Op-ed by Howard Eagle
Acute secrecy and blatant disrespect of Rochester City School District (RCSD) parents, guardians, families, and local taxpayers in general, relative to recent, major developments in the thoroughly dysfunctional district, is absolutely mind-boggling. Only in modern-day-slave-town U.S.A. could this possibly happen with no significant community uproar or push back.
First, after just nine months, the $250,000-dollar-a-year “leader,” former superintendent Terry Dade decided to break his three-year contract, and although we know that in an unprecedented haste to get the rotten-political-egg off of their embarrassed faces, the thoroughly incompetent, politically spineless, Rochester Board of Education directed their attorneys to negotiate a bail-out deal, or what some refer to as a “golden parachute;” yet, not one single word has been reported to the public regarding good-riddance-costs. How criminal.
Secondly, a well-established, well regarded, local person who was passed over in the expensive national search process that produced Terry Dade, was hired with break-neck speed, without a single word of input from anyone. This occurred in a matter of weeks, after Dade abandoned the overwhelmingly, predominantly Black, horrendously performing RCSD, to take a position in one of New York’s wealthiest, whitest, and most successful districts. So much for his constant, hypocritical, rhetorical-drumbeat concerning the “one Rochester family” (of which he proved to be a deadbeat dad’).
The new Superintendent, Dr. Lesli Myers-Small’s salary is unknown. Again, all that has been reported to the public is that her annual salary cannot exceed $250,000, which means if she is able to complete her four-year contract, she stands to (potentially) earn a cool million. I won’t argue about fair compensation, but I will say, that’s a lot of money during the current, dire, financial straits the district finds itself in.
Additionally, less than five months into his position, the RCSD’s new Chief Financial Officer resigned with not much of an explanation, other than he was not a “good fit” for the RCSD. Yet, its common knowledge that he could not believe the kind of irresponsible fiscal malfeasance and shenanigans that he observed on the part of the Board of Education. He obviously chose not to be a part of it, and therefore headed back across the street to the Monroe County Office building (from whence he came).
To put icing on the thoroughly dysfunctional cake, New York State’s Interim Education Commissioner and Board of Regents, who clearly have been complicit in the ongoing dysfunction (if in no other way, certainly via non-substantive saber-rattling for years) have assigned a high-priced, baby-sitter, a so-called “state monitor to oversee fiscal and academic matters,” part of which is supposedly the responsibility of the highest paid Board of Education in all of New York State. Again, there has not been a single public report regarding the monitor’s salary, nor who’s footing the bill, but of course we can guess, it’s at least six-figures, and we know who always foots the bill, one way or another.
Most disturbing is the rhetoric that’s coming from the State Education Commissioner’s Office regarding the monitor’s duties. Reportedly, among her “immediate tasks is to help craft academic improvement plans for the 2020-2021 school year and the four subsequent school years by November 1.” WHAT??? What in the world does this mean? Does it mean that the $200,000 thousand-dollar-plan produced by Dr. Jaime Aquino, barely a year-and-a-half ago, is now to be scrapped in favor of yet another plan? If so, this is unbelievable, and this is the same State that some people keep crying that they want to take control of the RCSD. This literally appears to be a clear case of the blind-leading-the-blind, and we’re all headed for a ditch.
WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER PLAN! Instead, our (Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Community Alliance Coalition) staunch and informed stance is that the ONLY possible solution is locally based, and must necessarily include a critical mass of Rochester City School District parents, grandparents, other family members, including students, Board members, educators, activists, politicians, union and business leaders, and anyone else who is completely committed and deadly-serious about helping to produce the widespread, fundamental, significant, measurable, permanent change and improvement, which we have TALKED about for decades.
There is a dire need to WORK constantly, consistently, cooperatively, and collaboratively in order to develop, implement, and oversee specific, measurable goals, strategies and tactics. Actually, we believe (for the most part) the GOALS have already been laid out via Dr. Jaime Aquino’s 84 Recommendations, which were part of his November 14, 2018 Distinguished Educator Report (see link below). Thus, it’s a matter of collectively developing and implementing strategies and tactics.
Once there is a clear direction regarding strategies, then that would be the time to reach out to the State for SPECIFIC FORMS OF SUPPORT. IT CANNOT SIMPLY BE A MATTER OF ASKING THE STATE TO CONTINUE THROWING MONEY DOWN THE PROVERBIAL BLACK-HOLE-DRAIN.
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.)