A father-daughter team is joining forces to speak with one voice in their campaign for Rochester’s school board.
Minister Clifford Florence and daughter Clianda Florence-Yarde are seeking two of the three Board of Education seats up for election.
“I think it would be very different for our community to see a father and daughter running together, who have a like mind, a vision, um, who have drive and passion, who have a desire to be change agents,” Florence-Yarde said. “And I couldn’t think of another person that I would like to go on a journey with than my dad because I saw growing up, the passion that he had for advocating for other people when they felt their backs were against the wall and didn’t have any options … .”
“I was humbled that she had had that insight to want to help bring about change in our community,” Florence said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity when you can not only work together with others in the community, but to see that you have had a positive impact on your own family. I think it’s a great opportunity to grow together. … You know, the families here in our community get a lot of negative raps about what they are not. This is a hopeful example that families can work together, have common goals and objectives to see our community and especially our black community progress.”
Two seats are held by commissioners not seeking re-election. President Van White announced he is seeking a judgeship. Bill Clark announced he would not seek a full term when he was appointed to fill the vacancy when Natalie Sheppard went to the Board of Elections.
Board Vice President Cynthia Elliott in running for another term.
The Monroe County Democratic Committee has yet to announce its designated candidates. Regardless of whether they are designated, candidates have to collect signatures in a petition process. There are expected to be several contenders and the June primary is likely to decide which candidates ultimately win seats.
“There’s a misunderstanding that the only important election is the presidential election, and we have to work to change the narrative that our local elections, I believe are more important,” Florence-Yarde said. “There needs to be voter education around this, and really getting and focusing on our 18 to 30 year olds. …”
Florence-Yarde teaches sixth grade in the Buffalo school district. Her father is associate minister of the Central Church of Christ. He also is president of the Faith Community Alliance, part of the Take It Down Coalition.
The two said they are running as a slate. Each will have a line on the ballot and will be voted on as individuals. Their message about community organizing – appealing to parents, grandparents and community members – for school reform will be consistent.
“We believe that as a team we can begin to address the dismal level of academic achievement in the Rochester City School District, because frankly our residents lack the political power to force the district to do what is necessary,” Florence said. “We want to lead in working with like-minded board members and can expose the challenges and the forces that are preventing reform.”
He said they would focus on demands for accountability, equity and quality for all students.
“COVID whether we like it or not, is really going to bring about the realism of how far behind these children are going to be,” the minister said. “So we won’t have the time for adult issues. We really have to do something different, which is focus on our students because the needs, the gulf is going to be so much greater than where we started pre-pandemic, and that was already large.”