And Further More . . .

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Throughout the country Americans are beginning to emerge from a cocoon of complacency that has kept them silent about issues that seriously affect their lives. These people have allowed others to speak for them while they maintained their imperceptible status in a world that produced the illusion of freedom and happiness. They passed by problems mute, afraid to break the silence that would draw the attention of accountability and responsibility into their lives.

Now, like a toddler, just beginning to find its voice, the Occupy movement is speaking up and speaking out. Their shouts are loud and their message is sometimes unclear but the intensity of their voice is real and impassioned as they draw the attention of any and every injustice they encounter.

Many may not understand them or their message but one thing is clear, they are no longer willing to be a part of the silent majority. They are no longer content with going quietly into that goodnight. They have found their voice and they are going to use it, exercise it, strengthen it, and make it heard.

The movement drew attention to the fact that the Board had illegally contracted with Ray & Associates search firm and the result was yet another counterfeit move by the Board to create a search committee without community input.

Occupy Rochester raised its voice again, louder this time, at the superintendent search committee meeting, drawing after-the-fact media attention. They were invited by Board President Evans to raise their voice again at the public forum on Saturday.

Like or dislike their methods, the Occupy Rochester movement is, together with Occupy movements evolving across the country, creating change in the way things are being done. They are bringing power back to the people, they are bringing democracy back to America.

Fortunately, the benefits of their efforts will affect all of us, even those who cannot speak for themselves, our children.

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A Ball Of Confusion, That’s What The Search Is To Date

Occupy Rochester held a speak-out protest at the superintendent search committee meeting stating their objection to the meeting, the committee, and Ray & Associates’ involvement in the process.

Once the protest subsided, the real confusion began.

What was originally an attempt to cover up an illegality has become an overwhelming, confused and frustrating ordeal that has search committee members struggling to understand a non-existent process to be presented to the public as early as Saturday, December 3, 2011, 10 AM, at Kodak Park School #41 on Ridge Road.

The goal of the community forums is to collect and correlate input from the community concerning the attributes they believe to be the essential qualities of a superintendent for our district.

Along with the community forums, the committee has agreed to hold at least eight focus groups to gather similar information. Both the community meetings and the focus groups, must somehow be recorded and made available to the public. The input from Ray & Associates is still unclear.

There is a very distinct reason for all of this confusion, frustration and public protest. The public does not trust the Board and has grown weary of its disrespect of the community it supposedly serves.

The Board of Education has consistently disregarded the voice of the public to such an extent that a seemingly simple process, seek out and hire a superintendent, has become so entangled in controversy that any viable candidate for the position, will stay as far away from the RCSD as possible.

It is unfortunate the Board feels the need to rush into this decision. Before looking for a new superintendent we should be looking for a way to build a relationship of trust and respect between and among the stakeholders in education so that anyone hired to the position will have the support of the Board and the community.

The focus of the superintendent should be on our children’s educational success, not on pacifying political players or quelling an angry community.

If the adults cannot model respect for each other what hope do we have for our children.

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State Funding – Your Money, Your Voice

Citizens from the suburbs of Rochester feel as though they should have no say in the workings of the Rochester City School District. Suburbanites have been denied the right to become involved in district affairs unless it is to volunteer time or donate money to district endeavors.

That is ridiculous. Suburban residents should not feel that they are somehow divorced from the problems of the district because they cannot vote for its leaders. The Rochester City School District receives the major part of its budget from State taxes. As well, FMP money is State allocated. Ergo, if you live in and pay taxes to New York State, you have a right to represent your voice and opinion on how your tax dollars are spent. Taxation without representation is unconstitutional.

The Big Five was created because Rochester and the other big cities do not generate enough tax income to support their school districts. The city of Rochester contributes $119 million to the school district budget of $700 million, the rest comes from State and Federal support.

Once again, for suburban residents to feel they have no say in the workings of the Rochester City School District is preposterous.

The news recently reported that the District was in violation of the Public Meetings Law. Every tax paying citizen of New York State has the right and responsibility to contact the Commissioner of education regarding this matter. A superintendent search group was hired with taxpayer money, every tax paying citizen should voice their opinion and be allowed to involve themselves in the process. The district is mismanaging FMP funds that come directly from State coffers. Every New York State citizen familiar with the particulars of the situation should contact the education commissioner to voice their opinion. COMMISSIONER@MAIL.NYSED.GOV

We are not ostriches. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and wait for others to make the problems go away. Our children, all children, deserve the opportunity to experience educational success.

Our country can only be great when its citizens stand up and make the system work for everyone.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Flipping the Properties, Flipping Off the Public

In 2007 Assemblyman David Gantt’s Bill 743 provided for the “rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing school facilities and the construction of new facilities for the city of Rochester”.

Plans for the demolition and construction of a new school on the site of Abraham Lincoln School #22 were created. The population of School #22 is approximately 400 students. School #6 population is approximately 300. School #50, a relatively new school is slated to undergo drastic improvements that will cost millions. It was said that the FMP money would not pay for the demolition and construction of a new facility however, that is not true. The student population of School #22 can easily be divided between School #50 and School #6, while #22 is demolished and replaced with a state of the art facility on that property.

Bill 743 also provides for, “the acquisition and installation of all equipment necessary and
46 attendant to and for the use of such existing school buildings and/or
47 (ii) construction of new school buildings which also may include (1) the
48 construction or reconstruction of athletic fields, playgrounds, and
49 other recreational facilities for such new school buildings and (2) the
50 acquisition and installation of all equipment necessary and attendant to
51 and for the use of such new school buildings.”

This means that FMP money can be used to equip all classrooms in all schools with SmartBoard technology.

The reasons the Board is playing games with FMP money is clear. The intent is to refurbish buildings that can later be turned over to the City and sold, at cost, to private business.

The District is engaged in a plan to use tax dollars to rehabilitate private property, 690 St. Paul St. and Hart St. and younger school property, #17 and #50, while older buildings, #22 and #36, in the heart of our city’s poorest neighborhoods, are left untouched.

743 also states that a report shall be made to all concerned government agencies and that, “Such report shall identify the fiscal and pedagogical
38 results of the projects undertaken pursuant to this act, along with
39 recommendations for its continuance, amendments, or discontinuance.” This may be the reason for the State holding back further funding.

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One Size Does Not Fit All

It is absolutely absurd to believe that one solution will provide an answer to all the of problems in our system of education.

It is however, absolutely correct to observe that business sharks are swimming in the troubled waters of the failing educational system eating up the resources and laying waste to the children that are drowning in the whirlpool of testing data.

Changing the focus of education from money to morality is a must. Student discipline is a must. Smaller class size at the elementary level is a must. Multi-age classrooms is a must. Looping with students through several grades is a must. Experiential learning is a must. Retention at the elementary level is a must. Competence promotion is a must. Anything else anyone else can think of to secure the educational success of our children is a must.

We must do whatever is necessary to change the direction of the educational funding stream so that it flows toward the hearts and minds of the children and not into the pockets of businessmen.

Learning is hard work and educators have known for a very long time that children need and deserve individual attention in order to be convinced that hard work is its own reward.

The carrot at the end of the stick should not be something as meaningless as a job. Being educated, being successful, strong, proud, self-confident, self-respecting, these are the rewards and they don’t come with a price tag. They are not tied to family, or religion, or corporations, they are personal, belonging to the individual and they cannot be stripped away by anyone or anything.

It is difficult to understand why America wishes to deny the obvious truth unless you too understand that the truth has been distorted to such an extent that it is unrecognizable. Success is not related to money.

Success comes from believing in yourself and that success comes in as many different sizes as there are children.

When we change our focus we will change our outcome.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Just An Old Fashioned “Shell” Game

The School Board voted to close School #6 in order to use that building as “swing” space. The promise was that it will only be closed for one year and that the community would have their school back after that year.

Commissioner Elliott noted that the Board was told last year that if they voted to use 690 St. Paul St. as swing space that Schools #6, and #2 would not have to be closed. That proposition was approved regardless of public and staff belief that the property was unsafe.

690 St. Paul St., a privately owned building will be used as swing space, but only after the district pays an additional $600,000 on its lease for renovations. This deal was forged with the understanding that the district would receive an 83% reimbursement for the cost of the lease because students will be housed there.

Enter Hart St. The reason School #6 was placed back on the chopping block was due to the $30 million plus it would take to renovate Hart St., also privately owned, so that it could be used to house two elementary schools while their schools are renovated. In order to save that money School #6 was closed. However, when asked why the same deal that was made for 690 St. Paul St. couldn’t be made for Hart St., an 83% reimbursement of lease funds, the answer was, because no one applied for it.

So, School #6 was closed due to an oversight?

The reality and the plan is to close School #6, renovate school buildings to real estate relevance, turn them back over to the city and reduce the number of buildings the district is responsible for in terms of upkeep.

Once again, our children’s future is being placed on the chopping block so that the district can cover up years of mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility.

We are not preparing for lower enrollment due to the infusion of Charter Schools, we are making it happen.

Closing buildings and increasing class size while decreasing school staff are the shells that hide the inept leadership of our district.

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America, We Have A Problem

Education in America is an enigma. Education is a key aspect in the growth and prosperity of an enlightened society. Yet, those that are educated separate themselves from and discriminate against those who are uneducated. This creates disdain between those who are and those who would be educated.

Since becoming linked with monetary wealth, being educated holds no honor, no respect, and little value. If the goal of education is to secure employment and there are no jobs to be had, education is useless. If, in America, one can become a star, and thereby become rich, solely from natural ability, education holds no interest. If, in America, one can create a market for a product of their choosing, sell it, and become a millionaire, if wealth is inherited, education holds no value.

The problem in America, we have lost sight of the purpose of education.

Education is the vehicle by which we rise up out of the primordial ooze and begin to walk upright.

Education is the tool necessary to light the fire of spirituality within which separates us from our animalistic nature causing mankind to become closer to its divine purpose, unity, peace, love.

Education is the great equalizer that causes us to see and understand that we are one, and together the problems of this world are easily solved.

Because we have lost sight of the goal of education, we have submitted ourselves to its antithesis. We have given in to our most base natures and emphasized food, clothing, shelter, and procreation as the driving force of our existence. As a people we are divided to such an extent that we are casting hate over the internet, divorced from its consequences.

Those who know and understand the truth have an obligation to those who have been taught lies. Those who are aware of and understand the true purpose of education have a responsibility to stand together and fight against those who would distort and destroy our future through the miseducation of our children.

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