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Strange Budgetary Priorities and the New Media Darling

Howard Eagle

Op-ed by Howard Eagle

Anyone who is paying attention, surely recognizes that Terry Dade has become a regular, not only on Bob Lonsberry’s radio show, but in the eight (8) months that he’s been here, he has been a guest on Evan Dawson’s WXXI “Connections” program more than many who have lived here for lifetimes.

He has even eclipsed THE local education-darling of mainstream, mass-media—none other than the ancient relic and man that some refer to as the local Education Czar, Dr. Adam Urbanski. It’s as if, especially Mr. Dawson is convinced or mesmerized into believing that no one else in Rochester (other than Dade in particular, and a few others) has any worthwhile knowledge regarding urban education in general and particularly as it relates to the largely dysfunctional Rochester City School Distinct (RCSD).

Just four days after Dade had publicly presented his 2020-21 RCSD draft Budget Proposal, Dawson apparently felt that it was important for his overwhelmingly-majority-white, suburbanite listening audience to hear him wax eloquent for another hour regarding all of the scripted rhetoric concerning “rock-star” employees and avoiding so-called “ground-hog-day,” which some of us had just suffered through four(4) days earlier.

There were only two outstanding differences relative to the previous presentation. One was Dade’s reminder that: “We have to remember we’re at 13% proficiency for reading and math.” This is an amazing statistic, especially when we examine the district’s claim that its graduation rate rose to 58% (not that that’s anything to be proud of) during 2019. Yet, it’s a big leap for the RCSD, which has hovered around 50% or less, literally for decades. However, as Dade has acknowledged, it does not stand to reason that the district has proficiency rates in the low teens, but supposedly a nearly 60% graduation rate.

Secondly, when he was pressed about reports that he’s planning to hire an academic chief for the district—in light of the fact that he has also proposed in his 2020-21 draft budget to cut social workers, guidance counselors, the Director and Department of African/African American Studies, and the districts first ever Black Director of Special Education—he responded that hiring an academic chief “is a no-brainer,” and insisted that for his “administration to not have a chief focus on academics… when we’re at 13% proficiency for reading and math would be embarrassing.”

Yet, it was nothing short of amazing to hear his response relative to what the chief academic officer position would be responsible for doing, e.g., oversight regarding “aligning the district’s corrective action plans for English language learners, students with disabilities, distinguish educator’s 80-plus recommendations, moving the district forward in the areas of reading, math, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, and the like — so yes this is the time to invest in a position that we believe will allow for alignment with the State Education Department and a large system like our own.”

As I listened, all I could do, as anyone who understands urban education would do, was shake my head, and wonder out loud ‘is this guy looking for a so-called chief academic officer, or is he seeking a magician?’ Clearly, no one can manage all of those above referenced responsibilities concurrently and effectively (other than possibly a magician).

Lastly, speaking of amazement, it is nothing short of baffling, if not mind-boggling, that the Superintendent of the RCSD can have hour-long conversations (one right after another) regarding systemic issues and problems, and never even utter a single word about one of the district’s oldest, most deep-seated, pervasive, volatile and potentially explosive socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and sociocultural issues and problems—that’s right, the forbidden-fruit issue and problem of individual, institutional, and structural racism.

Yet he has the audacity to cite Dr. Jaime Aquino’s Distinguished Educator Report (the latter of which emphasizes that, within the RCSD, “Systematic and institutionalized racism as well as individual racial and social conditioning is concrete barriers to respectful relationships… The foundation of creating equity within the District must therefore begin with addressing racism,”p.49), as well as other manifestations of individual, institutional, and structural racism within the RCSD (see pages 14, 16, 26, 30, 41, 49, and 54).

Clearly Dade is attempting to move us back to a longstanding era in which the “R” word was never mentioned, but instead always couched in watered-down narratives regarding so-called “multicultural education, culturally responsive pedagogy, and implicit and explicit bias” – because, according to Adam Urbanski’s philosophy and theory even talk of anti-racist education will turn white teachers off and offend their fragile sensibilities, and of course, we can’t have that.

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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.)