More Budget

In depth review of the proposed budget may seem tedious however, to know and understand the goals of the district and how they intend to achieve them, is to see clearly their vision for our children.

Strategic Goal #3: Communication/Customer Service: We will continually inform and seek input from parents, students, staff and members of the Rochester community, to continuously improve the quality of our instructional programs and operations.

Their Objectives:
• Adopt operational standards, practices and business processes to improve our levels of customer service and transparency.
• Improve the timeliness and customer-focus of our responses to complaints and service requests.
• Provide safer, more positive and nurturing learning environments that maximize student and staff satisfaction and success, from initial placement through graduation, and through all aspects of a student’s school experience.

These objectives do not speak to making the parent/school/community connection stronger.

Bullet three has nothing to do with the goal.

Their Metrics:
• Response rates to complaints and service requests
• Proactive outreach sessions
• Parent survey
• Vendor survey

Their Targets:
• Cabinet members/designees will respond to 100% of complaints and service requests within 48 hours by June 2013. Superintendent and/or Cabinet members will conduct at least five sessions per month annually (Sept-June) to gain insights and feedback from our various stakeholders.
• An independent objective survey of parent satisfaction with District services will be conducted in 2013 to established baseline metrics on which to set improvement targets.
• Current and potential vendors for selected professional services will be surveyed in 2013 to establish baseline metrics on which to set targets to increase response rates to bids and to lower our costs.

The district has been collecting this data for years and is familiar with response times and quality of service. A survey of parent satisfaction in a district that is one of the lowest performing in the nation is moot.

Parent and vendor surveys do not speak to the entire Rochester community of concerned citizens who hold no business with the district but are more than passionate about changing the failing direction of its current educational path.

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Back To The Budget

In returning to budget review, we begin with Goal 2.

Goal 2: Parental, Family and Community Involvement: We will engage and collaborate with all our stakeholders, to hold ourselves collectively accountable for our students’ success.

Their Objectives:
• Provide diverse opportunities for active family participation in their student’s education
• Design and implement multiple models for various organizations to help improve the quality and quantity of instructional delivery
• Increase the time devoted to in-school and independent student reading

Their objectives say nothing about engaging or collaborating with parents, families, or the community.
Trade unions and businesses have been offering their help for years and their offers have been rejected.
Students who don’t read won’t read, regardless of the time devoted to reading.

Their Metrics:
• Parent/guardian use of Parent Connect
• Parent/guardian participation on other teams
• Community input on budget

How do the metrics align with the objectives?
Is the use of Parent Connect considered providing, “diverse opportunities for active family participation in their student’s education”?
What do they mean by “Parent/guardian participation on other teams”?
What other teams?
What does community input on budget have to do with increased time devoted to reading?

Their Targets:
• 20% or more parents/guardians in each school registered for Parent Connect
• Office of Parent Engagement groups in each school will have 10% or more of the school’s parents by 2013
• Seven Fathers Groups will be established by 2013
• The draft and final budget will be posted on the District Website by 2013

Is a parent who has three children in three different schools and is registered for Parent Connect, counted as part of the 20% for each school the children attend? The same question can be posited for the second target.

If a parent is part of the father’s groups and is registered for Parent Connect, does that one parent/guardian allow the district two measures of success according to their metric system?

Target four is State mandated and speaks to district transparency not parent and community involvement.

This budget is unacceptable and should not be considered feasible for the coming school year.

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The Gathering

Last night the University of Buffalo was host to Partnership for Smarter Schools which provided a public information session on the realities of high states testing.

The speakers, Assemblyman Sean Ryan, District 149, Dr. Mark Crawford- Superintendent, West Seneca Schools, Dr. Walter Polka- Former Superintendent, Lewiston-Porter Public Schools, Dr. Mark Garrison-Author, A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized Testing.

The purpose, “Participants will hear leaders in the Rethinking Reform movement expose the false assumptions of and harm being caused by high stakes testing, and, most importantly, four key elements of a sustainable Reform 2.0 plan that will lead us to creating truly great public schools.”

However, participants came away with much more than information on the evils of high stakes testing. Speakers addressed the fear and anxiety of testing but they also exposed the fear that is so debilitating in the education community.

They spoke of the lack of participation by educators in the movement to change our corporate system of education to a child centered system. They spoke about the lack of human connection in education today and the absence of love for children in the process of educating children.

The most important aspect of the evening was the knowledge and understanding that the movement to change the direction of education is growing. More and more educators, administrators, college professors, and even politicians are joining the movement to change education so that it works for our children, not for corporations.

The United Opt Out event in Washington saw more than one hundred participants from across the nation. Last night’s event informed approximately one hundred more.

The numbers look small, unimpressive even but they are growing daily. More and more individuals are forming a community attitude against the unjust, inequitable, inefficient, and ineffective system of education that “BB” is trying so desperately to force upon our children.

More and more the language of change is being spread across the nation and people are becoming politically active in raising their voice against the system of mis-education.

When we build it they will come.

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Next Up In Budget Land

The Strategic Plan Goal outlines the districts goals and how they intend to achieve them.

Goal 1: Student Achievement and Growth: We will ensure that each of our students is academically prepared to succeed in college, life and the global economy.

Their Objectives:
• Common Core curriculum
• Teacher/Leader Evaluations/APPR
• Value added measures of student growth(e.g., state assessments, on-time grade progression/graduation)
• Increase focus on college and career readiness

This is not education reform, this is the corporate model of education that systematically omits any human needs of the child such as, communication skills, social skills, self-discipline skills, perseverance through mistakes skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills. Their objectives are to continue with business as usual with the hope of seeing some insignificant increases in student success.

The Metrics:
• On-time graduation rates
• ELA scores in grades 3-8
• Math scores in grades 3-8
• Regents pass rate
• APPR
• Master schedule

It seems the metrics are based solely on arbitrary standardized test scores that are linked to the common core and controlled by the master’schedule.

The Targets:
• On-time graduation rate increase from 48% to 70% by 2016
• 60% will meet or exceed growth targets by 2015
• 65% will meet or exceed growth targets by 2014
• 50% will pass Regents exams with a 75% or above the first time by 2016
• All teachers and principals who should be evaluated will be using APPR
• 100% of schools will employ the master schedule framework supporting the common core

At least the targets set are realistic enough to inspire the confidence of parents, students, and the community, to believe that the district is actually working toward achieving realistic goals.

Unfortunately what this district is actually saying is that they are going to invest nearly $800 million dollars in the system of education they have outlined for us this year without expecting to accomplish much in the next two years in the way of student achievement.

Our children cannot afford to fail any more. We must demand that our leaders adopt a child centered system of education so that ALL of our children have the opportunity to succeed.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

New Staff – New Program – Same Results

One of the items listed under the heading, “Closing the Budget Gap” is, “$8.5 million Four program consolidations”. Scrolling down brings us to the heading, “Program Consolidations and Closure of School 30” which states, “Neighborhood students from School 30 will attend School 54, and other students will receive customized placement services to find a new school that best meets their needs.”

This means that students from School 30 will continue to attend school in the same building but it will now be called School 54. While the students will be housed in the same building, nothing is said about the staff of School 30 which the students have come to know.

Will the school staff be retained or will the students be greeted by an entirely new group of adults in their building?

The students from School 54 must be the “other” students the district mentions. These same students were displaced once before when then district, lead by then Superintendent Rivera, promised that they would move permanently into School 37 so that the students could attend school in their neighborhood.

This paragraph continues with, “The Young Adult Evening High School and I’m Ready programs are consolidated into All City High School, saving $2 million.”

We know that the All City High budget was decreased from approximately $10 million to approximately $5 million for a savings of approximately $5 million.

In reviewing last year’s budget, the I’m Ready program received approximately $2.3 million.

Since there is no program listed as “The Young Adult Evening High School” in last years budget, the OACES Academic (GED = ABE, ASE, ESOL) program comes closest to the description of the program and so will be assumed to be the program to which this year’s budget refers. That program was funded last year at approximately $3.4 million dollars.

The question here is, if three programs were combined to save money and those programs were funded at approximately $15 million dollars last year, why is the savings in combining those programs only $2 million dollars?

We cannot continue to allow this type of inefficient and ineffective leadership to fail our children.

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More On The Budget

The “In School Suspension Redesign” states, “The In-School Suspension Program has been redesigned, enabling each school to have a dedicated teaching assistant. The teaching assistants will coordinate with classroom teachers to meet the needs of students on short-term suspensions while saving $1.2 million. This redesign will also enhance diversity of staffing in our schools.”

Will the ISS redesign have a dedicated teacher? How is the district saving $1.2 million? What does it mean when it says that the, “redesign will also enhance diversity of staffing in our schools?” Why would it? Remember, the ISS redesign is replacing the contracted professional services of The Center for Youth Services.

The “Neighborhood Schools and Transportation Plan” states, “Beginning this spring, we solicited the support of our State Legislature to help students be better connected to school with less time in transit and more time available for learning.”

A few sentences later we learn, “We currently provide transportation to all elementary students who live more than 1.5 miles from their school, but plan to begin providing transportation to those who live more than 0.5 miles from their schools.”

If the buses begin picking up more students we will either have to add more buses to maintain or lessen the current transportation time students spend on the bus or students will have to spend more time on the bus in order to accommodate the additional stops to pick up the additional students. Either way, this defeats the purpose of the neighborhood school.

One very important aspect of the neighborhood school is the communication and community building that takes place when caregivers bring their children to school. Their neighborhood may be unsafe now, but when they have to walk their children to school caregivers can demand that City leaders make their neighborhoods safe. This is how you grow a safe, productive community.

In School Suspension redesign and busing more of our children around the city is not a child centered approach to education.

Our children deserve a system of education that has as its focus, the educational success of all children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!