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Is Superintendent Terry Dade Conflicted About Addressing Racism in the Rochester City School District?

Op-ed by Howard Eagle

Howard Eagle

When former Rochester City School District (RCSD) Superintendent, Barbara Dean-William’ actions about addressing racism did not seem to match her words, our Coalition (Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Community Alliance, Movement for Anti-Racist Ministry and Action—TIDPC/FCA/MAMA Coalition) publicly pointed out the contradiction, which was reported in a November 2017 MR news story.

We had criticized Dean-Williams for not having a “serious sense of urgency. Regretfully, the time has come at which we must also question Superintendent Terry Dade’s seriousness and commitment relative to addressing racism in the RCSD. In Dade’s case, it’s worse than a lack of urgency.—He clearly has operated at a snail’s pace.–Urgency does not seem to be on his radar.

The Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership (REAL) team, which members of our Coalition have been helping to lead since the time of its inception, was established under Deane-Williams’ Administration in 2017, and was institutionalized by way of Rochester Board of Education Resolution No. 2018 -19: 631, developed by former Board Commissioner Judith Davis, and approved by a 4-3 vote during the Board’s January 24, 2019 Business Meeting.

In accordance with the above referenced Board Resolution, REAL team members have been engaged in a process that produced a RCSD Racial Equity Action Plan. We have been waiting (since the end of November 2019) for Superintendent Dade to present the plan to the Board of Education for approval so that we can move forward regarding specific “DISTRICT AND COMMUNITY GOALS,” including implementing “Strategies and Tactics,” and “Measurable Outcomes and Benchmarks,” which were developed collaboratively (over a two-year period) by an extraordinarily committed group of RCSD educators and other community members, including RCSD parents and grandparents.

If approved and implemented with fidelity the Plan will undoubtedly result in significant, measurable, reduction of individual, institutional, and structural racism within the RCSD. Most of the work had been completed prior to Dade’s arrival in July 2019. After satisfactorily addressing every change to the Draft Plan that he insisted upon, the team, including Mr. Dade, agreed on a “final” Draft at our November 25, 2019 REAL team meeting.

After the November 25th meeting, Superintendent Dade changed the format of the “final” Draft, which we did not object to. However, he also removed important content without consulting with the team. The unacceptable content changes were discussed at our last REAL team meeting on 01/27/20. Subsequently, as he had asked, several team members sent him copies of original content, which we requested to have placed back into the revised Draft Plan. We are disappointed that we have not heard back from Mr. Dade in over a month regarding our requests.

We have also requested (several times) for him to set a meeting date for our next REAL team meeting, and to schedule a meeting to present our Racial Equity Action Plan to the Board of Education. He also has not responded to those requests.

In fact, February 2020 represents the first month in about two years that the REAL team has not met at least once (due to the fact that Dade failed to set a meeting date, which, along with other factors, have led some to question whether or not he is intentionally disrespecting, undermining, and attempting to dismiss our multi-year, community commitment, free labor, and genuine attempt to partner with the RCSD?

A critically important question becomes: WHY IS THE SUPERINTENDENT STALLING? It has been suggested that his reservation may be based on his lack of knowledge and depth of understanding, and lack of commitment, which some speculate may even be (to some degree and extent, personally-based) regarding the dire need to seriously address the historical and ongoing, devastating impact of individual, institutional and structural racism within the RCSD.

Whatever the reason(s), we believe that it is important to keep before the community—especially and particularly the sectors that are most devastatingly impacted—findings and recommendations in Dr. Jaime Aquino’s Distinguished Educator Report, which states: “Systematic and institutionalized racism as well as individual racial and social conditioning are concrete barriers to respectful relationships. The foundation of creating equity within the District must therefore begin with addressing racism.” (p.49).

Additionally, manifestation of individual, institutional, and structural racism within the RCSD is mentioned throughout Dr. Aquino’s Report, including among Board members (see pages 14, 16, 26, 30, 41, 49, and 54).

Taking all of this into consideration, it is absolutely amazing (unless one understands the political games they play) that seriously addressing individual, institutional, and structural racism is NOT on the Rochester Board of Education’s recently released “2020-21 Draft Recommended Board Budget Priorities” list. The latter point is relevant for two major reasons:

  1. Superintendents rarely worry about addressing anything that’s not part of the Board’s priority list, especially when facing a 55-to-60 million-dollar budget deficit, as the RCSD is in 2020 – 21.
  2. What is budgeted for is what gets done.

The bottom line is that if the REAL team and broader community don’t insist on individual, institutional, and structural racism being seriously addressed NOW, as opposed to the distant bye-and-bye, it will not get done, period!

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.)

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‘Groups Update Community After Meeting with RCSD Superintendent,’ Minority Reporter, November 14, 2017 —  )

January 24, 2019 Business Meeting of the Rochester Board of Education — DEBATE regarding Board Resolution No. 2018-19: 631 begins at the “2:54:15” mark in the following video:

November 14, 2018 Report by Rochester City School District (RCSD) Distinguished Educator, Dr. Jaime R. Aquino (‘A Review of the Rochester City School District’  

Rochester Board of Education — 2020-21 Draft Recommended Board Budget Priorities —-$file/Budget%20Priorities%20Updated%20with%20final%20four%20votes.pdf