Errors But No Comedy

The monthly Board Business meeting opened with the recognition of RCSD Scholar Athletes and recipients of the Alberta Moss Scholarship Fund.

In his superintendent’s report, Dr. Vargas noted that 10,000 students have enrolled in summer school. Though exact figures were not given, Dr. Vargas also reported that there were many students who failed to take the Regent’s exam. 540 students enrolled in the All City High summer program.

Candice Lucas, President of the RCSD Parent Advisory Council reported that elections will be held today for 2012-2013 council positions. Ms. Lucas also reported the concerns of parents which included the erroneous report that only 12 schools were out of School Based Planning Team compliance when in fact more than 27 schools are currently out of compliance. Parents are concerned with the concept of extended learning days when there is no information regarding the effective use of time in the classroom for the regular school day. Finally, parents are concerned with the unwelcoming environment of schools towards parents.

The superintendent’s contract was settled for $195,000 for four years with benefits.

Board Resolution 862, which resolved that the Board approve the Superintendent’s recommendation to implement the K-8 grade reconfiguration at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, was challenged by Commissioners Powell and Adams who argued that the conversion was not only inefficient since this school was specifically designed for older students, but a financial drain on district resources to do so. As well, it was noted that there were already three elementary schools in the neighborhood, #2, #4, and #29. Commissioner Adams added to Commissioner Powell’s statements saying that as a resident of that community, members of the neighborhood do not want the K-8 model for Wilson Magnet.

Unfortunately, Commissioner White’s counter argument that the Board supported the plan and whether it was a good idea or not they should remain constant in their decision, found favor with Commissioner’s Campos, Cruz, Elliott, and Evans, and the resolution was passed.

It is this type of inefficient, ineffective, and incompetent leadership that must be challenged before our children can hope to receive successful education in our district.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

It’s Alive, But Not Living

Education: The process of educating or of being educated; the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process; the methods of teaching and learning; an instructive or enlightening experience.

Schooling: Instruction in school; training, guidance, or discipline derived from experience.

It is clear that the schooling our children receive at the hands of the Rochester City School District does not lead to their successful education. The process of education the district chooses to support year after year has proved to fail our children again and again. Our children are not receiving the proper instruction, training, guidance, or discipline.

Superintendent Vargas has fewer than fifty days before another school year begins and this community has seen no drastic change in the process of educating our children. The “status quo” that was so vehemently opposed by former superintendent Brizard seems to be all that returning students have to look forward to.

Our educational leaders are like mad scientists, refusing to recognize that the race to the top is fixed and that the only outcome to the four, State accepted, methods of change is more failure. They continue to sew together the inanimate aspects of education, changing schools, school names, school programs, school instructional times, and shuffling the personnel deck, failing again and again to create educational success for our children.

This Frankenstein method of education kills the spirit of learning in our children at the elementary level and then uses all of its energy and resources to enliven students’ will to succeed, through false hopes of college and career readiness, with the promise of graduation. The result, rampant violence in the streets caused by ignorance and fear.

Concentrating on graduation rates while ignoring the educational death of our youngest children is insane. Once the will to learn is dead there is little anyone can do to revive it. It is incumbent upon the citizens of this community to come together and fight the madness controlling the system of education.

Being alive is not living. Living is being happy to be alive.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Time Is Of The Essence

A year-round school is a school that runs for 10 months with a cumulative 2 months of break distributed throughout the year, without the usual multiple-month summer vacation.

More and more school districts are moving to a year round school calendar. The 180 day school year exists because of an antiquated agrarian system in America. Children needed to be free during the summer months to work the fields and harvest crops. Those days no longer exist.

There are many arguments for and against the year round school concept. However, with talk of an increase in the number of attendance days and summer school being an absolute certainty for more than half of the district’s students and nearly half of the district staff being paid to teach summer school or attend professional development, year round school is making more sense than ever.

Children need to be in school more than out of school. Sixty days of educational inactivity certainly does not help increase educational success for those who are not otherwise engaged in summer school or extended learning activities throughout the summer. Too many children are left to fend for themselves throughout the summer months because parents still have to go to work and cannot afford day care or babysitters for such a long period of time.

A longer school year coupled with a year round school calendar would give teachers the opportunity to engage students in hands on activities and provide extended learning experiences that are generally reserved for those children fortunate enough to be accepted in special summer programs.

Make no mistake, a longer school year and year round school will not solve the problems inherent in the system of education. Without widespread fundamental change in the way we educate our children how much time we devote to teaching them is inconsequential. However, it is necessary to recognize that, in order to effectively address the needs of a large population of urban students, consideration of the amount of time these students are engaged in learning activities is essential.

Multiple problems require multiple solutions.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

The Beginning Of The End Of Reading

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning . . . It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. . . it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated.

In the beginning of public education, the Bible was the book that most people who learned to read in America, learned to read first. It was a difficult text to get through, but it had everything; fiction, non-fiction, poems, parables, biographies, instructions, science, history, and geography. It was to be taken literally and there was a great deal of inference. It was inspirational and confrontational and its influence could be seen in nearly every book written since.

Then came classic novels, also difficult. There was sight word recognition for the easy words and for the harder words you were taught to sound it out. Comprehension of the nuance and symbolism within these works came though discussion of what was read and meaning from the lesson that was to be learned.

At some point the concept of reading was analyzed and broken down into its parts to make it easier to master. There were so many parts however that it became impossible to teach them all so it was necessary to discern the important, teachable, parts of reading from those that weren’t as relevant. This is where the end began.

Fluency was important. A fluent reader sounded like a good reader. Identifying plot, characters, setting, problem, and solution were important, it showed understanding and was a teachable process.

Nuance and symbolism didn’t make the cut. They were too difficult to explain and open to interpretation. They required too much thought, imagination, and discussion. You had to actually involve yourself in the story in order to grasp these concepts.

In the end, our children are being taught to decode words and follow processes, but they are not learning to read.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Their Way Or The Right Way

According to the New York State English Language Arts Standards which outline student expectations, kindergarten students should be able to,
• Share reading experience to establish, maintain, and enhance personal relationships

• Respect the age, gender, and cultural traditions of the writer, with assistance

• Recognize the vocabulary and writing conventions (e.g., greetings and closings) of social communication, with assistance

• Share writings and drawings with peers or adults; for example, write/draw with a partner or in a cooperative group

• Respect the age, gender, and culture of the recipient, with assistance

• Write friendly letters to others

• Maintain a portfolio of writings and drawings for social interaction, with assistance

• Respect the age, gender, and culture of the speaker

• Listen to friendly notes, cards, letters, and personal narratives read aloud to get to know the writer and/or classmates

• Listen for the tone of voice and content that signal friendly communication

• Participate in small or large group storytelling, singing, and finger play, in order to interact with classmates and adults in the classroom and school environment

• Share favorite anecdotes, riddles, and rhymes with peers and familiar adults

• Respect the age, gender, and interests of the listener

• Discuss the content of friendly notes, cards, letters, and personal narratives, with a partner or in a small group, to get to know the writer and each other

Have School Board members ever read the New York State Common Core Standards?

Trying to exact these expectations from students who come into school without a pre-school or English speaking background and who are crowded into a classroom of twenty or more with one teacher is insane. Testing and evaluating five year old children on the skills outlined above does nothing more than begin the cycle of failure.

Early Childhood educators know that in kindergarten, children need to build social and academic skills through play that engages the imagination.

Educators, parents, community members must stand together to stop this madness. It is killing the spirit, imagination, and love of learning in our children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Money Can’t Buy Us Love

By now, everyone has heard of Karen Klein, the school bus monitor who was mercilessly bullied by several teenage boys. The whole world rallied in support of Ms. Klein raising approximately $275,000 dollars to “send her on vacation”.

On the other side of that coin, the students, whose names still haven’t been released publicly, and their parents have been receiving death threats from people in their community.

While it is a wonderful thing that monetary support for Ms. Klein was garnered, it does not negate the fact those closest to her, the people within her community feel justified in bullying those who bullied her.

Children are expected to do stupid things, and should receive some sort of relevant consequence in order to learn from their mistakes, and move on. Adults are supposed to role model proper behavior and provide level-headed reasoning when dealing with the mistakes of children.

The children are fulfilling their role, it is the adults that are not living up to theirs. Instead of sending death threats to the boys the community could have, should have pressed for criminal charges to be filed. The boys could have, should have incurred a community service sentence where they would have to clean Ms. Klein’s house, mow her lawn, walk her dog, if she has one, wash her windows, all those things a 68 year old woman finds it difficult to do on her own.

It is clear why these young men felt they had the right to bully Karen Klein. It is understandable that whoever posted the video on YouTube felt it would be a good thing to do. We are living in a society that supports being mean and nasty to one another. We are living in a day and age where you are expected to lead through intimidation and fear. Children begin to believe at an early age that “no” is a bad word and being “special” means you’re stupid.

Our children are our greatest gift, if we do not begin to treat them as such, they will become our worst nightmare.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Follow The Leader Is Not A Fun Game Anymore

On June 15, 2012, Governor Cuomo signed into law, BILL NO. A08131, which “Directs the attorney general to establish a 2 year juvenile sexting and cyberbullying education demonstration program”, BILL NO. A10712, which “Prohibits bullying and cyberbullying in public schools”, and BILL NO. S07740, which also “Prohibits bullying and cyberbullying in public schools”.

Not even a week later a video was posted on YouTube showing students from the Greece Central Schools bullying their elderly bus matron.

Lynette Adams interviewed the parents of the accused students who were “ashamed and embarrassed” by the actions of their children. However, one parent was quoted as saying, “her son is a good boy and she thinks he was influenced by his friends.”

Unfortunately, this parent does not seem to realize that she has admitted to the community that her son does not have the strength of character to say “No” to others who are doing wrong. In fact, there were many other students who were not involved in the bullying who chose to do nothing instead of stepping in and stopping the harassment.

This is the plague of our society. “Good” men doing nothing. Not necessarily joining the evil that surrounds them, but turning their back on it. Violence rarely happens without witness.

Bullying has become an epidemic because we fail to teach our children and role model for them, strength of character. We allow their world to be inundated by negative thoughts and deeds while making excuses for their abhorrent behavior and then rewarding it with special education and low expectations.

As adults, we do not stand up for what is right but merely follow our leaders down whatever path they choose to take us, right or wrong. The actions of our children are the result of our inaction against the injustices that occur in the formative years of their lives.

We must take our rightful positions as adults and begin to role model and teach respect to our children. We are their only hope for a successful and happy future.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

*Correction to “The Writing Is On The Wall – Let’s Elect A Board That Can Read It”, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass is an autobiography not a novel.