: Do you support a greater collaboration between schools and community organizations and how would implement that?

Eagle: We must build a collaborative movement which must include parents, educators, students, politicians, business people, any one else who claims to be interested in bringing about change. Nothing can happen without widespread collaboration like we’ve never seen in this town before.

Adams: It is necessary to look, not only in Rochester, but throughout the country to models that work. That is an absolute component of thriving schools, community collaboration . . . I absolutely support that.

Smith: [Freedom School] brought in professional people, from the music, arts, entertainment industry . . . collaboration works.

Powell: Collaboration is the church that has an after-school tutoring program a homework academy . . . the single employer, mom and pop, that takes in a mentor . . . If every child had a significant individual in their lives in addition to their parents that cared about them that could motivate them, make them feel good about themselves, then we would be far-and-away better off than we are today.

G. Williams: I, along with a few other people, established the Lead Coalition . . . we reduced lead poisoning in Rochester from thousands of cases of lead poisoning to less than hundreds of cases of lead poisoning. Collaboration talk is one thing, doing it is another. You want somebody who gets the job done.

Flagler: I believe that with neighborhood schools you can build up your neighborhood . . . I am in favor of community schools as well as community organizations.

Hodgins: I am very much in favor of collaboration between community organizations and schools . . .

A. Williams: Collaboration with community organizations is a good thing . . . it does work, it is beneficial, and it does help.

Question: Where do you stand on the following issues, condom accessibility, sexuality education in schools, and what would be examples of curriculum on sexual education topics.

Powell: Condom accessibility is essential . . . sex education in schools, yes, we need to provide age appropriate, relevant, and accurate information . . . (examples of curriculum) gender identification . . .

Smith: I don’t believe we should take the authority out of the parents hands in anything that their children are involved in regarding sex or any other social activity. Parents should have the right to opt out of anything they choose.

Adams: It is important to recognize schools as a place where a health center can be introduced and where they can be successful. . . I unequivocally do support condom distribution in the context of health care and counseling and . . . support opt out for parents. In terms of sexual education . . . professional counselors can meet students where they are with the parents permission to address their sex education needs appropriately. Curriculum should be science based, it should be comprehensive . . .

Eagle: This is no simple question . . . I need to be educated more . . . We know this, in terms of education, it must be culturally relevant and those who are providing it must be culturally competent.

A. Williams: One of the massive failures of the current board of education, we’ve never gone through to say whether or not the current sexual education curriculum we have . . . in our schools right now, is it up to date, is it relevant . . . (condom accessibility) I support it with intensive counseling . . .

Hodgins: I am absolutely, 100% in favor of condom distribution in our schools . . . it is the parent’s responsibility to provide sex education and sexuality education . . . I am also in favor of age appropriate curriculum surrounding sex education . . .

Flagler: I am totally against condom distribution in schools . . . we can teach about . . . the bad effects

G. Williams: We need to improve sex education in schools, what we’ve got is not working . . . [should] schools provide condoms, not without education . . . schools are to provide education around sex adequately . . . and with your parents and with other community leaders . . .

Threshold Youth Leadership School Board Candidate Forum – Part I

Rochester’s first youth led School Board Candidate forum was hosted by Threshold’s youth leaders at the Frederick Douglass Resource Center. Candidates in attendance were Mary Adams, Howard Eagle, Ernest Flagler, Mia Hodgins, Wallace Smith, and Allen Williams with Willa Powell and Glenny Williams arriving after the program began.

The focus of the forum was to “discuss the health crisis existing in Rochester among youth, specifically the high STI, HIV rates and the issues around teen pregnancy.”

Speakers were given two minutes for opening statements and one minute to answer questions posed first by the youth leadership and then by members of the audience.

Question: What do you think is the biggest problem our youth faces today?

Wallace Smith: STD’s and being adequately prepared to go on beyond high school to pursue a college education or a career in some other field. To address these problems we have to get parents involved.

Mary Adams: This is a society where a relatively small, very very powerful, very very wealthy elite control policies . . . in our communities and in order to counter that we need to have unity and we need to have power in order to shift the balance so that people’s needs, in particular, are met.

Howard Eagle: We, as adults, have not been responsible enough, have not been accountable enough to produce the kind of society that you deserve. We (adults) need to do a better job.

Allen Williams: The impact and influence of television on popular culture.

Ernest Flagler: We have a large number of youth that are angry, that are lost, and don’t have (a) vision of where to go.

Mia Hodgins: The lack of education that you have on things that really happen in the real world. We need to educate our society and our youth . . .

Question: Can you be trusted to guide and make the right decisions for our youth and if so, how can you prove it?

Hodgins: I can definitely be trusted to make the right decisions. I prove it every day through my work with the Future Boxing Club.

Flagler: I have made the right decisions for my children and I will make the right decisions for you as well. I will include the children in our decision making . . .

Williams: Yes, I think I am capable of making the right decisions. I am the father of two sons who have successfully attended and graduated from the Rochester city schools and I point to that as evidence of my commitment and of a measure of success.

Eagle: I have the knowledge, understanding, the commitment that’s required to make objective and proper decisions. I’ve struggled for change and improvement on behalf of our children for forty years.

Adams: We [Adams and husband Ricardo] serve as one of those families that . . . go into the schools and fight for [family members] . . . and we do our best to do that. In terms of how you can prove that I’m trustworthy . . . ask my patients.

Smith: I have always encouraged leadership to involve youth in the decision making process. I am an advocate.

At this point, Willa Powell and Glenny Williams joined the forum.

Powell: If you don’t know where I stand on an issue, I urge you to call me and let’s have a conversation about that and I can honestly tell you that if we disagree, we will have to disagree agreeably.

G. Williams: On the issue of Mayoral control, I talked to over 3,000 people before I took my position . . . You need people who want to listen to you and represent your interests, that’s what I do.

————————————Part II tomorrow—————————-

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!