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RCSD Parent Leaders Rally and Says RTA Does Not Speak For Them

By Tyronda James
tyrondajames@minorityreporter.net

PLTI/parents lead meeting scheduled with RTA president, Adam Urbanski.

Rochester City School District parent leaders of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) joined together for a Zoom meeting, inviting Rochester Teachers Association president, Adam Urbanski for explanations of union’s resolution and stance against the reopening of schools. 

Hybrid/in-person learning began for approximately 4,150 RCSD students,  Feb. 8 as part of Phase 2 of the District’s reopening plan. It included students at all elementary schools in the District (31) who are in grades Pre-K – 6 in general, bilingual, and special education programs.

In Jan., approximately 325 K – 12 students in specialized programs returned to hybrid/in-person learning across the District, as part of Phase I.

Parents say, Dr. Urbanski, continue to state false rhetoric regarding the thoughts and feelings that RCSD parents and that parents were against the reopening of schools. They say Urbanski continues to state that more than 70% of RCSD families just decided not to send their children back to school in-person instruction because they considered neither safe, nor instructionally prepared. 

“RTA leadership is not in touch with truth and reality. When they know that the 70% figure is made up of parents who weren’t reached, families who were undecided and families who are remote learning for reasons they were not asked,” parent leader Kearstin Brown said. 

They say parents were never asked those questions and they demanded clarification.

Unfortunately, Dr. Urbanski declined to participate via email prior to the scheduled meeting.

PLTI invited select local media to be a part of the meeting. Parent leader, Mary Beth Elko said Urbanski cited in the email, not being clear about the purpose and intent of the meeting, and questioning whether or not it would be a good faith conversation with media presence included. 

The fact that Dr. Urbanski chose not to show up to the meeting today, is an example that RTA and its leadership does not value the agency of parents and our scholars, parents leaders said.

As the RCSD continues to roll out its school reopening plans, parents say they want RTA to explain how they will open up lines of communication with parents and engage families in the future. Phase III, will include hybrid/in-person learning for grades 7 – 12 beginning Feb. 22.

RCSD parents present a large group of families who supported superintendent, Dr. Lesli Myers-Small efforts to reopen schools for hybrid learning for families who choose to after 10 months of remote learning at this time, 339 parents and allies signed the change.org petition calling for RCSD schools reopening. 

PLTI says, Dr. Myers-Small was also supported by local health experts and state education officials, agreeing that students could return to school under the approved safe conditions

“We asked that RTA leadership discontinue stating this and remove the false statement,” Brown said. 

The parent hopes to establish and develop a relationship of transparency with the RTA and demand that the leadership of RTA stops attempting to speak for RCSD parents and families.

RCSD parents and families want change.

PLTI represents a larger mission, they say and they are committed to shift the power to the hands of families and demand that the voices of parents are heard.

RCSD families and parents seek transformation.

“If we are expected to transform as parents into instructional leaders in our home, then we’re expecting that there be some form of transformation that has to happen through the entire RCSD administration, through the teachers, as well as through the teacher’s union,” parent leader Kilolo Moyo-White said.

“And parents are demanding and requiring that we be a part of that conversation from now on.”

Elko said they hope for a meeting with RTA leadership to still take place. “We will continue to keep the door open for that,” said Elko. “Here we are still, proceeding and moving forward and we will continue to make an attempt to reschedule with him.”