Adults As Role Models

Adult (adj.) From Latin adultus “grown up, mature, adult, ripe,” past participle of adolescere “grow up, mature”.

The word adult has taken on many different meanings today. The Wikipedia results cover the biological and legal aspects of the definition and there are also the psychological and developmental perspectives.
When it comes to decision making however, one would hope that the “adults” making those decision are, grown up and mature.

Mature: Timely, ripe.

This is another word that is difficult to place into human terms since humans develop independently within their environmental and social confines and therefore have a different understanding of what timely and/or ripe means.

Tavis Smiley spoke at RIT today and while one would expect the auditorium to be full, it was not.

Those who did not attend missed the most wonderful display of the gifts and talents that our children possess.

The event opened with three young ladies performing a poem, with the passion and emotion of an ancient and the discipline of a well rehearsed performance.

The young man that spoke in answer to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech was not only eloquent in his verbal delivery but precisioned in his sign language skills as well.

An accomplished female opera singer was accompanied by an equally accomplished pianist.

These were all young people, gifted, talented, changing the world by exposing others to their ability to rise above racial and economic stereotypes because they possessed the education that allowed them to believe that they could achieve, that they had something to give.

Later, at East High School, Tavis Smiley hosted a two panel discussion with Rochester leaders from fifty years ago and future leaders of Rochester that included Sophie Gallivan, the student representative on the RCSD School Board.

A city school hosting an event with past and future leaders of Rochester and yet, School Board members were not visible, nor was the Superintendent.

Our children need our guidance into their future. When we are not there to support them, no matter who birthed them, we all fail.

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Where Will Our Leaders Take Us

Both Tavis Smiley and Randi Weingarten will be speaking in Rochester today.

Talk show host Tavis Smiley will be the keynote speaker for the 2014 Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Later in the evening, Smiley will host a panel discussion – The State of Race in Rochester: 50 years after the ’64 riots – at East High School.

The condition of Rochester’s schools has digressed from fifty years ago.

Fifty years ago there was time in the school day to teach all of the subjects competently with assessments being given by the teacher on the lessons taught.

Citizenship was part of the curriculum and discipline problems were dealt with in school and at home.

Fifty years ago when you were absent without notification, a truant officer would show up at your door and take you to school and parental involvement meant supporting the teacher and making sure homework was done.

Hopefully, the failing system of education as it currently exists for those living in large urban areas will be part of the discussion at both Tavis Smiley events.

Randi Weingarten, current President of the American Federation of Teachers, will also be speaking in Rochester at a dinner seminar hosted by the Rochester Teacher’s Union.

Though the topic of discussion for this event will not be concentrated on Black History, it will be important to address the digression of the system of education and the role, or lack thereof, of the union in allowing corporate influence to control the profession of teaching by misdirecting the purpose and intent of education away from creating a respectful, knowledgeable, responsible citizenry and towards forming a 21st century college and career ready path to middle America.

With the mis-education of America’s children at the forefront of society’s concerns both venues should take the opportunity to engage their audience in a discussion about changing the system of education so that the focus is on our children.

Recognizing the gifts and talents of all children will lead us recognizing the gifts and talents in all human beings.

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Pointless Political Posturing

When Assemblyman Graf began his “Fix New York Schools” campaign, reported that he sponsored legislation “to withdraw New York State from the Common Core and Race to the Top programs.

“Graf says the programs are having a detrimental impact upon our students, their parents, teachers and administrators—and on our school budgets. He contends that they have reduced actual instructional time by shifting the emphasis away from learning and, instead, focusing purely on testing and data collection.”

“Graf contents that the requirements to comply with the programs are causing a great deal of frustration and uncertainty in our educational institutions. He believes that the cost to implement them far exceeds the amount received from them and that they have become a financial burden to our schools.”

“These one-size-fits-all programs have proven to be unsuccessful, detrimental, and ineffective, and therefore the State of New York should and must withdraw from these programs immediately. . .”

In his recent report, “At the Educational Crossroads: A Report on Education Reform Efforts in NYS” Assemblyman Graf seems to have changed his views and is now suggesting that we comply with NYS Common Core and Race To The Top programs as long as we do a better job of implementation.

The report states, “The new standards require students to think differently, and that requires teachers to teach differently.”

Why are we asking our children to think differently? Why aren’t we willing to “think differently” about how we educate our children?

The private schools of the wealthiest Americans are not asking their children to “think” differently. They are preparing their children to be creative, problem solvers, who can master whatever environment they will encounter, including college and career.

Any reform to a system designed to fail is pointless. Republicans and Democrats alike have given in to the corporate reform model that mis-educates America’s poorest population.

We must work together to create a system of education that will provide an excellent, child centered, developmentally appropriate, Arts based, experiential, learning environment for that engages the entire family, for every child in America.

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Mythically Speaking

The story of the seven headed Hydra in Greek mythology tells us, when battling the dragon, if you continue to cut off the lessor heads, more will grow back in their place. The only way to kill the dragon is to cut off the primary head, the one in the middle that controls the body.

The New York State Teacher’s Union, NYSUT has declared a vote of “No Confidence” against Commissioner John King. ASAR, the Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester has declared a vote of “No Confidence” against Superintendent Vargas.

We experienced, an RTA vote of “No Confidence” against then Superintendent Brizard and there was little improvement with the Board’s next appointment.

The Unions are missing the point. We continue to waste time and energy going after the lesser heads that are easily replaced by more while failing to kill the controlling head of the dragon, the corporate dollar.

Commissioner John King and Superintendent Vargas are simply the individuals put in place to take the criticisms of the people when they realize that their children are being negatively affected by our current system of education.

The more time wasted fighting lesser powers, the longer our children will suffer in a system designed to profit from educational failure, institutional intimidation, and the standardization of a growing middle class.

How could a difference in outcome be expected when our system of education is seen as a business and not the Constitutionally guaranteed right of every child in America.

Regardless of who is chosen to navigate the system, their intent must be failure in order to secure the funding necessary to maintain the budgetary requirements of their District and State.

The only option offered is to work within the confines of a system that provides an adequate, standardized, data driven, dollar defined system of schooling to children whose parents can’t afford better.

Federal, State, and LEA education policy, programs and language promote failure guaranteeing corporate profits.

We must eliminate the controlling head of the dragon so that All children will receive an excellent education.

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We’ve Had Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation – Now It’s Time For Change

The recently executed initiatives by President White are important. Creating relationships is the first step to building a cooperative and productive work experience for everyone.

Unfortunately, the initiatives must go beyond the coffee, cookies, and conversation stage in order for true relationships of respect and cooperation to be developed.

District leaders often present opportunities for parents and the community to become involved. They simply do not realize that the parents in this district don’t have time to spend hours having coffee, cookies, and conversation when no effective change occurs.

Parents have been to meetings, they have become involved, they are still involved and our children are still failing because parents, teachers, students, family, and community members are being asked to become involved in supporting a system that is designed to perpetuate the failure of individuals living within a certain level of economic status, poverty.

Once again we will witness the cycle of involvement wind down as energetic and excited stakeholders meet for coffee, cookies, and conversation. Upon realizing that the system is still failing to provide a certain group of children the education they deserve and require in order to become successful adults, they become tired and disheartened.

It is time for action. It is time for change. It is time we become responsible adults and recognize that every child is our child and if our child deserves an excellent education, every child deserves an excellent education.

It is the responsibility of every adult in this nation to ensure that every child in this nation has the opportunity to make this country great by taking pride in doing their best for themselves, their families, their communities, and their world.

Respect, integrity, and pride in a job well done, cannot be measured with standardized tests yet they are the qualities we should be developing in our children through a developmentally appropriate, child centered, public education.

We cannot change the system for America’s children before we change the system for our children.

Coffee, cookies, and conversation are a wonderful start, now let’s move toward change.

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The New Blue

There are “Seven Critical Components” to the new Blueprint for RESPECT.

The first:
A Culture of Shared Responsibility and Leadership: “Educators take collective ownership for student learning; student learning (is) at the center of all such decisions.”

There is a stark difference between “student learning” and the educational development of a child.

A child learns what is taught, a child understands what is experienced.

The second:
Top Talent, Prepared for Success: “We should expand the most successful programs, help other programs improve, and close down the lowest-performing programs if they fail to improve after receiving support.”

In a system that is designed to fund failure, the successful programs are those that fail to educate our children.

The third:
Continuous Growth and Professional Development: “Effective teachers and principals are career-long learners. Effective schools and districts are learning communities where teachers and principals individually and collaboratively continuously reflect on and improve practice.”

Effective human beings are life-long learners. Most unions and districts provide a plethora of professional development opportunities, that concentrate on adhering to a system of education with no record of success in large urban areas.

Effective Teachers and Principals: “Good evaluation systems should provide feedback to educators from both colleagues and supervisors that is meaningful, credible, timely, and actionable, and should use evidence-based processes that are fair, accurate, and transparent.”

Since standardized testing meets none of these requirements, they should not be used as part of the evaluative process.

A Professional Career Continuum With Competitive Compensation: “We need to offer educators career pathways that provide opportunities for increasingly responsible roles.”

How much more of a responsible role is there than providing every child in your classroom the excellent education they deserve?

Conditions for Successful Teaching and Learning: “We must be prepared to get the best teachers and principals to the highest-need students (including low-income students, minority students, English learners, and students with disabilities), and to ensure that all students have access to the other resources.”

We must provide ALL of our children with the best teachers and principals as well as having access to other resources?

Engaged Communities: “we must make schools stronger by educators embracing community resources, expertise, and activities; and we must make communities stronger by anchoring them around highly effective schools.”

This is the opposite of closing neighborhood schools yet that is also part of their plan.

Schools are not ineffective, our current system of education is ineffective.

Change the focus, not the blueprint.

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New Year – New President – New Business

Community members may not know that the Rochester City School District monthly Business meetings will now begin with “Cookies and Commissioners” from 6:00 to 6:30. This is a half an hour opportunity to speak with attending Board members and actually have a conversation with them.

This initiative, started by newly elected Board President Van White, will continue until the end of the 2013-14 school year.

It is evident that positive changes are being made in the District, however, after laying off school counselors and social workers last year the School Board will approve the appointment of Carleen Meers as Director of Social and Emotional Intervention at a starting salary of $130,058. At an average salary of $40,000 for school social workers, this one position at Central Office could have funded three counseling positions in schools, working with children.

Luis Colon was permanently appointed Information Services Business Analyst at $82,400 per year. This is approximately the cost of two teachers.

Seven Paraprofessional positions, two Psychologist positions, one Social Studies, and two Special Education positions were recalled from a preferred eligibility list.

Enrico Fermi School #17 will receive $16,290 “to receive training on differentiated instruction, high(er) order thinking skills, questioning techniques, student engagement and data analysis. PD will also include effective implementation of the dual language program and the new language progressions.”

With Board Resolutions being posted on-line, educational stakeholders can become more informed as to the workings of the district.

As the District becomes more transparent in its dealings, it becomes incumbent upon the educational community to do its due diligence and hold accountable those elected and appointed to leadership positions.

It is and will continue to be a worthwhile struggle to effect change to the system of education for our children.

Many battles have been fought and won. As we enter 2014, it is important to reflect on the improvements we have made and the mistakes we must correct.

It is the responsibility of every citizen in America to “watchdog” our leaders and help them help us create a knowledgeable, respectful, powerful, America.

Our children deserve our best to realize their best.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!