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Wednesday 16 October 2019
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Maybe We Need a ‘War’

Op-ed by Howard Eagle –

Howard Eagle

I am sicker-and “tireder” than Mother Fannie Lou Hamer was of folks like City News Editor/Co-Publisher, Mary Anna Towler spewing hegemonic, simplistic, evasive, deflective, and largely inaccurate rhetoric regarding potential solutions to the old, deeply-entrenched, urban education crisis, which exists not only in the Rochester City School District (RCSD), but in predominantly, economically poor, Black neighborhoods and communities throughout this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state (in every direction — North, East, South, and West), and which is the main reason why we know (for certain) that it is NOT just one great-big coincident.

For decades, Towler has made unsubstantiated claims that the district’s biggest challenge [is] concentrated poverty; and in her recent August 6, 2019 editorial “The Fight Over the RCSD” she continues the trend.

If many of us—who (in some cases) lived in poverty-stricken conditions that far surpassed what many among the poorest of our students are experiencing today—had waited around until the “community dealt with the impact of poverty” before acquiring an education, we would (obviously) still be waiting.

Of course “the school district didn’t create the concentrated poverty that has afflicted many city neighborhoods.” Instead those conditions are the result of centuries of individual, institutional, and structural “Racism, government laws and regulations [not only] barring people of color from the suburbs,” but barring people of color from EQUITABLE OPPORTUNITIES in every major realm of life, including public education. Yes, we can “trace much of the school district’s academic achievement problems to the [causes of] that poverty.”

The Editorialist has turned the cause-and-effect factor upside down, which provides her and many others the excuse for not doing anything substantive and/or significant to help solve the problem, e.g. they first have to completely eradicate poverty, which necessarily means (for all practical intents and purposes) — there is no foreseeable solution.

We know that the effects of poverty impacts our ability to educator people, but with regard to academic success, poverty is NOT deterministic.

As it relates to the writer’s idea about “throwing stones at the school board and the teacher’s union” — considering their well-compensated (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/columnists/andreatta/2018/11/23/rochester-ny-school-board-members-highest-paid-state/2092355002/) (https://jobs.teacher.org/school-district/rochester-city-school-district/), decades-old, dismal records — perhaps the time has come for RCSD families and other community members — to literally “throw stones,” especially since the “educators” have continued to fortify themselves as supporters and defenders of the thoroughly entrenched, status-quo, including control over a nearly one-billion-dollar ($1,000,000,000) budget.

With regard to the idea of “all of the warring factions getting together and finding ways to deal with the effects of (individual, institutional, and structural racism, which has been more instrumental than anything else relative to systematically creating, perpetuating, and maintaining so-called) concentrated poverty,” (http://minorityreporter.net/the-tripartite-beast-and-illness-of-individual-institutional-and-structural-racism/ ), the first step has already been handed to us, e.g., the findings and 84 recommendations contained in Dr. Jaime Aquino’s Report (http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/main/rochester-de-report-11-14-18.pdf ).

By the way, the latter assertion above is backed up by the Report, e.g., the “SCHOOL CLIMATE” section 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).

It is probably not accurate to state that “Mayor Lovely Warren has been pushing for community schools [as a] solution.” Instead, I’m fairly certain the Mayor would agree that, if properly organized, and supported, community schools can serve as part of the larger solution, which again, is embodied within Dr. Jaime Aquino’s 84 solid recommendations (http://www.nysed.gov/news/2018/rochester-distinguished-educator-report-84-recommendations-improve-student-learning-and ).

It is a misnomer to claim that “the University of Rochester [is] providing resources, expertise, and community leadership” to the RCSD via the so-called Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) experiment at East High School. What is actually happening is that the RCSD is paying people from U of R a lot of money to supervise an experiment, which is actually being fueled by folks such as Dr. Shaun Nelms and Ms. Marlene Blocker who were grounded in urban education before U of R ever got involved. One veteran Rochester Board of Education member has said publicly that the RCSD won’t be able to sustain the experiment at East — because of the expense.

Speaking of deflective, evasive, convoluted ideas, Towler’s following, edited paragraph is classic: “This [white] community will never agree to a metropolitan school system. The [white] community’s not interested in breaking down the barriers to low-income housing in the [lily-white] suburbs, either. So it’ll take a major investment in lessening the impact of poverty: investment in [overwhelmingly, predominantly white] school staff, social services, child care, health care, housing. Many of the key [white] players

required for that effort are involved in the current fight. If the warring parties stopped their sniping and pulled together, this [thoroughly racially segregated] community might accomplish a lot.”

In my humble, but staunch view, those who are most negatively and most profoundly impacted might be much better off “so-called “throwing stones” until we get the desired results (as opposed to continuing to chase empty pipe dreams).