The District Union Labor Focus Group – Part I

Because of the extensive dialogue the reporting for this group will be in three parts.

The District Labor Focus Group included RTA, BENTE, RAP, and ASAR. It was facilitated by Larry Ellison with Alvin Johnson from Ray & Associates sitting in.

The labor focus group began the meeting by answering the questions.

Questions #1: What are the qualities that you are seeking in the next superintendent?

Someone who is collaborative, open to hearing from the people who are out in the schools who deal with children on a daily basis, who doesn’t consider the concerns of the people in the field as mere noise. Someone who is willing to listen to the people and not rule from the top down.

Somebody that is invested, an ability to listen but not be overly swayed by some of our union leadership, someone who would consider special programs.

Vested ownership in our community, good manager, sustain relationships with key stakeholders in the community while managing the day to day operation at the same time seeing the big picture, someone with a very strong management acumen. A person with strong roots in the community.

Somebody that can engage us in that collaborative, strategic planning process somebody that allows the people doing the work to actually do the work and relies on them.

Somebody that is going to be able to not only hear what we have to say but he’s going to have to take heat from politicians and the community and not play that double edged sword that politicians tend to play and use us as a stepping stone

Respectful, collaborative in all relationships; Common sense, innovated toward goals; Clear child centered approach to education, experience with on-the-ground education; Somebody who reaches out to parents; Can lead a cultural change; Culturally respectful and aware of the great diversity; Can lead a cultural change; Culturally respectful and aware of the great diversity

Up to the fiscal challenge, so strongly committed to education that they can find a way to preserve and expand educational opportunities and can articulate the need for increasing resources to be devoted to the school

Somebody who is open to providing information, in a timely way. An experienced teacher who has spent more than ten years in the classroom, a teaching background, intellectual in their thinking, with cultural knowledge.

Willing to partner with the Rochester Teacher Center; Presence in the schools; Equitable organizational structure; Administrative experience, work closely as a partner with the community

Someone who will consider us a learning institution, a strong leader who practices distributive style of leadership, who understands and implements democratic policies and processes, demonstrates a long commitment to the classroom; A sense of humor.

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Parent Participation

The following are the results of the parent focus group that assembled to compile their list of important attributes for superintendent. One thing that was made very clear in this forum was that the information being gathered in the community forums and within the focus groups will be used to create the job description for the application process. This is the only input the students, parents, and community will have in the process of selecting our next superintendent.

The parents focus group came up with a top ten list of attributes which actually included eleven attributes. They then added comments on five questions they were given to consider. Their list and a summation of their considerations are as follows:

1. Inclusive collaborator, consensus-relationship builder, with students, parents, educators, labor, and the broader community

2. Strongly committed to and passionate about a student first philosophy

3. Can address poverty at its core

4. Empowers the educators – teachers, administrators, supports flexible teaching methods as opposed to standardized methods

5. Values the teaching of Social Sciences, natural Sciences, Arts, Music, Performing Arts, Sports, and physical education as an integral part of learning

6. Excellent people and leadership skills, has shown ability to confront and solve problems and conflicts fairly with respect for all involved

7. Extensive teaching experience and knowledge of learning theories in research based education reform practices, master teacher

8. Local candidate, knows and understands the community

9. Has a long term commitment to the position

10. Can improve teacher, principal, staff evaluations including collaboration with teacher’s unions to bring parents and students into teacher evaluation process as well as utilization of alternative techniques for evaluations and feedback

11. Experienced leader of culture change, can develop a Central Office that is respected by teachers and school district, respected by the community

Find ways to increase the staffing in the schools, focus down on where the children are and provide more services to them. Increase parent engagement, a culture change, make schools a place where parents feel invited and welcomed. It’s important that the superintendent truly step up and acknowledge all the issues that are effecting the education process. Superintendent should be a city resident. Quality staffing in the school and throughout the whole organization . . . individuals who understand children and know how to teach plus they should love the kids. Improving student success, stabilize the direction of the district and be straightforward about decision making.

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And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

The Superintendent Search Committee held several focus group sessions to ascertain the attributes and qualities necessary for the next superintendent of our district. The following contains those attributes and qualities the Student Focus Group found to be the most important. Unfortunately, the audio recording of this group’s session was ended before each student presented a summation of their thoughts.

The Student Focus Group was led by Sophie Gallivin, President of the Student Leadership Conference and Student School Board Representative.

Students want a superintendent who is well known within the community, someone who will connect with students, visit schools to see how to make them better, someone who is open minded, will take ideas from the public and is not afraid to take charge.

Students want someone who is honest, and can make themselves available to student questions and opinions on decisions about what is most important in their schools. They want someone who will take notice of their voice and who is willing to spend quality time in the classroom sitting down with and listening to them.

Students want a superintendent who will share information about the process with the public before decisions are made and will make decisions based on relevant data.

Students want a superintendent who can guide teachers and administrators, who is positive, very serious about their job and loves doing it. They want a member of the community not someone who wants to run the community. A superintendent who is inclusive, collaborative, and able to learn from others.

They want someone who is committed to this community, someone who can motivate students, and build connections between parents, students, and teachers. They want a superintendent who will make assessments relevant with methods that will benefit students and teachers. Someone who will raise the level of standards and expectations for students, raise the GPA level for participation in sports and extracurricular activities. They want someone who will spend money wisely, someone who will show students the reality of life and recognize and celebrate all hard workers.

Open minded – dialogue with community – shares information – people skills – leadership skills – experienced in finances – cooperative.

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Back To The Business At Hand

This just in from the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development:

The Potential Impact of Revising the Title I Comparability Requirement to Focus on School-Level Expenditures (2011).
Key findings include: Within districts that had both Title I and non-Title I schools, more than 40 percent of Title I schools had lower personnel expenditures per pupil than did non-Title I schools at the same school grade level. Similarly, more than one-third of higher-poverty schools had lower per-pupil personnel expenditures than lower-poverty schools in their districts. In addition, between 39 to 47 percent of Title I districts had lower per-pupil expenditures in their Title I schools than in their non-Title I schools at the same grade level.

Alison Klein of “Education Week” reports, “This is a big deal, said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan . . . The “findings confirm an unfortunate reality in our nation’s education system,” Duncan said. “Many schools serving low-income children aren’t getting their fair share of funding.” And he added that “in far too many places Title I dollars are filling budget gaps rather than being extra.”

This could mean more money coming to the Rochester City School district.

It is also possible that the issue of mayoral control of the RCSD will come around again. This is not surprising since Rochester commands a $700 million dollar budget, a $1.5 billion dollar facilities modernization project, Race to the Top funding and, in light of the new Title I information, could be receiving more Title I funding in the near future.

There is a great deal of money to be had at the expense of our children’s failure. Politicians and Businessmen are not sitting idly by waiting for this windfall to drop in their laps. They are actively pursuing the money cart finding ways to drive the cash cow in their direction. The only thing that can stop both is the voice of the people.

Parents, students, and community members must stand up to the modern day carpetbaggers. We must stand together and push back against those who would deny our children an excellent education.

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Testing, Testing, Testing

Mic check! Is anyone listening?

It was recently announced that state standardized tests in Math and Language Arts will be more involved and longer this year for Third grade. Math tests will be 70 minutes longer and LA tests will be 25 minutes longer. Dr. John King, Commissioner of Education said, “The tests will, for the first time in 2012, include questions that will not count toward a student’s score, but will be used to develop future tests.” These tests will also be used to evaluate administrators, teachers, and school districts.

Basically, education is no longer dedicated to educating children. It has become the business of providing educational services to customers who are otherwise unable to procure those same services on an individual or private level thereby creating and maintaining a consistent level of available workforce personnel that will provide the economy with the necessary earning potential acceptable in financial markets for the growth of profit margins.

Mic Check! Is anyone listening?

How can we stand by and allow our State and Federal governments do this to our children?

How much more urgent can this situation become before we, as the citizens who are the government, put a stop to the educational carnage that is devouring the future of our children?

A national “Opt Out” day will take place in January. Every student in every school in every town and city in the State of New York should refuse to take the standardized test.

Solidarity is the only way to effect change. Desperate times call for desperate measures and these are desperate times.

Big business has invaded our city school district, buying our children for a mere $4 million dollars. They are getting richer and richer while our children are becoming less and less educated, less and less able to achieve their potential greatness.

The movement has begun. Parents, students, community members across the country are fighting back.

We must work together to put a stop this corporate takeover.

Our children’s lives are at stake!

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Ask And You Shall Receive

At the superintendent search committee meeting, seventeen attributes were identified as abilities the next superintendent of our district should possess. Unfortunately, integrity and accountability did not make the list.

While some may believe that integrity is implied or that every candidate will espouse to having integrity, it is necessary to state, with clarity, that integrity is expected and will be a measure of accountability.

As well, the demonstrated ability to hold others accountable and the willingness to be held accountable for the success or failure of the decisions and direction of the district should not be seen as a given, but be written into the language of the job description and contract.

It is understood that there are pressing issues within our district such as institutionalized racism and the more direct and less obvious class-ism. However, without integrity, any superintendent can claim that whatever measures they employ in our district are directly related to the pressing issues of our community.

Without any means or measures of accountability, any individual hired for the position of superintendent can put their plan in place without objectively considering the effectiveness of that plan.

Everyone has good ideas. Jean-Claude Brizard had good ideas. However, not every good idea is effective and not every plan leads to success.

As it stands, the attributes are written and the next steps in the search will be taken. Board President Malik Evans said it best, “Anyone can apply, it will be up to this committee to decide who gets to interview . . .”

The superintendent-ship is a daunting task. Whomever is hired for the position will have, as the past has demonstrated, a “carte blanche” opportunity to meld their vision into our district and delegate the authority necessary to mold a new system of education for our children. Shouldn’t we at least require that they have demonstrated evidence of integrity. Shouldn’t we at least require that the individual be willing to be held accountable for the success and/or failure of their leadership.

Integrity and accountability are crucial, for our leaders and our children.

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