Op-ed by Howard Eagle
As it relates to recent news reports regarding the latest announcement concerning the decades-old, ongoing, deepening, academic crisis within the Rochester City School District (RCSD), some of the responses by those in positions of top leadership, are plain amazing, and helps to explain why the crisis is not (in the main) improving, but is in fact clearly worsening (see additional links below).
A few glaringly-outstanding examples of ludicrous responses, include the fact that one top leader noted that part of the problem is that past school board members decided, as part of budget cuts years ago, to eliminate reading teachers. The operative terms are “years ago” (probably at least ten years ago).
Since that time, numerous RCSD budgets have been adopted. If the Board recognizes the lack of reading teachers as a major academic issue (as they should), then why haven’t they eliminated some of the clearly ineffective, and in some cases silly initiatives that they have been funding for years, and restored reading teachers? During the course of their interviews, it’s so very interesting that mainstream media pundits never seem to raise this type of vitally important, fundamental question.
Additionally, with regard to academic development, growth, and success, surely the State-appointed, so-called “academic monitor” is aware of the essentiality of reading teachers. So, why then is restoring reading teachers not part of her recommendations?
Instead, “Jallow recommended that the district invest heavily in summer school and after-school programming.” How in the heck does that type of recommendation possibly make sense, especially when it’s pointed out in the Report that: “At most schools, between a third and a half of students are chronically absent, meaning they’ve missed at least 10 percent of school days so far.Some secondary schools, including Franklin Upper School and Northeast College Prep, are missing more than a third of their students on any given day.”
So, huge numbers of children are not attending during the regular school day and/or regular school year, but the recommendation is __ put a lot more money into programs that will happen at the end of the regular school day and/or school year, and this is supposed to make sense? Apparently, this is the type of information that the so-called “academic monitor” is paid about as much as the Superintendent __ to tell us. Shameful! Furthermore, it is noted that “Jallow also tallied nearly 20 violations of her existing plan. If left unresolved, those could result in the state Education Department gaining further control over district operations.” Right! How long have we been hearing that super-hyper-rhetoric? I’m still stuck in 2019, e.g., relative to the “Distinguished Educator Report” (see the links below). “Jallow said it’s clear when we look at some of our data that academics is still a great challenge for us.” Yep, and as long as that’s the case __ she’ll keep getting paid to give the kind of nonsensical advice noted above.
Another six-figure-salaried RCSD employee, who is part of the top leadership, declared that: “We didn’t get here overnight. This didn’t just happen because of COVID. … We’re also not going to get out overnight.” The old, tired, worn-out mantra that “change won’t happen overnight” __ is exactly that, e,g., old, tired, and worn-out. The Public Education System is literally older than this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state itself (387 years old to be exact). I (for one) am sicker and more tired than Mother Fannie Lou Hamer was of being sick and tired of hearing that old, tired, worn-out “overnight” tune. I have literally heard it all of my life (68 years). I actually remember hearing that exact same rhetoric as a child.Can’t you just hear Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. crying out ___ “how long?!”
Speaking of irresponsible, unaccountable, top leadership __ Rochester Teachers Association president Adam Urbanski’s libelous rhetoric is always the wildest, and most outstanding. He claims, as he routinely does (without qualifying his ludicrous statements) __ that RCSD teachers are “everyday heroes.”
Of course a relatively small number of them are. However, it is no secret that many, if not most, are more like criminals than so-called “heroes” or sheroes. That is, many, if not most, are robbers who steal tax-payers money by not producing much of anything at all. In fact, many do not even attempt to produce. They just go through the motions. Again, the longstanding, chronic existence of massive, widespread, low expectations and low productivity in the RCSD is no secret. Urbanski reportedly claimed that “educators are doing everything they can to help students.”
Many workers in school buildings will tell you (if they are honest) __ that’s a big lie (at least in most cases). The teachers union president also spewed his routine, clockwork-like-rhetoric that “teachers love the students.” Surely, some do, but clearly, most don’t. If they do, it’s definitely not evident by way of actions that they are willing to take (beyond what their Contracts stipulate). Many will ask, ‘well what do you expect us to do?’ The answer is __ “the same thing you would do if your children were experiencing this sort of atrocity __ period.
Of course, low expectations are not limited to teachers. Instead, it’s a pervasive problem and issue throughout the urban public education system (from top to bottom).
There’s only one question left (for us all collectively) __ it’s the same one that Jim Brown kept asking the Late Richard Pryor when the latter was going through his struggle with drug addiction. All else is merely super-hyper rhetoric and noise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS95ZWq1Ais&fbclid=IwAR1BxQCXsL1s4MXI3bAgn0EHvPi9AU-woZSxA9FfQKZlm9WYhv6r-oFOje8
~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 taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport for 20 years, before retiring in 2020.