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Thursday 21 November 2019
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An Open Letter to NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Interim Education Commissioner Beth Berlin

Howard Eagle

By Howard Eagle, On Behalf of the Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Community Alliance; Movement for Anti-racist Ministry and Action Coalition (https://www.facebook.com/tidpc/)

Ladies,

How nice of you to breeze into town for the Annual NYS School Boards Association Convention, held in Rochester on October 24th, 25th, and 26th. https://wham1180.iheart.com/content/2019-10-23-annual-nys-school-boards-association-convention-in-rochester/.

It really is too bad that y’all didn’t have the foresight and/or respect for Rochester City School District students and families, nor the broader, local, tax-paying community, to at least plan for an hour or two with primary stake-holders (in addition to middle and upper class elites — many of whom have NO SKIN IN THE ‘GAME’).

While you were in town, it seems that you would have wanted to say something (directly) to the people whose children attend Rochester’s decrepit schools (not only regarding the recent, scandalous misappropriation of tens of millions of dollars by New York State’s highest paid (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/columnists/andreatta/2018/11/23/rochester-ny-school-board-members-highest-paid-state/2092355002/), and most incompetent school board, but also about the nearly year-old Distinguished Educator Report, which, you all made such a hoopla about when it was first released — remember? (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/11/14/rochester-ny-schools-report-distinguished-educator-rcsd-jaime-aquino-nepotism-racism-elia/1809060002/).

Chancellor Rosa, we are certain you remember the fact that we were in the room with you, teary-eyed former State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, and Dr. Aquino on the day (November 14, 2018) that Dr. Aquino’s Report was released. You and the former Commissioner declared that Dr. Aquino’s Report was different than all of the previous ones that had preceded it because this one had “the weight of the State behind it.” Well, in spite of the rhetoric hardly any of Dr. Aquino’s 84 Recommendations have been implemented, or even put into motion toward implementation, especially and particularly those that are related to the Tripartite Beast and Illness: http://minorityreporter.net/the-tripartite-beast-and-illness-of-individual-institutional-and-structural-racism/ .

It is our Understanding that during the first day of your three-day, elitist fiasco, Rochester City School District (RCSD) Commissioner Judith Davis reportedly spoke with New York State Interim Education Commissioner Beth Berlin, and asked her whether or not the RCSD is going to get another Distinguished Educator. The Interim State Commissioner responded that Dr. Aquino’s Report (http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/main/rochester-de-report-11-14-18.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0NkfmkAfbbNHDXyREes7f7H6V7hFf5_AHYwL7IMAeVilD5smiebTH1NH8) is so well written that she doesn’t think the RCSD needs another Distinguished Educator. Reportedly, Berlin also told Commissioner Davis that the RCSD is not going to be allowed to just let Dr. Aquino’s Report “sit on a shelf,” and that the State Education Department is planning to have monthly meetings with Superintendent Dade, and plan to receive monthly progress reports relative to implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report (http://www.nysed.gov/news/2018/rochester-distinguished-educator-report-84-recommendations-improve-student-learning-and?fbclid=IwAR2YxLQj_wITBZyLqZ8UpbjQvM-Zw0XeTXon9Q-8grubJ-WI1NK7Yf7fBNQ).

In turn, Commissioner Davis asked Ms. Berlin if the State planned to share the Superintendent’s monthly reports with the Rochester Board of Education and the broader community? BRACE YOURSELF: Berlin’s response was that “she had NOT thought about that, [and she would] “take the idea back to [her] people” for consideration. WHAT??? WHAT DAMN PEOPLE??? SHE WOULD NEVER SAY THIS TO AN OFFICIAL IN AN ALL-WHITE, OR NEARLY ALL-WHITE SCHOOL DISTRICT. HOW OFFENSIVE!!! SHE’S IN CHARGE AT THE STATE LEVEL, OR IS SHE? OR, LIKE BETTY ROSA, IS SHE MERELY A PAWN OF THE ORGANIZATION THAT MANY SAY IS THE MOST POWERFUL LOBBY GROUP IN ALL OF ALBANY (NEW YORK STATE UNITED TEACHERS—BETTER KNOWN AS NYSUT)???

It’s clear that Berlin could care less about RCSD students and families, especially since she’s on her way out. However, we want to remind everyone of what former Commissioner Elia said on her way out. She was right, but Berlin, Rosa and other weak-kneed, so-called “leaders” have NOT followed through: “Elia said she believes Rochester still needs some sort of state oversight mechanism … For too long we haven’t concentrated on children in Rochester. I believe the focus is shifting … but I believe the best way to share (that) with the community … is with a neutral set of eyes to say, ‘Yes, they’re moving the right direction.’ She expressed confidence in Dade but also jabbed at the school board, saying it historically has failed to ensure that things go in the direction they need to go in. I had a very positive meeting with the superintendent, she said. But as you know, the superintendent is not the only one who is a leader in the school district” (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/education/2019/08/16/maryellen-elia-rcsd-still-needs-state-oversight-nysed-time-to-educate/2023921001/).

Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.

(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)