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Straight, No Chaser: Thoughts On The Review of the Rochester City School District

Gloria Winston

Op/Ed by Gloria Winston –

Governor Cuomo is not the only one who supports “Mayoral Control” of the RCSD!! After the recent review conducted by Jaime R. Aquino, Ph.D., Distinguished Educator on November 14, we should all be up in arms and ashamed of ourselves for continuing to support the lack of leadership, consistency and incompetence outlined in his stinging report and validation of what most have known for years.

Parents should be in picket lines carrying picket signs demanding the resignation of the so called Board of Education. This community and taxpayers are due a refund for the salaries that have been paid to the “Commissioners”—some for years. Instead of admitting any wrong doing the President of the Board gets on TV trying to point fingers at others. Dr. Aquino clearly defines the problem. Every taxpaying citizen and parent with children within the confines of this horrendous institution called the City School District need to take a moment from their day and READ the report….all 60 pages of it. Our future, our children can not afford for “the Village” to continue to turn a blind eye to the concerns outlined in the report. The flaws are not new. The results are the same. We are paying folks to keep our children dumb, unemployable and at least 50 % leaving school with no means of survival or the skills to enable them to do so. Scandalous!

The cries of advocates fall on deaf ears. The majority of the blame and the way to do what is right and needed is called PARENTS. Parent Involvement has always been key; and lack of it allows the continued demise of our educational system. This does not happen in the suburbs and should not continue to be a factor in the City School District. Parents are the real key to change. They should not only be at the table helping to develop policy but should be there to help enforce the much needed changes.

Parents are the key just like they were back in the day. No one had to beg my parents to get involved in the educational journey I and my brothers embarked upon. No one had to ask me to do the same for my sons. No one had to beg us to come to school to support open houses, events, activities that our children were involved in.

No one accepted failure and the treatment we seem accustomed to these days. I was convinced long ago, that somewhere the Title 1 monies and other grants the District qualified for became a factor in making decisions to teach or not to teach. Somewhere our schools became battle grounds and we continued to hire teachers who fear our children.

Parents are the key. I say that unequivocally as a competent and successful parent involvement coordinator for 12 years at ABC Head Start. We developed leadership. We prepared parents to ask the right question and not be afraid to challenge what they perceived to be wrong. My staff and I developed leadership and helped to empower parents to recognize their power, and not be afraid to use it.

For example, we encouraged strong parents like Phillip Johnson and his wife Patricia, Melanie Funchess, Ronald Reed, E.J. Kiner, Jerry Capers, Reneatha Holloway Harper to mention a few. When their children arrived at the RCSD and they were treated with disdain and were not welcomed as parents they knew what to do. The most effective parent advocates and coordinators, for one, should not be on the school board. They will be beholden and intimidated by administration to teach parents to comply with their madness. It is almost impossible for those receiving pay from the plantation owner to be as parent driven and sensitive as they would need to be to engage parents who are strong. Administrators would need to be parent driven in development of policies. Monies from outside of the district should pay all allegedly responsible for parent engagement. Parents need exposure to their community, politically as well.

My staff attended and took parents to RCSD meetings, city council meetings and county legislature meetings. Let’s stop playing with our children s lives and do what needs to be done. All of the recommendations reflected in Dr. Aquino’s report look good on paper and many make sense to me. But until we return to the drawing board, fire or retire these so called commissioners, we are due for more of the same failure. Parents need to stop accepting the excuses. Commissioners don’t even know their jobs. Most are trying to do the superintendent’s job. One of the reasons we can’t keep one, I am sure.

Like the Governor, I support mayoral control of the City School District, and the dismantling of the mess we have accepted called a “Board.” But in the meantime, until we organize and manage to get folks more loyal to our children than they are to a paycheck, we will continue to pay incompetence. This is not going to change with 2 or 3 new faces. Now here we are once again looking for another superintendent. The person who should be and could be the choice is Dr. Walter Cooper but I am certain he would not consider the opportunity. But he is more than capable. Cecelia Golden should be a consideration as well. She too is qualified.

The only other recommendation I can offer that this community needs to seriously consider is someone locally who has a proven passion for children and the educational arena in the district.

Why is Howard Eagle not a consideration?? He knows the school district, its flaws and would not cow tie or play the games Van and company like to play at the expense of our children. Howard’s strong personality would cause many concerns and some would find reasons not to support him, but I don’t see many others that are home grown, as well read or as qualified. He would not only rock that sinking boat, he would tip it over—just what we need.

We need to grow up and learn to respect each other’s qualifications regardless of personality. We need to work to dismantle the personality clashes and remember the ultimate goal is to educate not victimize our children. Howard cares and if we care like we claim to, we need to take a look at him, seriously. Our children need his fire at the helm. And these Ph.D’s (Poor helpless Dummies—a term I borrowed from the deceased Ed Croft) who think they are superior to him need to take two seats.

Howard would do the right thing and would remain unbought, unbossed and unsold. Agree or disagree we need to make drastic moves to bring our educational arena up to speed. READ the report. It is online.

Gloria Winston is a Community Activist, Writer, Communicator, and Political Activist. She is a native Rochesterian and has been involved with numerous community organizations in Rochester. Contact Gloria at:

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(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.)