Op-ed by Howard Eagle
While reading a recent editorial from the editorial board of the local daily newspaper, “Our view: Why isn’t Cuomo acting to protect Rochester’s children?”, all I could do was shake my head and think out loud, ‘no wonder so many people are confused about critical issues. The mess-makers are at it again.’
Rather than contributing to clarity—relative to potential, effective, final solutions—they almost always help ‘muddy the waters. For example, they suggest New York’s governor should “treat the crisis surrounding Rochester’s schools as he would any state of emergency, like vaccinations or vaping”. So should “the crisis” surrounding Buffalo’s, Syracuse’s, New York City’s, Yonkers’ and Rochester’s schools, in addition to predominantly Black schools and districts throughout this thoroughly racist, white supremacist-based nation-state (in every direction — North, East, South, and West) be treated as a NATIONAL EMERGENCY?
Frequently, many of us do not agree with Governor Cuomo, but in this particular case, his approach is dead-right. He reportedly told the mess-makers “I will help implement any new model the locality decides”,but the locality must decide. He noted any attempt at reform will be hit with strong opposition from many directions, but particularly from unions but says that should not stop Rochester from trying to give its children an education system that works.
“The unions are very powerful”, he said. “But, I say to my people: Don’t tell me whether or not we can win the fight. First tell me what fight you want to take on, then we’ll figure out how to win the fight.” Again, in this particular case, Cuomo could not possibly be more correct. His position is aligned (100%) with ours, below.
The mess-makers noted that “when this city’s elected mayor asked for a state-appointed board to take temporary control over the district, Cuomo did not visibly flex a single muscle. Not even when his former lieutenant governor, Bob Duffy, came out in support of the new model set forth by Mayor Lovely Warren.”
The type of misinformation contained in the latter quote represents the epitome concerning reasons why many people are constantly confused about vital issues (because frequently they believe, uncritically, what they read). The truth of the matter is that “asking [especially in a very generalized manner, without specific details] for a state-appointed board to take temporary control over the district,” no matter who supports it — does NOT represent a “new locality-decided model,” and potentially portends even greater disaster for the children and families of the Rochester City School District (RCSD).
That is, there is not one single iota of evidence that any “state-appointed board” (unless perhaps it’s composed of exceptionally knowledgeable, deadly-serious, committed, local leaders—with a distinguished educator of Dr. Jaime Aquino’s quality in tow), is capable of leading the RCSD out of crisis. In fact, the evidence that does exist, tends to suggest the exact opposite: https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/nys-takeover-of-roosevelt-schools-failed-some-say-1.5595650, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/04/21/separate-and-unequal-in-roosevelt-long-island/1b371ef3-33b7-4d63-8720-e817b09332dd/ .
The pundits also ranted about Cuomo “using his pulpit to give voice to Rochester’s young people, who desperately need people in power to care about them.” WHAT? They have got to be kidding. For example, should Cuomo have swooped down on Rochester this past June and so-called “used his pulpit [to influence] the need of people in power to care about Rochester’s young people,” or should that have happened locally (http://minorityreporter.net/critique-of-a-yellowish-piece-of-journalistic-trash/)?
Apparently, they can’t even keep the basic facts straight. For example, they reported that the RCSD is “now faced with a $30 million deficit” (as if that’s already an established fact), which it is NOT. Furthermore, they referred to the RCSD’s HUGE budget hole as being “mid-year.” How could that be, when we’re still in the first month of the new school year?
Finally, their unintelligible conclusion makes absolutely no sense at all, e.g., after acknowledging that the governor “does not have direct control over the state education department,” and ranting about: “As former Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino clearly spelled out in his report, the board is failing miserably in all areas“; amazingly, they concluded that “there are plenty of leaders whom we should be holding accountable, but let’s start at the top. Governor Cuomo must join Mayor Warren to end this insanity.” WHAT? So, with regard to accountability, rather than starting with the seven individuals who are directly responsible (by law), and the man whom we pay $250,000 a year to lead (not to mention the NY State Board of Regents, NY State Education Commissioner, and scores of other highly-paid operatives at the state Education Department) — we should start with two government official who are NOT directly, nor legally responsible for education? WHAT?
TIDPC FCA MAMA Coalition— OUR POSITION:
Our (https://www.facebook.com/tidpc/) stance on the state takeover issue is that it’s impossible not to share the sentiments of Mayor Lovely Warren regarding the need to address the longstanding (5-decades-old-dire-crisis) in the Rochester City School District. However, we do NOT believe that the solution to the crisis lies at the state level. On the contrary, we believe 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 (http://www.nysed.gov/news/2018/rochester-distinguished-educator-report-84-recommendations-improve-student-learning-and). Thus, it’s a matter of collectively developing and implementing strategies and tactics.
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.)