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An Open Letter to the Rochester City School District’s Superintendent

Op/Ed By Howard Eagle


howard newDear Superintendent Vargas,

When I saw the announcement below, from the RCSD Coordinator, Office of Parent Engagement, my mind immediately harkened back to a Minority Reporter interview with Rochester Teachers Association president, and American Federation of Teachers vice-president, Adam Urbanski, conducted by Mr. Rodney Brown.

Here is the announcement:

from: Parent Center <>
to: PARENTS@listserv.
date: Fri, Oct 16, 2015
subject: Need Your Help… Calling ALL Parents with High School Students (Paying for College) Town Hall Meeting

Hi All,

Please help us get the word out to parents, about the upcoming Parent Town Hall Meeting about, “How to Pay for College,” at East High School on November 2nd, 2015, from 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm. This session is for all parents with students in the 11th and 12th grade. There will be many HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Recruiters, looking for quality students,  at the session. Scholarship Opportunity information will also be shared.

We are trying to get firm commitments, so please have interested parents call the Office of Parent Engagement at (585)324-9999 to register, and/or get their name and phone number and we will follow-up with them, or go to to register online. Click on Register, then Individual Registrant, and at the drop down, click on Parent.

Dinner will be provided, and a Kids Zone with Bounce Houses, and other fun activities for kids 12 and under. The event is rapidly approaching. We need firm commitments by Wednesday 10/18/15, for planning purposes.

Thanks in advance for your anticipated, and continued help and support,

Willie J. Robinson Jr., MS HRM

District Coordinator Office of Parent Engagement
Youth Development and Family Services RCSD
131 W. Broad Street
Rochester, New York  14614
585-262-8362 Phone
585-690-5652 (cell)
585-935-7478 Fax

As you probably recall, during the above-referenced interview, with regard to the following question:“what, in addition to and beyond the traditional responses, should the district pursue as a strategy that would significantly and promptly reverse the systematic trend of low graduation rates, and low student achievement scores?” Dr. Urbanski reportedly responded as follows: “To fully correct the problem, we must aggressively pursue affirmative action to make sure we increase the proportion of teachers we have that children can recognize themselves in, including black and Latino teachers and administrators. I remember, years ago, we were full partners with the district in recruiting teachers through Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), to increase the proportion. But, recently, the district has dropped that. I think they need to pick it up again.”

“I am going to redouble our efforts to persuade the district they should resume what we’ve done in the past, to aggressively pursue affirmative action to diversify the teacher force, so we can have an even better shot of effectively knowing our students, and teaching our students,” Urbanski stated. “Honestly, I believe it’s a strategy long overdue.”

Based on his statements, quoted above, we assume that Urbanski has attempted to “persuade [you to] resume what [has been] done in the past, to aggressively pursue affirmative action to diversify the teacher force, so we can have an even better shot of effectively knowing our students, and teaching our students.”

If so, we are very interested in your response. If not, hopefully, you will agree that it is not necessary to wait for Urbanski, and/or anyone else to “persuade” you. Hopefully, you agree that this is something that you should have been doing all along, especially considering RCSD’s repeated, public announcements, relative to your staunch belief in research-based data. In addition to research referenced in the Minority Reporter article, we have known (for decades, conclusively), based on mounds of credible research, that:

“Increasing the number of teachers of color is not only a matter of a philosophical commitment to diversity in career opportunities. Teachers of color provide real-life examples to minority students of future career paths. In this way, increasing the number of current teachers of color may be instrumental to increasing the number of future teachers of color. And, while there are effective teachers of many races, teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for engaging students of similar backgrounds. This is a problem for students, schools, and the public at large. Teachers of color serve as role models for students, giving them a clear and concrete sense of what diversity in education–and in our society–looks like. A recent review of empirical studies also shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they’re taught by teachers of color.”

Considering that, according to Mr. Robinson’s announcement above, “many HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Recruiters [will be] at East High School on November 2nd, 2015, from 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm., looking for quality students,” this seems like an excellent opportunity for you to begin (if you haven’t already) reestablishing relationships relative to “recruiting teachers [of color] through Historically Black Colleges or Universities.”

By the way, one goal of the Race and Education Action and Change Work Group of Facing Race=Embracing Equity is to help recruit and retain significantly larger numbers of race and class-conscious, culturally competent, educators of color into the RCSD.

Thus, we stand ready, willing, and able to assist you with this critically important goal. We assume, based on your constant, public mantra, i.e., it’s going to require ‘the entire community’ to effectively address/solve the old, deep-seated, urban education crisis within the RCSD, you are open to collaboration regarding this, and other vitally urgent issues within the RCSD.

Please feel free to contact our co-chairperson of the Race and Education Action and Change Work Group, Rev.Judy Davis, at, or

Parent-Activist, Educator
Facing Race, Embracing Equity (FR=EE)
Race And Education Action And Change
Work Group Member