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Straight No Chaser: The Main Thing Wrong in the RCSD

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston –


gloria newOn the same day students from a local high school protested the unsafe environment in their school, the Democrat and Chronicle ran a story titled, “Stanford University study: Rochester schools last in U.S. in growth.”

It was written by Justin Murphy. How ironic, was my first thought, that the students seemed wiser and more motivated than most parents in the district.

I didn’t really need to read the article to know how on point the study was.

We have collectively lived with the failure of too many of our children in the RCSD for decades.

And, all many of us do is just shake our heads, but we continue to return many of the problematic people in the district back to their offices to collect even more pay checks for doing absolutely nothing.

The main thing that is wrong in the RSCD is the absence of picket signs, and picket lines spearheaded by parents.

Listen to what I am saying.

The parents I speak of are not on the payroll in the RCSD.

The parents I speak of DO care about their children, but they just don’t know the power they possess.

No one wants them to know WHO they really are, and that the existence of RCSD policies, staff, executives and commissioners is only because they have yet to stand up and FLEX.

Much like the students who took to the streets and protested the condition of their school, ALL RCSD parents should be in the streets protesting the ignorance our school district continues to promote.

They have the power, and they need to use it in order to rid our school district of those who are participating in the failure of our schools.

They need to start at the top, and let the stuff roll downhill.

Enough is enough.

As a former parent involvement coordinator with ABC Head Start, I’ve continued to boast about how my staff, Mattie Hampton, Sharon Minigan, and Sheila Bonnaci, with the support of our (soon-to-be retired) executive director, James Norman, took the time to educate our parents, and ready them for their child’s educational journey.

We taught and emphasized the need for parents to be involved.

We taught our parents, and introduced them to the community as a whole, so they would be clear on what arenas and political offices would impact them and their children.

We also engrained in them that the job of parenting does not end with registering your child for school, and making sure they show up.

My staff was assigned to attend school board meetings, city council meetings, and county legislative meetings.

They were also charged with taking parents to these meetings, and to report back to parents on the outcome and issues of said meetings when the parents held their center-level meetings.

We taught them to connect the dots, and to recognize what each political office contributed to help the community function as a whole.

I personally made sure ALL parents were registered to vote, and encouraged them to know that electing someone to office also made them responsible for holding that candidate accountable.

And, when they failed to do their job, how important it was to replace them.

We also taught them how politics and elections worked, by having parents elect their own leadership at their respective centers.

They were taught not to fear challenging anything they perceived not to benefit their children.

They were taught to be vocal, and how to communicate , and support one another.

They were taught “Parliamentary Procedure,” the tool used to conduct orderly meetings, and the duties of the offices that are held in our community.

They needed to know the roles of presidents, secretaries, and treasurers.

We worked with strong parents like Ronald Reed, Jerry Capers, Melanie Funchess, Phillip Johnson, Reneatha Holloway-Harper, and others.

And, many of those individuals also went on to provide leadership to other parents in our community, while some also became (and still are) ABC staff.

But, the bottom line is, the lessons taught in the past did not leave them, in terms of their responsibility to their children and/or the community.

We lived and breathed the Head Start motto: “Parents are a child’s first teacher!”

The only obstacle we witnessed, after helping parents understand their roles and responsibilities, was how unwelcome parents said they felt in the city school district, after leaving Head Start.

Many parents were turned away from visiting their children’s classrooms, called names, labeled as disruptive, and more.

Upon entering the RCSD arena, many parents were treated like the enemy.

And, some were also bought and paid for when the alleged “parent involvement” office offered to pay the most vocal to silence them, in my opinion.

Many individuals the district hired held meetings and mouthed the words, but they fell short of challenging staff who may not have been doing their jobs effectively.

As a staff member of the Head Start pilot program called “The Family Service Center” (under the leadership of Greg Jefferson), I knew we drove the ideas behind one-stop shopping for services designed to empower our parents.

We, in Rochester, had one of three programs that were studied nationwide, and we collectively drove the current existence of the latest performance standards.

Most of the info that was included in our parent handbook had not only been researched and recommend by others in the Head Start system, but much of it had been included based on what parent involvement looked like back in the day.

I have often said, no one had to ask my parents twice about attending an open house; meeting and greeting the teacher; recitals; or the sports activities, talent shows, and field trips in which their children were involved.

And, I thank God ALL of my teachers in the RCSD TAUGHT!!

So, what is the main thing wrong in the RCSD???

Parents – parent involvement is what is missing from the process.

Vocal, active, educated parents who do not realize their own power.

However, their lack of involvement is not because they don’t care, in every case. It is mainly because no one has taught parents what they should know.

And, in many cases, their parents did not know either.

Parents have the power to FIRE and RETIRE anyone, and anything that is not fulfilling the job of educating our children.

Let’s Go!!

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